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Confluence connects people to the culture, history, and ecology of the Columbia River system through art and education. Confluence is yours.

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1109 East 5th Street
Vancouver, WA 98661
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Confluence volunteers take care of our River Sites through work parties, help us educate people through public outreach events, and host casual and thoughtful gatherings we call salons. We also sometimes need help with administrative and fundraising work.

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What is Confluence?

Confluence is a community-supported nonprofit that connects people to the history, living cultures, and ecology of the Columbia River system through Indigenous voices. We work in collaboration with northwest tribes, communities, and the celebrated artist Maya Lin. The idea for the project began in 1998 as a response to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. Tribal and arts leaders saw the Bicentennial as an opportunity to tell the story from Native perspectives. The organization achieved 501(c)3 status in 2002.

What is the status of the Celilo Park project by Maya Lin?

The Confluence Project by Maya Lin planned for Celilo Park is designed to educate people about the rich history of Celilo Falls, honor the indigenous people of the Columbia River, and strengthen the tribal presence in the public spaces along the river. The project is on hold because one of four tribes with cultural ties to Celilo Falls withdrew their support. The park is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has said it would only move forward with the project with the backing of all four tribes. Three continue to support the park redevelopment: The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the Nez Perce Tribe. They see the project as an important way to educate the public about the significant history of Celilo Falls. The Yakama Nation Tribal Councils’ Culture Committee has expressed concerns about drawing visitors to Celilo Park and would prefer the park be closed to public access. Read more about Confluence’s response here.

Where are the Confluence Project sites?

Confluence sites stretch 438 miles, from the mouth of the Columbia in Ilwaco, to Clarkston, WA, on the Snake River. All sites are part of the Columbia River System. You can view a map of the site’s locations, geography, and tribal homelands here. 

Where does Confluence get its funding?

Since its founding in 2002, funding for Confluence has generally come from three sources: government agencies, philanthropic foundations, and generous individual donors. The single largest donor to Confluence sites has been the State of Washington since four of these capital projects are located in the state. Nearly all of the major foundations located in Oregon and Southwest Washington have supported our work. As Confluence has transitioned into a focus on educational and community programming, we have come to rely more heavily on individual donors. We call them Friends — people who donate $25 or more per year, many monthly — and Legacy Makers — people who contribute $1,000 or more per year.

How are the tribes involved with Confluence?

Confluence’s River Sites were chosen in close consultation with Columbia River Tribes, including Chinook Indian Nation, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Cowlitz Nation, Nez Perce Tribe, Yakama Nation and Cultural Center, and The Wanapum. Confluence’s educational and community programs have been developed with input and participation by tribal councils and also by individual tribal members. All of our programming puts Indigenous voices at the center of what we do.

What is Maya Lin’s role with Confluence?

Maya Lin is the primary artist and designer of five of the six Confluence River Sites. Lin acted as a consultant on the Vancouver Land Bridge, which was designed by architect Johnpaul Jones. Maya Lin says she agreed to design the Confluence projects only when she understood that the invitation was coming from tribal leaders along the Columbia River. She has said she sees the project as a way of connecting people to a more inclusive understanding of our history but also of the ecological transformation of our shared landscape.

What is Confluence’s programming?

Confluence has two areas of programming, In the Schools, and In the Community.
Confluence in the Community connects tribes, civic organizations, environmental groups, and education partners to keep Confluence sites as thriving hubs of activity. The events include Story Gathering Panels, Road Trips to Confluence sites with Native speakers, and work parties. For more information go here.

Confluence in the Schools, for the past eight years, connects students to place through art and education by introducing them to Native artists and culture bearers from the Chinook Nation, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Nez Perce Tribe. For information on how to get your class involved, go here.

How can I get involved as a volunteer?

Confluence volunteers take care of our River Sites through work parties, help us educate people through public outreach events and host casual and thoughtful gatherings we call salons. We also sometimes need help with administrative and fundraising work. Let us know how you would like to support the Confluence mission by filling out our volunteer form here: 

How do I find out if there are events near me?

Please go to our Community Calendar and choose your region. We list both Confluence events and events put on by our partners.

What do you recommend I read to find out more about the Columbia River system?

We recommend you look at this list of resources, compiled by Confluence staff based on recommendations from our tribal partners. Some of the resources mentioned included an essay by Elizabeth Woody, Death of Celilo Falls by Katrine Barber, and information written by the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.

About Confluence

“What is a Legacy?”

by Antone Minthorn, founding Board Chair of Confluence

The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) Bicentennial was in 2004-2006 and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation decided to participate in this national event. The motivating reasons were to showcase the tribe’s accomplishments of restoring self-government, building an economy, and restoring natural resources (e.g. water and salmon), as examples. That is when the question of legacy came up.

After more than a decade, the Confluence Project has accomplished a great deal: five completed project sites – Cape Disappointment, Vancouver Land Bridge, Sandy River Delta, Sacajawea State Park, and Chief Timothy Park. Each of these sites provides a historical 200 year perspective on what happened over that time and where we are today. Those project sites provide an important voice to a young growing American nation. And that voice can be seen and heard today. It also gives Native American Tribes a stronger voice. For example, although Celilo Village has been rebuilt it still needs a stronger organized voice that can be heard beyond the village.

The accomplishments of Columbia River tribes had to be shared with all of the people. As I recollect, at that same time Jane Jacobsen was wondering what all those statues and pictures of Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea were pointing at as they were looking West. Jane’s curiosity and vision resulted in the Confluence Project which shows the Oregon Country and Columbia River Basin that became a part of the Pacific Northwest of America. The Confluence Project reminds us of the history of how America came together and who was there.

The ultimate goal is to make and keep America a great democratic country that understands and respects its historical beginnings. And we will always be ready to fight to protect the rights of our people. By working together, we will all benefit together. This is what I call the WIN/WIN.

I have seen the power of this approach. For example, the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBOR), in the early 1900’s, built an irrigation project at the lower end of the Umatilla River as it flowed into the Columbia River. So the Umatilla River was dewatered and the Salmon runs destroyed. That was a violation of the CTUIR 1855 Treaty Rights to take fish from the Umatilla River. In the 1970s, the CTUIR had plans to restore water and Salmon back to the Umatilla River. We asked the USBOR and irrigation districts whether they would like to negotiate or litigate. The choice was to negotiate. That is where the goal of WIN/WIN comes from. That is, water was left to flow in the Umatilla River for the Salmon, and the irrigation districts got water from an exchange with the Columbia River. The CTUIR restored water and salmon to the Umatilla River and there was exchange water to support agricultural business interests. It was a “head-to-head battle” for the water. The overall result was a benefit to the entire Umatilla River Basin. The CTUIR had used its 1855 Treaty Rights to get a “WIN/WIN” situation.

Confluence is an example of this same approach. The education of non-Native people about the Indigenous history of this place helps them to become more “truly American” … to be from this place and of this place. And in this way, we can work together on behalf of our shared country.

That is all. Antone.

What is a Legacy?

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