Community celebrates Native American culture with tribal elders

By Gabriella Vigil

Clackamas Community College hosted an Indigenous Peoples Day event on Oct. 8 at the John Inskeep Environmental Learning Center. People from all walks of life gathered around on a beautiful Sunday morning for delicious native food, music, storytelling and shopping. 

A blessing was offered by Cheryle Kennedy, 75, Chairperson of the Tribes of Grand Ronde, 

to start the festivities that lasted until 2pm. 

“We’re just so thankful for our youth, for our babies, our children, because we’re trying to guide them in the right way, in the way of peace, in the way of unity, in the way of love,” said Kennedy. “Thank you for this ground that we stand on, thank you for every person that’s here today recognizing Indigenous Day, the day that folks recognize that you put us here in this place”. 

Indigenous Peoples Day is officially celebrated on Oct. 9 throughout 17 states, but has yet to become a federal holiday. The day is full of lively festivals, performances and ceremonies throughout many different states. 

The CCC event included storytelling by Darlene Foster and Ed Edmo, and flute playing by Jan Michael Looking Wolf, Robin Gentlewolf, and Harriet Carpenter. 

Looking Wolf opened with a chant song from his uncle Standing Elk called “The Gratitude.” Looking Wolf encouraged the audience to feel the energy, connect with it and join in on the singing. 

“This is the medicine song to give gratitude today,” said Looking Wolf. “We all come from mother Earth, we are all Indigenous, so join us”.  

Local vendors sold  handmade products ranging from apothecary, candles, jewelry, shirts, hair pins, palo santo, lavender and dream catchers. Sisters Frybread Co, Nacheaux, and Cowboy Grill served people with food varying from Indian Tacos to burgers, tamales and funnel cakes.

Rather than celebrating Christopher Columbus and the early European colonization of the Americas, there is a shift to a day to honor Native American history and culture around the United States: Indigenous Peoples Day.

Clackamas Community College is built on tribal land; college staff are working to protect and restore the area and the relationship to local tribes. One way of honoring the peoples who  stewarded the land is through Clackamas County’s Land Acknowledgement. 

The county’s land acknowledgement was read aloud, honoring tribes including, but not limited to, the Clackamas, Cascades, Tumwater, Chinooks, Tualatin, Pudding River, Kalapuya and Northern Molalla people.

According to Kennedy, the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855 was a peace treaty whereby we could continue to have homeland that we would live in and not be at war and not be constantly fighting for with the newcomers that came. 

When asked if she felt anger in her heart or mad that these things happened Kennedy said – 

“One of the things that we’ve been taught culturally is that we look at one another. And if you are a true person, you look at us, and you see us, and we’re able to connect with our hearts. And so that animosity or that feeling goes away. And we’re able to embrace one another, and to care for one another.” Kennedy said.

Kennedy, who comes from the Clackamas tribe, has an extensive background in health, dedicating 30 years of her life to working with tribes as a health administrator. 

 “I’m so grateful to the Clackamas Community College, and for all of the leadership from this area,” she said. “Look at this, isn’t it just amazing? It’s so beautiful.”

After her speech Kennedy said that returning to the land was “filling a place in her soul.” “I just drink in the energy and love knowing that my people’s footsteps are all over this land,” she said. 

Indigenous Peoples Day serves as a day for everyone to recognize Native communities and their hard work and sacrifice. 

“No matter how old you get, you still need to learn,” said Kennedy. “For like trees, we don’t give it up and just drop over, but we continue to learn.” We should support and honor Native culture, history, and strength by continuing to learn and staying educated, not just on Indigenous Peoples Day, but every day. 

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Gabriella Vigil

Gabriella Vigil is a writer and photographer for the Clackamas Print. She started at Clackamas Community College in fall of 2022 and is currently working towards her Associates of Science (transfer degree). In her free time, she enjoys shopping and cheering on her favorite NFL Team, the Philadelphia Eagles.