Chief Don Ivy passes away

Chief leaves legacy of wisdom, leadership

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.

College honors Chief Ivy

Southwestern honors Donald Ivy as 2021 Distinguished Alumnus

From Southwestern Oregon Community College, May 7, 2021

COOS BAY, OR — Southwestern Oregon Community College is pleased to announce the selection of Donald Ivy of Coos Bay as the 2021 Distinguished Alumnus.

Ivy is Chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, a position he has held since 2014. In a nomination supported by educators, tribal leaders, former lawmakers, and Oregon’s governor, advocates for the award describe Ivy as representing “the best of what any educational institution hopes to achieve.” He encourages “individuals to think deeply, make an impact, share their knowledge and go on to encourage others to do the same.”

Ivy has made it his lifetime endeavor to work in growing knowledge, understanding history and engaging youth. The state of Oregon honored him with its Heritage Excellence Award in 2013. The following year, the University of Oregon appointed Ivy as its first-ever Tribal Elder in Residence.

“This honor is a reminder of the great privilege I have to know the people I know. I am thankful for the graces and goodwill of other people more accomplished than me who have allowed me into their space,” Ivy said.

Ivy has published articles on history and archaeology. He is a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum. While heading the Coquille Tribe’s cultural program, he oversaw creation of the Kilkich Youth Corps, which provides workplace skills, mentoring and summer employment to tribal teens.

“Don Ivy came to our college in the mid-1990s to learn about the land, history and philosophy. He has used that knowledge to become in many ways a teacher for us all. He is a genuine leader who brings people together with shared vision for self-improvement and making our state better,” said Southwestern President Patty Scott.

Ivy served for several years on the college’s Foundation, advocating for the need to support scholarships and invest in quality facilities and training for residents of the south Oregon coast region. Under his leadership, the Coquille Indian Tribe was the college’s first vocal supporter and partner in building the college’s new Health & Science Technology center. The building will open in fall 2021, providing modern labs for training new generations of scientists, engineers and health care professionals.

“When I talk to somebody who’s a SWOCC student, I talk to them about the technology building. I see the excitement in our nursing students and others, and that building how important it is to them,” Ivy said. “I’m hoping the doors swing open in the fall and we fill it with students, and know we have accomplished a great thing.”

The Southwestern Foundation typically honors Distinguished Alumni in a celebration in coordination with graduation. This year, the college is postponing a Distinguished Alumni celebration until tentatively fall 2021.

“The whole COVID thing has challenged us with asking, ‘What are those things that are the most deeply rooted, the big important things that really, really matter,” Ivy said. “Celebration of community is hugely important. It reminds us to be together.”

This is the 30th year Southwestern has honored alumni who have demonstrated significant contributions to their professions, communities, or academia. To learn more about the college, go to www.socc.edu.