Whimsical 07

Don Ivy

July 19, 2021


Chief Donald Boyd Ivy of the Coquille Indian Tribe passed away on Monday, July 19, 2021, peacefully at home with his family by his side. He had fought a courageous seven month battle with cancer. Don was preceded in death by his parents, Fred Ivy and Mary Gladys Burns Ivy. He is survived by his wife, Lucinda DiNovo; his sister and brother-in-law, Corrine and Greg Burnum; his son and daughter-in-law, Jon Ivy and Soo Lee; and grandson Elliott Ivy.

Family and close friends remember Don as intensely loyal, joyful and private, valuing his family and home life above all. A lifelong learner and scholar, he avidly sought out and read everything he could find addressing Northwest prehistory and history, current environmental and Native American issues, and popular culture.

In the public sphere, Don was a natural leader widely recognized for his intelligence, integrity, creativity and boundless intellectual curiosity. His infectious energy and commitment to the common good enabled him to establish new, productive relationships with and among diverse groups and individuals. A skilled consensus builder, he advanced understanding of his Coquille Tribal ancestors’ traditional culture while helping to create unprecedented collaborations at state and local levels. His work included active participation in a wide range of community events and activities.  Above all, he was deeply committed to advancing core values and quietly strengthening the next generation.

Don is credited with establishment of Oregon’s exceptionally positive inter-tribal and inter-governmental relationships, expanded opportunities for education, increased tribal economic independence, and invaluable productive communication networks within and among tribal, state and local governments, academic institutions and non-tribal communities. His legacy includes vastly increased understanding and appreciation of the history, traditions, culture and continuing significance of the Coquille Indian Tribe, and heightened awareness of the relationship of natural systems to contemporary issues. Much of his work was accomplished quietly, often anonymously. His goal was always to “make good things happen”  

Don was born February, 21, 1951, in North Bend, Oregon. He spent much of his childhood and early youth roaming the Coos and Coquille Tribal homelands’ backwaters and bayfronts; surfing its ocean beaches; exploring its coves, headlands and tidelands; and venturing through the forests, prairies and banks of the Middle Fork Coquille River. His passion for discovery and fascination with the natural world remained with him throughout his life.

Don’s energy, resourcefulness and strong work ethic were apparent from an early age.  As a youngster he sold pumpkins from a Hood River fruit stand, picked beans in Eugene, peeled bark for chittum buyers, and collected and sold scrap metal. In his teens he worked at the local Sunset Market, then as a stock boy for Albertson’s in North Bend. At 25, he was appointed Albertson’s Portland-based store director, managing stores in Oregon and Washington until 1982. In 1983, he accepted a position with E&J Gallo Winery and was ultimately named Gallo’s territory/brand manager for all of Western Oregon.

Don returned to Coos Bay in 1989 for the Coquille Indian Tribe’s inaugural restoration celebration. (After decades of work, the tribe had regained federal recognition on June 28, 1989.) Initially a volunteer on the tribe’s Self-Sufficiency Planning Committee, he returned to Coos Bay permanently in 1991 as the tribe’s first self-sufficiency planning coordinator and economic development specialist. During the next several years, he helped write the Tribe’s Constitution and ordinances, and helped develop and implement the first tribal budgets. He also assisted in drafting articles of incorporation for the then-new Coquille Economic Development Corp. (CEDCO) and facilitated the tribe’s acquisition of Tupper Rock in Bandon, Ore., a site of enormous cultural significance.

In 1993, Don began working as a consultant to the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians and the U.S Bureau of Indian Affairs, advising Oregon and Northern California tribal governments on development of tribal constitutions, on governance, and on economic and community development projects. His clients included the Yurok Tribe, the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Lummi Nation, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and the Tulalip Tribes.  In 1996, Don assisted the Coquille Indian Tribe with reorganization of CEDCO and revision of its articles of incorporation.

In 1997, Don was hired to establish and lead the Coquille Indian Tribe’s then-new Cultural Resources Program. He recognized that the tribe’s recently regained sovereignty mandated even more intensive work to locate, reassemble and interpret scattered documentary and physical evidence of tribal history and culture. Don believed strongly that accurate knowledge of tribal culture and history was essential for current and future generations’ academic, economic and political progress.

Don independently began collecting and researching written materials concerning local tribal history, and he began exchanging that information and cultural knowledge with historians, anthropologists, geologists and archaeologists at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon. He soon developed professional relationships — and in many cases, close personal friendships – with leading academics working throughout Southwestern Oregon. Field researchers noted that Don’s deep familiarity with traditional cultural practices altered their understanding and recognition of historic landscapes. Undergraduate and graduate students working under Don’s supervision found him to be an exceptionally engaged and inspiring mentor who strongly encouraged their professional development. Don was especially proud of the many students who, after working alongside him, obtained advanced degrees in related fields.

At the same time, Don worked with other tribal representatives statewide to help state, federal and local land managers recognize and modify practices that inadvertently harmed tribal cultural resources or destroyed culturally significant sites. He was instrumental in creation of Oregon’s Culture Cluster, through which all nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon and 19 state agencies achieved productive communication and more effective protections of cultural resources. The group still follows Don’s vision of collective stewardship as its core principle. The strong inter-governmental relationships he helped build have made Oregon a national leader in tribal-state land stewardship.

