The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Tana Atchley Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

September 15, 2015


Tana L. Atchley was born in 1977 in Klamath Falls, Oregon. A Modoc, Paiute and Karuk member of the Klamath Tribes, Atchley grew up in Sprague River, a small community located on what had once been the Klamath Indian Reservation. The Klamath Indian Tribe of Oregon was terminated in 1954, and while Atchley was raised learning some of her ancestral traditions, many of them were no longer being observed during the years of her upbringing.

Growing up, Atchley attended school in Chiloquin, a community located thirty miles away from her home. When she was in the eighth grade, a local ballot measure passed that resulted in the elimination of county school buses, a turn of events that forced Atchley's mother to homeschool her children for the year. Tana returned to the Chiloquin school system the next year, and completed her high school education in 1995.

A strong student, Atchley received an Underrepresented Minorities Achievement Scholarship from the state of Oregon, and used it to enroll at the University of Oregon, where she majored in Journalism. During her undergraduate years, Atchley also worked for the Oregon Social Learning Center and was very involved with the campus' Native American Student Union as well as its Multicultural Center.

After graduating in 2000, Atchley found employment at her alma mater as an admissions counselor focusing on multicultural recruitment. The following year, she moved back to Klamath Falls and began working for the Oregon Institute of Technology as an admissions counselor. After budget cuts led to her losing that job, she decided to further her education, applying to the College Student Services Administration Program at Oregon State University.

Atchley began her graduate studies at OSU in 2003. While there, she worked with the Educational Opportunities Program and also served as the external coordinator for the Native American Longhouse. She spent the first half of 2004 as an interim coordinator and graduate assistant at the American Indian Initiatives Office, and she completed the CSSA program in 2005.

From there, Atchley secured a position as the assistant director of multicultural affairs at Lewis and Clark College. After a year at Lewis and Clark, she moved on to Portland State University, where she was an advisor for the school's student activities and leadership program. Atchley stayed at PSU for seven years, working for the university during the school year and with youth camps during the summers. In the summer of 2009, she coordinated a tribal salmon camp, which facilitated the experience and sharing of tribal traditions among a collection of the state's tribal youth.

Starting in 2010, Atchley began spending her summers with the Bridge of the Gods Summer Academy, a "pre-college bootcamp" for Native American high school kids. Initially an instructor and supervisor, Atchley later became the program's director. She has likewise been closely involved with the Konaway Nika Tillicum Summer Academy, a cultural program created for middle school- and high school-age Native American students.

In 2013, Atchley left PSU for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, where she works as the tribal workforce development and outreach coordinator. In this capacity, she assists member tribes with initiatives meant to increase the number of tribal members pursuing careers in the protection of natural and cultural resources. She also manages internship programs, orientation programs, and camps sponsored by the commission.