Pride in Her People

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

White waves lap the sandy beach. Seagulls squawk overhead. Eagles pose in tall trees nearby, watchful. Pacific University sophomore Charlotte Basch is at home, in her favorite spot.

It’s known as Neawanna Point, an 18.5-acre estuary just north of Seaside, Ore., off Highway 101.

Today, it is part of a preserve established in 1968 by the North Coast Land Conservancy and others to protect a sensitive ecosystem and a place of cultural significance.

Hundreds of years ago, it was the place of Charlotte’s ancestors; a place where the Clatsop and Nehalem Indians lived together in longhouses, where they fished and hunted, where they weaved clothes and baskets, where they danced.

It also is the place where Lewis and Clark once stayed, not far from Fort Clatsop, where, in 1805, they met Coboway, the Clatsop Indian chief who was Charlotte’s great-great-great-grandfather.

Her mother, Roberta Wright-Basch, hails from the Puyallup tribe in Washington. Her father, Richard Basch, is from the Clatsop-Nehalem tribe. Charlotte has grown up with their shared ancestry and considers herself a proud member of both tribes, one who wants to use her talents and education to work with and for indigenous communities.

An ambitious student, Charlotte is a Pacific University sophomore working on a combined major in anthropology and sociology and hoping to add dance next year. She also is striving for minors in Spanish, political science and indigenous studies, a new minor that launches next fall, thanks in part to some of her own efforts.