To further education and awareness of the Coquille tribal identity and understanding of the Coquille Tribe’s perspectives, Don designed and organized an annual Coquille Tribe Culture Conference. Under his leadership, the conference was held annually for 11 years, attracting the enthusiastic participation of tribal members, academics and agency representatives. Don managed the conference to maximize opportunities for individual and group discussions that would further sensitivity to tribal concerns and build positive partnerships to enhance protection of cultural resources.

In 2005, Don became deeply involved in design and construction of what would become the tribe’s now-iconic Community Plank House. Embodying Don’s vision of connected past, present and future, the building combines a form anchored in traditional culture, with a welcoming interior easily adapted to a wide variety of tribal celebrations and events. The significance of this structure for the tribe’s cultural renaissance was recognized early by Don’s cousin, the late George Wasson, who predicted the house would inspire a revival of traditional dancing. In fact, the Plank House quickly became the natural gathering place for tribal members and youth to dance and drum during annual solstice celebrations.

As another facet of the Cultural Resources Program, in 2007 Don assisted in the creation of the Kilkich Youth Corps. Fired by his energy and passion for continued stewardship of ancestral homelands, the program engaged tribal teens in the physical work of cultural resource and environmental restoration. Like so many of Don’s initiatives, the Youth Corps provided its participants with immediate benefit while also preparing them to meet future challenges. The youth gained knowledge and experienced meaningful accomplishment, while also gaining basic life skills and a sense of personal responsibility.

Don also worked with partners to ensure that young people throughout the region were aware of local tribes’ histories and cultures. Beginning in late 2004, he, along with representatives of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and the Coos History Museum, created what was at the time the only structured multi-week school program highlighting local tribes’ traditions, technologies and  continued presence in the community. The program proved so popular and effective in addressing existing curriculum gaps that it now serves schools in Coos, Curry, Lane and Douglas counties. In 2017, inspired in part by this program, the Oregon Legislature mandated creation and teaching of K-12 Native American curricula statewide. 

In 2014, Don was elected chief of the Coquille Tribal Council, the primary cultural and spiritual representative of the tribe. He served in this role for seven years, retiring shortly before his death.

Between 1990 and 2020, Don participated as a highly valued member of state and local boards and committees - literally too many to count. They include the Oregon Heritage Commission (vice chair), Oregon Racial Justice Council, American Leadership Forum, Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation, Partnership for Coastal Watersheds, Port of Coos Bay Marine Reserves Recommendation Committee, Coos-Curry-Douglas Business Development Corp. Board, Coos County Planning Commission and South Slough Natural Resource Advisory Committee.

Don’s lasting impact extends far beyond tribal and state interests. He repeatedly devoted time and effort for the benefit of the entire South Coast community. He was among the first to recognize the multiple economic, social and cultural benefits of constructing a new museum on the downtown Coos Bay waterfront, and he helped inspire the Coquille Indian Tribe to provide a generous early gift of $1 million that triggered successful construction fundraising. The facility was completed in 2013, with the Coquille Tribe its single largest donor. Under Don’s recent leadership, the Coquille Indian Tribe acted as the first vocal supporter and an important partner in creation of Southwestern Oregon Community College’s new Health & Science Technology Center.

Don was also generous with his time, appearing as a highly popular and sought-after speaker at innumerable community events. He also accepted various invitations to assist with educational programs at the community college, including field trips for participants in Road Scholar Elder Hostel excursions, and for geology students.

In the private sphere, Don’s adventurous spirit and curiosity inspired a lifelong enthusiasm for travel. He loved exploring unfamiliar cities and countrysides on foot, simply to discover new people and places. In addition to visiting much of the United States, he made multiple trips to Europe, Central America and East Asia, with Thailand, Cambodia, China and Cuba among his favorite destinations.

Throughout his life, Don continued to spend countless hours fishing, crabbing and clamming on Coos Bay. A talented chef and generous host, he was happiest when cooking and sharing meals with family and friends. In gatherings big and small, he always made a point of individually welcoming each guest with a warm hug, and he created an atmosphere in which meaningful conversation could flourish. Having transformed his backyard with an intensive assortment of native and exotic plants, he delighted in the diversity of visiting birds, and later qualified as a master gardener through OSU Extension.

Don consistently chose to share his many gifts in the true spirit of potlatch, a tradition shared by the Coquille Tribe with many other Pacific Northwest tribes. In Don’s words:

“To potlatch is to give and receive; to share and to care; and to pay back (and pay forward) for the blessings and benefits we have received – or hope to receive. It is about helping those who need help now, with hopes that they can and will help us later. As we are helpful to each other, so too are we helped in our own lives.”  

A public memorial service and Celebration of Don’s life will occur at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 7, at The Mill Casino ‚óŹ Hotel, 3201 Tremont Avenue, North Bend, Ore., with a reception to follow.  

In lieu of flowers the family asks donations in Don’s memory be made to the Donald Ivy Memorial Scholarship Endowment at Southwestern Oregon Community College. Don was a student at SWOCC and in 2021 was named the SWOCC Distinguished Alumnus for his significant contributions to the community. To help students and the community in Don’s honor, donations can be made online at www.socc.edu/give.  Donations can also be made online to the Elakha Alliance www.elakhaalliance.org/donivy/, of which Don was a founding member and whose mission is to restore a healthy population of sea otters to the Oregon Coast.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Don Ivy, please visit our floral store.


Celebration of Life
May 7, 2022

1:00 PM
Mill Casino
3201 Tremont Avenue
North Bend, Oregon 97459

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