A new, yet traditional cedar Plankhouse on the southern Oregon coast provided a culturally appropriate setting for American Indian Tribal leaders to gather with USDA Rural Development last week. At the meeting, Tribes from across the state provided feedback to help improve the delivery of USDA Electric, Telecommunications, Broadband, and Water and Environmental Programs in Indian Country.
“Our Tribal partners brought to the table meaningful insight into how we can better serve Native Americans on and off trust lands in Oregon,” said Rural Development Oregon State Director Vicki Walker. “It is our mission to move forward to provide these communities with the assistance they need,” she continued.
The meeting was held in the Coquille Plankhouse, which was built of long, flat planks of cedar lashed to a wooden frame using traditional methods. The sides and roof can be removed to open the building to the outside. With roof panels open and the group gathered around a cedar-scented fire pit, the consultation provided an atmosphere of open dialogue enriched by the cultures and traditions of the Tribes of the Pacific Northwest.
“Our hosts, the Coquille Indian Tribe, provided the ideal environment for the Tribes to share information – and for USDA to listen and learn – about the needs and barriers related to providing services and program assistance to Oregon’s Native American communities,” Walker said.
The event was scheduled as a formal consultation with USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) regarding the Substantially Underserved Trust Area (SUTA) provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill. In accordance with President Obama’s November 5, 2009, Memorandum on Tribal Consultation, Rural Development is conducting consultations with tribal governments to identify and improve the program availability in those communities. Areas considered to be “trust lands” include those held in trust by the United States for use by Native Americans, lands subject to restriction by alienation by the United States on Indian lands, and certain other lands as specified in the law.
In attendance were representatives from the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Suislaw Indians; Klamath Tribes; Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indians; Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; Siletz Confederated Tribes; the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians; and the Coquille Indian Tribe.
For more information on USDA and Tribal Outreach efforts click here.