Reclaiming identity through tradition

The continuation of the series "Indigenous Resilience in Oregon" focuses on a wood carver who connected to her culture through art.

This series focuses on different aspects of Oregon’s contemporary Tribal culture and explores how traditional ways of life have continued forward throughout colonization and settlement of Oregon. This collection of writings and interviews showcases the history and resiliency of Oregon’s First Peoples.

In the last installment of the series, I focused on Greg Archuleta and the Lifeways class. In this installment, I want to focus on how traditional carver Qahir Beejee Jamil Peco-Llaneza connected with her own family and Indigenous traditions through the Lifeways class. I also think it’s important to show how reclaiming Indigenous heritage can be complex and requires one to navigate many layers of intergenerational trauma.

Photo of Qahir Beejee Jamil Peco-Llaneza with her carvings. Image courtesy of the artist.

Grand Ronde Tribal member Qahir Beejee Jamil Peco-Llaneza, or Beejee for short, is a Rogue River Umpqua Indian; that tribe’s ancestral territory is located in southern Oregon. Beejee is happily retired now after serving many years as an educator in traditional school settings and institutions like Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. She was also the Division Director for Children and Family Services at Volunteers of America: “As Division Director, I oversaw a childcare program, a wellness program for African-American families and Latina/Latino-American families, the state parenting program, a domestic violence program (shelter and transitional programs), and CourtCare, which is a childcare program in the Multnomah Courthouse while parents are in court proceedings.” Currently, she is the treasurer for the Threads of Justice Collective, a nonprofit group that trains people working toward the elimination of oppression and social justice. Beejee has dedicated her life to helping others, and it’s clear from her professional history that she possesses immense compassion for all people, not just her own community.


Part of what makes Beejee’s carving work so special is the stories behind them. Sometimes they are referring to ancestral knowledge, sometimes she’s using traditional techniques to talk about contemporary issues. The image below features one of her many hand-carved cedar boxes, depicting salmon that look “deformed,” as she describes them, subtly hinting at the grave environmental challenges that West Coast salmon face. Her carvings feel modern, with clean geometry lines and symmetry, but they also are informed by generations of tradition and reflect the unique cultural background that she possesses.  

Qahir Beejee Jamil Peco-Llaneza, Salmon cedar box. Image courtesy of the artist.


Exquisite Gorge 6: The Guardian

Greg Archuleta, artist and cultural policy analyst for the Grand Ronde tribes, links past and future in Maryhill's Columbia Gorge print project


Last week I met a guardian of both the past and the future.

Greg Archuleta, Artist and Cultural Policy Analyst for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

A conversation with Greg Archuleta, artist, educator, and now Cultural Policy Analyst for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, made his calling abundantly clear. On the one hand, as an artist and educator, he is focused on preserving the traditions and knowledge of the past. On the other hand, he is also intensely engaged, both as an educator and a community activist, in protecting conditions needed to extend that past into the future.