Indian Country Conservancy to restore Native lands in Oregon

Staff reports
1/7/11

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Indian Country Conservancy has received three grants totaling nearly $150,000 from leading foundations in Oregon.

Chuck Sams (Cocopah, Cayuse and Sioux), ICC’s president and CEO, said ICC is appreciative of generous funding from the Meyer Memorial Trust, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, and The Collins Foundation.

“These grants will allow us to work with the tribes of Oregon on land conservation strategies.”

The conservancy’s mission is to reacquire conservation and cultural lands for tribal protection that will help rebuild Native nations in Oregon, Sams said.

ICC is in the midst of negotiations to return extraordinary lands to Oregon tribes, ranging from a 210-acre cultural parcel in Oregon’s Eastern Columbia Gorge that is important to the Wyam people, to 90,000 acres of timberland in southern Oregon to be returned to the Klamath Tribes.

ICC staff members have more than 50 years of combined experience in the conservation field, said Bowen Blair, ICC’s chief conservation officer. Blair has more than 27 years experience in the conservation field in Oregon.

ICC works with tribes across the nation, with a primary emphasis in Oregon.

Nationally, two-thirds of the 148 million acres reserved by tribes through treaties as reservations was taken from Native peoples through federal allotment and termination policies – policies that ostensibly were implemented to assimilate Native peoples but generally transferred the most valuable tribal lands, typically forest lands, to private non-Indian ownership.

Oregon was ground zero for these policies and the loss of land and exploitation of natural resources that followed. Of the 109 tribes and bands that were terminated nationwide, the majority – 62 – were native to Oregon.

“While Natives experienced the worst of federal allotment and termination policies, Oregon tribes have been especially resilient,” Blair said. “This resiliency, together with Oregon’s nationally-recognized tribal leadership on land repatriation issues – as well as progressive state policies that deal with tribes on a government-to-government basis – make Oregon an ideal place to launch ICC’s efforts.”

ICC is a nonprofit Native organization overseen by a predominantly Native board dedicated to reacquiring, for tribal stewardship, important conservation and cultural lands in order to make Indian country whole again. ICC works with willing landowners to return original lands and ecosystems to the trust of their Native inhabitants.

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