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Átway Leslie Everett Minthorn was born to Lucy Peeps Totus Minthorn and Wilbur
Minthorn on October 1, 1933, on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Les, or “Kite” as he
was fondly known, attended school, and graduated from Pilot Rock High in 1952. During
his sophomore year, he was on the 1950 State championship team that beat Halfway,
Talent, and Triangle Lake to take the B-6 Football Final 25-18.
In 1952, he enlisted in the US Army and served in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with
Company C 127 th Airborne Engineer Brigade and was honorably discharged in 1955.
While in the service, he met Patricia G. Magee of Enterprise, Oregon, and they wed in
Kentucky on July 24, 1954. At the time of his passing, they had been married 69 years.
Les and Pat had 4 children: Micheal Leslie Minthorn (Roxanne Sparks, Shirlee Rebstock,
Lee Grannell, Alec Davis); Malissa Ann Minthorn Winks (Danny Becker, Michael Winks);
Maureen Minthorn Bates (Bill Butler, Victor Bates); and Melanie Sue Minthorn Barkley
(John Barkley). They adopted Patricia Ann Brown Rose (Don Delgado, Joseph Rose) and
Wayne Robert Brown. Les and Pat had many other foster children, many of whom were
relatives including John Wesley Withers Jr. and Julia Withers Lyons (Richard Lyons).
After his return from the Army, Les’ mother Lucy took him aside to explain the origin of
his Indian name, Koyoma Sumkiin or Cougar Shirt. She explained that he was named
after an ancestor who was accused of killing Marcus Whitman and executed in Oregon
City in 1850. This began the important effort to find and return these men to their
homeland which became a cornerstone of his life and purpose. Inspired by Les, this
pursuit continues with help from the University of Oregon. Les and nephew Armand
Minthorn developed a strong relationship with Oregon City officials and communicated
to them the story of the Cayuse Five and the need to remember and repatriate them. A
tribute to the Cayuse men is in development now with the City of Oregon City.
Les participated in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Relocation Program which took his family
to San Jose, California, for a brief stint in 1957-1958. They migrated to Portland, Oregon,
and were there until 1972. While in Portland, he attended Clark College in Vancouver,
Washington, to study electronics. He worked for Electronics Specialties and Boeing
making gyroscopes for NASA amongst other electronic instruments.
In 1973, the family returned to the Umatilla Reservation where Les would enjoy a long
and distinguished career spanning four decades serving the people of the Confederated
Tribes of the Umatilla in a variety of leadership roles. He was elected to the nine-
member governing body, the Board of Trustees, in 1973 and 1974, back when all the
elected leaders were volunteers, not paid officials. His peers elected him Chairman of
the same Board in 1975, 1976, most of 1977, and 1979. He was elected five times to the
post of Treasurer of the Board of Trustees from 2000 through 2009. He became
Chairman again in late 2011, a post he held until 2014.
As a leader, Les initiated quarterly government to government meetings with the
Oregon Governor’s office. Long before that, he persuaded young law school graduate
and tribal member William Johnson to come home to lead development of the Tribal
Court. Les would go on to play a pivotal role to restore Umatilla Tribal jurisdiction over
the Reservation. Oregon finally retroceded criminal jurisdiction in 1980. He advocated
for deploying the Tribes’ sovereignty to exercise full civil and criminal jurisdiction over
the Reservation. He personally traveled to Portland to bring back 24 boxes of archival
material documenting the Tribes’ Indian Claims Commission Docket 264 and had them
housed at the Whitman College Penrose Collection until Tamástslikt Cultural Institute
could archive them into their repository.
Les served on the CTUIR Gaming Commission, Economic and Community Development
Committee, Umatilla Reservation Housing Authority, Law and Order Committee, and the
initial board of the Timine Development Corporation. He assisted the creation of
Wanapa Business Park and the Wanapa power facility and served as President and
Board member for Yaka Energy LLC, a tribally owned enterprise envisioned to provide
power, natural gas, wind power, coal, biodiesel, and other petroleum products for the
continental United States.
