Keizer activist, tribal leader honored by Merkley

Delores “Dee” Pigsley

The name and accomplishments of Keizer woman and longtime leader of the Siletz Tribe are now inscribed forever in the records of the United States Congress thanks to Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Merkley submitted a written statement about Delores “Dee” Pigsley into the records as part of recognizing extraordinary women during Women’s History Month in March.

Pigsley bore witness to the termination of her tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, in 1954. Two decades later, she was driving force behind having the tribe’s sovereign rights restored – it was only the second time in the history of the country that such corrective action had been taken.

“You never quit being an Indian just because your tribe has been terminated,” Pigsley said of the feat in 1991.

Pigsley has never stopped fighting for the rights of the Siletz.

As chief negotiator for the Siletz Tribe, Pigsley passed agreements with Congress, negotiated compacts, and testified on Capitol Hill before Congress. She has worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services on behalf of tribal members. The Confederated Tribe of the Siletz Indians, which was once on the verge of ceasing to exist, now owns and manages a reservation of over 3,500 acres, with a casino, resorts, hotels, a school, and health clinics.

Pigsley has served as tribal chairman for 32 years.

“Delores is many things to many people: a chairman, a leader, a role model, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. In spite of all her accomplishments, she remains humble, attributing much of her success to other Tribal council leaders and to many national Tribal leaders who have served as mentors to her,” Merkley wrote.