Portland’s urban Native community is descended from more than 380 tribes, and there are nine sovereign Native American nations located throughout Oregon. Each nation inhabits their own reservation and welcomes visitors in their own way, according to their respective customs and traditions.
Depending upon the time of year, you may find a powwow, a salmon fest or other indigenous community events within easy reach during your stay in Portland. For a calendar of events, see the Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable website and its Native Connect e-newsletter.
Portland artist Caroline Blechert leads a collective of Indigenous jewelry makers.
Meet Loretta Guzman, owner of Bison Coffeehouse in Northeast Portland, the city’s only Native-owned coffee shop.
Portland artist Katherine Paul draws inspiration from the riot grrrl movement, Nirvana and her Swinomish roots.
The Portland metro area rests on traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla and many other tribes and bands. These groups created communities and summer encampments along the Columbia and Willamette rivers and harvested and used the plentiful natural resources of the area for thousands of years.
Portland’s Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), which hosts cultural programming and other events, is located on what, to the Native community, is sacred ground in Multnomah county. The site in contemporary Northeast Portland is recognized as the original location of an Indian village known as Neerchokikoo, dating to before 1792 and cited in Lewis and Clark’s journals.
Oregon’s population was largely Native American until relatively recently. The Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850 and accompanying legislation removed tribes and offered free land to white settlers, who laid claim to 2.5 million acres of tribal land — including all of what is now Portland — over the course of just seven years.
More About Portland’s Native American Community
What Native American Tribes lived in Portland?
What Native land is Portland on?
How many Native tribes live in Oregon?
Museums & Art
Several spectacular collections of Native American art celebrate the rich cultural diversity of the region:
- The Oregon Historical Society houses one of the largest photo archives west of the Mississippi, documenting the changing landscape of the West over the last two centuries. The museum is also home to a vast array of Native American basketry, beadwork and carvings.
- The Portland Art Museum displays traditional carving, basketry, paintings and sculpture from tribes throughout the Northwest. The museum’s Native American Art Council hosts lectures and public displays by local and regional artists throughout the year.
- Many shops and galleries in Portland feature Indian art, jewelry, crafts and food products. One established gallery is Arthur W. Erickson, Inc., in downtown.
- Created in 1972, Quintana Galleries is home to a robust collection of Native American, First Nations, Arctic and Mexican art. The gallery’s extensive assortment of jewelry, paintings, pottery, sculpture and more is available exclusively online and by appointment only.
- Jim PepperFest: The Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival is a free event that is held annually at Parkrose High School. Founded in 2013 to increase access to music education, celebrate Native American culture and honor this remarkable musician’s legacy, the festival takes place outdoors with dancing on the lawn and Mount Hood views.
Explore tribally-owned museums such as the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute on the Umatilla Reservation (210 miles east of Portland in Pendleton, Ore.) or the Museum at Warm Springs on the Warm Springs Reservation (100 miles southeast of Portland).
The various tribal museums, with their permanent and changing exhibits, strive to show not only who Native Americans of Oregon were before contact with Caucasians, but who these indigenous communities are today and who they plan to be in the future.
Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe introduces new generations to one of the twentieth century’s most innovative Native American painters. Howe (1915–1983) committed his artistic career to the preservation, relevance, and ongoing expression of his Yanktonai Dakota culture. He proved that art could be simultaneously modern and embedded in customary Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux) culture…
An immersive, site-responsive installation by multimedia artist Jeffrey Gibson, They Come From Fire will transform the exterior windows on the facade of the museum’s main building as well as its two-story interior Schnitzer Sculpture Court. This dynamic work will celebrate Portland’s Indigenous history, presence and vitality through the use of suspended glass panels, text, and…
The Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest presents the Annual Sobriety Powwow. The NARA New Years’ Eve Sobriety Powwow is one of the country’s largest sobriety new year powwows. It is undoubtedly the largest sober New Year’s party in Portland, where thousands close out the year with drums, songs and dance (all alcohol-free).
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