Dick Basch, who is of Clatsop and Nehalem descent, spoke on behalf of the Clatsop-Nehalem Tribal Organization last week about their vision for future changes to the former Cannon Beach Elementary School site.
Basch spoke at the city council work session.
Basch began by speaking about the way in which his ancestors greeted the travelers who stopped at their village on their way along the coast. The inhabitants of the village would cook for the visitors and arrange sleeping quarters for them. The children would play along the beach.
“Does that sound a little familiar to what is going on now (here),” he said.
Tribes across the country are aware of the “national tribal significance” of this site. But, he added, “much of this culture has been lost.”
“One of the most important things to talk about is power of place,” he said. The long house, where the people lived, also serves as a meeting place. The house was divided into certain areas for families and also areas for classrooms.
The school gym is the “same proportions as a long house,” he said. It could be a place for performing arts.
When visitors came to stay at the village, “They would be given the floor to tell their stories.”
“As a little kid, my family would go down to (where the life guard station is) and someone would cook muscle chowder. The families would gather and just have so much fun.”
“It is important to have these small gathering places outside,” he said. “People sat on logs around a fire pit and gazed out at the ocean and the beauty of mother earth to hear people share their stories.”
Another important thing he said the tribes would like to see at the site is a “native garden for people to learn about medicinal plants.”
He said interpretive signage was in the original vision for the site to educate people about the culture and history of the area as well as the current residents of Cannon Beach.
Remembering the roots of the people of the area gives a “vitality” to Cannon Beach, he said speaking about his ancestry.
Roberta Basch, who is a member of the cultural advisory committee for the Clatsop-Nehalem Tribe, spoke next. She said she wanted to “make sure” people understood they have always been a “welcoming tribe.”
She said she wants the members of the community-at-large to also contribute to how the site will be used. She emphasized the importance of “sharing everybody’s culture.”