On Thursday, Nov. 6 the Board of Commissioners proclaimed November as Native American Heritage Month in Multnomah County.
More than 40,000 Native American residents live in Multnomah County, representing more than 380 tribal nations. Chair Deborah Kafoury said she was honored to sponsor the proclamation honoring the communities upon whose land the county was developed.
Representatives from Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) and the Native American Recovery Association of the Northwest (NARA Northwest) spoke about the challenges that Native Americans continue to face. Native Americans fall victim to violent crime at 250 percent the rate of Whites; are incarcerated at nearly double the rate of Whites and are four times more likely to live in poverty.
Charmaine Kinney from the county’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division stressed the importance of programs that embrace Native American cultural traditions and history.
“The stories of trauma that are embedded in our DNA now can be changed and new stories can be embedded,” said Kinney. “And we’re hoping to support those stories and that healing. We know it’s going to take generations, but when we start young many of our children don’t have to follow that same path.”
NAYA’s community engagement manager Cary Watters grew up in Multnomah County. With all these disparities, she encouraged the community to consider the last 500 years of oppression as “really just a blip in time.”
“We are resilient and bring a lot to the table,” she said.
Multnomah County School Based Mental Health employee Harmony Paul sings a celebratory song in honor of Native American Heritage Month at Thursday’s meeting.