Board of Trustees Approves Willamette Falls Traditional Use Report

Mission, OR – The Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) on Monday, November 9, approved the public release of Traditional Use Study of Willamette Falls and the Lower Columbia River by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, a report prepared by the Department of Natural Resources Cultural Resource Protection Program.  This report clearly identifies numerous cultural and historic links that the people of the CTUIR have maintained to the Willamette Falls and surrounding areas from the pre-treaty era to the current day.

The primary highlights of this report are six-fold: 1) use of the Willamette Falls area was not exclusive to any single Tribe or band, 2) CTUIR members maintained uninterrupted use and exercise of treaty rights in the area and this use continues today, 3) the CTUIR possesses abundant oral histories on traditional use at Willamette Falls and the Lower Columbia River area, 4) the Cayuse people had significant contact and clear cultural and historical ties including intermarriage with the Molalla Tribe of the Willamette Valley, 5) the presence of CTUIR people increased during the fur trade and mission era, which brought additional CTUIR members to the Willamette Valley and increased use at Willamette Falls, and 6) the Cayuse Five trial, during which tribal headmen were tried and convicted in Oregon City, adjacent to Willamette Falls, for the deaths that took place at the Whitman Mission created deep and unresolved trauma that adds to CTUIR’s connection to the area of Willamette Falls.

The extensive traditional use report is based on oral histories, field visits and investigations in the area, and review of non-Indian produced information and records and internal tribal information and records documenting the presence and movement of CTUIR members throughout the area. Although traditional use reports are usually confidential documents to the CTUIR, the CTUIR is compelled to tell our history at Willamette Falls and lower Columbia River and is making the report publicly available. The report is also being shared broadly with regional legislators and CTUIR partners and resource co-managers to educate them about CTUIR’s history, rights, and goals, and to foster productive relations.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation is made up of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes, formed under the Treaty of 1855 at the Walla Walla Valley, 12 Stat. 945. In 1949, the Tribes adopted a constitutional form of government to protect, preserve and enhance the treaty rights guaranteed under federal statute.