Digging into Indigenous History for History Month

May 20, 2022
May is Historic Preservation Month, and as a college history major, a former history museum director, and a current history nerd, this is something I care deeply about. Over the past year, however, my understanding of our nation’s history and my part in it has been transformed.

by Rika Ayotte

May is Historic Preservation Month, and as a college history major, a former history museum director, and a current history nerd, this is something I care deeply about. Over the past year, however, my understanding of our nation’s history and my part in it has been transformed through participation in the Coalition of Oregon Land Trust’s Land Justice Project.

The Oregon Land Justice Project is a partnership between the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, New Learning Journey/First Light and Tributaries Network with the ultimate goal to expand Indigenous access, ownership, and stewardship of land. The Learning Journey was a year-long program targeted to a non-Indigenous land trust audience who own or manage lands and/or work with private landowners and funders in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest region.

The Project seeks to transform the knowledge, thinking, and actions of the conservation community to focus on expanding Indigenous stewardship of land in order to repair relationships, grant legal access, share, and rematriate land.

Through this learning journey I came to know and understand concepts and histories that my years of work and schooling did not uncover. From Indigenous views on the colonization and establishment of this country, to generational trauma, to blood quantum, and the indigenous relational worldview, I found myself re-examining the ways in which we tell and preserve our history, what we omit, and why.

The Deschutes Land Trust was fortunate to be a part of the Oregon Land Justice Project and it has been an incredible resource and experience for our staff and our Board. I recognize that there are many who have not had this same opportunity and who would welcome the opportunity to broaden the lens through which we view our past. If you are reading this and are one of those people, I would encourage you to explore histories told by Indigenous voices as a powerful way to start.


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