Making the Invisible Visible
The Portland Metro area rests on traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla and many other tribes who made their homes along the
After European contact, what followed for the Indigenous people of the Portland area was a series of territorial and then federal policy decisions designed to eliminate and later assimilate Native people. The 18th and early 19th centuries brought diseases that decimated populations, often killing 9 out of every 10 people (Boyd: 1999). The Boarding School Era policies, which lasted from the mid-1800s through the 1960s, marked the beginning of a long campaign to integrate Indigenous people into the Western culture. "Kill the Indian and save the man" summarized the philosophy that underlay most government policies of the era (Pratt: 1879). Federal Relocation Policy, which began in the 1950s, forced over a third of the Native population to relocate to seven major cities, including Portland (Fixico: 2002).
Termination of federal recognition of many tribes began in 1954. Under the Western Oregon Termination Act (1954) and the Klamath Termination Act (1954), a large number of
Currently, Native people count disproportionately among the urban poor. We experience the highest rates of homelessness, poverty and unemployment of all ethnic groups; depression, addiction and diabetes impact us in numbers far exceeding the norm. We constitute 24% of all children in foster care in Multnomah County, and only 37% of our high school students living in Portland graduate on time (Portland Schools Foundation: 2006).
Even with our large population and the strong evidence of need, resources have not been equitably distributed to our community. There are false perceptions that we no longer exist and chronic undercounts, inaccurate data and stereotypes about what we look like perpetuate this misconception. It is commonly believed that our education, health care, and other social support systems are fully paid for by government funding or gaming/casino revenues. These misunderstandings lead to policies and decisions that limit our access to social services and other community resources in the city where we live.
Despite the barriers, we continue to foster our culture and celebrate our heritage. We are successful, contributing members of the city of
We are passing on our many strengths and assets. We serve the community, and we help each other. As distinct as urban tribal peoples may be, we have a collective vision of what we want for our children and families. We work to connect with other urban Native people; to create a common place to meet; and reconnect to each other, our ceremonies and cultures. We want to be recognized and treated with respect. We want our cultures and religions to be valued. We want safe, affordable housing, access to employment options, and equal opportunities to build community. We have important and diverse Indigenous values and worldviews that contribute to the livability and uniqueness of
Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable
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