Indian Giver?

Mount Hood, a sacred space

Imagine returning Mount Hood—the majestic landmark volcano in Oregon—back to local tribes as a marker of good faith and in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

Sound crazy?

The suggestion isn’t all that bizarre according to Eirik Thorsgard, who spoke about cultural preservation at a talk on my campus in Portland.

Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest peak, has deep meaning as a spiritual place for American Indians.

And native denizens could make a compelling argument—based on oral histories and tribal traditions—that Mount Hood is a sacred space, a spiritual place, and a cultural resource.

Not just a compelling argument. A legal argument.

Critics blanch at the thought of returning Mount Hood—Oregon’s largest ski resort–to the Indians.

Key is how we define our terms: Culture. Tradition. Property.

Thorsgard asked his elders about the definitions. What isn’t culture? was one elder’s reply.

Everything is culture.

So defining what is traditional cultural property isn’t all that difficult for native tribes.

But getting property returned? Repatriated?

That’s quite a different story and the stuff of heated debate, newspaper stories and lawsuits.

[Photo of Mount Hood from


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, human origin, Indian, journalism, Native Science, science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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