164 years ago, Oregon’s Willamette Valley changed forever.  Although, many would agree it’s a fairly somber anniversary.

164 years ago, the U.S. Government agreed to terms negotiated by the Willamette Valley Treaty Commission, removing Oregon’s Native American tribal members to reservation land.

The U.S. Government wanted white settlers to have access to all the land west of the Cascade Mountains.

Back then, U.S. representatives here in Oregon negotiated several different treaties with the Confederate Tribes of the Grande Ronde, moving them east.

This, of course, came after a rash of conflicts with the natives as well as various atrocities committed by white settlers and U.S. Government troops.

One of the treaties was signed by the Santiam Band of Kalapuya near Dayton, Oregon on Jan. 22nd, 1855.

So, the Mayor of Salem now wants to commemorate this key moment in Oregon’s history, by recognizing today as Willamette Valley Treaty Commemoration Day.

City of Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett said, “Our relationship with the Grand Ronde Tribe is one built on collaboration and friendship.  We are pleased to formalize that relationship and look forward to continuing our years of cooperation.”

I must say, I find this entire effort by Mayor Bennett — a bit odd….”opening old wounds” in a way.

Commemorating the day the U.S. forcibly removed Oregon’s native populations just seems off – at least from a public relations standpoint.

I called and asked a representative with the Grand Ronde for comment and she said, “to commemorate an event, doesn’t mean to celebrate it”.

Grand Ronde Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy said, “We are grateful to the City of Salem for honoring that history, as well as our years of friendship, through this proclamation.”

At any rate — it’s apparent this proclamation is part of Salem’s effort to create a new memorandum of understanding with the Grand Ronde.

I suspect there was some eye rolling among tribal members, but I could be wrong.