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Searching for a New Chief

Pete Springer/OPB

The legacy of Chief Nelson Wallulatum is remembered throughout the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. He was elected chief in 1959 and represented his Wasco tribe until his passing in June of last year. Chief Wallulatum was a fierce defender of the environment and tribal rights. He was also a link between his people and the past; he was fluent in the Wasco language and a collector of his tribe’s history for a half century. Chief Wallulatum’s death created not just a cultural loss, but a political vacuum for the Wasco Tribe and the Confederation of Warm Spring’s tribal council.

The tribal council is made up of eight annually elected officials and three lifetime chiefs, each representing the three tribes: Warm Springs, Piaute, and Wasco. As a sovereign nation, the tribal council is involved in all aspects of life in Warm Springs. The Wasco Tribe has begun the search for Chief Wallulatum’s successor. The new chief will represent their cultural identity on the council.

But how do you find a new chief? The Wasco Tribe is asking that same question. Their last chief was elected over fifty years ago, and much has changed since then. What is the modern role of a chief?



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