January 22, 2017

Umatilla protesters camp outside tribal building

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) – Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, protesters have camped out at a tribal center in Eastern Oregon, objecting to severance packages for their board of trustees and calling for expanding their charter school.

The protest began Tuesday with about 20 people in the tribal council chambers. By Wednesday morning six campers remained outside the government building of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the East Oregonian (http://bit.ly/ukt7ui) reported.

One of their signs read “Occupy” with a raised fist and another read “Support education.” They vowed to stay put at least a day more.

“If you're cold, laugh harder till you stop shaking,” said former tribal school board member and protester Linda Sampson.

The Pendleton School District charter school teaches about 50 students in grades nine through 12. It is funded by both the tribal government and the state through the district. The protesters wanted to see tribal funding to the school increased and see the school expand to cover grades six, seven and eight.

“Turn off the lights at night, spend that money on books,” some protesters chanted.

The protesters objected to a six-week severance package the trustees awarded themselves last year for members who do not seek re-election or are voted out. A recall attempt, though, has already fallen short.

Trustees spoke with the protesters for about an hour Tuesday, saying they want to make sure there's more money actually available for the school.

“I like what you're doing,” said trustees Chairman Les Minthorn. “This is your right to do what you're doing. It's also the right of the board to deliberate and make sure that they have the funds to provide the numbers you requested.”


Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info