Traditional Cultural Properties

People look over maps of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians proposed Q’alya ta Kukwis shichdii me Traditional Cultural Property Historic District during a public meeting Thursday at the North Bend Community Center.

NORTH BEND — A crowd showed up to Thursday's informational meeting over the application to put twenty-square miles of Native lands on Oregon’s National Register.

“This is a long and public process and we’re at the beginning,” said Robert Olguin, National Register Program Coordinator, to a crowded room at the North Bend Community Center.

People attend a public meeting Thursday regarding the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians proposed Q’alya ta Kukwis …

Nearly 100 curious and concerned property owners and residents showed up to the meeting, where Olguin and representatives from the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians discussed the application to the National Register of Historic Places. As The World previously reported, if approved would create the largest historic district in the state.

The application details the cultural history of the Q’alya ta Kukwis shichdii me Traditional Cultural Property Historic District, which follows the general horseshoe shape of the Coos Bay Estuary, according to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s website.

“Our office has two distinct roles,” Olguin told the room during Thursday’s evening meeting. “One is to ensure the application is complete and correct. The second is to administer the public comment process and determine if the majority of property owners are willing to list the district in the National Register.”

Though the tribe has been working on the application since 2015, the draft was officially received on Nov. 1 of 2018.

“We’re in the public comment period,” Olguin said. “The step after this is a meeting by the State Advisory Committee on historic preservation next month.”

That meeting is on Feb. 22 at The Mill Casino-Hotel starting at 9 a.m., though the proposal won’t be discussed until 1 p.m. According to Olguin, the committee will take public comment and testimonies, either written or in person. From that meeting, the committee will decided on whether or not to provide a recommendation on the nomination to the National Parks Service.

If recommended, there is a 90-day review period to address revisions the committee may want. From there, it will go to the National Park Service for a final decision by May 23.

Once received, it will take 45 days to make a final decision.

“We expect that decision mid-July of 2019,” Olguin told the crowd. “Each owner may only object once, even if they own multiple properties in the district.”

Representatives from the cities of Coos Bay and North Bend, as well as from Coos County, addressed the crowd as well. All explained that city council and county commissioners are working through the information and will have comment on the application in the next few weeks.

During Thursday’s meeting, a representative from the tribe explained the history of the Native lands, stating that the application to the National Register is to honor the tribe’s way of life and its identity.

As presented to the room, before contact with European immigrants, the bay saw continuous use from the Coos people. After signing a treaty in 1855, which was never ratified, the tribe was taken from their lands and homes and moved up the coast before eventually being placed on a reservation in Yachats.

However, some women were allowed by law to stay behind to marry the Jordans and Barretts, white settlers, while the rest suffered illness, exposure and starvation, with over 50 percent dying.

After reservation boundaries were consolidated, families returned to the Bay Area where they either bought back the land they could or acquired them through an allotment process.

A map of the proposed Q’alya ta Kukwis shichdii me Traditional Cultural Property Historic District during a meeting at the North Bend Communit…

Then in 1944, Oregon terminated many tribes, including Coos. The tribe fought to maintain its heritage and achieved that in 1984.

“In 1986, the county made a decision if you pull a permit in the Coos Estuary area, impacts are considered to resources,” said Scott Wheat, attorney for the tribe. “We’ve been doing this for over 30 years. There won’t be a lot of change because you decided many years ago that it was important before a permit is issued to get a heads up if there is a resource that might be run into.”

As Wheat explained it to the crowd, the county works with the tribe, at no expense to the county or land owner, and then the tribe provides an archeologist.

“We allocate staff to work with the property owner and make sure the owner can use the land as they wish and protects our resources,” he said. “We don’t want to create hardship or disruption. We’re interested in making this work for everyone.”

Though the Coos Bay Estuary Management Plan is established in the county, the tribe plans to work with both cities to create the same process if the application to the National Registry is approved.

“In the city boundaries, the difference you will see is more of a process like what the county does,” Wheat said. “We’re committed to working with local governments to make sure this designation is administered in a way that doesn’t disrupt. Thank you for the commitment that you already demonstrated over the years through policy that you care about this land.”

The proposed district includes portions of both cities and county, containing 158 historic contributing properties, including two buildings and 156 sites.

During public comment at the end of Thursday’s meeting, some homeowners asked if approval of the application would mean they wouldn’t be able to make changes to their homes or outbuildings.

Those structures are not included in the application, or are “non-contributing” properties in the proposed area, which also include roads, the airport, bridges, commercial properties, residential buildings, yards, agricultural lands, and industrial operations.

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.