By the 1830s, right about the time that “fever and ague” a great plague, likely malaria (Boyd, the Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence,1999) hit the tribes of the Columbia River and Willamette Valley, Klickitat Indians began occupying parts of the Willamette and Umpqua valleys unopposed. It’s likely that they had been coming into the valleys, crossing the Columbia River in small groups, for decades, even hundreds of years. But, tribes like the Chinookans and the Kalapuyans were quite numerous and they would have defended their territory and presence at key resource locations, like falls, and riffles and rapids good for salmon fishing. The Kalapuyans and Chinookans were interrelated by trade and kinship and were willing to take the field in defense of their previous claims when other tribal groups threatened their rights. Chief Kiesno proved this in 1812 when he stood off a Cowlitz raid, or perhaps attempt at occupation, in the Columbia until his allies, other Chinookans and possibly Kalapuyans, could join him and force the Cowlitz and their allies back up the Cowlitz River. But after the “fever and ague,” there was little will or numbers of people among the plagued and reduced Kalapuyans or Chinookans, to stand off an invasion of hundreds of extremely aggressive Klickitat warriors. The Klickitat’s in this era were renowned and feared for their military prowess, were extremely mobile mounted infantry who traveled in bands of 700 warriors and family. They are noted traveling is such groups into the 1850s through the Willamette Valley and down into the Umpqua drainage where settlers complained that they “hunted out all of the elk.” In fact, the American settler military would hire Klickitats to be guides, scouts, and mercenaries when venturing into hotly contested regions, such as the Rogue River Country.
Somehow after the 1830s, due to no opposition from the Kalapuyans who occupied the majority of the Willamette Valley, the Klickitats got the impression that they had defeated the Kalapuyans and as such “owned the valley by conquest”. They very well may have had some unrecorded skirmish in the Tualatin Valley. There were many signs that the Klickitats were regular travelers through the valley as there was a Klickitat trail that ran through the valley in a southwestern direction, crossing from the Portland basin through the Chehalem area, through the Yamhill area, and into the Grand Ronde Valley (east to west through Fort Yamhill is an exposed part of this trail today), and continuing to the Coast. Scattered reports along the route suggest annual camping areas at Parrett Mountain and other locations along the trail. The Klickitats were a common enough presence in the early white settlement area, after 1844, that many settlers assumed that they belonged in lower Oregon territory (south of the Columbia River) and wrote about them as being indigenous to the valley. But Indian agents and many early American settlers knew better, likely from having regular contact with the Klickitats and the Kalapuyans and hearing different sides of their stories. Certainly, Lewis and Clark knew in 1806 that the Kalapuyans were the people of the valley, as this was told them by a Clowewalla man who guided Clark into the Multnomah (Willamette) for about 10 miles and regaled him with stories of the tribes and description of the wealth of the area.
In 1855, the Klickitat were asserting their rights in the Willamette Valley, at the time when Indian Agents Palmer and Stevens wrote numerous treaties with tribes up and down the Columbia, and in the Willamette Valley. Some bands of the Klickitat were not present at the middle Oregon treaty proceedings where other Klickuitat leaders participated and were granted treaty annuities, and as such did not get an opportunity to participate in the treaties. Those Klickitats who did not participate were likely ranging in Oregon and were simply not present in the region of the eastern face of the Cascades of Washington Territory, and the Americans would not have cared if everyone was present as long as they have a tribal leader who signed off on the sale of their lands. The Klickitats who were not present appeared to have been somewhat jealous and put off by their exclusion, while other tribes, like the Yakima of Kamiakin, refused to sign the treaty, refusing to sell the land and rights and even worked to rebel and force the American from the Columbia in March of 1856 with is series of attacks on American settlements. While Kamiakin’s confederacy failed, he stands as a hero and great leader of the regional tribes for standing up to American imperialism and stranding for his rights to not sell his land, a right that the Americans and their military simply ignored. Yet many tribal leaders knew by 1855 that their only salvation lay in accepting the treaties and living in peace, otherwise, their people would be decimated in various ways by the stingy Americans.
