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The statement was prepared with the help of representatives from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Earlier this month, the Washington County Board of Commissioners adopted a land acknowledgement statement along with the help of the Confereate Tribes of Grand Ronde, whose ancestors include the Atfalati-Kalapuyans, the first peoples known to reside in Washington County. Here, Steph Littlebird Fogel created an updated and expanded version of the museums exhibit on the Kalapuyan peoples in 2019 for the Five Oaks Museum.The Washington County Board of Commissioners recently adopted a land acknowledgement statement to recognizing Indigenous peoples as the "original stewards of the land now known as Washington County."

County staff worked in preparing the acknowledgement statement with representatives of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, whose ancestors were the Kalapuyans, the first inhabitants of Washington County.

In addition, representatives from other indigenous peoples that reside in Washington County participated as well, including the Nez Perce, Siletz and Yavapai nations.

The acknowledgement reads in part: "Signers of the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855 were removed from their homelands to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. Today their descendants are tribal members of Grand Ronde and Siletz tribes, carrying on the traditions and cultures of their ancestors."

It is a formal statement, which will eventually be read at the beginning of county meetings and other events, according to Julie McCloud, county public affairs and communications coordinator.

She said the statement is a first step, and future work regarding it will be led by the county's Office of Equity, Inclusion and Community Engagement. She said staff will work on coming up with a protocol, as well as training for staff regarding the appropriate use of the statement.

"I'm grateful for this first step in addressing so many historic wrongs that have caused great harm to Indigenous Peoples," Kathryn Harrington, Washington County Board of Commissioners chair, said in a news release. "We must continue to build on the partnerships that led up to this moment to truly understand what it means to live on Kalapuyan land, eliminate present-day inequities shouldered by indigenous individuals and tribes, and build on the wisdom and contributions of indigenous partners and tribal nations."

The acknowledgement statement also states: "Please reflect on the role government has played in the painful, colonial history and reflect as well on the resilience and healing of the Indigenous land and communities."

It concludes with: "We would like to invite everyone to collaborate and work together with the tribes to take care of the land and water and the people who inhabit these spaces."

Staff at the Five Oaks Museum — effectively the county's nonprofit historical society — said it applauded both the Native community and the county staff who created the land acknowledgement statement, noting that the Five Oaks Museum had been invited "to lead an educational series for the county staff and commissioners around Indigenous history and presence in what is now Washington County."

"The adoption of this land acknowledgment starts the conversation to recognize Native presence, sovereignty, and the colonial harms done to Indigenous communities," they wrote in a joint statement provided to Pamplin Media Group. "We look forward to the growing action and relationship-building so that the county may serve the needs of Indigenous community members, from truth and justice to health services and a community center."

The county isn't the only one to acknowledge the part Native peoples have played as the land's original occupants, as well as the injustices of having that land taken away. Native inhabitants living in Washington County were deported to the Grand Ronde reservation in the mid-19th century to make room for settlement west of Portland and Oregon City.

Tualatin is in the process of drafting its own acknowledgement regarding Native peoples who once lived in the area, mentioning that the city rests on "unceded lands" of the Atfalati and Kalapuyan peoples with a proposed statement that reads in part: "It is our duty to acknowledge the generational impacts of settler colonialism, forced displacement and assimilation on Native American families."


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