Native Americans gather at Sunnyside to celebrate heritage

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Native American Deitrich Peters’ words reverberated quietly against a backdrop of trees and brush as he spoke his prayer through a microphone. “Dance,” “happy” and “circle” seemed to single themselves out in the echo, reiterating the sentiment he was sending to his creator.
“Today we come to dance and be happy, be happy in the circle,” he said. “We enjoy dancing because that is when we pray the hardest. Every step that we take, there’s a prayer that we send to Creator. Let us all dance together and enjoy each other’s company.”
His prayer preceded a traditional dance demonstration during the fourth annual Native American Cultural Encampment, held July 29-30 at Sunnyside County Park in Foster. A few tribes were represented, including the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Lakota and Cherokee, as well as one member apiece from tribes in Alaska and Montana.

DEITRICH PETERS shows one of the many traditional flutes he likes to play.

Lebanon resident Peters, of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, said the cultural encampments are presented, with the help of Linn County Parks & Recreation, to share cultures and traditions. They include craft classes, flute playing, storytelling, a shared feast and traditional dancing in regalia.
“We want people to know who we are,” he said. “We don’t want them to know just what was written in the books, because not always is the story the right story.”
Karen Dellelo and her son Nathaniel went to the encampment last year and returned because she enjoys seeing what they do, and Nathaniel enjoys the crafts.
“These folks are worth it,” she said. “They’re friendly and nice. It’s fun to watch the kids and the adults dance.”
David and Beth Cox, who recently moved to Foster from Lacomb, attended due to the former’s interest in the history of the Kalapuyan, or “Calapooia,” tribe.
“It’s kind of like actually being part of the ceremony,” Beth said after watching the dance demonstration.

PETERS sets up a plate of “Indian tacos” during the shared feast portion of the encampment event.

Peters said the group would like people from many tribal nations to participate in the encampments to share their cultures and to help others better understand them.
“We want them to know that we are real and that we still exist, because this is who we are,” he said. “We come from the land, we come from the sky, we come from the air, we come from the water. We hope that when you go away from here, we hope that you take a little bit of information that the books didn’t have.”
Peters ended his words while trying to contain tears.
“We want you to know that we still care about the earth, we take care of earth,” he said.
Then he led the represented tribes in several dances and explained their regalia to the audience.
Another encampment, featuring classes on making dream catchers and tobacco bags, will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Aug. 26-28, at Cascadia State Park. To reach the event, follow the posted signs.

Morning prayers begin at 5:30 a.m. daily. Friday events include a 10 a.m. meet-and-greet, an 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. tobacco-bag craft class, and flute music and storytelling from 4 to 6 p.m.
Saturday’s activities include a 10 a.m. meet-and-greet, a dream catchers craft class from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and traditional dancing and information from 4 to 6 p.m.
Sunday’s slate concludes with a 10 a.m. meet-and-greet, a dance demonstration from 1 to 3 p.m., and a thank-you feast from 4 to 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Deitrich Peters at 541.570.5950.