Carey, an early historian of Oregon wrote about this claim by the some Klickitat bands over the Willamette Valley.
Judicial records bear testimony to the Klickitat’s repeated assertion of their rights in the Willamette Valley. At the term of court held in Washington County in 1851, Donald McLeod brought an action for trespass against a band of Klickitats who had destroyed timber he had prepared for his house. Indian Agent Parrish represented them. The Indians contended that the timber was as much theirs as McLeod’s that they had acquired the land by conquest and had warned McLeod against settling there, and that the land had never been purchased from them. The judge held that they had a possessory title that had never been extinguished by the Government and refused judgment for trespass. Another farmer built a fence across the trail which was their public highway. They tore down the fence and the court gave another decision. (J. Ross Browne, report, P.8.) Recognition of the claims of the Klickitat’s by the treaty commissioners would seem therefore to have been suggested by diplomatic consideration if no others. The omission in this instance my have led to widespread war, and without which it is improbable that the Indians would have deemed themselves sufficiently powerful to undertake a campaign of extermination against the settlers (Carey, History of Oregon, 566). (Readers should be careful with the Carey information about the tribes as some of his information as presented is inaccurate, particularly his information about treaties.)
However, regardless of this decision, Joel Palmer the Indian Superintendent of Oregon knew better and he forced these Klickitats back over the Columbia to their lands on the Eastern face of the Cascades. The Court decision in this instance was then ignored by Palmer, as Palmer was an early settler and trailblazer, knew the tribes well and knew that the court here was in the wrong. As well, it would not have been good to write another treaty to pay tribes for land that was already claimed by the Tualatin. Interestingly, if we compare the way the Klickitats and the Americans claimed Kalapuyan lands, it is a very similar situation, but the Americans benefitted by their citizenship status and by the Oregon Donation Landclaims Act (1850), which certified their “illegal” land-claims “illegally” in 1850, at a time when the land had yet to be purchased from the Kalapuyans and was not officially purchased and ratified until March of 1855.
A speech of J.N. Dolph paints the Klickitats of a broader conquest of Oregon, as far south as the Rogue River Basin. This perspective is in the minority of all historians. It is true that the Klickitat ranged down into southern Oregon. There are later rumors, even a few short statements by military leaders that suggest that the Klickitats were very active in trading between the Columbia River and the Rogue River Basin and may have been helping organize a larger confederation between the tribes in the region to rise up and force the Americans to vacate the region (now a truly remarkable what-if issue for me!). Certainly, they helped the Rogue Rivers in some way by trading armaments to them and then perhaps helping sustain their fight in 1855 and 1856 to regain southwestern Oregon from the genocidal American volunteer militias. But there is no evidence that they had such a war of conquest as suggested by Dolph below. However, Dolph’s note of disease reducing the tribes does seem accurate. But again, Joel Palmer knew better and knew the Kalapuyans held the primary claim and ignored the Klickitat claims, which may have been largely a political ploy on their part to get paid by the rich Americans.
At the time of the treaties of Shampoeg (sic) were negotiated (April 1851) the valley of the Willamette was the main resort of the Klickitats, a powerful and warlike tribe from the country west of the Simcoe, in the Cascade Mountains… Bold, adventurous and cunning, they had gradually acquired an influence over nearly all the Indians of Oregon as far south as Rogue River. At an early date (probably between 1835 and 1840) they descended from the Simcoe to the banks of the Columbia River, on the northern side, where they commenced war against the Cowlitz, Chinook, and other inferior tribes, whom they soon conquered and reduced to such terms of tribute as they chose to dictate. In 1841 they began to turn their attention to the south side of the Columbia. Rich valleys and fine hunting grounds exist there, of which they had heard traditionary reports. At this time the Clackamas, Moleallies (sic), Yamhills, Santiams, and other tribes of the Willamette Valley had become greatly reduced by diseases introduced among them by the whites. They were wholly unprepared to resist the encroachments of their warlike and formidable neighbors. From time to time, as opportunity occurred, Klickitats crossed over, made inroads upon them, and finally entirely subdued all the tribes of the Willamette, whom they caused, to pay tribute. Assuming a possessory right over the whole valley, they established camps on the various rivers, and in the course of a few years, by gradual advances, pushed their way over the Calapooia Mountains into the valley of the Umpquas (Speeches of J.N. Dolph of Oregon).
