Art installation is part of efforts by the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership to mitigate the impact of construction on an historic site

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde bring a new sculpture to George Rogers Park by canoe Monday afternoon. REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Joel Komarek, director of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership, addresses the crowd that gathered for the dedication ceremony in George Rogers Park. Swimmers and sunbathers weren't the only ones flocking to the river on Monday afternoon.

Lake Oswego and Tigard city leaders, members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and several curious onlookers also gathered on the shores of the Willamette, where the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership unveiled a new art display in honor of the native people who lived near and fished on the river for generations.

The crowd gathered on the lower lawn and beach area of George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego to watch traditional drummers call in canoes that carried artist Travis Stewart's sculpture, which was then installed on the riverfront along with interpretive signage.

Since 2008, the partnership has been working to upgrade and increase the capacity of Lake Oswego's water system and give Tigard direct access to water for the first time in its history. Later this year, part of the project's pipeline will pass through an archeologically significant area known as the Burnett Cultural Site, according to partnership spokeswoman Katy Fulton.

Because the site is eligible to be included on the National Registry of Historic Places, state and federal law require mitigation to compensate for any impact that construction might cause. The partnership worked with the State Historic Preservation Office and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde to come up with a mitigation plan, Fulton said, which included the installation of Chinookan art.

Fulton said the $34,983 installation was a way to pay tribute to the local tribes that lived in the area.

“It was an honor to work with the cultural resources committee and the Grand Ronde tribes to develop this plan,” Fulton said. “It’s nice to give back to the community.”

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Tribal members Travis Stewart (from right), Jordan Mercier, Dave Harrelson, Joe M and Denise Harvey sing as the sculpture arrives by canoe. REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Artist Travis Stewart, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, gets his sculpture ready to be put in place. Archeologists on call

The artwork is only one portion of the partnership’s mitigation plan, Fulton said. Last year, the partnership stopped construction to allow archeologists to examine the site where the pipe will be installed.

“They collected data and analysis of artifacts, and they will be monitoring construction when the pipe is put in,” Fulton said.

The pipeline is expected to be installed through George Rogers Park and Lake Oswego’s Old Town neighborhood, where the Burnett Cultural Site is located, sometime this fall, Fulton said. The pipeline is one of the last pieces left in constructing the water system, which is expected to go into operation next year.

The sculpture and signage tell the story of a local chief who helped the native people in the area survive during a harsh winter, said Grand Ronde historic preservation officer Dave Harelson.

“This represents a people,” he told the crowd at George Rogers Park on Monday. “People were starving, because it was such a harsh, harsh winter. But this headman went to Willamette Falls, where our people still go every year to collect eels. He collected these eels and taught people how to prepare and cook them, and the people didn’t starve. When the people listened to him and to the ways to cook the eels, they lived. There were those in the village that didn’t listen and they died and were turned to stone. There’s a place around here, near Lake Oswego, where they still stand. We don’t know exactly where that place is.”

The art display features a man on his knees, near the river, hoisting two eels into the air.

“There’s something really special about this, for me,” Harelson said. “To be able to get more of the tribe’s story out is great. Far too often, people aren’t aware of the original people that came from this place and that history and heritage that people of Grand Ronde share is very special. It’s a story to be told by everyone. It’s not just tribal members’ history, but everyone’s history. It’s Oregon’s history, and to know that and share it with your little ones is important.”

Contact Geoff Pursinger at 503-546-0744 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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