The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians dedicated the 18th Annual Veterans Dinner to its late tribal leader, Sue Shaffer, known for advocating for the rights of Native Americans and military veterans.
Born in 1922 in Days Creek, Shaffer served the Cow Creek tribe for almost 30 years as tribal chairwoman and led efforts to achieve federal recognition of the tribe. She originally hosted the veterans dinner as a fundraiser to support World War II veterans in Douglas County. The event was successful and grew into an annual affair to support all veterans.
Shaffer died in April at the age of 94.
“She was very supportive of veterans and veterans programs and was always defending what was right for veterans,” said Michael Rondeau, CEO of the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe.
About 500 people gathered in the Umpqua Grand Ballroom of Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville on July 4 for the event. Tribal members played drums and posted flags before an eagle staff and photograph of Shaffer were carried into the ballroom in her honor. John Pierson played the bagpipes.
“There’s a great feel of community-mindedness,” Susan Ferris, spokeswoman of the tribe, said of the annual event.
Speakers included Rondeau; Stan Speaks, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Northwest regional director; Roseburg VA Director Doug Paxton; and Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman. The keynote speech was given by Sen. Ron Wyden, who had presented a congressional record in the 115th Congress to honor Shaffer.
“She was a true dynamo whose eloquent and powerful advocacy helped right the long, tragic history of wrongs inflicted on the Cow Creek and other Tribes in Oregon,” the congressional record reads. “Sue gladly led on so many fronts to improve life for the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe, create a better Douglas County and a better place for all of Oregon to enjoy. Her indelible legacy of achievement for our State and our Nation will live on to benefit generations to come.”
The Glendale Valley Choir sang and a 101-year-old won the oldest veteran contest while a 36-year-old won in the youngest category.
Shayne Goldbeck of K-Bar Steakhouse set up a table dedicated to fallen soldiers, prisoners of war, and those missing or killed in action.
“It was a very touching event,” Rondeau said.
He remembered last year’s veterans dinner when Shaffer and former Rep. Bill Markham made an entrance during Gov. Kate Brown’s speech. While the two, both in their 90s, walked down the aisle to find seats, Brown took a moment to recognize them. Brown considered them both her friends.
“It was a nice event all around for our veterans and we appreciate the opportunity to honor them,” Rondeau said.