Local organizers have met with Chinook leaders in effort to smooth out differencesMembers of the Chinook Indian tribe plan to meet soon to decide how they'll participate in next year's Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.
But tribal leaders are still adamant they will not be official partners in the November 2005 ceremonies as long as another tribal group is involved.
The Chinook tribe announced last March that it was dropping out of "Destination: The Pacific" because of the involvement of the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes.
Chinook Tribal Council Chairman Gary Johnson said the group will meet in the next week or two to decide what kind of role the tribe will have at the Bicentennial.
"We intend to participate and be there, but on our own terms," he said. "Our intention is to be there to tell our story."
The Chinook argue that the Clatsop-Nehalem group has no legal or historic claim as a separate tribal entity, and that the Chinook tribe is the rightful representative of the Clatsops, who traded with the Lewis and Clark expedition during its winter stay at Fort Clatsop in 1805-06.
The tribe, headquartered in Chinook, Wash., has about 2,300 enrolled members. The group won a long struggle for federal tribal recognition early in 2001, only to have the decision reversed a year later.
The Chinook haven't decided what kind of presence they will have at the Bicentennial events, which run from Nov. 11 to 15, but they haven't ruled anything out at this point - even protests, Johnson said.
The Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes were invited to join the Bicentennial organizing committee last January. The group is led by Joe Scovell of Turner, who has been leading his own effort to gain federal recognition for the group.
The Clatsops are considered a band of the Chinook and the Nehalems were part of the Tillamook tribe to the south, but the two peoples intermixed through trade and marriage and should be considered a distinct group, supporters say.
The dispute is discouraging for Bicentennial organizers, who have tried for several months to smooth out the problems between the two tribal groups. Jan Mitchell, chairwoman of the "Destination" board, said it's up to the Chinooks to decide what role they'll play in next year's events.
"And if they decide to protest, that's still participating," she said, noting that a Native American group in North Dakota recently demonstrated at a Bicentennial event there, although its protest was aimed at the entire Lewis and Clark commemoration.
Bicentennial organizers have invited 12 tribes and Native American groups with historic links to the Columbia River to take part in "Destination."
"We have direction from the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial and the Council of Tribal Advisors to be inclusive," Mitchell said. "I and a majority of the rest of the board were not willing to say 'this group can participate and this group can't.'"
The opening ceremonies will include Native American military veterans carrying tribal flags, and organizers are also seeking tribal vendors and performers for the Festival of the Pacific at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. The Clatsop-Nehalems are also lining up speakers for the "Ocian in View" lecture series.