GRANDE RONDE, Ore. – On Highway 18, about half way between Salem and Lincoln City, you will come across a small unassuming community called Grand Ronde. The history is rich, the land is beautiful and the people are Native.
In 1856, several tribes realized their own “trail of tears” when they were forcibly moved to the newly established Grand Ronde reservation. Nearly 100 years later, in an effort to assimilate Native Americans, the government passed a bill declaring the Grand Ronde tribe, along with several others, terminated.
“It changed our lives,” said Margaret Provost, 80, who remembered being told she was no longer an Indian. “Things weren’t the same after that.”
The once 9,000-acre reservation was sold off until all that remained of the tribe was a small cemetery. Most tribal members moved away to find work or go to school.
Provost later became the catalyst for getting the tribe re-recognized. Her effort started in the early 1970s and came to fruition in 1983 when the tribe received federal recognition again.
“I used to know the number of our bill,” said Provost. “There were 400 bills on the table and ours was one of 12 that were passed.”
Restoration has brought wealth and stability to the tribe.
Owners of the number two tourist destination in Oregon, Spirit Mountain Casino, the tribe has become self-sufficient in many ways. Members receive benefits such as education grants and medical insurance.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Provost. “We have the ability to preserve our culture now.”