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Chemeketa honors Native American tribes

Photos by Jarret Whitenack

Chemeketa held a flag-raising ceremony for Oregon’s recognized tribes on March 6.

Eight of nine recognized tribes in Oregon (Warm Springs, Umatilla, Burns, Siletz, Cow Creek, Grand Ronde, Coos, Klamath and Coquille) had their flags raised. Due to growing concerns of COVID-19, the Umatilla tribe is under quarantine and could not participate in the flag-raising.

“The ceremony is about honoring the nine recognized tribes of Oregon,” said Linda M. Ringo-Reyna, a Multicultural Student Services coordinator. ”Our college is acknowledging the land that we sit on belongs to indigenous people before it was colonized.”

Madison Burnette, a student employee for Student Retention and College Life, opened the ceremony by reading a land acknowledgment, by which Chemeketa gives thanks to the Kalapuya nation. This was followed by a song and prayer by Plummie Wright.  

After the flag-raising, Purcell Sisto, a student of Chemeketa and member of the Northern Ute tribe, presented his tribe’s flag and played an honor song. 

“I was invited and, not only that, it was an honor to be asked to present my flag among the nine tribes of Oregon because I’m not even a tribal member from Oregon,” said Sisto. 

Sisto’s tribe is from Utah. He came to Oregon to attend the Chemawa Indian School. “It’s a boarding school for Native Americans up here in Salem, and after graduation, I decided to stay here and kinda just build a life up here.”

Sisto said the flag-raising has helped him feel more connected to Chemeketa. “I love it because I feel comfortable. I feel comfortable being able to express my identity and who I am…It’s a big deal because it’s leaving a legacy at this college.”

For Chemeketa, raising the flags “shows that we embrace our Native American brothers and sisters from this region, from this land,” said Ringo-Reyna.

To see the flags, visit the Multicultural Center in Bldg. 2, Rm. 177.

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