Board to vote on new Sauvie Island Bridge name recommendation from tribal leaders

November 16, 2023

The Bridge Renaming Council, a historic workgroup of tribal representatives, will present its recommended name for the Sauvie Island Bridge on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. That meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. in Boardroom 100 at 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.

The presentation comes one year after the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted to rename the Sauvie Island Bridge to honor Indigenous people. Community members who serve on the Advisory Committee on Sustainability and Innovation recommended the Board rename the bridge to honor Native American communities whose traditional home includes Sauvie Island. 

The committee is made up of community members who have a range of expertise on sustainability-related issues that affect the community, environment and the economy. The County owns and maintains the only bridge to the island, which lies 10 miles northwest of Portland in the Columbia River.

The renaming marks a milestone in the County’s relationship with tribal governments, who hold a unique status within the United States as sovereign nations.  

“I hope that other counties and municipalities can see the work that Multnomah County is doing, reaching out and developing partnerships with sovereign nations, specifically the tribes with historical ties to these lands,” Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Board Member Corinne Sams said. “I hope this is contagious, setting a precedent for all others to do the same.” 

After the 2022 vote, the County convened a Bridge Renaming Council to bring a name recommendation forward. After conducting outreach to multiple tribes, three tribes with historical ties to the island offered their expertise on the Council. The Council was made up of appointed culture keepers, elders, tribal electeds and staff. This marked the County’s first formal consultation process with tribal governments. 

“When we are making important decisions like this, they always should be led by our community,” Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson said. “It was something that made complete sense for Multnomah County, whose name we take from Indigenous communities, and helps us recognize there’s much more we can do.” 

Beginning in April 2023, the Council conducted cultural research and worked with tribal communities to identify a name for the bridge. The Council established a framework to guide its decision-making which focused on traditional resources and land use, original villages and languages, as well as tribal elder and community voices. 

In summer 2023, the Council met to review proposed names that emerged from tribal government staff, island residents, online feedback and other outreach. Members identified a recommended name using their decision-making focus areas, while considering input from various communities. The name is currently being reviewed and discussed by appropriate tribal linguists to ensure accurate spelling and pronunciation before being released publicly.