In 2020, with funding assistance from a Metro planning grant, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians (ATNI), Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), Prosper Portland, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), and many other partners initiated an 18-month planning process to engage tribes, tribal organizations, and the Portland Urban Native American community to seek their ideas, identify needs, and explore development opportunities for the Center for Tribal Nations and Waterfront Education Park at the OMSI District in downtown Portland. OMSI is the private property owner in the district and wishes to seek input on how to design, advance, and develop this property.
The Center for Tribal Nations (CTN) at the OMSI District project seeks to leverage the redevelopment of the OMSI property to model a new partnership between OMSI, tribal and intertribal organizations, and the City of Portland to restore the Native American community’s presence on the Willamette River and address our shared challenges of sustainability, resilience, and inclusion.
Center for Tribal Nations Advisory Committee
After several listening sessions with the Native community in Portland, an advisory committee was formed from local Tribal leadership and representatives from Native American organizations and the Portland Urban Native American community at large. The CTNAC meets monthly with OMSI, ATNI, CRITFC, The City of Portland, and other partners to provide counsel for design and programming concepts.
Next steps include community meetings with respective CTNAC constituents to report back our process and to seek feedback from community.
CTNA Committee Online Application
The Center for Tribal Nations (CTN)
What is the CTN?
The CTN project at the OMSI District seeks to leverage OMSI’s redevelopment of its property within Portland’s Central Eastside to restore Indigenous communities’ presence on the Willamette River and provide a physical place (i.e. building or buildings and/or outdoor space and programs) that meets and advances Indigenous communities’ needs, opportunities, objectives and goals. The vision for the CTN project can extend through the Waterfront Education Park and partnership programs with OMSI and others.
The Center for Tribal Nations Advisory Committee was formed to gather and review input and craft a values statement, vision statement, and program concept for the CTN that will further describe what it is and how it will serve Indigenous communities.
Why is it needed and what is its mission?
For many decades, Indigenous communities have sought to restore the native community’s presence on the Willamette and address the shared challenges of sustainability, resilience and inclusion. The City of Portland has documented this as a priority, and participated in prior outreach to the Tribes. The CTN project seeks to affirm the needs and opportunities in the current context and determine how the CTN will serve Indigenous communities.
OMSI is honored to partner with Indigenous communities to help advance the CTN project based on our values alignment, our history of collaboration, our shared goals related to culturally-inclusive education, and our unique opportunities to create a more inclusive and equitable future for families and communities through collaboration.
Where is it located?
The OMSI District is located on the eastern bank of the Willamette River in downtown Portland. It extends from SE Clay Street in the north to SE Caruthers Street in the south, and from the Willamette River to the railroad tracks. The specific location for the CTN within the OMSI District has not yet been identified.
What is OMSI’s involvement in the CTN?
Through community listening with Indigenous groups related to OMSI’s strategic plan, OMSI learned more about the desire and opportunity to restore the Indigenous community’s presence on the Willamette River and to provide a physical place that meets and advances Indigenous communities’ needs, opportunities, objectives and goals. In collaboration with partners Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians (ATNI) and Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), OMSI helped to seek funding from Metro to engage Indigenous communities in developing concepts for the CTN and a new Waterfront Education Park spanning the 1/3 mile of riverfront along the OMSI District. OMSI is the project lead on the Metro grant and responsible for administering the Metro grant and coordinating CTN and Waterfront Education Park concepts with planning work for the entire OMSI District. The project team for this initial phase is the same team that OMSI hired to work on its OMSI District land use submittal for the City of Portland. Once the land use master plan is approved by the City, individual project concepts within the OMSI District can proceed with design development and construction. Following the CTN concept phase, OMSI intends to transfer the project lead role for the CTN to another entity (to be determined) who will engage a project team for subsequent design, funding and construction of the CTN.
Who owns the CTN?
The entity that will own the CTN has not yet been determined.
Who owns the land?
OMSI holds title to 10 acres of land within the OMSI District, of which 7.4 acres can be developed. Other land title holders within the District include Portland Community College, Portland General Electric, Portland Opera, TriMet, Portland Bureau of Transportation, and other private landowners.
How much will it cost?
Once the Center for Tribal Nations Advisory Committee has agreed upon a concept for the CTN, the project team will work with development professionals to create a cost opinion.
Who will pay for it?
The entity or entities that will pay for the CTN have not yet been determined. A combination of public and private funding sources such as local, state, or federal funds, private investors and new market tax credits could be leveraged to fund the CTN.
How does this benefit the urban indigenous people and those on reservations or in rural areas equally?
The CTN Advisory Committee is discussing this question as it crafts the concept for the CTN.
Will there be ceremonial and social gathering spaces?
Gathering and ceremonial space have been identified as important cultural needs for Indigenous communities and the CTN concept is expected to help address these needs. The specific spaces have yet to be determined.
Will there be access and parking?
The OMSI District is located at a transit hub supporting pedestrian, bicycle, and public transportation. In addition, there will be access to parking in the OMSI District. The feasibility of dedicated parking for the CTN will be evaluated as part of the cost opinion.
The Waterfront Education Park (WEP)
What is the WEP?
The OMSI District site is unique in that it includes 1/3 mile of waterfront along the Willamette River. The current vision is for the Waterfront Education Park to reconnect us to the land and water and nourishes our curiosity. The site unites regional Indigenous communities, tribal and local governments, and OMSI to provide science education and experiences based on traditional ecological and cultural knowledge. By creating a place to explore and experience the river and land through a lens of science and culture, this park will weave new or expanded connections to our shared home and the Native peoples of the region.
