The Celilo Indian Education Program (CIEP)

by Denise Andersen, Clackamas United Church of Christ
Published on July 11, 2011

Caitlin Andersen continues her work at the Celilo Indian Village in the Columbia River Gorge. She is the only teacher at the new Village school, which was completed in the summer of 2009, just in time for her to teach three weeks of summer school on site. She is in the midst of her third year of summer school at the Celilo Village School. The program is funded in part by grants from the Central Pacific Conference of the UCC and national Neighbors in Need. This enables Caitlin to work five days a week with Native American children in Celilo and at Dufur and Maupin public school districts. Measurable academic and social gains were made because of the consistent contact with the village children.  Without the Justice and Witness grant and Neighbors in Need grant,  the contact time with the Celilo Indian Village Children would be cut in half, resources could not be purchased, and financial needs would not be met.

 The marginalization of the Celilo Indians as a result of the building of The Dalles Dam and the flooding of Celilo Fall is a justice issue that was unresolved for 50 years.  Finally restitution is being made, and attention is being given to the special needs of the children in the village. Caitlin Andersen’s affiliation with the United Church of Christ allows her to be a witness to our local congregations regarding the needs of this Indian community within the boundaries of our own Central Pacific Conference.  Over the years, we’ve seen involvement of our UCC churches continue to grow through contributions and direct participation.  Clackamas United Church of Christ youth entered into an interpersonal relationship with the village children through letter writing and direct contact.

In July of 2010, Clackamas UCC youth journeyed to Celilo as guests of the Village youth.  Thirty young people participated in this cultural exchange, very meaningful for all involved. Clackamas UCC also held a salmon dinner to benefit the village school.  Kairos Milwaukie UCC has contributed from their 2-cents-a-meal program, Riverside Community Church has provided financial support, and a confirmation class from Lake Oswego UCC did a service project and visit to Celilo.  Caitlin gave a presentation at the Young Adult Camp at Camp Adams, and she will co-lead the Central Pacific Conference of the UCC’s Women’s Retreat on October 7 and 8.  The topic will be Native American Spirituality and Art.

 Good News! Celilo Graduates Six Students

This spring, a record number of youth from the Celilo Indian Village graduated from Dufur High School.  Since the closing of the Petersburg School, Celilo students have been bused to the Dufur District 45 minutes from the village.  What’s a normal day like for Celilo Indian kids?  Six-and-one-half hours at Dufur School (K-12), 1-1/2 hours commuting to and from school, and an after-school program in the village from 4-6pm.  These long days are important to fulfill all requirements to graduate.

Many students miss school days for traditional Native American work of fishing, hunting, berry/root picking, and rodeo.  In order to advance in school and graduate, credit recovery and tutoring are mandatory, and the Indian Education Program is critical. This program, supported by our local congregations, the Central Pacific Conference of the UCC, and a national Neighbors in Need grant gives the students the extra attention they need to succeed.  Under the leadership of Caitlin Andersen, they are doing just that.  The village rejoiced over seeing six seniors graduate, and some students received college scholarships. Three students are enrolled in college for next year, and three are considering college classes as an option. The education program expanded to Maupin this year, with one more high school graduate, bringing the total Native American graduates in the Celilo Indian Education Program to seven. Each graduate received a Pendleton Camp blanket as a graduation gift.

How do our local churches support the Celilo Indian Education Program?  We outfitted the new school with furniture/ books/supplies. We continue to replace supplies and assist with costs of keeping the program afloat. UCC youth volunteer to help with summer school. This Spring, we assisted with graduate recognition, college visits, testing fees and college housing deposits.  And let’s not forget building a positive relationship between our churches and village students.  We do make a difference!

Needed Now for the Celilo Indian Village School

  • Peanut butter crackers, Cup of Soup, Top Ramen, Fruit Chews, juice boxes and bottled water. (These are needed for school lunches and snacks, and to send home with hungry kids.)
  • Junior baby food, medium and large disposable diapers and baby wipes (Two teenage mothers working on graduating from high school.)
  • All kinds of school supplies, Safeway gift cards for gas/transportation.
  • Biodegradable paper cups, napkins, disinfectant wipes,
  • Paper towels, plastic zip lock bags (all sizes).
  • Bird seed for the Celilo Village School birds.

Financial contributions are greatly appreciated for ongoing needs at the Village School.

To help, please contact Caitlin Andersen, Celilo Indian Education Program Director

Phone: 503-351-3643,  Address: 1004 W. 8th Place, The Dalles, OR 97058

Checks may be made out to CUCC – CIEP and are tax deductible.

~Denise Andersen is the pastor at Clackamas United Church of Christ, Milwaukie, Oregon.  She is also the Central Pacific Conference UCC Just Peace Liaison.  Denise has been involved with many peace and justice projects locally and nationally including refugee resettlement, transitional housing for homeless youth & families, and racial justice programs.

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  1. john hickox


    Great work Caitlin

    I live in Dufur and see the positive results of your efforts

  2. Reply

    Pam Barnard – Lane, the stories you tell thurogh your pictures are a precious gift thank you for using the talent and the eyes God gave you to share His stories with us! We are praying for you.

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