The ‘new’ name restores the Native name for the falls and community.
Last week the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde announced a name for the 23-acre Oregon City site the tribe is working to redevelop: Tumwata Village.
The announcement of the village name is recent, but the name isn’t new: Tumwata is the original name for the falls, and the village that sat nearby.
The name was officially decided upon by the tribal government after consulting with descendants of the Clackamas people who are indigenous to the area, according to Cheryle Kennedy, chairwoman of the Grand Ronde.
“It’s not so much a renaming as a return,” Kennedy tells Oregon Business. “This was the name of the site. So we are returning to that because it is a powerful people. It is a powerful site. It’s a spiritual and a cultural site, and a place of commerce. All of that is embodied in the in the return to the name of this area.”
The land sits near Willamette Falls outside Oregon City, which has been the focus of redevelopment plans for nearly a decade. At first those planning efforts involved a memorandum of understanding the State of Oregon, the City of Oregon City, Clackamas County and Oregon Metro; in 2019 the Grand Ronde tribe purchased land near the falls and for a time participated in a partnership with those governments. (The tribe pulled out of the partnership in March.)
Since the arrival of white settlers in the 19th century, the waterfall — the largest by volume in the Northwest and one of the largest in the world — has been harness for industrial production, including hydroelectric power and milling. But the last mill at the site, the Blue Heron Paper Mill, shuttered in 2011; the tribe demolished it last year.
But a number of structures — many of them abandoned — remain. Earlier this year the tribe began a second round of demolition at the site, described as a slow, deliberate process due to the size of the buildings — which included a water-filtration plant and a millwright shop — and the nature of the materials they contained. New construction, including building new streets at the site, could begin as early as next year.
The tribe has also launched a website, tumwatavillage.org, to document the vision for the site and development plans. One thing the tribe is not considering is building a casino at the site, Kennedy told Willamette Week this week.
“We will continue to refine our plan, our visioning document, I don’t know if you’ve seen that or not, but it spans a couple of decades,” Kennedy says. “As different obstacles arise, you have to address them and deal with them, and that may delay what you’re looking at. But overall, we do want to have a robust community there play place of retail place where people can gather where our cultural practices can be conducted, for people to come in eat and enjoy themselves.”
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