The Grand Ronde Tribes have a special connection to Willamette Falls, the village home of their Clackamas and Clowewalla ancestors and a vital site for harvesting salmon and lamprey. They know it simply as tumwata, the Chinook jargon word for waterfall. After the tribes were evicted from their lands in the 1850s, these spectacular horseshoe-shaped falls — the most voluminous waterfall in the Northwest — succumbed to development and industrial use.
In 2019 the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde reacquired a portion of this sacred site when they purchased the abandoned Blue Heron Paper Mill at the falls. Now the tribes are restoring the ecological health of tumwata and reestablishing their cultural connections to this historical homeland.
A significant ceremonial first step was erecting a fishing scaffold at the falls to allow the tribes to exercise their traditional tribal fishing rights. Now extensive restoration work is underway: removing industrial buildings and waste, repairing the natural water channels, reestablishing native plantings and restoring riparian habitat for native fish, birds and other wildlife.
Working with state, federal, local and tribal partners, future plans call for a riverwalk that provides public access to the falls, as well as tribal initiatives that may include a tribal center, educational spaces and hospitality venues.