Klamath Tribal Leaders to Discuss Restoration of Native Lands

Klamath tribal leaders and a representative of the Trust for Public Land will speak Monday, Feb. 2, at Willamette University about an option agreement that enables the Klamath Tribes to purchase 90,000 acres of their original reservation near their tribal home of Chiloquin, Ore.

The free public event is at 7 p.m. in Hudson Hall in the Mary Stuart Rogers Center and is part of Willamette's Indian Country Conversations series.

"Klamath Tribal Homelands: Restoring a Legacy" will feature leaders of the Klamath Tribes, including Joseph Kirk, tribal chairman; Jeff Mitchell, tribal council member; and Perry Chocktoot, tribal council member and director of Culture and Heritage. Charles Sams III, director of the Tribal and Native Lands Program of the Trust for Public Land, will discuss the background to the option agreement, which was negotiated by the trust.

The land in question, the Mazama Tract, is the largest of 32 properties nationwide that the trust is working to restore to American Indians, and is about 8 percent of the 1.2 million acres reserved for the Klamath Tribes in an 1864 treaty. The reservation was liquidated by Congress in 1954 during the now repudiated policies of the Termination Era. While the tribe regained federal recognition in 1986, no land base was restored. The Mazama Tract, located east of Crater Lake, would be purchased from Cascade Timberlands, LLC.

"This is an exciting step in rebuilding a tribal nation that was wrongly terminated," Sams said.

"It's the first step toward re-creating a sustainable homeland for the Klamath Tribes," Kirk said. "Not only will land provide the tribe with financial stability, it's a significant part of our spiritual and cultural identity. There are culturally sensitive areas to take care of, that hopefully have not been lost to past activities."

The event is on Willamette's Founders Day, recognizing the university's founding by Jason Lee and other Methodist missionaries who came to the Willamette Valley in 1834 to open an Indian mission school. In 1842, Lee and the missionary community established a school for children of settlers called the Oregon Institute; this marked the founding of what is now Willamette University. Two years later, the original Indian Manual Labor School was closed.

On Founders Day 2005, Willamette held a Ceremony of Renewal with regional tribes to acknowledge its Indian mission legacy and begin a new chapter in the mutual history of Oregon's tribal communities and the university. At the ceremony, President M. Lee Pelton announced the establishment of a lecture series to bring guests from Indian country to the campus and broader Willamette Valley for dialogue, teaching and learning.

The Indian Country Conversations series is sponsored by the President's Office and the College of Liberal Arts, and is coordinated by anthropology Professor Rebecca Dobkins in consultation with the university's community-based Native American Advisory Council. "Klamath Tribal Homelands: Restoring a Legacy" is co-sponsored by The Tribal and Native Lands Program of the Trust for Public Land.