Media Room


Governor Kate Brown
NW Tribes Winter Convention
January 27, 2020

Thank you all so much for being here. It is truly my honor to welcome you to Oregon. If I have learned nothing else in my twenty eight years of public service, it is this. When two Tribal Chairs ask you to welcome a meeting. You do it. No questions asked. 

Based on what’s happening at the federal level, it’s safe to say that it is currently a difficult time to govern. That is why this conference is so important. So that we can learn from one another, reconnect and of course support each other as we work to make Oregon and the Pacific Northwest a place for our people to thrive. 

I came to public service quite young. Thirty one. And I was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Oregon Legislature. 

My first and only committee assignment was the Legislative Commission for Indian Services. The Speaker at the time thought he could bury me there, and that I wouldn’t make too much noise. Boy was he wrong. 

For me, serving on the commission was an incredibly rich and rewarding opportunity to learn about Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes, and serve as an advocate and liaison between the state of Oregon and our sovereign nations.

And since then we’ve been able to make some ground-breaking progress: 

We codified Governor Kitzhaber’s order establishing government to government relationships with our Tribes. The work has set in motion annual meetings between state officials and the Tribes, and ongoing consultation between The Tribes and state agencies. 

Two other bills that I worked on during my time in the Legislature that I am particularly proud of include legislation to eliminate the S word. And a bill that allowed our Tribal elders to teach native languages in our public schools. 

Since becoming Governor, I am particularly proud of SB 13. This legislation requires that our students learn, starting in kindergarten and continuing through 12th grade, about the Native American experience in Oregon. 

I realize that there is much more work to be done. Many of you are worried about graduation and drop out rates on your reservations. We are worried about that too. What we have found , however, is that access to two or more CTE classes per week increases Native American graduation rates from 60% to 90%. That’s a game-changer.

 ● With the passage of the SB13 and the Student Success Act, we should expect to see much better outcomes for our Tribal students and others. 

● Just a quick update: the core curriculum is developed. Tribes can evolve the curriculum to their own histories and localities to demonstrate resilience. 

   ○ We want to make sure that we are empowering each tribe to own and share their own histories. These are not past peoples, these are living cultures. 

   ○ We are also continuing the work around language preservation with our partners at the University of Oregon. We must not lose anymore languages. 

● Moving forward, I have spoken about Oregon specific concepts. I want to share three that impact all of us. 

   ○  CENSUS 2020 

   ○  MMIW 

   ○  HB 2625 which is part of an effort to increase resources related to missing and murdered indigenous women. 

      - We know there are issues: jurisdictional boundaries, inaccurate data collection, and lack of trauma-informed practices at multiple levels 

      - We’re working hard to combat this crisis and deliver justice for these women and their families. 

● We have an opportunity to involve the WGA with this work. Let's take advantage of it. 

● 100 year water future 

   ○ Water is a finite resource. Because of changes in climate and population, Oregon needs to steward its water resources to ensure clean and abundant water for our people, our economy, and our environment, now and for future generations. 

Finally, we need your help to get our climate change bill across the finish line. 

Cap and Trade Program 

We’ve seen this approach take root in the First Foods movement. CTUIR Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has organized its functions and responsibilities through a focus on traditionally gathered foods identified as “First Foods,” including water, fish, big game, roots, and berries. 

The First Foods approach prioritizes re-naturalizing the processes that produce and sustain ecosystems. While the movement is a culturally relevant way to monitor the successes of restoration efforts in the Tribal community, it also offers a model for non-Tribal resources managers responsible for water, water quality, fish, wildlife, and their habitats. 

Some of these issues we have stolen from other states, and some are Oregon grown. But I believe that states are a laboratory of democracy and we must learn from each other in order to grow as a region. 

This is one of many examples of why your work is so instrumental in setting policies not just for your sovereign nations, but for the rest of the region. 

There are very few opportunities like this one today. So I hope that you all will take the time today to reconnect with old friends, trade ideas, and learn from one another. 

Thank you.