Proposed casino naming ‘sends signal’


News staff writer

July 15, 2006

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs unveiled the name for the proposed casino at Cascade Locks during a Friday morning ceremony.

The name, Bridge of the Gods Columbia River Resort Casino, refers to an ancient Wasco legend. Wasco is one of the three tribes in the confederation, which also includes Warm Springs and Paiute.

In the Marine Park pavilion at Cascade Locks, a ring of children sat at the feet of tribal elder Suzie Slockish as she told the story.

She explained how a Wasco legend speaks to the creation and destruction of a natural bridge over the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.

In the legend, a great spirit built the stone bridge for the people of the river (Wanapum). He sent his sons, the snow mountains: Multnomah (Mount Rainier), Klickitat (Mount Adams) and Wy’east (Mount Hood). All was peaceful until the beautiful Pah-tu (woman) mountain moved into a small valley between Klickitat and Wy’east. The brothers fought over Pah-tu and caused the destruction of the bridge.

Warm Springs Chief Delvis Heath said the timing relates to showing support for the people of Cascade Locks and confidence in the proposed project.

“By giving it a name, we are sending a signal to the Gorge that we are 85 to 90 percent done in the process,” Heath said.

The tribes chose this weekend as well because of the annual Sternwheeler Days/Portage Festival being held in the town. Tribal Chairman Ron Suppah said the name shows the link between the tribes’ history and the Gorge.

“Our people have cared for this land and the mighty river for thousands of years, and have held the Columbia River Gorge and Bridge of the Gods sacred since time immemorial,” Suppah said. “In return the land and the river took care of us by providing food and shelter, and the name and vision for Bridge of the Gods Columbia River Resort Casino is a reflection of that relationship.”

While the unveiling of the name and logo brings a boost of publicity to the tribes’ effort, the casino proposal is still far from final.

The plan is to build a 500,000-square-foot facility on 25 acres purchased from the Port of Cascade Locks, located on industrial fill from the construction of Bonneville Dam at the eastern edge of the town. They also plan to lease an additional 35 acres to use for parking.

The current stage involves the requirement of a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed casino. Its release has been pushed back from June to September.

Because of limited federal funding and personnel, the BIA and tribes agreed to use HDR Inc. of Portland as the outside consultant for the project under the direction of the agency.

Once the draft EIS is released, a public comment period will be held for 45 days, including open houses and other public review opportunities. This document does not mean a final decision.

Before the proposed casino is approved, several concurrent steps must take place, including a fee-to-trust action by the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs and a separate decision by the Secretary of the Interior under Section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

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