Kulongoski to attend heritage site dedication

<I>Elane Dickenson/Chieftain</I><BR>Visitors traverse the new Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site before its official dedication Saturday with Gov. Ted Kulongoski among the speakers.

The Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site near the foot of Wallowa Lake will be dedicated Saturday, Oct. 10, with Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski planning to attend the public ceremony.

The event will mark the official end of decades of controversy about development of the 61-acre property,the former Marr Ranch.

The open house will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the governor among the speakers, also including three tribal representatives and dignitaries representing Wallowa County, Joseph and Oregon Parks and Recreation and Recreation. The event will include an official ribbon cutting.

The public is invited to both the dedication and to a lunch in the day use area of Wallowa Lake State Park at 12:30 p.m., with both traditional American picnic fare and Native American food to be served.

Because of limited parking, those who plan to attend are asked to use shuttle buses running from the Joseph rodeo grounds to the ceremony location starting at 9 a.m. It is also close enough for those who choose to walk from the south end of Joseph.

"It is with great pride and excitement that after years of work, we will soon be dedicating Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site," Kulongoski said in a written statement. "This is a celebration of the partnership between the state, local and tribal governments, and that together, we are preserving a sacred piece of history for all Oregonians to enjoy and appreciate."

The governor will be accompanied to Wallowa County by First Lady Mary Oberst.

The heritage site is part of the governor's Park-A-Year initiative, which he started in 2004 with the goal of creating a new state park or heritage site in Oregon every year for 10 years. Iwetemlaykin is the 2009 fulfillment of that pledge.

After intense negotiations Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, in partnership with concerned tribes and the Oregon State Parks Trust, was able to purchase the property in 2007.

The site and adjacent properties near Wallowa Lake were considered sacred by descendents of Wallowa County's native Nez Perce band, as well as other tribal entities in the region. Both local and tribal memory identify the new heritage site as the site of a very important sockeye fishery for the Nez Perce.

Many local residents also have fond, more recent, memories of their experiences on the property when it was operated as a ranch.

Dating back to the 1970s, the property was the object of many different controversial development proposals, ranging from a KOA campground to a destination resort to residential developments.

After the property was acquired by the state in 2007, a master planning process began, and number of public hearings were held before a low-impact master plan was adopted last year.

This spring and summer a parking lot was built on the northeastern edge of the property along the highway, and trail work was done on the property to improve access. The object has been to avoid ground disturbance as much as possible.

According to the master plan, the main goal of the heritage site is to protect its history and natural resources and to explain them so that others can understand.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission approved Iwetemlaykin (pronounced "ee weh TEMM lye kinn") State Heritage Site as the park's official name this January, honoring a request from the tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe, and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The name, which translates to "at the edge of the lake," commemorates the traditional Indian reference to the Wallowa Lake basin area.

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