Subtopic : Portland Neighborhoods, 1960s-Present: Native Americans and Native Reclamation
Themes: People and the Environment, Social Relations, Towns and Cities
During World War II a few thousand Native Americans came to Portland to find work, and during the 1950s federal programs resettled many more. Between 1940 and 1970 the Native population grew from 2,000 to about 8,000. Though focused on their own social issues, Native Americans in Portland in the 1960s and 1970s also used city, federal, and private funding from organizations like St. Vincent DePaul to assert their identity and improve their economic situation. By 1959, a number of people working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs formed the Portland American Indian Center to encourage a more positive sense of identity by nurturing Indian culture. By 1969, influenced by the new emphasis of African American militants on cultural pride, PAIC members held Portland’s first pow-wow. The following year it became a satellite event of the Rose Festival. The emphasis on group cohesiveness and pride also led Portland’s Native community to renew contacts with reservations. At urban pow-wows individuals used resources from the reservations for ceremonial events and personal healings.
But Portland’s Indian population barely grew, and with insufficient numbers to elect persons to public office, young activists applied for federal funds to start new programs. By 1975, Portland’s Indian Council was administering a budget provided by the federal Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) of over $1.5 million. At the same time, OEO money was funneled to the reservations, revitalizing cultural life as well as initiating similar social services there. Native American Oregonians seemed to be creating a pattern of life cycle migration linking the city and the reservation. Over the 1990s the population on Oregon’s major reservations at Umatilla and Warm Springs grew by 25 percent, primarily because of a large proportion of children. The relatively low number of people between ages 21 and 34 suggests that young adults would be leaving the reservations to seek work in Portland or in other West Coast cities and perhaps returning to have families.
© William Toll, 2003
Themes: People and the Environment,Social Relations,Towns and Cities
Regions: Portland Metropolitan Area
Author: William Toll
Native American groups began an urban movement to Portland in the 1950s. The Portland American Indian Center is founded to encourage education in Native tradition.
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