Tribal Ceremony Celebrates the Restoration of Tyee Nature Reserve

by Tamara Mullen — last modified Oct 17, 2013

Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and IAE bring treasured prairie remnant back to life.

Connie Graves of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde demonstrates weaving and baskets
Connie Graves of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde demonstrates weaving and baskets

Last May marked a special dedication ceremony to celebrate the restoration of the Tyee Nature Reserve of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The Reserve is held as a treasured remnant of the once widespread prairie habitat of the Willamette Valley. Cheryl Kennedy of the Tribal Council, expressed the significance of its restoration: “The aim was to restore the land to the way it was 200 years ago. This prairie island is to live in, care for, and be a part of. We are land people.”

The day was filled with thanks, ancient art and song, the appreciation of a camas harvest and a prairie reborn. Members and friends of the Grand Ronde Tribe honored Tribal staff, volunteers, and Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), all of whom made the restoration possible. Drummers gathered and school children sang traditional songs. David Harrelson, Cultural Protection Specialist, demonstrated how to collect camas bulbs, illustrating the value of restored prairies for cultural harvest in the future. People wandered through paths to soak in the abundance of wildflower and grass species, the art of ancient weaving and to learn about the native birds that now have a nesting place.

The Tyee Nature Reserve restoration project was born from a partnership between the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and IAE in 2008 when the 1.8 acre reserve was chosen as one of the re-introduction sites for the threatened Nelson’s checkermallow. At the time, the site was choked with shrubs and weeds, so a concerted effort was made to clear unwanted vegetation and plant native species. The result has been an impressive turn-around, with over 40 native wildflower and grass species now dominating the scene. Many of these, such as camas, bloomed in abundance this spring. A gravel pathway winds its way from a kiosk around the reserve allowing visitors a chance to be a part of this unique place in the history of the Tribe.

Tom Kaye, IAE’s Executive Director, described how critical these sites are for turning around declines in prairie habitats and the species that depend on them. “This restoration represents a partnership between people and the land,” said Kaye. “We’re grateful to have the opportunity to participate.”

IAE honors The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde members and staff in the Natural Resources Division and Land and Culture Department for the expertise, resources and enthusiasm that they brought to the project. We learned a lot from each other and IAE hopes to continue working with the Tribe at Tyee and other sites. “We look forward to collaborating with the Tribe to increase the availability of traditional native plants for sustainable harvest”, says Melanie Gisler, IAE’s Habitat Restoration Program Manager. Stay tuned for future developments.

Read more about this story in Smoke Signals, the newspaper of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

Special thanks to Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde staff Siobhan Taylor for making this event happen and Kelly Dirksen for his commitment to the restoration of Tyee Nature Reserve.