Strategic Blueprint Guides Confluence Path


VANCOUVER, Wash., Nov. 8, 2021 – A newly approved Strategic Blueprint will guide Confluence’s priorities over the next five years to include major program initiatives in museums, schools, communities and through a new journal publication. Confluence’s 12-member Board of Directors voted in favor of the plans at its most recent meeting, October 21, 2021. The project and programs outlined in the Blueprint represent Confluence’s priorities through 2025 to advance our mission, grow our audience, and create a sustainable future for our work in collaboration with our Tribal and organizational partners.

Three new programming initiatives are planned for 2022:

  • Establish the Confluence Emerging Indigenous Artist Educator program with support from The Roundhouse Foundation
  • Voices from the River exhibits with museum partners along the Columbia River, with support from the Oregon Community Foundation
  • Publish a new Voices from the River journal featuring Indigenous writers, artists and poets, with support from the National Endowment for Humanities.

In addition, Confluence will create the Jane Jacobsen Cultural Scholarship, a program to support young Native American women in Clark County, Washington who complete a meaningful project to explore and share their cultural traditions and expressions.

These new endeavors further advance Confluence’s mission to connect people to the history, living cultures, and ecology of the Columbia River system through Indigenous voices. We work through six art landscapes, educational programs, an online library, and public gatherings in collaboration with northwest Tribes, communities, and the celebrated artist Maya Lin.

The new initiatives to advance this mission are funded through generous grants from The Roundhouse Foundation, the Oregon Community Foundation, Paul and Deborah Speer, Meyer Memorial Trust, The Collins Foundation, and the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation Clark County Fund and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Confluence works through four overlapping areas:


Celilo Park Project

Though Confluence’s sixth and final art installation by Maya Lin remains on hold, discussions are ongoing with members of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council to move forward in some way.

The project at Celilo continues to have support from three Columbia River treaty tribes: Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Nez Perce Tribe. They see a redeveloped Celilo Park as an opportunity to educate people about Celilo Falls, honor the Indigenous people of the Columbia River, and strengthen the tribal presence in the public places along the river. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said it will only move forward with the park redevelopment with the support of all four of these tribes along the Columbia River. Confluence has been respectfully seeking to re-establish that support.

Confluence Land Bridge

The Confluence Land Bridge will soon undergo the biggest refurbishment since its completion in 2008. The City of Vancouver has already replaced the lighting and irrigation systems and will repave the walkway . Meanwhile, Confluence has been working with artist Lillian Pitt, her colleague Juno Lachman, and the design-build firm Figure Plant to add new artwork, including artistic slabs of basalt and new name plates, to the People Overlook. As part of the project, we plan to plant a native tree – one with bold fall colors – nearby in honor of Founding Director Jane Jacobsen. We hope to plan a dedication ceremony sometime in early 2022.

Bird Blind at the Sandy River Delta

In the fall of 2020, a tree fell on the pathway to the Bird Blind, crushing the handrails in three spots. Another tree fell a few weeks later doing further damage to a fourth part of the handrails. After significant research and outreach, Confluence has been working with two of the original contractors to conduct the repairs. Hanset Metal Fabricators has completed repairs to the metal frame of the handrails. The Walla Walla Foundry has fabricated and installed engraved black locust wood to finish the work. In the long term, the boardwalk planks need to be replaced. Our advisors at the Walla Walla Foundry have informed us that the boardwalk is less complicated than the handrails and the Bird Blind itself. They recommended a competent carpenter with access to black locust wood to first replace the most damaged planks and eventually the entire boardwalk. Meanwhile, the Foundry has recommended what it sees as the best stain to preserve the wood and keep it looking fresh.

Further Art Conservations Needs

The Confluence Boardwalk at Cape Disappointment will need to be re-etched in the coming years. It is now difficult to read the inscriptions from the Lewis and Clark Journals, naming all the places of significance they visited during their journey in 1804-05. Meanwhile at Sacajawea State Park, the ADA-compliant pathway that connects the Story Circles needs to be dug up and replaced. This site also needs significant landscaping to hold back blackberries and other invasive species.

In the long term, Confluence needs to contract with an art conservator to develop a 100-year conservation plan for each of the Confluence sites. This would include a regular schedule of repairs and refurbishments. For example, we know the Fish Cleaning Table at Cape Disappointment needs to be re-etched every ten years because of damage from the sea air, seagulls, and the knives of fishers. The plan would identify materials and qualified contractors so that future Confluence staff is able to proactively keep up with needed repairs and fixes.


