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Native American Heritage and Culture


The warm hospitality that Northwest Indians displayed to the Oregon Territory’s first white settlers is still evident in the outdoor salmon bakes held at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort on the Warm Springs Reservation and in the beautifully appointed lodgings at Spirit Mountain Casino and Resort, run by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. Throughout the city of Portland there also exist many subtle reminders that before Oregon was a state – or even a U.S. territory – it belonged to the indigenous peoples of North America.

Although not a native of Oregon, the Shoshone Indian Sacajawea played an important part in the exploration of the state. Her role in guiding Lewis and Clark on their historic journey west is honored with a statue in Portland’s Washington Park. Commissioned in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark trek, the statue was financed by donations from women in every state of the union and was the first statue of a woman ever to be unveiled in the United States.

Sculpture, beadwork from the Great Plains, basketry and masterpieces of Tsimshian carving are but a sampling of the nearly 4,000 Indian art pieces that make up the Center for Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum. More than 200 indigenous groups from throughout the Northwest are represented in this remarkable collection. The pieces are housed almost entirely in the museum’s new Hoffman Wing.

Just across the street from the art museum is the Oregon Historical Society, where artifacts representing Oregon’s Northern Paiute, Tillamook and Wasco tribal groups are exhibited on a regular basis. The museum is currently closed for renovation with plans to reopen in fall 2003. The museum shop, a great place to browse all things Portland, remains open throughout the renovation.

More contemporary Native American art – from totem poles to transformation masks – can be found at other select galleries in the Portland area.