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Proposed language acknowledges impacts of colonialism, forced displacement and more

PMG FILE PHOTO - Steph Littlebird Fogel created an updated and expanded version of the museums exhibit on the Kalapuyan peoples, Tualatin Valleys first peoples, in 2019 for what's now known as the Five Oaks Museum on the Rock Creek campus of Portland Community College. Tualatin is in the process of crafting an acknowledgement regarding Native peoples and recognizing that the lands on which the city sits once belonged to them.

During a Nov. 8 work session, the Tualatin City Council heard a proposal from a work group, which was spearheaded by the Tualatin Parks and Recreation Committee, regarding how the city should acknowledge those people and that land. Beth Dittman, who chairs the committee, said work on the proposal began last March, after an advisory committee gathered together numerous city groups to give input into the proposed acknowledgement, as well as hearing from 11 Indigenous communities throughout Oregon.

The group held six meetings over the course of four months.

The proposed acknowledgement statement begins this way: "As we gather in community, we welcome everyone here with open hearts and minds. We offer gratitude for the land and our opportunity to be here today." It goes on to acknowledge that the city is on the unceded lands and waters of both the Atfalati and Kalapuyan peoples who once occupied the area where the city now is.

"It is our duty to acknowledge the generational impacts of settler colonialism, forced displacement and assimilation on Native American families," the acknowledgement states before concluding: "We honor past, present and future indigenous members of the Tualatin community."

The acknowledgment is a "first step in recognizing and sharing the honest history of how the land in the city of Tualatin was acquired," according to a document explaining the purpose of the acknowledgement.

"The land on which Tualatin is situated was obtained via various means, with both ratified and unratified treaties between the tribes and the United State government from 1853 to 1855 and including the 1850 Oregon Land Donation Claim Act, unratified treaties of 1851 and 1854, and the Dawes Act in 1887 the results of which was the forced removal of tribal members from their ancestral homeland," the document states.

Dittman said the goal of the group was to come up with a really honest and direct statement and not to be concerned about softening it, "rather that it be direct and mentioned things like settler colonialism, assimilation and relocation," she said.

"Additionally, some of those pillars (are) recognizing that Native people are contemporary. If there was a single takeaway from our research … it was 'we are still here' — the Native Americans and the Kalapuyans and Atfalati are still here — and are still being impacted by our shared history and that was real essential piece to what we learned," she said.

Dittman highlighted what she'd like to see the council do with the acknowledgement.

"The work group … would like for you to consider having this be something that we use citywide that we recommend or require," she said. "We, of course, as a group of people who came together to do this, think this should be used, but we also recognize that might take some dialogue and discussion amongst you before that there's a level of comfort for that."

Councilors Cyndy Hillier and Christen Sacco told Dittman they were moved by the language of the proposed acknowledgement.

On Oct. 11, the council established an equity committee. Once established, the ad-hoc committee will look at the proposed acknowledgement of Tualatin's native people and their land, according to city officials.


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