The Coquille Indian Tribe has a new chief and a new secretary-treasurer after recent elections.
Chief Jason Younker, a University of Oregon faculty member, was sworn in on Oct. 29. Jackie Chambers, who previously managed the tribe’s community grants program, was sworn in as secretary-treasurer.
Younker replaces Chief Don Ivy, who died in July. As chief, Younker will hold one of seven seats on the Coquille Tribal Council, while serving as the tribe’s cultural and spiritual leader and voice.
Younker grew up on the shores of Coos Bay’s South Slough. He holds three graduate degrees, including a doctorate in cultural anthropology. He is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon, where he also is an assistant vice president and assistant to the president for tribal sovereignty and government-to-government relations.
He chairs the board of Oregon’s Chemawa Indian school and is past president of the Association of Indigenous Archaeologists.
Chambers, a lifelong Coos County resident, is devoted to serving and strengthening local communities. Before her election to the Tribal Council, she served the tribe as administrator of the Coquille Tribal Community Fund, which awards hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants each year.
She also is a co-founder and president of Charleston Fishing Families, a nonprofit that helps commercial fishing families in times of need. She graduated from the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Coos program in 2020.
She replaces former Secretary-Treasurer Linda Mecum, who retired after seven years on the Tribal Council.
Along with Chambers and Younker, two Tribal Council incumbents were sworn in for new terms. Chairman Brenda Meade and Rep. Laurabeth Barton both retained their seats in recent elections.
I’m Brenda Meade, chairman of the Coquille Indian Tribe. Coquille River salmon have nourished my people for countless generations. Our ancestors have relished and revered these amazing fish since time began.
But a tragedy has struck in the past few years. Fall Chinook salmon have nearly disappeared from the Coquille River.
Barely a decade ago, in 2010, more than 30,000 fall run Chinook returned to spawn in the river. In recent years, that number has shrunk to just a few hundred. These wonderful fish are on the edge of extinction.
What’s killing our salmon?
Several issues have come together to cause this tragedy:
Invasive bass species devour juvenile salmon on their way to the ocean.
Year after year, ODFW’s brood stock collection falls short of its goals, while seals feast on adult salmon returning to spawn in the river.
Pollution, sediment and warmer water impede the salmon life cycle.
Old, deteriorated fish hatcheries produce too few smolts.
Rigid state policies prevent effective management.
The Coquille River is a low priority in the state budget.
We’re stepping up
Despite these challenges, we believe the Coquille River’s fall Chinook salmon still can be saved. In the summer of 2021, the Coquille Tribe proposed to partner with the State of Oregon on this issue.
We are developing a new kind of cooperative relationship with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – to address the salmon crisis, and ultimately to co-manage the Coquille watershed. We will collaborate with state and local officials, landowners and sportsmen to clean up the river, thwart the predators, revitalize the hatcheries and restore habitat.
How it’s going
Together with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife plus local volunteers, we collected 34 breeding pairs of fall Chinook salmon in 2021. That’s a great first step: 1,000 percent better than 2020. See details below.
Volunteer to help – We’ll need help with the hatchery, habitat projects and more. Or just let us list you as a Community Partner.
Catch some bass – Stripers and smallmouth bass are bad for salmon, but they’re good for dinner, and the Coquille River has no limit on them. Until Oct. 31, you can even spear smallmouth.
Share your story – Tell us your memories of salmon fishing on the Coquille River.
City of Bandon
“We join the Coquille Indian Tribe in sounding the alarm about the salmon’s plight.” Full text
City of Myrtle Point
“In just the past decade, what previously was a lively sport fishery has dwindled to almost no fish at all.” Full text
“When the shocking news came this spring from ODF&W that the Coquille River would be completely closed to all salmon fishing in 2021, it spelled more disaster for our community.” Full text
Port of Bandon
“We urge your support to rescue this ancient and cherished resource from extinction.” Full text
Coquille Watershed Association
“In the face of climate change, land use and water quality issues, it is critical to act now to reverse alarming trends in the watershed.” Full text
Shoreline Education and Awareness
“Limited resources have hobbled the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife efforts to restore the Coquille River’s Chinook population. The Coquille Tribe’s experience, motivation and resources are essential for restoring the salmon population in the river.”Full text
Coos County Commissioners
“Cooperative management offers our best possible hope for success in saving the fall-run Chinook salmon and improving the health the watershed.” Full text
City of Coquille
“Combining resources and involving a more vested local voice and action plan can prove to be very effective.”Full text
City of Powers
“We urge you to accept the tribe’s help and build an effective coalition to heal our watershed.” Full text
Port of Coquille River
“Already this fall, we are seeing positive results from the tribe’s participation and leadership in organizing a cooperative local response.” Full text
Bay Area Chamber
“We join other local voices to endorse the Coquille Tribe’s co-management proposal.” Full text
NORTH BEND – After focusing on pandemic-related projects in 2021, the Coquille Tribal Community Fund will return to supporting a broad range of community programs in 2022.
