Old school site has historical significance

The Cannon Beach City Council met in work session in December to hear presentations on the history of the site of the former Cannon Beach elementary school in preparation for a possible restructuring of the buildings and grounds into a meeting place for the residents.

The first of the two speakers was Douglas Deur, Ph.D, who is a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology at Portland State University, according to the university website.

Professor Deur said the former Cannon Beach elementary school property was the site of the village of the Nehalem people and it is “known as one of the places visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.”

He said it was a stopping point for trading to the north. Below the surface can be seen evidence of compacted soil sometimes rectangular the size of a room “where thousands upon thousands of footsteps have occurred over generations” and “that’s still visible to us today.”

The COVID situation has temporarily interrupted the examination of the site, which is of national and international historical significance.

Next spoke Dick Basch, who is a tribal member of Nehalem descent.

Basch said the commitment of Cannon Beach to “that place (the elementary school site) is near and dear to my heart.”

He said “centuries and centuries of tribal members” used that site. Today it is still a “gathering place for many age groups and for a variety of different (tribal) events.”

“Not everywhere can you stand where your ancestors stood – (it’s) a rare happening,” he said.

He said Cannon Beach and the native people have been looking at options to “do what is right for the spirit of that place.”

Also, he said there are only a “handful” of sites about which it can be said the Lewis and Clark Expedition were there.

“Education is an important priority for the tribe,” he said. The facilities at the site are made for education and “community gatherings of all types.”

The city council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on January 7 in work session to listen to public input about the school site.

These several input meetings are via Zoom. Also, a video of this meeting is on the city website.

For more information as to how to provide input, go to the city website and the agenda for the meeting.

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