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Cascade Head

Camp Westwind

 

 

Cascade Head

Research by Ann Bershaw

Blue Lake, 1950s
Diving, Rock Creek

        The land around Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast, now known as the YWCA's Camp Westwind, was the historic home of the Neschensney Indian Tribe. The Neschensney were a Salish-speaking tribe who shared cultural traditions with the neighboring Tillamook Indians to the south. Traditionally, the Neschensney lived in plank houses in villages clustered along the Salmon River. They navigated the river by canoe, and fished and gathered plant foods from the rich natural environment around them. Contact between the Neschensney and Europeans dates from at least the eighteenth century. The result of these early contacts devastated the Neschensney, mainly due to small pox disease and deaths. In addition, U.S. land policy codified in the Dawes Act of 1887 created a reservation system that forced Native Americans to leave their historic lands, including Cascade Head. Many Neschensney migrated to the Grand Ronde Reservation in Yamhill County, but some Neschensney survived in the area until 1936.

Working Women at Camp, 1940s

        In 1936, the last of the Neschensney died, a woman named Jane Baxter, thought to have been 104 years old and the last speaker of her tribal language. Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Cascade Head land became available for sale. A local judge whose wife was active in the Portland YWCA contacted the organization about its purchase. The board quickly voted in favor and came into possession of approximately 700 acres. These lands included Native American burial grounds, a vital element in Neschensney culture that was believed to protect people on their journey to the afterlife. In 1979, the YWCA deeded the burial ground property to distant relatives of the deceased who were now living on reservations. That same year, the YWCA also sold 200 acres of land, including the estuary, to the U.S. Forest Service, which became part of the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area.[1]

 

1. For background on Cascade Head, see Fred Barrett, Sea Mountain (Portland: Alder, 1993); Miriam Callahan, "Brief Summary of Sites Having Some Historical Significance," unpublished paper, c. 1990; Lucius Clark, Beautiful Westwind (Portland: YWCA of Portland, 1962); Board of Director Minutes, 16 June 1936, Portland YWCA Archives, Portland, Oregon.
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