Telling Stories Digital Story 2017

Maps are only one tool out of many that can tell the story of a location. Coupled with oral histories, technological tools such as GPS, Total Station, GPR, photogrammetry, photography and older tools like paper maps, stratigraphic maps and sketch maps, one can learn about the history of a location. For my digital story I used ArcGIS application to create a digital story map that focused on the intersection between community engagement, maps and exploratory excavation can be used to build a fuller image of life at Grand Ronde.

Architecture, Archeology and Achaf-Hammi

When we think archaeology, we inevitably picture ancient ruins of great temples and massive stone buildings. Architecture, in a word. But those only select examples of the types of architecture that was common in the past. Peoples from various parts of the world used materials that did not always weather well, and so structures would be lost as time moved on. Though the buildings did not always remain, signs of human residence can be found during with careful research, use of technologies like GPR, and sometimes with excavation. This relationship between architecture and archaeology is what drew my interest for my final project, and while at Grand Ronde I decided to focus on how modern architecture and historical structures were both important to archaeologists, and to the community.

My focus revolved around two main structures, the search for the Molalla settlement by Cosper Creek, and Achaf-Hammi, the first plank house to be built on reservation land since the 1850’s. Through research I learned that issues such as resettlement and land tenure issues would have had a huge impact on what types of structures could be built on reservation land. Buildings do far more than offer shelter from the elements. In fact, buildings are often where culture, story, traditions and language are learned, experienced, and passed on. Therefore, it is not hard to realize how disrupting architectural traditions of a group of people can be an effective way to disrupt the flow of knowledge from one generation to the next.

At the same time, the impermanence of the structures built in the past would make the search for the exact location of old encampments difficult. This was the case with the search for the Molalla encampment, though maps and GPR images both pointed towards a particular area, the exact location has proven to be elusive.
The exploration on how different structures in different times would have been important to the community and story of Grand Ronde taught me about the importance and role of architecture, archeology and the stories the community passes forward in telling the complete history of a place.

Chinook Wawa

One of the most striking things I have noticed at Grand Ronde was the use of Chinook Wawa language during a gathering at the Achaf-Hammi Plank House, several days after arriving at Grand Ronde.  While I had expected to be introduced to new topics and subjects, language use and its importance to the local community had not really crossed my mind.

Over the following days, I learned about the Confederate of Tribes of Grand Ronde, who include Kalapuya, Molalla, Rogue River Athabaskans,Shasta, and Umpqua peoples and I also learned more about Chinook Wawa, the language that is spoken by Grand Ronde tribal members today. The history of the language is interesting in itself, and it illustrates some of the population’s history, in that it was first used as a trade language between the tribes along the Columbia long before they were forced to move to the reservation in the 1850’s.

In order to communicate the tribes began using an old trade language, a jargon comprised of several dialects. Language, as expected, is intricately linked to culture and traditions of a community, and Chinook Wawa is no different.  In the face of the trauma caused by forcible removal, extreme violence, and oppression from their colonizers, the different tribes realized that they needed to band together to survive. A common language was one of the ways in which the tribes came together to form a new normal out of the upheaval (Native-Language, 2015).

As time passed from the tribes to the reservation in 1856 to the current day, the language also experienced changes, and losses. Outside pressure to assimilate to mainstream ‘American’ society made it clear in various ways that assimilation was not only desired, but expected. For some, leaving behind their language, culture and traditions seemed to offer the chance for a brighter future. For the community at large, it was a blow that would take a long time to recover from (Lewis, 2013).

The next challenge to Chinook Wawa and the Confederate Grand Ronde Tribes was with the termination of the tribes in the 1950’s. The termination was one more attempt at forced integration of tribal people, which greatly weakened the community as some members left completely.

It is no surprise that the language also suffered. On speaking to a local tribe member, I learned that there aren’t many adults fluent in Chinook Wawa. Efforts to reintroduce and revitalized the language have proven to be successful, especially with the language program that children of preschool and kindergarten age are enrolled in. This age group has shown a grasp of the language that they carry well past those first few years of schooling, a bright sign for the future of Chinook Wawa as a spoken language.

At present, Chinook Wawa’s presence is heard all over Grand Ronde, from the bilingual street signs on the government campus, to songs, and stories told at the Plank House during gatherings, as well as at the Powwow. Speakers of this unique language have come together in many ways, from making short films like Huyhuy, which went on to show at the ImagineNATIVE festival in Toronto, to a language app that aims to create new avenues for learning the language. My short exposure to the community at Grand Ronde and the cultural events made it clear that the language not only still alive, but an integral part of the traditions, culture, and life of the Grand Ronde Tribes.

photo via



Hopinka, Sky. 2013. “Huyhuy”

Lewis, David G. 2013. “A house built on Cedar Planks.” Willamette Valley Voices: Special Edition Confederate Tribes of Grande Ronde Articles.

Native-Languages. 2015. “Grande Ronde Indian Language” Last modified 2015.

Rhodes, Dean. 2017. “Veterans’ weekend arrives with summit, powwow”

NLS About Me

Natasha has always been interested in stories, and though she took the long way around, she finally found a field of study where the stories matter.  Her background is in Biology and Anthropology with a focus on traditional indigenous architecture. She was excited to be able to participate in the FMIA field school as it intersected with all her areas of interest, and knows that what she learns during the program will be invaluable in the future.