Confluence in the Classroom and Outdoors

Confluence now has more than 17 years’ experience working with schools, the last 14 of which have been spent linking students and teachers in grades K–12 with professional Native artists, Tribes and community partners. Our signature education program, Confluence in the Classroom, consists of multidisciplinary programming tied to Confluence sites and delivered by Native artists and educators. The program serves primarily low income and rural schools by bringing Native artists into the classroom, guiding students to create meaningful projects about the landscape we share. A spinoff program, Confluence Outdoors, delivers similar educational experiences, but in a natural setting. Native educators conduct onsite learning units that focus on Traditional Ecological Knowledge, the Indigenous approach to teaching about humans’ dependence on and relationship with nature. Confluence works with 14 Indigenous educators who rely on the wisdom of tribal elders, their personal experiences and proven cultural and environmental practices when interacting with teachers and students. We anticipate being able to safely resume some form of our in-person education programming in 2022. We are currently planning for a full school year of programming that is already fully funded. This year, we also worked with graphic designers at Super Nature Adventures to produce a downloadable PDF document for students and families to explore the Sandy River Delta. Our hope is to produce a guide like this for each of the sites.

Professional Development for Teachers (expanded)

Confluence will continue its series of professional development workshops in order to help prepare Oregon and Washington teachers to accurately incorporate Native voices and perspectives into their lessons across multiple subject areas. In response to Senate Bill 13, the Oregon Dept. of Education’s Tribal History/Shared History Curriculum is now being rolled out in Oregon classrooms. However, state officials have acknowledged that Oregon’s public school teachers (nearly 90% of whom are white, according to the 2019 Oregon Educator Equity Report) will need additional support to ensure this curriculum is taught in a culturally sensitive and accurate way. Confluence is uniquely poised to help drive this movement because of our long relationships with Tribes, Native educators and schools. We have also found that demand is high enough for this kind of teacher training that many schools and districts have been willing to pay for the workshops themselves, which allows Confluence to save its grant funding for educators who would not otherwise not receive this professional development.

Emerging Indigenous Artist Educator (new)

The Roundhouse Foundation is a longtime funding partner for Confluence’s education programming. Its trustees recently approached us with the idea of creating an artist in residence program that would allow an Indigenous artist to develop their craft and share their culture and craft in classrooms. After some research, we found that many Native artists find little need to spend time away from family and their communities to work on their art. But they do find it valuable to gather with other Indigenous artists and educators for mentorship and inspiration.

The Roundhouse Artist in Residence at Confluence would begin with a retreat for all of our educators at the Foundation’s Pine Meadow Ranch near Sisters, Oregon in late October. This would be an opportunity for our Indigenous artists and educators to gather, plan for the school year, and create lasting relationships with this artist. Then the artist would spend some time during the school year working on their art and teaching in classrooms. The program would offer the opportunity for an art exhibit at the High Desert Museum and/or the Museum at Warm Springs.

Jane Jacobsen Indigenous Cultural Scholarship (new)

Confluence’s Founding Director Jane Jacobsen devoted her life to building northwest communities and lifting up the voices of historically marginalized people, including Native Americans. She worked tirelessly to support women and girls and encouraged them to grow into community leaders. Jane was a member of EMPOWER Girls+Women, a group of women philanthropists in Clark County, WA. Their leaders approach us to propose a program that would honor Jane’s legacy.

We will create a new program to offer $2,000 scholarships to 3 young Native American women in Clark County who complete a meaningful project to explore and share their cultural traditions and expressions. The goal is to inspire and support young Tribal members to learn more about their Indigenous traditions, arts, crafts, language and other cultural skills and then to share what they learn with their peers, families, and community. This could include traditional crafts such as weaving and beading, and also take the form of videos, art, public events, or social media campaigns. The program would seek to find two candidates per year over five years but would remain flexible in case more or fewer than two qualify in a single year. Scholarship recipients would also have the opportunity to gather with and learn from Confluence’s community of Tribal artists and educators from multiple Columbia River Tribes.


Voices from the River (new)

This is a 2-year project to create and showcase a multi-faceted, multi-media exhibit that features firsthand accounts and personal stories about the culturally significant places and experiences of Indigenous people from the Columbia River system. Lead artist/producer Woodrow Hunt will create the video content for the multi-media exhibit and semi-permanent interpretive digital displays to be hosted by nine museums. Five Indigenous culture bearers — Carol Craig (Yakama Nation); Roberta “Bobbie” Conner (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation); Emily Washines (Yakama Nation); Patricia Whitefoot (Yakama Nation); and Elizabeth Woody (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) — will curate the multi-media exhibit’s content.

