There is no more powerful, significant place that shaped our early Northwest culture than where the Columbia once thundered at Celilo Falls. It was one of North America's largest waterfalls and was a life-sustaining salmon fishery and gathering place for thousands of Native Americans over the course of 10,000 years. As a tribute to this lost place, Maya Lin has designed a simple arc cantilevered at the river's edge that is inspired by the fishing planks used there before the falls were inundated in 1957. Along the arc will be the story of Celilo Falls, told through brief excerpts from oral histories, excerpts from the journals of Lewis and Clark, and contemporary tribal members. Blessed by the four treaty tribes at Celilo, the Confluence Project site at Celilo Park, near The Dalles, Oregon, will offer a place to remember, to heal, and to look ahead.
We see Celilo as a legacy, an icon, a cultural, religious kind of place. We want to keep that place present on the river. We want it to remain a part of us-the Indian tribes. Celilo is kind of like a stamp that signifies that the Falls are still a part of us. -Antone Minthorn, elder of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
The story of this place deserves to be told through tribute artwork at the Park. Our plans also call for a considerable amount of environmental restoration work at Celilo Park, to replace non-native plants with indigenous species and additional landscaping to create an appropriate setting for this important memorial. Throughout this process we will create educational opportunities to explore the cultural and environmental history at Celilo.
This project provides a unique and profound opportunity for Oregonians to honor what has been lost and join together in preserving the culture and heritage of Celilo. The artwork/tribute at Celilo Park will facilitate an understanding of the history of the site, its people, and our shared future. This project also provides great economic value to residents in the Gorge through heritage tourism. Todd Cornett, Chief Planner for Wasco County, recently referred to the Celilo Park project and the Sandy River Delta artwork as the "bookends" to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.
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