Pendleton, Ore. – June 23, 2022 – Antone Minthorn is a visionary who thinks before he speaks.
His Indian name appropriately translates to Big Dawn.
His viewpoints and goals are simple.
Change is constant, he says, but proactive thinking and doing will get you preferred results. It is important, he says, to be a good person with a vision of helping your community and people.
A strong economy is vital, allowing investments in the community, including culture. He wants to build an economy to help members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) help themselves and their families. Education and training, he says, will allow the CTUIR people to manage their own affairs.
Antone advocates respect and protection for the power of Treaty rights and wants to use those Treaty rights to restore and manage the Umatilla Reservation’s economy, environment, and social equity.
He wants Tribal citizens, especially young people, to understand and appreciate their history, and he wants to restore and continue the Cayuse-Nez Perce, Umatilla, and Walla Walla languages. Toward that goal, he has worked since 2010 in the Tribes’ Language Program. He says languages provide Tribal people strength and identification.
Antone’s resume reads like that of multiple individuals.
Antone served in several capacities, in addition to his 16 years as an elected leader of his community’s Tribal government. As a board member of Ecotrust, whose mission is to inspire fresh thinking that creates economic opportunity, social equity, and environmental well-being, he has been stalwart and loyal to the mission.
Spencer B. Beebe, founder of Ecotrust in 1991 and Salmon Nation in 2019, recruited Antone as a board member in 2002. Antone, who has served consistently for 20 years, brings a tribal perspective to Ecotrust’s mission of taking care of the planet for future generations.
Beebe calls Antone an “extraordinary guy,” a “strategist looking down the road.”
“Antone always reminded us of the power of the Treaty and the Tribes,” Beebe said. “He said we could litigate or legislate, but also negotiate. He told us Tribes haven’t always recognized the power they have with their Indigenous rights. Antone would say, ‘You’ve got to use that to restore your lands and build your own communities.’”
Antone served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1953-1956.
He later earned his bachelor’s degree and then his master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Oregon. Before he became a politician, he worked for the CTUIR as a land use planner, as well as zoning and water administrator.
During the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Relocation Program, Antone lived in San Francisco where, as an activist leader during the civil rights era, he addressed the San Francisco City Council about housing needs.
Antone was the elected Chair of his Tribes’ General Council from 1981-1997 and went on to serve for eight more years as the Chair of his Tribes’ nine-member Board of Trustees.
He was an Oregon delegate to seven Democratic National Conventions and shook hands with presidents. He was in Boston in 2004 when Barack Obama made his first prime-time speech and met the candidate several times during the campaign. Four years later in Denver, Antone was a delegate for President Obama.
He served as an elected official and board member of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) and was Chair of ATNI’s Economic Development Committee.
Antone has had many major accomplishments over the years, but he considers his most important contribution the restoration of water and salmon, after an absence of 70 years, to the Umatilla River. The years-long Umatilla Basin Project required “win-win” collaboration and cooperation, as well as negotiation, between Indians, irrigators, and government.
He was a key player in the adoption of a paramount salmon policy for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) to stop salmon extinction in the Columbia River Basin. As evidence of this achievement, CRITFC honored Antone with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
His list of other board memberships is more than impressive.
– Indian Country Conservancy
– Trust for Public Lands
– Northwest Area Foundation
– Portland State University Institute for Tribal Government
– Oregon Trail Coordinating Council
– American Leadership Forum
– Crow’s Shadow Institute for the Arts
– Celilo Wyam village redevelopment project
– Oregon Historical Society
– Washington Historical Society
– Confluence Project
– Rural Development Initiatives, Inc.
– Columbia River Gorge Commission
– Potlatch Fund
– American Legion George St. Denis Post 140
– Salmon Nation Trust
In 2011, when he was running for election as Chair of the Board of Trustees, Antone said:
“I want to be an example for our young people. I want to talk with them about being our generation of tribal leaders so they can understand the very rapid movement from poverty to prosperity. I want them to know the importance of working for a clear vision for the next 30-50 years, a policy known as ‘looking seven generations ahead.’”
Throughout his life, Antone has certainly “helped build a better tomorrow for us all.”
About Wil Phinney
Wil Phinney was editor of the Confederated Umatilla Journal for 24 years. He and Carrie, his wife, live in Pendleton, Oregon. Wil has been interviewing Antone Minthorn weekly since 2021.
Ecotrust creates and accelerates triple-bottom-line innovations to benefit our region and inspire the world. Our work is rooted the region from California to Alaska that holds productive lands and determined people. On the farm, at the coast, in the forest, and across our cities, we work in partnership towards an equitable, prosperous, climate-smart future. We recognize the legacy of colonialism and the deep inequities of this place, and we believe that radical, practical change is possible and necessary. Since 1991, we have created durable change and sparked ideas across the globe. Join us at ecotrust.org