Confluence would organize four Story Gatherings and Confluence in the Classroom programs in communities along the Columbia River. Community members will be able to visit the multi-media exhibit while it is being hosted by partner museums that will receive museum leadership training: Columbia River Maritime Museum; Clark County Historical Museum; Oregon Jewish Museum and Center For Holocaust Education; The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center; Museum at Warm Springs; High Desert Museum; Tamástslikt Cultural Institute; Maryhill Museum of Art; and The REACH Museum. Community members will also be able to return time and time again to view the semi-permanent interpretive digital displays at these museums (and hopefully, the interpretative centers at selected state parks in Washington and Oregon), which will regularly be refreshed with new video content after the Voices From the River exhibit has rotated to another hosting museum.

We have received a grant for $100,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights program to get started, along with a gift of $25,000 in 2021 and another $25,000 from Paul and Debbie Speer for the video production work on this project. We are seeking further funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Confluence Field School (expanded)

The Confluence Field School is a series of story-driven virtual experiences designed to elevate Indigenous voices in environmental managers’ understanding of the Columbia River system. These in-depth dialogues with Native elders, leaders, and tradition keepers who share first-person insights into the history of the landscape we share. Participants come away with a richer understanding of Columbia River Indigenous worldview, sovereignty, and working in partnership with native people. Our Native partners tell us that they too feel enriched and inspired by sharing their stories with a wider audience and for that audience to acknowledge and respect insights passed down from their ancestors. Past programs have included visits with members of the Grand Ronde, Warm Springs, Umatilla, Cowlitz, Yakama and Chinook Tribes. The Confluence Field School is targeted toward specific groups and audiences, including educators, conservation managers, and museum curators.

CanoeFluence (new)

CanoeFluence is a festival-style Tribal canoe race at Vancouver Lake that would include a public gathering with educational tents (e.g., for arts and crafts demonstrations) and display booths (for sponsors and vendors). We hope to draw at least five participating canoe teams from Tribes and canoe families in the Northwest to compete in several races around the rowing course. Vancouver Lake’s facilities include a rowing course on the water, picnic pavilions that are large enough to feed several hundred people, and ample parking. A master of ceremonies will lead participants through an opening invocation, safety protocols, and the races themselves from a public address system. After the races are complete, participants and spectators will gather for a communal dinner in celebration and fellowship. In the weeks leading up to the event, we will showcase a preview version of this video on social media as a way to promote the canoe race.

As a non-tribal organization, Confluence is uniquely positioned to act, not as a host, but as a neutral facilitator for tribes, tribal members and the wider Native community to come together in fellowship, community, and friendly competition. We believe the event will: 1) Educate students and youth, local tribal members, and the general public about the Indigenous cultures and traditions of the Columbia River system; 2) Strengthen intertribal relationships; 3) Broaden the audience for Confluence and other Native-focused organizations to sustain such programming into the future.

While we would like to facilitate this at the earliest possible date, the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic mean this event remains on hold until conditions are safe for all participants.


Confluence Online Library

The Digital Library is a series of interviews, documentaries, research articles, photo galleries, podcasts, and a community calendar of Confluence events. Our hope is to continue to produce video excerpts from our already recorded interviews and continue to interview more elders and leaders from Columbia River Tribes. Our hope is to also work with Tribal archives to digitize and showcase interviews that they have recorded but have not had the capacity to share publicly as appropriate.

Voices from the River Journal (new)

In addition to our museum exhibitory project, Voices from the River is also a journal that explores the history, living cultures, and ecology of the Columbia River system through Indigenous voices. It is an accessible publication of stories, research papers, poetry and art that elevate Native American perspectives in our understanding of our region and our nation. This journal is an extension of the work Confluence does in public gatherings, education programs in schools, and our Digital Library that already features interviews, documentary shorts, photo galleries, and research papers on these subject managers exclusively from an Indigenous perspective. We have received funding for this from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

Confluence Radio (new) and Podcast

For many years, Confluence has turned recordings of our public programs into podcast episodes. In the last two years, we have contracted with veteran public radio producers Gretchen Kilby and Chris Lehman to more systematically produce our podcast episodes into more regular seasons. After seeing some success with this approach, KMUN Coast Community Radio in Astoria, OR approached us to turn the podcast into a monthly radio show. This required only slightly more production and has proven a success. Our hope is that more public radio stations around the region will air this monthly program. In the long term, we see an opportunity to create a weekly radio and podcast program with an Indigenous host and producers who could explore the history, living cultures, and ecology of the Columbia River system through the voices of the Native people of this region.