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Legacy Stories - Summer 2014

Memories of Our Ancestors: Restoring the Culture of the Clatsop-Nehalem

The small town of Seaside, Oregon, is where Charlotte Basch calls home. The northern Oregon coast has been home to the Clatsop-Nehalem people since before time was counted in years and days.

The hereditary chief of the Clatsop-Nehalem people recently passed away. At 92 years old, he was one of the last people to have grown up in a segregated tribal community. For his entire life he fought for the federal restoration of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes. He always told us that he fought so that the memories of his parents and grandparents would never be forgotten. My grandmother expressed almost the same desire. Now both of them have passed, along with many other elders, and we are left with the task of carrying on the memories of our ancestors. This task, this plea, is what motivates me.

A past council member and Canoe Family coordinator, Charlotte is passionate about the federal restoration of the Clatsop-Nehalem and the rights of Indigenous people everywhere.

Oregon U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici recently introduced a bill to restore the federal status of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes. This is beyond exciting, and I am so honored to have had even a small part in it! It is my utmost dream that this bill will be passed within the next year and that the Clatsop-Nehalem people will be on their way to reestablishing and restoring their culture and traditions.

As a 2012 and 2013 Udall Scholar, Charlotte has connected with alumni across the country.

It seems that no matter where I go, the Udall alumni “family” is always there to support me. I didn’t think I would receive a scholarship, and was amazed to be selected. Yes, it was a lot of work, and you’re competing against some of the smartest, most passionate students in the country, but it was worth it. One of my greatest honors is being able to call myself a Udall Scholar.

Charlotte graduated from Pacific University with a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and minors in Indigenous studies and Spanish. This fall, she heads to New York City to attend Columbia University, where she plans to earn her Master of Arts in museum anthropology.

So many people have guided and supported me, and helped me to where I am today. I hope to use my master’s degree in museum anthropology to help create a tribal cultural center. Over the next five, or even 20 years, I see this cultural center as the epicenter of cultural revitalization for the Clatsop-Nehalem. I cannot express how strong my desire is to be a part of the rebirth and growth of a culture that has come so close to disappearing.