This story originally ran in The Oregonian/Oregonlive.

Rep. Annessa Hartman was scanning a bill up for a vote in the House Monday when a detail that had flown under lawmakers’ radar caught her eye.

Oregon had big plans to commemorate 250 years since the Declaration of Independence – without guaranteeing participation by the nine federally recognized tribes in the state.

The three-page bill forming a planning committee had already flown through the Senate.

So as Hartman, a Gladstone Democrat and one of the Legislature’s few Indigenous members, read the bill, she grew angry. It specified that members of Oregon’s Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander and Hispanic communities should participate in planning the celebration. It involved the governor’s director of tribal affairs. But the bill didn’t call for explicit input from the tribes in Oregon, who stewarded the land of the Americas long before the colonists’ declaration.

Hartman stood to tell her colleagues to vote against it.

“We talk about honoring our history, honoring the stories that are within the state, but what is starkly noticeable about this bill is the lack of representation from our tribal partners,” Hartman, a descendent of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Cayuga, told her colleagues.

In a highly unusual move, the House agreed to rework the bill in the waning days of the session. Representatives sent the bill to the House Committee on Rules, which on Wednesday morning approved an amendment adding tribal representatives to a subcommittee. The full House approved the change hours later on a vote of 55-2.

Republican Reps. Jami Cate of Lebanon and Anna Scharf of Amity voted no. Scharf said she favored including tribal voices but thinks spending money on the planning committee broadly is a “waste of taxpayer money.”

Rep. Tawna Sanchez, who is Shoshone-Bannock, Ute and Carrizo, joined Hartman in advocating for changes to the bill. In her time as a lawmaker, Sanchez repeatedly secured changes to bills that neglected to recognize the tribes in Oregon, she told lawmakers Monday. This bill, again, left them out of the process, she said.

“It is hugely important, not just to me or Rep. Hartman, but to those tribal populations and tribes all over this country,” said Sanchez, a Portland Democrat. “There is only a 250th anniversary because our land was taken.”

The bill had slipped past Sanchez’ radar until Monday too, she said. She voted to pass it out of the Ways and Means Committee she co-chairs in its original form, she acknowledged.

But an event as politically significant as the U.S. Semiquincentennial demands deeper, more intentional input from the tribes, she said Wednesday.

“In reality we still have a lot of impacts that maybe still need to be addressed, right? There’s history in this country of significant laws that impacted the Native population, behaviors, things that happened that truly damaged and devastated tribal populations,” Sanchez said. “So, not being a part of the conversation was not acceptable. “

She and Hartman presented an amendment to the House Rules committee on Wednesday that specifies that the planning committee needs to consult with the federally recognized tribes in Oregon. It creates a subcommittee with one representative from each of the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon and adds one additional member to the full commission who will convey the tribes’ views and help to “uplift the tribes’ histories and stories.”

Hartman said the subcommittee will give the nine sovereign nations in Oregon space to collaborate. Her hope is that they decide to highlight the history of the tribes, their successes and also the struggles caused by colonial contact. The Fourth of July is not a happy holiday for many Indigenous people, Hartman told the rules committee, and the 250th anniversary offers an opportunity to acknowledge the dark and painful corners of the country’s founding.

“If we’re going to move forward and heal, we have to acknowledge everyone’s past,” Hartman said. “I’m very hopeful this will be one of the first times we have this partnership amongst each other, acknowledging the pain and the sorrow but also the positives.”

Lead image: Oregon House Reps. Annessa Hartman, left, and Tawna Sanchez, right, pose just off the House floor before a key vote Wednesday. Photo by Sami Edge / The Oregonian

Sami Edge covers higher education and politics for The Oregonian. You can reach her at or (503) 260-3430.