Grand Ronde Decides New Name of Willamette Falls Site

In a move meant to further connect the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde with its ancestral homelands, the tribe has chosen a new name for its 23-acre former mill site near Willamette Falls in Oregon City.

The name, Tumwata Village, includes the native name for the Falls, tumwata, and reflects the tribe’s longstanding connection to the area.

The tribe, which closed on the property in August 2019, has also launched to share more about the vision for the site, development plans, ongoing progress and how they can help support the restoration efforts.

The website will be updated as decisions are made on the environmental and cultural restoration of the site, and its development to visually and physically connect people to the landscape.

“As a name, Tumwata Village represents the Grand Ronde Tribe’s connection to the falls as well as the sacred lands and practices of our ancestors,” said Cheryle A. Kennedy, Chairwoman of the Grand Ronde Tribe.

“As a place, Tumwata Village will be a welcoming one that provides public access to the falls, a chance to learn about our heritage and culture and an opportunity for new prosperity throughout the region.”

The Grand Ronde Tribe’s connection to the falls goes back to the days of their earliest ancestors, when the site was home to the village of the Clowewalla — the Willamette band of Tumwaters — and the Kosh-huk-shix Village of Clackamas people.

In addition to living at the falls, they used the area to hunt and fish, both for subsistence and ceremonially.

Even though the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855 resulted in the federal government forcibly removing the tribal populations from the falls area to the Grand Ronde Reservation, the Grand Ronde Tribe says its connection to the area has always persisted.

Since the acquisition of the former Blue Heron paper mill, the tribe has released a vision for the site that includes environmental and cultural restoration alongside thoughtful new development and restored public access.

Focused around the central idea of healing, the tribe says its vision is also guided by the values of spirit, place, people and prosperity.

After announcing its vision in early 2021, the tribe received an $800,000 environmental restoration grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, and began its first round of demolition at the site in September 2021. A second round commenced in April 2022.

Tribal officials say that in the coming years, there will be further demolition, as well as environmental restoration, improved public access and mixed-use development that will visually and physically connect to the restored landscape.

“Tumwata Village is a meaningful name for a meaningful site,” Kennedy said. “It connects the Grand Ronde Tribe of today with our ancestors, it dignifies a landscape that is sacred to us, and it offers hope for a prosperous future here at the falls and beyond.”

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