By CHRIS AADLAND, CUJ
MISSION, Ore. — Burgers, hot dogs, and school supplies were on the menu for those who attended the annual Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s Community Picnic Aug. 10.
Hundreds turned out for the event at the July Grounds, where attendees gobbled up just as many hot dogs and burgers, played in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, jumped, climbed or splashed on one of the many inflatable bounce houses and waterslides rented for children, or claimed a prize or gift certificate donated for the event during a raffle.
The CTUIR Housing Department has hosted the annual event since 2006 as a way for the department to strengthen relationships and communications with tenants and community members, said Housing Department Director Marcus Luke. But it also allows the department give back to the community and provide an opportunity for CTUIR community members to gather before the start of the school year.
“Let’s send ‘em off right. Let’s all come together and laugh and eat and forget about our worries for a little while,” Luke said of his goal for the event. “We need more community events like this.”
In addition to the all-you-can-eat food and refreshments, many CTUIR programs and departments provided informational booths or resources, while CTUIR youth were given free backpacks and school supplies for the new school year and could take on a bike safety course hosted by tribal police. Non-CTUIR organizations, like some area colleges and universities, government agencies, and businesses owned by Indigenous people also participated.
While the housing department hosts the annual event, Luke said its success depends on support from the broader CTUIR community – the Board of Trustees, General Council, other departments and outside organizations that provide staff and informational booths – and the volunteers who help ensure it runs smoothly and feels “almost like a family event.”
As this year’s picnic began to wind down, he said it appeared the event’s organizers would again achieve their goal, basing his assessment on the good turnout, ideal weather, stories shared and constant laughing.
“We’ve got to hear a lot of good laughs, a lot of good stories,” Luke said. “That’s the main thing we want.”