In January the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon’s Tribal Council approved a resolution to protect TV Butte in Oakridge. Lane County has nevertheless tentatively approved a zoning change to allow the butte to be mined, ignoring oral history evidence of previous native occupation of the site.
TV Butte in Oakridge is part of a Native American village site, and native burial sites are thought to be near the butte. The Chakgeenkni-Tufti Band of Molalla Indians, whose descendants are enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon, lived at the TV Butte site for thousands of years.
For almost a year the Old Hazeldell Quarry project, an investment of Ed King of King Estate Winery, has been advancing through the Lane County Government. The Old Hazeldell Quarry project has applied to rezone 46 acres, the area known as TV Butte, in Oakridge from F1 F2 (forestland) to QM (quarry mining). Nearly 17 million tons of andesite aggregate rock will be extracted from TV Butte if the application is approved.
Since May the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office has been submitting letters of concern to Deanna Wright and Lydia McKinney, who are appointed to oversee the application through the Lane County Land Management Division.
The letters point out that “of specific concern are Indian burials potentially located near the old Charlie Tufti homestead,” and that the tribal historic preservation office “recognizes oral history equally as valuable as results of archaeological survey or archival research in identifying historical land use.”
They add, “Indeed, oral history often sheds light on historical use when survey and other methods cannot.”
The recent Tribal Council resolution reaffirms what was argued in the letters and calls for TV Butte’s protection: “The Tribal Council delegates and authorizes the chairman, vice-chairman and secretary-treasurer/CEO to take any necessary actions to fulfill the intent of this resolution, with particular attention to the protection of rights and interest of heirs and descendants who are members of federally recognized Indian Tribes.”
Historical documents and testimony from direct tribal descendants have been submitted at each opportunity for public testimony in Lane County since April 2016.
Yet the Lane County government and the Old Hazeldell Quarry project staff claim there has been insufficient evidence provided.
In the applicant’s final rebuttal submitted to the Lane County Commission on Nov. 29, Michael Reeder of the Eugene law firm Arnold Gallagher writes, “Some people have vehemently opposed the application. Many of those opponents raise issues that are either not relevant to the approval criteria and/or wildly outlandish and misleading.”
He calls the opposing arguments “unsubstantiated and anecdotal claims that have little or no evidentiary support.”
At the last public hearing on Oct. 12 in Oakridge, Rick Minor of Heritage Research Associates presented testimony to debunk and dismiss evidence of tribal occupancy at TV Butte. Minor teaches in Historical Preservation at University of Oregon and has been hired by OHQ to conduct an archaeological survey for the quarry.
HRA’s report was unsubstantial and dismissive of tribal testimony and historical occupancy. The report failed to include anthropological and ethnographic aspects that are extremely important to tribes.
Three meetings have been held before the Lane County Commissioners. On Jan. 12, the commission decided to have a fourth reading/deliberation for Feb. 14. On Feb 12, the commission decided to set a fifth reading for March 12.
On Jan. 12, the Commission tentatively approved the OHQ application on a four to one vote, with Commissioner Pete Sorensen opposed.
The final Lane County Commissioners meeting on the Old Hazeldell Quarry project will be at 1:30 pm Tuesday, March 14, in Harris Hall in Eugene.
Kayla Godowa-Tufti is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and descendant of the Klamath Tribes. Writer, lyricist and Indigenous rights advocate. Resident of Eugene for 20-plus years.