Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Native American Heritage Month is a time to reckon with the injustices faced by Indigenous communities throughout history and the enduring strength displayed in the face of adversity. In our work to support resilience and equity, we strive to elevate the voices of our community. This month we are honored to uplift Native American Heritage Month, as we share a reflection by Multnomah County Ombudsperson Cheryl Taylor, who is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

With heartfelt respect and celebration of Native American heritage throughout the year!

Jennifer McGuirk
Multnomah County Auditor

On Nov 5, Choctaw Cultural Center hosted many dancers for the 2023 Choctaw Powwow, including junior boys grass dancers. Photo by Choctaw Cultural Center.

Native American Heritage Month

By Cheryl Taylor, Multnomah County Ombudsperson and a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Native American Heritage Month is an opportunity to honor, celebrate, and educate others about the rich tapestry of Indigenous cultures, traditions, and histories that have endured for millennia. Yet, celebrating Native American Heritage Month is not merely about acknowledging the past; it is about recognizing the vibrancy and resilience of Indigenous communities in the present. It is about reclaiming our narratives and creating a future where Indigenous voices are heard, respected, and valued. 

In Multnomah County, Native American Heritage Month serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy and contributions of Indigenous peoples to the county’s identity. It is a time to honor the profound history that predates the county’s urban landscape, recognizing the ancestral lands upon which Multnomah County stands. For the Native communities residing in the county, this month holds a special resonance — a chance to showcase their rich cultures, traditions, and resilience in the face of historical and contemporary challenges.

Native American Heritage Month shines a light on the experience of Indigenous peoples. It is a time to honor the contributions of our ancestors, whose wisdom and knowledge laid the foundation for many aspects of modern society, including agricultural practices, medicine, and governance systems. It is also a time for reflection on the challenges that persist. The historical trauma inflicted upon Indigenous communities continues to reverberate through generations, manifesting in social, economic, and health disparities. Despite these adversities, Native Americans exhibit unwavering strength in preserving cultural identities and advocating for justice and equality.

The observance of Native American Heritage Month is a call to amplify Indigenous voices and stories that have been marginalized or silenced for far too long. It is about highlighting the ongoing struggles faced by Indigenous communities, from the fight for sovereignty and land rights to the preservation of cultural heritage in the face of modern challenges.

Native American Heritage Month offers an opportunity to engage in dialogue, fostering understanding and respect for our diverse cultures and traditions. Education plays a crucial role in this process, as awareness leads to empathy, solidarity, and meaningful allyship. We are provided an opportunity to remove the cloak of invisibility from our Indigenous populations and celebrate them for their unique contributions. 

This month holds profound significance for me as a Native American woman. It is a time to stand in solidarity with our communities and advocate for a more inclusive and equitable society. It is a reminder of the strength that resides within our cultures and the importance of preserving them for generations to come.

The significance of Native American Heritage Month in Multnomah County lies in its power to honor the past, celebrate the present, and pave the way for a more inclusive and harmonious future. It serves as a beacon of cultural pride, resilience, and unity, weaving together the diverse threads of Indigenous heritage within the vibrant mosaic of Multnomah County’s identity.

Multnomah County Auditor's Office from left to right: Management Auditor Sura Sumareh, Principal Auditor Mark Ulanowicz, and Auditor Jennifer McGuirk

Presenting on our audit of the county’s budget process

On November 22, Principal Auditor Mark Ulanowicz, Management Auditor Sura Sumareh, and I shared results from our audit of the county’s budget process with the Board of County Commissioners. Mark and Sura shared that the county’s process is aligned with most best practices for budgeting. There are two areas in which the county’s process could be better - financial reporting and community engagement. We made recommendations to improve the transparency in financial reporting by reporting budget to actual spending at the same level at which the Board adopts the budget, and to provide for more meaningful community engagement in the budget process.

If you would like a presentation from my office on this audit or any other aspect of our work, simply fill out this form.

Apply to be a Salary Commissioner!

We extended the time to apply to serve on the Multnomah County Salary Commission! The Salary Commission sets the salaries for the Chair of the Board of County Commissioners, County Commissioners, and Sheriff, and the District Attorney’s county-paid supplemental salary. The commission will begin meeting in January 2024; Salary Commissioners receive modest stipends for each meeting they attend. We currently have two open spots. Applications must be submitted by December 8, 2023. The Charter specifies that:

  • The Commission is to include five members.
  • Members are to be qualified human resource professionals with compensation experience.
  • Elected or appointed County officials and employees cannot serve on the Commission.

Learn more and apply by clicking here.

Community Engagement

On November 23 and 24, Constituent Relations and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Engagement Specialist Raymond De Silva and I participated in UnThanksgiving volunteer opportunities offered by NAYA. The events combined educational programming with the chance to tend the land and be in community. I was humbled to learn about the Indigenous speakers’ generational experiences, including forced removal from their traditional homelands, forced enrollment in boarding schools, life on reservations, and enduring efforts to sustain their traditions, communities, and our shared planet. It is important and powerful to learn about the experiences of our Indigenous friends, neighbors, and family as we strive to build a county that values each person and helps them thrive. 

If you’d like me and or staff to attend or speak at a meeting with your community group, simply fill out this form.

people gardening at NAYA's Unthanksgiving event
3rd Annual NAYA's UnThanksgiving in solidarity with the Portland region’s Native and Indigenous community. Photo on left: Prismid Sanctuary and Photo on right: NAYA Community Garden.