In 2000, he led a CTUIR delegation to New York City for a meeting on Wall Street with a
bond counsel firm to work on financing the power plant project. While there, he visited
the Heye Museum, which would become one of two sites of the National Museum of
the American Indian, to conduct research. During his leadership tenure, he was involved
in Umatilla land consolidation and development and the inheritance legislation and
code. In 2008, as President of Yaka Energy, Les received the Emerging Diverse Business
Award for his work in multicultural leadership diversity promotion - promoting minority-
, women-, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses in the utility sectors, from the
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners [NARUC].
Like his siblings, Buddy Jones (Elizabeth Wocatsie); Sylvester Minthorn (Virginia
Williams); Phillip Minthorn Sr. (Loretta Pinkham; Dorthea Tierney); Eulalia Minthorn
(Willie Shippentower); Lorene Minthorn (John Withers Sr.; Roland Spencer); Alvin
Minthorn (Sheena Miller; Linda Sam); and Roger Minthorn (Gwen Green; Marcia
Thompson), Les was raised a Presbyterian at the Tutuilla Church. Yet, like his mother,
religious denomination was not an issue for him.
In the 1970s, he joined forces with a group of like-minded Tribal men and women to
bring the Washat way of life back to the forefront of Umatilla Tribal practices. For
nearly a century, the Tribal approach to public and open worship had been branded
heathen and contemptable by missionaries and government officials. As a result, it went
underground and was only practiced in the home and occasionally in temporary, make-
shift long-tents and canopies away from the Indian agency. With Wish, Ham, and Ike
Patrick, Raymond Burke, Pete Quaempts, Louie Dick, Ron Pond, Steve Sohappy and
other local elder men and women, they collaborated to ensure that Washat services
were routinely held at the new Umatilla Longhouse and that the traditional foods of the
people were blessed in seasonal feasts and according to ages-old practices of gathering,
processing, and sharing the foods. Les would use the mantra of gathering, processing,
and sharing many times to talk about economic development, fact-finding and data
compilation and dissemination, and many other applications pertinent to serving the
Les had an early affinity for rawhide work taught by ancestor Watkins Ezekial which
resulted in him becoming a prolific drum maker, both hand drums and big drums, which
he often gifted to others. Among many others, he made sets of seven hand drums for
Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, Willamette University Hallie Ford Gallery, University of
Oregon Longhouse, and the Wallowa Longhouse. As a youngster, he accompanied
Tribal men to wild horse roundups in the Blue Mountains.
Les was an avid league bowler, pool and ping pong player, fisherman, and a life-long
golfer. In addition to being an early Portland Wrestling fan, he was a fanatical Trail
Blazer devotee. He was also a gifted singer in many genres from Washat prayer songs,
to big drum pow wow songs, to Presbyterian hymns translated into Nez Perce. He was
so fond of all types of music, he eagerly attended any concert he could get to including
Willlie Nelson, Tina Turner, the Supremes, Sam Cooke, and the Eagles.
He is predeceased by all siblings except Roger and by his daughter Maureen. His
grandchildren: Micheal D. Minthorn; Shorty Minthorn; Angie Winks Grass (Fred Grass);
Jeremy Barkley (Stephanie Saluskin); Catherine Barkley (Iosefa Taula); Christina Barkley;
Josh Barkley; Tahner Bates; Alishia Delgado. Great Grandchildren: Yayoi Newman; Miah
Rueber King-Calder (Jayce King); Darius Rueber (Autumn Thompson Rueber); Angelisha
Services commence at 1:30 pm September 25 with a procession from Pioneer Funeral
Chapel to the Umatilla Longhouse, dressing at 2 pm, dinner at 5, Washat at 7 pm. Last
seven songs will be at 7 am, September 26, at the Longhouse followed by a procession
to and services at Tutuilla Presbyterian Church at 9 am with interment in the Tutuilla
Cemetery. A traditional meal will occur at the Longhouse following the burial.