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Tribes’ ancestors honored with mural

Seaside, Oregon (AP) 9-08

A mural stretched along the outside wall of a building in town tells the centuries-old story of the Clatsop and Nehalem people who lived on the land where Seaside now stands.

In the mural, children play at the Neacoxie River’s edge with Tillamook Head in the distance. Men build a dugout canoe and work on a longhouse. Women pick salal berries. Salmon is smoked over a fire.

“This is our life,” said Dick Basch, a Clatsop tribal member and the American Indian liaison with the Lewis and Clark Historical Trail. “This is who we are.”

The faces of nine people who influenced the tribes and local history are grouped to the left side of the mural, which stretches across the wall of Seaside’s Holladay Drugs building.

There are chiefs, their children and tribal members who became scholars to study their tribe’s history.

Among those depicted is Chief Tostow, the Clatsop leader who signed an 1851 treaty at Tansey Point on the Columbia River near Clatsop Plains.

The treaty ceded the land occupied by the Clatsop, Nehalem and Tillamook between Young’s Bay on the Columbia River, Tillamook Head, the summit of the Coast Range mountains and the ocean. In exchange, the Clatsops received $15,000 in annual payments representing goods and cash.

The tribes retained their fishing rights along the Neocoxie Creek and their right to retrieve whales cast away on the beach, according to the treaty.

The treaty never was ratified by the U.S. government, but the tribes still lost most of their land.

For Diane Collier, chairwoman of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes, the eyes of Chief Tostow and the others say everything.

“What impresses me are their eyes,” she said. “It’s like you can read their minds. We are seeing our ancestors on that wall, and they’ll be remembered.”

Collier’s great-great grandparents and other relatives are pictured on the mural. She and nearly 150 people gathered during September to honor their ancestors during a dedication ceremony.

Plans for the mural began five years ago when tribal leaders decided they wanted to focus on educating others about the Clatsop and Nehalem tribes, Basch said.

He contacted Roger Cooke, a painter from Brightwood on the Sandy River who had worked on projects with other tribes, Basch said.

The tribal leaders and Cooke discussed the design, Collier said, and decided Tillamook Head should be in the painting because of its place in the tribe’s history.

“It shows the area where we lived,” he said. “It gives the mural more reality.”

Cooke drew faces from photographs he received or found in books and submitted several designs to the tribal leaders, Basch said.

“Our grandfathers and grandmothers lived here. They fished here, picked berries here and went to the same sacred sites,” he said. “We can’t forget them.”