Our Story

OUR STORY

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon includes over 30 tribes and bands from western Oregon, northern California, and southwest Washington. Since time immemorial tribal people have relied on these traditional landscapes for their livelihood. The fish and game were plentiful and what the lands didn’t provide, they acquired by trade.

This way of life changed with western expansion. Ratified and unratified treaties between the Tribes and the United States Government from 1853 through 1855 resulted in the forced removal of tribal members from their ancestral homelands. Despite this removal, tribal members maintained their connection to their homelands and areas such as Willamette Falls and Table Rocks.

Trail of Tears

In the winter of 1856, the federal government began the forced removal of the Umpqua, Southern Kalapuya, Rogue River and Chasta peoples to what would become a 61,000-acre reservation in Oregon’s coast range. This “trail of tears” marched hundreds of native people over 200 miles north across rough terrain during harsh winter conditions. Many did not survive the journey. Similar forced marches also befell the people of the Willamette valley, neighboring peoples from throughout western Oregon, and those along the Columbia River.

Indian Agent George H. Ambrose

“After a period of thirty-three days in which time we traveled a distance of two hundred & sixty-three miles. Started with three hundred and twenty-five Indians. Eight deaths and eight births, leaving the number the same as when started.”

Indian Agent George H. Ambrose
Diary entry from the last day of the Rogue River Trail of Tears
March 23, 1856

The Reservation

The Grand Ronde Reservation was established by Executive Order on June 30, 1857. Originally 61,000 acres, it was located on the headwaters of the South Yamhill River in the Oregon Coast Range. Federal actions in the late 1800s quickly decreased the Grand Ronde Reservation land-base.

The General Allotment Act of 1887 was designed to transition tribal members into farmers. Under this act, the government divided the Grand Ronde Reservation into 270 allotments for individual tribal members, totaling slightly more than 33,000 acres. This act also allowed tribal allotment lands to go from federal trust status to private ownership after 25 years. This resulted in major portions of the Reservation being lost to non-Native ownership. Then, in 1901, U.S. Inspector James McLaughlin declared a 25,791-acre tract of the Grand Ronde Reservation “surplus” and the U.S. sold those “surplus” lands for $1.16 per acre.

Termination and Restoration

The Grand Ronde Tribe’s federal recognition ended on August 13, 1954 when Congress passed the Western Oregon Termination Act. This legislation stripped the Tribe of its federal status and severed the trust relationship with the federal government. Between 1954 and 1983, Grand Ronde tribal members were a landless people in their own land. The termination policy robbed the Tribe of its social, economic and political fabric, leaving a scattered population and poverty.

In spite of this, Grand Ronde remained a community interconnected by families. Tribal leaders began working in the early 1970s to restore the Tribe’s federal status. They began the arduous task of reestablishing the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. They raised money to lobby Congress, testified before lawmakers in Washington DC, and fought for the Tribe’s recognition. Their hard work and dedication were realized on November 22, 1983 when President Ronald Reagan signed the Grand Ronde Restoration Act (Public Law 98-165). Five years later the Tribe regained 9,811 acres of the original reservation when the Grand Ronde Reservation Act was signed on September 9, 1988. These lands lie just north of the community of Grand Ronde.

After restoration and the re-establishment of the Grand Ronde Reservation were completed, the Tribe focused on rebuilding its institutions and developing programs to meet the needs of its members. 

 

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“It has taken a lot of hard work, depressing and discouraging at times, but, there’s always been the feeling that, as extensions of our ancestors, this restoration effort is the carrying out of their visions – and, so we could always reach back to their strengths and wisdom. Because of this, we have seen organizations come and go, yet the Grand Ronde Tribe continues. The roots are there, but we need those roots confirmed by restoration.”

Kathryn Harrison, Vice-Chairman,
Grand Ronde Tribal Council,
September 14, 1983 Washington DC