Key Restoration figure Marvin Kimsey walks on at 83

Marvin Kimsey, one of three Grand Ronde Tribal members who started the Tribe on the path to Restoration in the 1970s and then testified before Congress in 1983 in support of the Tribe’s Restoration to federal recognition, walked on Sunday, March 4, at the age of 83.

Kimsey was born Feb. 27, 1935, to Loren and Nora Kimsey and he is descended from Chief Bogus of the Umpqua Tribe who was killed by vigilantes on the 1856 Trail of Tears. He married Eleanor Kimsey on Nov. 25, 1954, and they owned a filling station together. Eleanor walked on in 2006.

Marvin Kimsey

Kimsey, along with his sister, Margaret Provost, and Merle Holmes are credited with starting the arduous work that eventually led to 1983’s Restoration.

Kimsey joined Holmes and Dean Mercier as three of the first original Tribal chairmen before Restoration occurred. He also served on the post-Restoration Tribal Council from September 1988 to September 1989, receiving the second highest vote total in the September 1988 Tribal Council election with 77.

According to a Smoke Signals story published in December 2001, Kimsey and Holmes were convinced by Provost to attend an Association of Urban Indians meeting held in Lebanon in 1972 that sparked the Restoration effort.

“You know, we figured it would take two or three years, tops,” Kimsey said.

Eleven years later, Restoration was achieved.

“It is … impossible, I mean impossible to tell you everything that went on in Restoration, and what it entailed,” Kimsey recalled. “It really is. You just have to be there. There were a lot of sacrifices made. We weren’t always a Tribe with a casino, or a Tribe with timber even. … The hours were long and tedious. And there were times I wondered if it was worth it.”

In October 1983, Kimsey, Jackie Whisler, Kathryn Harrison and her children, Frank Harrison, and Karen Askins, testified before the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., about Restoration of the Grand Ronde Tribe. Little more than a month later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Grand Ronde Restoration Act on Nov. 22, 1983.

“I’m glad I was part of Restoration,” Kimsey said. “I don’t know what would drive a person to do it. But if it had to be done again, I suppose I could muster up the strength.”

Kimsey’s passing, which was announced during the Sunday, March 4, General Council meeting, elicited honors from other Tribal members.

“Marvin worked very hard to get this Tribe restored,” Tribal Council Vice Chair Chris Mercier said while announcing the news. “He was a very important person in this Tribe’s history.”

Tribal Elder and former Tribal Council member Val Grout honored Kimsey, Provost and Holmes. “They’re the ones that worked hard to get us where we are today,” she said.

Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy called Kimsey’s passing “a great loss to the Tribe” during the Tuesday, March 6, Legislative Action Committee meeting.

In honor of Kimsey, flags on the Tribal campus were lowered to half-staff.

Services for Kimsey were held on Sunday, March 11, in the Tribal gym with a meal that followed at the Elders Activity Center. He was buried in the Grand Ronde Tribal Cemetery.

“I know that everyone was learning some new things at the service and remembering some of the contributions that Marvin had made for our Tribe,” Kennedy said during the Tuesday, March 13, Legislative Action Committee meeting. “One of the things is he was pretty humble about what he did. He didn’t put up big banners and say, ‘Look at me. Look what I did. I’m the greatest.’ Or anything like that. He really did his job quietly, fulfilled the purpose of part of his life was, and I’m very appreciative to that and to the family for all of those contributions.

“I guess the message that I would want to leave with all of our members is to look within ourselves and (ask) what is our contribution to our people and our Tribe? What can we do selflessly? And to be able to do so in a way that is kind and generous to all."