Why is this needed and what is its mission?
Aligned with OMSI’s mission, the development of a Waterfront Education Park will provide public access along the river, provide opportunities for outdoor science education, restore native habitat, and improve river health. Through community listening with Indigenous groups related to OMSI’s strategic plan, OMSI learned more about the desire and opportunity to restore the Indigenous community’s presence on the Willamette River, and the alignment of our educational goals for future generations. We are exploring the opportunities to achieve our mutual goals through the WEP.
Who owns the WEP?
The greenway along the Willamette River is required to be public space. Adjacent spaces such as plazas will likely remain privately owned by OMSI, but those distinctions are primarily related to who pays for maintenance – the WEP will be accessible to the public. Significant preparatory work is needed related to the waterfront and existing in-river structures to address damage from previous industrial uses, and OMSI is leading the assessment and mitigation work required before a public park can be developed.
Who owns the land?
OMSI holds title to the 1/3 mile of waterfront along the OMSI District.
What is OMSI’s involvement?
OMSI is leading the pre-development phase for horizontal development of the OMSI District project, which includes seeking land use approval for a master plan and an agreement with the City of Portland regarding the public-private partnership necessary to develop infrastructure (streets, parks, utilities, parking, etc.) for the OMSI District. OMSI is also leading work to assess the current environmental conditions and then to develop a plan with the appropriate agencies to implement environmental remediation strategies before a public park can be developed.
How public is the waterfront? Is the Indigenous community the only user?
The WEP will be a public park.
Will there be ceremonial and social gathering spaces?
The WEP will be a linear, public park and it is unclear whether any spaces would appropriately serve ceremonial uses. An OMSI plaza adjacent to the park will provide opportunities for community partners to utilize the space for different types of events.
Who Is Involved?
What is ATNI’s involvement?
[ATNI is in the process of crafting this response]
What is CRITFC’s involvement?
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission has a decades-long relationship with OMSI, beginning in the 1990s with Salmon Camp, where tribal youth learned about the science of salmon and ecology. Over the years, this partnership developed, built on a shared commitment to educating youth about place-based learning to help protect and restore rivers. Being included in the team working on the Center for Tribal Nations and Waterfront Education Park was based on that relationship.
CRITFC was involved in the development of the CTN Advisory Committee, particularly in recruitment and inclusion of representatives from Tribal councils and reservations outside the Portland metro area. It continues to support the CTNAC discussions. and lending CRITFC’s fisheries and riparian habitat expertise to the work on the WEP.
What is Metro’s involvement?
In early 2020, OMSI, the City of Portland, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) submitted a request to Metro for an Equitable Development Grant as part of the regional government’s 2040 Planning and Development Grant program. The partners requested funding to explore how a Center for Tribal Nations and a Waterfront Education Park could potentially be developed on land at the OMSI campus by a constellation of Tribes, Indigenous organizations, and other partners. The project seeks to leverage the redevelopment of the OMSI property to model a new partnership between the museum, tribal and intertribal organizations, and the City of Portland to restore the Native community’s presence on the Willamette and address the shared challenges of sustainability, resilience, and inclusion. In May 2020, Metro approved the award of a $750,000 planning grant to support the exploration of this exciting idea and engage Tribes, tribal-led and tribal-serving organizations and Indigenous community members throughout the region to consider how they might join together to shape and implement this vision for their greatest mutual benefit. Planning and outreach began in January, 2021 and grant funds are presently supporting the work of an advisory committee to consider the optimal combination of programs, uses, and activities and the values and principles that should guide future joint efforts to develop such a facility.
Since the initial award of the grant, Metro’s role has been to provide guidance and support to the grantees to help ensure that grant activities result in successful equitable development outcomes for the region. Metro is particularly excited about the level of interest and participation by Tribes and members of the Indigenous community, and is eager to see this work lay the foundation for future realization of the community’s vision.
What is the City of Portland’s involvement?
The City of Portland has involvement from multiple offices and bureaus. The Bureau of Environmental Services serves as the lead design for riverbank conservation and habitat improvements. Staff from the Office of Government Relations’ Tribal Relations Program serves in an advisory role to the overall project, supporting community engagement processes and grant management, while playing a key role in shaping the CTN’s direction.
What is the role of SERA Architects?
SERA Architects is supporting the community engagement process, the establishment of urban design guidelines, and the conceptual design and programming of the Center for Tribal Nations. Additionally, SERA is leading the feasibility analysis and design of the district infrastructure system.
What is the role of Mayer/Reed, Inc.?
Mayer/Reed, Inc. is the urban design and landscape architecture subconsultant for the Waterfront Education Park. We are collaborators with the full team in the engagement process and are responsible for the development of the vision plan for the park.
Which other Native-owned and Native-affiliated organizations are involved?
See the current organizational chart.
Which Tribal Nations are involved?
See the current organizational chart.
What other local, state or federal agencies are involved?
The OMSI District project involves Prosper Portland, the City of Portland Office of Tribal Relations, Portland Bureau of Transportation, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland Parks and Recreation, the Bureau of Development Services, TriMet, ODOT, Union Pacific Railroad, DEQ, EPA, US Army Corps of Engineers, State of Oregon, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and many others.
How can I be engaged and share my thoughts?
Please check on this site for updates and scheduled listening sessions.