“We felt the need to assist the local COVID-19 response last time,” said tribal Chairman Brenda Meade. “In our new grant cycle, we’ll still consider COVID-related projects, but we also want to serve a variety of community needs.”
The tribe shared $266,107 with more than 60 community organizations and projects in southwestern Oregon in 2021. All the 2021 grants targeted pandemic-related expenses of local and regional organizations.
The grant recipients included food pantries, homeless programs, museums, community centers, veterans groups, services for children and even a couple of music programs.
“It’s a huge privilege to be able to help so many outstanding organizations and projects,” Meade said.
Master Gardener Marrie Caldiero of Coos Bay washes her hands while volunteering at the Coos Bay Farmers Market. The Coquille Tribal Community Fund provided $3,640 for the market to rent six mobile hand-washing stations – a requirement for staying open during the pandemic. ‘Basically we couldn’t have the market without the hand-washing stations,’ said Market Manager Melissa Hasart. The market was one of 60-plus community organizations that shared more than a quarter-million dollars in grants this year.
The biggest share of the money, about $97,000, went to Coos County organizations. Lane County groups received about $52,000, Jackson County $44,000, Douglas County $33,000, and Curry County $33,000.
The five counties make up the Coquille Tribe’s congressionally designated service area, based on significant populations of tribal members living in each county. The grants are funded by a share of annual revenue from The Mill Casino-Hotel & RV Park in North Bend.
The tribal fund is one of southwestern Oregon’s leading sources of community grants, distributing more than $7 million over the past two decades.
The fund will accept letters of inquiry for its upcoming grant cycle during September and October from organizations in all five counties. As in years past, the 2022 grants will focus on seven categories: education, public safety, arts and culture, environment, historic preservation, health and gaming addiction.
“We give big grants and little ones,” said Jackie Chambers, the fund’s administrator. “We encourage all kinds of projects and programs to apply.”
Letters of inquiry for the 2022 grants are due Oct. 31. Organizations whose letters are accepted will be invited to submit formal applications by Nov. 30. Grants will be announced in late February or early March.
The Coquille Indian Tribe joins the family of Chief Don Ivy in mourning his passing on July 19.
The chief died after a courageous seven-month battle with cancer. He was 70 years old and had been chief since 2014.
Tribal Chairman Brenda Meade offered this statement about her friend and colleague:
“Chief Ivy was a consistent source of wisdom and kindness for the Coquille people. His voice was an invaluable asset to those of us who were privileged to serve with him in tribal leadership, and we will miss him terribly. We offer our prayers for his family, along with our enduring gratitude for his many contributions to the tribe’s wellbeing.”
Chief Ivy was well-known in Oregon as a champion of Indian people and a scholar of tribal heritage. He received many awards for his leadership and contributions to the State of Oregon and Indian Country, including the Potlatch Fund, the Antone Minthorn Economic & Community Development Award, and the Oregon Heritage Commission’s Heritage Excellence Award. Most recently, Southwestern Oregon Community College honored him in May as its 2021 Distinguished Alumnus.
As chief of the Coquille Tribe, he served on the seven-member Tribal Council and was the tribe’s cultural and spiritual spokesman. In honoring his wishes, the tribe will hold a special election to choose his successor.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued the following statement in response to the news about Chief Ivy:
“I was incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Chief Don Ivy today. For many years, I counted him as a friend and trusted advisor, turning to him most recently to serve on Oregon’s Racial Justice Council––the mission of which aligned with his life’s work: dismantling the structures of racism that have created disparities in our society.
“A leader and a scholar, he dedicated his life to righting those wrongs, as he worked to preserve tribal traditions and to build a more just future for the Coquille people. His contributions to the work of the Oregon Tribal Cultural Items Task Force helped our state to make groundbreaking progress in the preservation of tribal items in the possession of state agencies and other public institutions.
“I was honored in March to recommend he be inducted as a Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Distinguished Alumnus––a college his father helped to create. My heart is with Chief Ivy’s family and friends today, and with all the people of the Coquille Tribe.”
A memorial service will be held in The Mill Casino-Hotel’s Salmon Room at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25.
Tribe Plans Prayer Ceremony in Response to Tragedy
June 22, 2021
The Coquille Indian Tribe joins the community in grieving last week’s tragic events in North Bend. The circumstances are especially painful to the tribe because some of the deaths took place on tribal lands.
The tribe plans to hold a ceremonial prayer fire at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, at The Mill Casino-Hotel’s fire pit, located at the south end of the property.
This ceremony will be open to all community members who have been affected by this horrific event. We plan to offer prayers in our ancestral tradition, but people of all faiths are welcome to join us in praying or meditating as your own beliefs prescribe.
“Please join us in offering prayers for family members, friends and community, and help us to begin our process of healing,” said tribal Chairman Brenda Meade.
We ask the media and the public to please respect the privacy of the victims’ families as they mourn the loss of their loved ones. Those who attend are asked to refrain from photographing or recording the ceremony.
Parking will not be available in the hotel parking lot. If you plan to attend, please park in the open area just south of The Mill RV Park. A shuttle will take you to the ceremony.