Return of the Oregon Natives:The ManyNations Longhouse at the University of Oregon
Where did they all go, the Native Americans from Oregon? Where do they live? Why are these pesky little casinos cropping up all over Oregon? Aren't they really extinct?
For almost thirty years the Native peoples of Oregon were, for the most part, terminated as tribes by the federal government. The few tribes that remained recognized, Warm Springs and Umatilla maintained their presence, but for Western Oregon, the Tribes disappeared. Or did they? Apparently, the tribal peoples remained and activated and regained their recognition and reservations. Where did they go in that interval? Nowhere. They stayed in Oregon and worked along with every other American.
The problem is that when they were terminated, they were given nothing. One hundred years earlier, they owned all of Oregon, But, in 1956, generally, they lost everything and became the poorest of the poor. There are examples from Klamath and other places that some people were given recompense, but for the most part, the Native people were left destitute.
Beginning in the 1970s they began activation for restoration. The Native peoples testified before hearings commissions in 1975-76 and the final report found that the government acted in an inappropriate manner. No promises were followed through with and this left the Native people unprepared for the American socio-economic society.
In 1989, the federal government passed the Indian gaming act. Before this, Native people were not allowed to develop such activities, especially anything involving interstate commerce. As such there was never the capital to forge industry and business for Native tribes. Now given the chance, they have taken advantage of it. Casinos are now throughout Oregon, at the rate of one per tribe. Wealth and investment capital are helping build the infrastructures of the Tribal governments, a necessity in the American political environment because of all of the threats to sovereignty.
And at the universities, the restoration of the Tribes is being felt. Longhouses, native cultural centers for Native students are now cropping up. Portland State's was finish over a year ago and there is one planned for Lane Community College. Native studies programs are also beginning to be established. Ten years ago there were no native studies programs, today, there are three, Portland State, Southern Oregon University, and the Indigenous Cultural Survival program at the University of Oregon. Also at the University of Oregon, is Oregon's newest Longhouse, The ManyNations Longhouse. This structure provides a centralized haven for native students and will prove to be a hub for the grown of Native studies programs and events. The meaning of the new Longhouse has yet to be determined but, its clear that a Native presence at the University of Oregon will continue for some time.
What does this all have to do with Native people in Oregon? Once invisible or thought extinct, disappeared, native people's presence is now becoming a part of the fabric of Oregon culture. We are no longer invisible. Now cultures whom have existed in Oregon for 10,000 years, thousands of generations, and have quite recently been divested of their lands, and had their identities terminated, are restored. Native people are not extinct, and never were, we were simply written out of history, ignored, and defined out of existence by anthropologists and others. Now we are here to stay, forever.