Then, there is another legal case, that of Tualatin Chief Kiakuts against the settlement of Donald McLeod. Kiakuts as the head chief had a large land-claim at the shore of Wapato Lake. The lake was an amazingly rich resource in the Tualatin valley where there was a cluster of villages within a few miles of the lake. The lake was rich with Wapato, know by settlers as Indian potato which would sustain the tribes through most of the year. It is my contention that the tribes absolutely laid claim to area of rich resources, falls, salmon fishing sites, camas fields, certain oak groves, and Wapato Lake, rich with Wapato. The rest of their lands were common use lands where any tribe may travel in peace after following certain obligatory protocols of presenting oneself to the chief, gifting them, and declaring peaceful intentions for the visit.
In 1850, resettler Donald McLeod claimed 640 acres along the lower west side of Wapato Lake, and in 1852 he began to build a log cabin. Chief Kiakuts of the Tualatin had his own claim there, where people camped and gathered wapato bulbs. He confronted McLeod, and two days later, Kiakuts and Kuyape-i (Black Jack) tore down the cabin. In the case brought against the Tualatin in U.S. District Court, the judge dismissed the charge of “unlawful assembly to do unlawful acts” and told McLeod to leave the Indians alone because it was their land. In 1855, the Tualatin signed the Willamette Valley Treaty and agreed to remove to the Grand Ronde Reservation with at least twenty-eight other tribes (published in another essay about Wapato Lake in this blog site).
This is one of the few cases where justice was somewhat fair to the tribes. Many Oregon circuit courts in this time refused to hear Native testimony, as it was normally to be in a native language and unintelligible to the American judge. So in most courts Indians could not give testimony and many crimes against them went unpunished. Without justice and a rule of law many tribes, experiencing the discrimination and racism in the system of justice would have rebelled, as we see happening in southern Oregon. But in this instance, and its yet unclear, Kiakuts and his friends were able to be heard, likely through some sort of interpretation, also likely in Chinuk Wawa, to the judge and then plead their case. Since the Tualatin Basin was one of the first to be settled by the Americans, Kiakuts would have been a known and respected Kalapuyans leader and this would have helped him as well.
On 10/26, 2019 I visited the Open house at the Oregon State Archives, Salem, OR, and was supremely disappointed at their new exhibit Rust, Rot, & Ruin, which documents the beginning of key industries in Oregon through the boomtowns founded by gold mining, logging, farming and ranching, and other mining. Some of these industries produced company towns, which have since become ghost towns, largely abandoned by the original settler families who made their wealth off of these natural resources.
The text has few, very few, mentions of Native peoples and Chinese people. There is a panel on the Chinese laborers and one section of a panel on native peoples of the coast.
The perspective portrayed in this exhibit privileges the white pioneer perspective, and their acquisition of wealth, and ignores and glosses native perspectives and experiences of having been invaded and exposed to violent conflicts over resources, including genocide, and war, by settler white people who sought to destroy Tribes for economic gain.
The exhibit is meant to highlight photos and information available in the Oregon State Archives, but replicated history as written 30 years ago and previously which privileges and normalized white perspectives and experiences over all others.
I suggest people view the exhibit and see for yourself, but for me, it is a statement by an Oregon state institution that ignores the work of contemporary scholars to tell the story of all peoples of Oregon rather than a select and privileged few, white settlers.
It is literally practicing and aggrandizing manifest destiny in this exhibit’s portrayal of Oregon history.
