PORTLAND, Ore. — The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde have finalized their purchase of the former Blue Heron paper mill site at Willamette Falls.

"Our ancestors lived here. The Clowewalla people, their Charcowah village was in this place for as long as our stories go back," Tribal Council Woman Kathleen George said. "After the treaty of 1855, our people were removed from here to the Grand Ronde Indian reservation where we live today."

They bought the 23-acre site from Washington developer George Heidgerken. The property is located within the tribes' ancestral homelands and holds significant historical and cultural importance for the Grand Ronde.

"It's where we get our eels and our lamprey and it's where we reconnect with our ancestors, so it's a wonderful day," George said.

Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy said they've reclaimed a piece of their homeland and are resurrecting their role as caretakers to Willamette Falls. 

Financial details of the sale weren't disclosed and plans for the site haven't been finalized. George said that giving the public access to the Willamette Falls will be a top priority.

"This amazing waterfall is very difficult for Oregonians to see or have any interaction with, so we want to change that and we want to restore community in this place," she said.

A home that was once theirs, is their home once again.

"Our ancient villages were a place where people lived, played, did business, and we want to see a modern village where people do business, come together, eat and share community," George said.

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