Willamette Falls Legacy Project officials yesterday reiterated their commitment to working with all Tribes with an interest in Willamette Falls to move the public riverwalk project forward.
The support came during a meeting of the four public partners of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project – Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro and the State of Oregon – to discuss multi-tribal engagement on the riverwalk project and to consider a request from the Willamette Falls Trust (“the Trust”) to join the Partners group.
A multi-tribal engagement framework was recently drafted to guide continued efforts to build relationships with Tribes with interests at Willamette Falls who are participating in the project, alphabetically: Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (also owner of the former Blue Heron paper mill site), Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. The challenge of this moment is developing an engagement framework that builds collaboration and works for all participants.
In February, the nonprofit Willamette Falls Trust submitted a formal request to join the Willamette Falls Legacy Project partnership and represent four of the Tribes engaged in the project: Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
This request was discussed yesterday through a presentation from the Trust staff and Tribal Leadership Committee representatives from the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Project officials heard about the importance of recognizing cultural, spiritual and traditional ties of multiple Tribes to the Willamette Falls. Davis “Yellowash” Washines, a Trust Tribal Leadership Committee member and representative of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, also emphasized the importance of working together during the meeting.
Metro Council President Lynn Peterson called for "a new model of collaboration between local governments and all the Tribes on the public investment portion of this project."
Separate but related is the need to form a collaborative, long-term relationship with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the owner of the 23-acre site in downtown Oregon City where the future public riverwalk at Willamette Falls is envisioned. That relationship is essential to the success of the riverwalk, project partners said.
Before moving further toward riverwalk design, the Willamette Falls Legacy Project Partner group will need to be restructured to allow all Tribes with histories at Willamette Falls to have a decision-making role on the riverwalk project, officials said.
Peterson asked for “a model that takes time to better understand tribal viewpoints, experience and world views in order to shape new understandings of the right way to do our work in this project.”
At the meeting, project partners also heard that funding for this phase of the project has been nearly spent. Additional funding is available for future phases; however, partners will need to discuss how to allocate those funds so that they can be best spent in the public interest.
The Willamette Falls Legacy Project Partners will meet again to discuss next steps in late July or early August.
The Willamette Falls Legacy Project began with a vision to transform Oregon City’s waterfront at Willamette Falls into a destination that would welcome visitors, spur economic redevelopment, restore native habitats, and invest in sharing the history and culture at the Falls. A project of this size and complexity requires building strong relationships to transform the riverfront at the former Blue Heron paper mill site into a premier destination.