PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland City Council passed a resolution Thursday to adopt policies that better promote awareness and inclusion of Native and Indigenous people in city business and provide more equitable outcomes for them, including formalizing land acknowledgements.

The measure, brought before city council by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, was created through the Regional Collaborative Land Acknowledgement Project, which was spearheaded by Fritz 2018 in an effort to get the city to adopt a formal land acknowledgement to be stated before city business. It represents one of the last measure of Fritz’s that she saw passed from the dais before her term as Commissioner ends on December 31.

“Our government institutions have been responsible for the death, injustice, pain, loss of land, loss of income, disparities that we see in our community today. And it’s our responsibility to make amends for them,” Fritz said. “This resolution shows that we are serious about that, we have made a bit of progress and we have centuries of abuse to make up for and to correct our ways.”

A team of regional Native leaders — Elizabeth Woody, Dr. Phillip Cash Cash and Dr. Dian Million — are tasked with crafting the land acknowledgments, which are expected to be completed sometime in 2021.

Cash Cash, of the Cayuse and Nez Perce Nations of Oregon, is a younger speaker of Nez Perce, a critically endangered Indigenous language. Million, a Tanana Athabaskan, is an associate professor and American Indian studies department chair at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she is also an affiliate faculty member in Canadian Studies and the Comparative History of Ideas Program. Woody is enrolled in the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon and a Yakama Nation and Navajo Nation descendant, and was Oregon’s first Native American Poet Laureate from 2016-2018. 

Woody gave remarks before the council vote, acknowledging the extensive history of Native American people in Oregon, with Indigenous roots stretching back tens of thousands of years in the U.S., and the tradition of land acknowledgements among aboriginal peoples.

“I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with people all across the Americas, across the waters in New Zealand. And all of aboriginal peoples have a protocol. When we meet one another, we explain who we are born for, where we’re born in, the land that we come from, and most importantly, we always ask permission when we’re entering the territory of another peoples,” Woody said.

The place where Portland stands now was the site of many trades among Native Americans and part of a large network of trading sites across the U.S., over which many of the major highways now follow along those same trails, Woody said.

“I think that illustrates that we were very much established as a center of commerce, much like Portland is today. So I think that that’s really important for us to recognize by these protocols, that there is a pre-history here, that there is a commerce history here.”

In addition to the city’s future adoption of land acknowledgements for all city business, other action items were listed in the resolution, including making the city’s Indigenous Peoples Day a paid holiday for city employees, beginning Oct. 11, 2021, and for the Office of Equity and Human Rights and Tribal Relations Director to create recurring, mandatory training about tribal nations and people for all city employees.

Fritz also noted the special significance that the passage of the resolution occurred the same day President-elect Joe Biden announced he has nominated U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) for Secretary of the Interior, which would make her the first Native Cabinet member in U.S. history should she be appointed.

“Just a perfect post and I appreciate that nomination,” Fritz said.

Among other measures, the resolution also authorizes the exploration of creating an American Indian and Alaska Native employment preference to improve recruitment and retention. The city’s Tribal Relations director, Laura John, and Bureau of Human Resources will be collaborating on exploring a preference policy and will report back to the city council with findings by the end of next June.

Also being explored by the City Attorney’s Office, Portland Parks and Recreation and John are the possibilities for waiving park fees for American Indian/Alaska Native gatherings and ceremonies based on the unique political status of tribal people. 

The resolution acknowledged that Native people have been displaced from abundant lands several times throughout history, most recently in the 1950s when Native peoples were forced from reservations into poor urban areas. This recent history is a key factor in how Portland has emerged as being in the top 25 cities with the largest American Indian/Alaska Native population, the resolution said.