COOS BAY — The Coquille Tribe announced Thursday that it cannot endorse the Traditional Cultural Property application proposed by tribal government neighbors of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians.

In a press release, the Coquille Tribe said that although the tribe does support the preservation of cultural resources, the TCP proposal has generated multiple unanswered questions on several topics, including impacts on the rights of local property owners, such as the Coquille Tribe itself.

“We place a high priority on preserving the heritage of our ancestors, and we recognize that a TCP district can be a valuable tool for accomplishing that goal,” Coquille Tribe chairperson Brenda Meade said. “We are concerned, however, about the growing number of unanswered questions regarding this particular TCP nomination.”

The TCP district proposed by CTCLUSI seeks to protect cultural artifacts and sites by creating a 26-square-mile preservation district, encompassing the Coos Bay waterway and its shoreline.

“Our biggest concern is the lack of hard information about the scope and impact of the district,” Meade said. “Since learning of the proposal several months ago, we have submitted questions to the parties involved in preparing and submitting the TCP application. These questions have not been answered in a way that provides us a satisfactory understanding of the scope and impacts of this nomination.”  

Meade noted that the Coos and Coquille people share aspects of cultural and genetic kinship. Ancestors of the two tribes lived in neighboring villages and often intermarried.

“The Coos heritage is intertwined with ours,” Meade said. “We have supported every initiative that they have ever proposed. We wish we could support this proposal, too.”

Meade said Coquille leaders are optimistic that the Confederated Tribes could reconceive a replacement TCP proposal that would be better received. She noted that Oregon’s nine recognized Indian tribes have worked hard to establish a pattern of intergovernmental consultation and cooperation with state, federal and local authorities, and among the tribes themselves. She suggested reaching out to local governments and other stakeholders before filing a replacement TCP application with federal authorities.

“We were surprised by the TCP nomination, just like everyone else in the community,” she said. “After that initial reaction subsided, we wanted to understand what was being proposed. Unfortunately, we are still struggling in that effort. Our experience tells us that it is better to approach such projects with collaboration and transparency.”

Meade suggested that the Confederated Tribes consider withdrawing the TCP nomination and starting a fresh process in collaboration with the Coquille Tribe, local cities, Coos County, the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay and local property owners.

“We would very much like to be involved in crafting a proposal that everyone in the community can support,” she said.

In conjunction with the press release Meade sent a letter out to CTCLUSI chairman Doc Slyter that notified CTCLUSI that the Coquille Tribe would not be supporting the TCP application. The letter clearly stated that the decision not to support this application was not because the Coquille Tribe opposes its neighbors goals for preservation, but that it cannot support the TCP with the information provided in the application.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.