Coffee & Conversation event expands cultural offerings

If you go

Coffee & Conversation cultural activities

When: Activities begin at approximately 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 21.

Where: TouVelle Recreation Site, Central Point, Ore. Camping is available beginning Thursday evening, Sept. 20, to Sunday, Sept. 23.

More information: For maps, camping gear needs and a detailed agenda, contact Jordan.Mercier@grandronde.org or call 503-879-2185.

 

By Danielle Frost

Smoke Signals staff writer

The Grand Ronde Tribe is expanding cultural activities and providing a weekend of free camping in an effort to increase interest for Tribal members to make the 225-mile journey to a place of historical significance in southern Oregon.

Friday, Sept. 21, will mark the seventh annual Coffee & Conversation event in Medford to commemorate the 1853 treaty signing at Table Rocks and the September 2011 signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy to manage the Table Rocks area north of Medford.

Stephanie Craig, left, a traditional Tribal ethnobotanist, shows Desirae Hernandez a tarweed plant during the Tribal encampment held at the Lower Table Rock Trailhead near Medford last September. This year’s Coffee & Conversation will take place Friday, Sept. 21, at the Courtyard Marriott Medford Airport in Medford and the encampment is Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 20-23, at TouVelle State Recreation Site in Central Point. (Smoke Signals file photo)

The encampment portion will begin Thursday evening, Sept. 20, and run through Sunday, Sept. 23, at TouVelle State Recreation Site. Cultural activities will begin on Friday. There are no camping fees, and tents and sleeping bags will be provided for those who need them. Breakfast, lunch and dinner also will be included.

Cultural Education Coordinator Jordan Mercier will be leading the encampment activities, which include basket making, plant gathering, singing, dancing and hiking to the top of Lower Table Rock.

The Coffee & Conversation portion with Tribal Council, staff and area government officials and employees to learn more about the Tribe’s current and historical role in the area will take place at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel near Medford Airport. Cultural events will follow at the park. In past years, Tribal Attorney Rob Greene has led a hike to the top of Lower Table Rock for all who want to participate.

Expanding the cultural activities from three hours to three days is no small task, but Mercier said he is up for the challenge.

“In the past, the Tribal encampment has always been pretty small, but this year we’re doing camping for the whole weekend and it’s the first time the (Cultural Resources) department has done something down there,” Mercier said. “We are attempting to expand it and trying to get Tribal members to increase their presence in the area. Hopefully, we get people interested.”

Cultural activities will begin at approximately 10 a.m. Friday, but will be kept unstructured and open to input from attendees.

“It mostly depends on who shows up and what they want to do,” Mercier said. “We will be going out and doing gathering at some point. It will be acorns, sage, whatever is in the area. It is right along the Rogue River so it’s a good location. … We’ll also do an activity more focused at the camp and if people show up who have knowledge and want to do something, we’ll do that too.”

Upper and Lower Table Rock have significant cultural and historical importance to the Grand Ronde Tribe because Rogue River Tribal members lived in the area since time immemorial and were held there temporarily until they were force-marched to the Grand Ronde Reservation during 1856’s Trail of Tears.

Since the signing of the 2011 memorandum of understanding, the Grand Ronde Tribe has held an annual event in Medford to establish and maintain relationships with federal, state, county and city officials in the area.

The state has waived parking and camping fees for the Tribe.

“We are exercising our sovereignty here,” Mercier said. “I also want other Tribes to know this is going on and that we invite them to come as well.”