PORTLAND - The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) Board of Trustees and members of the Office of the Executive Director attended the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Winter (ATNI) Convention Jan. 28 to Feb. 1.
The ATNI is a nonprofit organization representing 57 Northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, California and Montana. Formed in 1953, it’s dedicated to tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
Within the five-day convention, tribal leaders attended keynote sessions that included speakers from the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, as well as speakers from Oregon and Washington state agencies.
Smaller, general session topics included housing, agriculture, technology, education, energy, elections, Indian Child Welfare Act, veterans and transportation. With concurrent sessions held during the convention, tribal leaders were able to pick and choose what sessions they attended.
CTUIR Vice Chairman Aaron Ashley said he enjoyed the climate resiliency and economic development sessions held Tuesday, Jan. 30.
“Because I sit on the Science and Technology Committee, those are the ones that I have a background in from Natural Resources, so I feel like those are at the top of our priorities our tribe is looking at the next two years.”
He said it was important for CTUIR leaders to attend ATNI because if they aren’t present then they aren’t up to speed on key issues.
“If we’re not at the table then we’re on the menu,” Ashley said. “It also creates better networking opportunities and builds new relationships. It’s an opportunity to learn new things and build upon things we’re doing well.”
Member At Large Corinne Sams said she enjoyed the general sessions because of the information they provided.
“There was so much legislation, consultation, natural resources issues that are going on within the Northwest,” she said. “It’s kind of nice to get a generalization of how we’re coming together to work on specific issues and how we can better coordinate and work with other Northwest tribes to ensure the initiatives move forward and progress.”
Sams said upon returning home she plans to implement information regarding toxins from rubber tires and their effects on fish.
“That will play a big part in how we mitigate on other construction areas within the Columbia Basin,” she said. “And so that information about that toxin that’s in tires and harmful to fish will help us better gauge what we need to look for because a lot of infrastructure are, unfortunately, created by our waterways and water systems. It will help us mitigate for any harm so we don’t have any loss of fish moving forward.”
On Jan. 30, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek attended the convention to sign Executive Order 24-06, which calls for the resumption of the Governor’s Task Force on Oregon Tribal Items.
The task force was formed by executive order in 2012 to survey public entities such as schools, universities and state agencies for information related to cultural items the agencies held. The task force determined how to best gather information, developed definitions for cultural items and provided training to state agencies on conducting such surveys.
However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the task force’s work. Kotek’s executive order puts the task force back in operation. Along with its original focus, the task force will also develop steps for determining the provenance, appropriate custodian and appropriate storage or display of cultural items.
Member At Large Toby Patrick said he appreciated Kotek’s executive order calling for accountability from state agencies and counties when dealing with repatriation and protection of tribal sites in Oregon.
“This task force is important because there are a lot of our lands out there that need to be protected from looters, people coming in and being destructive, vandalism, all of those types of things,” he said. “If the county and the state aren’t going to abide by our (tribal) laws then this executive order helps gear that to where all the tribes can say ‘We need help in protecting all of our cultural resources.’”