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, Cowlitz Indian Nation, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, 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, Cowlitz Indian 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.