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2011 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Delores Ann Pigsley

Dee Pigsley
Delores Ann Pigsley
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Delores Ann (Dee) Pigsley, (Siletz), is the honored recipient of the 2011 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award for her tireless, successful leadership as a member of the tribal council of her people, serving 32 years until the present. During twenty-six of those years, she has served as Tribal Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon. Throughout this time, Delores has represented the best interests of her tribe with city, county, state, and federal officials. She has testified before Congress in support of adequate funding for native programs, and has worked vigorously for tribal sovereignty. She was a leading figure in the successful battle to repeal the 1954 federal statute terminating the Siletz nation, and a key individual responsible for the restoration of the tribe to sovereignty, and to vitality ever since. Because of Dee’s leadership, a myriad of important services have been provided to her people. She has continuously advocated for the development of tribal youth, culture, and history in an ongoing effort to ensure that Siletz traditions will continue in future generations.

Delores Pigsley was born in Toledo, Oregon, the youngest of eight children. She lived and grew up at the Chemawa Indian School, where her parents were employed, graduating from North Salem High School. Delores began her career working for the Prudential Insurance Company, and retired in 1998 after 24 years of service with the federal government at the Social Security Administration in Salem, rising to Operations Supervisor.

Delores was elected as a Siletz Tribal Council Representative in September of 1975. In 1954 the U.S. Congress passed the termination statute selling off all Siletz tribal lands, abrogating all treaties, cutting off all federal benefits. The Siletz were no longer recognized as a sovereign Indian nation. In the early 1970s the tribe reorganized and launched their effort to restore federal recognition. The Native American Rights Fund stepped forward and provided legal services through Don Miller and Charles Wilkinson, and a lobbying strategy was developed. The Tribal Council and a core group of tribal members worked tirelessly to publicly make their case. Delores was a leading figure in this extremely contentious battle, and when the restoration was achieved through federal statutes of 1977 and 1980, the Siletz became only the second tribe nationwide to achieve repatriation.

As tribal Chairman, Delores has met with city, country, state, and federal officials to represent the tribe’s position on many issues. She has negotiated agreements, testified before congressional hearings, and continuously advocated for adequate funding for Indian programs. Delore’s efforts to build tribal sovereignty have resulted in improved law enforcement, housing, education, cultural resources, health care, and environmental and natural resources management. Environmental protection has been a priority under her leadership, and the tribe has been recognized for their timber management practices. And, in efforts to improve the efficiency of the Tribal Council, Delores has implemented technological improvements and other procedural changes.

Economic development has always been a priority for Chairman Pigsley. In the face of contentious local and state opposition, she led her tribe in the establishment of the Chinook Winds Casino and Convention Center in the mid-1990s. Today, this successfully managed venture not only provides tribal and local community members with several hundred jobs, but revenue provides significant funds for governmental programs, as well as for contributions to nonprofit organizations statewide.

Chairman Pigsley has served as a member of the National Congress of American Indians, the National Tribal Chairman’s Association, the National Indian Women’s Association, the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, the Chemawa Indian School Board, and the National Indian Council on Aging, and as official delegate to the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

Delores has furthermore been instrumental in overseeing the cultural revival of the Siletz tribe. She worked closely with the author of a recent history of the Siletz, The People Are Dancing Again, helping to facilitate interviews with tribal members. The nearly defunct Siletz tradition of basket weaving, including the difficult task of gathering traditional natural materials, has been revived, as has their age-old traditional dance, Nee-Dosh. Currently, the tribal council has undertaken the first steps toward the building of a tribal museum. Though none of this would have been accomplished without the contributions of many, clearly the leadership of Chairman Delores Pigsley has played a pivotal role in the revival of the Siletz.

Chairman Pigsley is married to Donald Pigsley, a member of the Yankton Sioux tribe. They had three children, Timothy, Troy (deceased), and Quanna and have seven children. She lives in Keizer, Oregon.


2011 Honorees

Clan Chief Adam Dick

Nora Dauenhauer

Wayne Warren Don

Delores Ann Pigsley

Chuck Sams



Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
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Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


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