Museums/cultural centers are scattered across Oregon and give visitors a glimpse of Native American life. Here’s a sampling.
“Escape to another nation,” urges the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs on its website featuring Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in central Oregon.
An early adopter of tribal tourism, the tribes have been running the resort since the early 1970s. The 139-room hotel perches on a ridge in the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in the high desert, and its Olympic-sized outdoor pool has been beloved by generations of kids who never want to come out of the hot-springs water.
Over the years, a golf course, RV campground, spa, casino and the nearby Museum at Warm Springs were added around Kah-Nee-Ta (kahneeta.com). Yet Oregon’s native tourism isn’t as extensive nor as economically potent as British Columbia’s (with its abundance of museums and First Nations-run luxury hotels) or Washington’s tribal tourism (with many casinos and increasing economic/tourism diversification, especially by entrepreneurial tribes such as the Tulalip).
Yet the 25,000-square-foot Museum at Warm Springs gives an excellent overview of the history of the reservation’s three tribes — the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute — with interactive exhibits, artwork, traditional crafts and historic photos.
The museum is on Highway 26, an easy stop for travelers heading toward the resort town of Bend, 55 miles south. Across the highway is the Indian Head Casino (indianheadcasino.org); the casino moved from Kah-Nee-Ta hotel, 13 miles north, in 2012.
Open 24 hours a day for gamblers, the new casino’s exterior is designed to evoke the wooden fishing scaffolds that once proliferated at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River. The ancient salmon-fishing site, known as Wy-am and used by many tribes, was a food and cultural life source. The tumbling falls and rocky channels were submerged in 1957 as The Dalles Dam was built and the Columbia’s waters rose. For the tribes, it was a loss that still resonates sadly.
Other museums/cultural centers are scattered across Oregon and give visitors a glimpse of Native American life. A sampling:
Tamástslikt Cultural Institute: On the sprawling Umatilla reservation of eastern Oregon, the Wildhorse Casino Resort brings in cash for the tribes through its well-regarded 10-story hotel; 1,200 slot machines and other gambling; plus a golf course on reservation land on the outskirts of Pendleton.
But it’s the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute that showcases and helps preserve the culture of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation — the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla — through interactive exhibits and artwork.
This summer, the museum has an outdoor “living-culture village” (until Sept. 5) where visitors can see and help set up teepees; learn about traditional foods, and try throwing the “atlatl,” a light hunting spear. tamastslikt.org
Chachalu Tribal Museum and Cultural Center: This tribal center in northwest Oregon includes small, temporary exhibits on the history of the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde. It opened last year, and eventually will be expanded into a 4,500-square-foot display space; it’s already used for tribal classes and crafts. Updates at grandronde.org/culture/chachalu-museum.
As with other Oregon reservations, the U.S. in the mid-19th century forcibly grouped distinct tribes onto reservations; the Grande Ronde includes the Umpqua, Molalla, Rogue River, Kalapuya and Shasta peoples.
As well as cultural endeavors, the Grande Ronde tribes run the big and popular Spirit Mountain Casino, which also includes a comfortable hotel, restaurants and RV camping.
Portland museums: Portland’s two major museums, the Portland Art Museumand Oregon Historical Society, include tribal artifacts and artwork, and the city is home to many Native Americans (and sits on traditional village sites). More information: travelportland.com/collection/native-american-portland
The state’s tourism office also has an overview of Native-American heritage in Oregon: traveloregon.com/see-do/oregon-heritage/native-american-heritage
Pendleton Round-Up: For something completely different, head to a rodeo or Native-American powwow. One of the biggest is the annual Pendleton Round-Up, Sept- 16-19 this year, and Native Americans have long been involved in it.
Most Read Life Stories
- A holiday cookie recipe for bakers at every level
- 5 Washington outdoors experts name their favorite rainy hikes
- 6 lessons this Seattleite learned trekking to Everest Base Camp
- Rant and Rave: Reader says neighborhood doesn’t need sidewalks
- 5 Seattle-area cookie swaps that will make you believe in the power of cookies
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla host a tribal village, with more than 300 teepees, that draws Native Americans from around the Pacific Northwest. There’s a traditional-dance competition, parade, a tribal beauty pageant and more. pendletonroundup.com/p/about/189