Columbia River Tribal Leaders to Speak at Willamette on Founders Day

Tribal leaders Carol Craig of the Yakama Nation and Louis Pitt of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation will speak Thursday, Feb. 1, at Willamette University about "Ancestral Rights and Responsibilities."

This free public event is at 7 p.m. in the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center and is preceded by a 6 p.m. reception. The dialogue takes place on Willamette's Founders Day and is part of the Indian Country Conversations series.

Craig and Pitt will offer an introduction to the history of Columbia River tribes and the treaties negotiated with the U.S. government in the 19th century. They will discuss the ongoing responsibilities -- shared by the tribes, the federal government and the public -- implied by these treaty rights, particularly to protect salmon habitat.

Craig is the public information manager for the Yakama Nation Fish and Wildlife Resource Management Program in Washington. In 2002, she was one of four finalists for Portland-based Ecotrust's Buffet Indigenous Leadership Award in recognition of her efforts to educate the public and tribal communities about native people's traditions, cultures and treaty rights. That same year, she was given the Spirit of the Salmon Award from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission for her public outreach education throughout the Pacific Northwest. Craig has been widely recognized for her achievements in Native American journalism and public affairs.

Pitt is the director of government affairs and planning of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. He works with state and federal officials and is on the communications team for the proposed Bridge of the Gods casino project. A former Columbia River Gorge commissioner, Pitt has served as a tribal appellate judge, as a member of Gov. John Kitzhaber's transition team, and on the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee.

This 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 the 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 dean, and is coordinated by associate professor of anthropology Rebecca Dobkins in consultation with the university's community-based Native American Advisory Council.