In early August, 27 land trust Delegates from the Oregon Land Justice Project traveled to the central coast to visit the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and attend the Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow in Siletz, OR.
For many Delegates, it was their first time attending a powwow. Over two and a half days, the Delegates camped and shared meals together, renewed long-standing friendships, made new connections, and immersed themselves in a rich cultural experience. Many Delegates were struck by the sense of community, the sheer joy of the dancers, and the sharing of Siletz and Indigenous traditions across generations. Amidst the backdrop of the drums, dancing, food, and crafts, Delegates stepped up to provide support to the powwow by working security for grand entry and assisting in the clean up efforts.
On the first day, the Delegates had the opportunity to speak with representatives from the Elakha Alliance about their work to restore the sea otter population on the Oregon coast. Founded by a Siletz tribal member, the Alliance represents a strong partnership between conservationists and representatives of three tribes based on mutual understanding, respect, and shared values.
On our final day, we gathered along the Siletz River at the home of Tribal Council Treasurer and Cultural Resources Director Robert Kentta to hear about the history and culture of the Siletz people. He spoke of the long history of displacement, and the resiliency of their people. Council Vice Chairman Bud Lane also shared his basketry and weavings, and spoke of his connection to the land, the intimacy of knowing a place, and the cultural importance of harvesting traditional plants. In this setting, we shared gifts, blankets, food, and spent time chatting.
The Siletz people have a uniquely difficult history of removal, termination, and dispossession from the land. As a result, most Oregonians don’t know that a large part of western Oregon is the usual and accustomed land of the 20+ tribes and bands that are confederated under Siletz. Despite this, the tribe is strong and maintains an enduring presence in their homelands. We were humbled and honored to be welcomed to their land and their community with open arms.
We also sincerely thank the Delegates for traveling from every corner of Oregon and spending time in service to and in dialogue with our hosts.