December 1, 2013
Turkey emerges as unlikely benefactor for
Warm Springs tribe
Condensed by Native Village
As construction crews started work in June on a new K-8 school in Warm Springs, tribal officials had a problem: they needed a new, larger water tower to meet the needs of the school and adjoining neighborhood.
Turns out, help was just 6,200 miles away.
The Republic of Turkey has emerged as an unexpected and somewhat mysterious benefactor. At a ceremony in Washington, D.C., the Central Asian country awarded $200,000 to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs for the water tower.
You'd think the country already has plenty on its plate, what with war-torn Syria on its southern border and the culture clash between Turkey's pro-Western democracy and conservative Islam.
It turns out the Turks feel an affinity of shared heritage with Native Americans. Some Turks believe the ancestors of today's Native Americans migrated to the North American continent from what is today the Republic of Turkey.
The Turks believe so strongly in these blood ties, they hope the Warm Springs grant is the first of many aid packages they can extend to Native American tribes.
"There has always been an affinity among Turks toward Native Americans based on cultural similarities and a belief that Turks and Native Americans share common ancestors," said G. Lincoln McCurdy from the Turkish Coalition of America.
The Turkish connection came as a surprise.
"I have to tell you, we have not had news of this before," said Stan Speaks, regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Portland. "This is a new twist."
Does the prospect of another country offering foreign aid to Native American tribes raise any legal or diplomatic issues?
"Absolutely not," Speaks said. "These are sovereign nations. As a matter of fact, I think it's a great gesture of support."
A ceremony was held at the residence of Namik Tan, Turkey's U.S. Ambassador. The Turkish International Cooperation and Coordination Agency. awarded the $200,000 check to Danzuka and a handful of other tribal leaders.
The Warms Springs officials, in turn, presented Turkish officials with a Pendleton blanket and a homemade hand drum. Three teepees were painted on the drum to represent the Warm Springs, Paiute and Wasco, the three tribes of the Warm Springs confederation.
The Turkish money will cover nearly half the cost of the water tower, which is expected to be complete in mid-2014.
The water tower grant is not a one-off deal, said Turkish officials who spoke of hosting a Warm Springs delegation on a tour of their country.
For his part, Danzuka said he came away from the event a believer in the shared ethnic roots.
"It was great, I had no idea what to expect," he said. "There are lots of similarities in how they value their kids and the elders."
Village © Gina Boltz
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