I have had many positive projects within the archives in the past and do not believe that the exhibit is the product of all of the staff. It clearly was not fully vetted and reviewed with an eye toward telling the whole story of the colonization of Oregon.
Critics of this criticism may suggest that exhibits like this do not have to tell the whole story and can simply address enough of the story to fulfill their narrow subject. This may very well have been the intention as I think the archives wanted to tell the story of Ghost Towns and wanted to show how the original boomtowns, formed in the settlement of Oregon around gold, timber, or other industries became the now famous ghost towns of the present.
However, in the process of telling the biography of these boomtowns, there is presented the story of their formation. That story certainly needs to reflect the truth of colonization, and its effect on other human societies, tribes, whose descendants are today citizens of Oregon as well. The native story is hugely glossed by the narrative text offered. what is offered is a standard statement of the previous existence of tribes without the violence they experiences while settlers sought to take their land and access resources in their lands to create the boomtowns of the story. Settlers literally carved, forcefully space within tribal lands for their personal wealth, and in the process destroyed native communities and societies. Areas of the Oregon coast, like the Chetco area, in 1855 saw white genocidal actions as settler entrepreneurs sought to clear tribal villages from the Chetco River in order to create ports and other services for the gold miners to spend their gold in. A bit earlier, in 1851, the town of Port Orford was built on the Oregon coast, forced onto Sixes tribal lands, over their forceful protests and actions. In 1855, the Rogue River region saw a war caused in large part by volunteer militias based in Jacksonville- one of the towns spotlighted in the exhibit as a typical boomtown began by gold miners.
Then the text addressed farmers and Ranchers in mostly eastern Oregon. These large land claims were forced into tribal traditional lands, which caused multiple wars as tribes were first forced onto reservations and then completely removed from Oregon. The Bannock Indian war and The Nez Perce war were both caused by increased settler pressure and encroachment into tribal lands, eventually forcing tribes to flee for their lives, and eventually being removed to other reservations or outside the state completely. The same situation exists for the Modoc Indian war. The whole of this removal of the tribes served to open more lands for white settlers, and as none of the militia was event held accountable for illegal actions, their crimes of murder, encroachment, genocide, and many other horrible crimes became inculcated in Oregon history as a righteous action by Oregon’s pioneers in defense of their manifest destiny over the state of Oregon. The exhibit literally enshrines this narrative further by not telling the story of the tribes.
Finally, tribal peoples, Latinos, and others were laborers in these early industries and helped develop and grow them into the powerhouses they became. The exhibit only mentions Chineses laborers and ignores racism against the Chinese after their labor was completed. Numerous other ethnic peoples were also laborers in these industries, Japanese, Hawaiians, Basques, Russians, Blacks, and Scandinavians to name a few.
There is an implicit responsibility in all such exhibits to tell the complete truth of how history happened, and I cannot say that this is what was intended by the curators. It is meaningful that this exhibit is presented by an Oregon State institution. All such state institutions are supposed to have some measure of Tribal liaison and the tribes of Oregon are recognized by the state as being other sovereign entities in Oregon, so much so that there is a Tribal Affairs office within the State Capitol building, a mere 4-5 blocks from the State Archives. The process of tribal liaison is clearly not working here.
Oregon history of a century ago, up to about the midcentury, was written to aggrandize white Americans and their founding and creation of Oregon. That history, like the one shown in this exhibit, is hugely biased, tell only stories of white men, and largely ignoring the stories of all other ethnic groups or even white women, unless they fit into certain themes. These themes were stories of the superiority of white civilization, the holiness of the mission of white men practicing manifest destiny while saving tribes from their savagery, the extreme hardships white pioneers endured on the 9 month Oregon trail, the amazing contributions of the explorers in founding Oregon for the United States, and the stories of conquest over the tribes normally written as bloodthirsty savages bent on the savage destruction of white civilization. Unless the tribes fit into this narrative they were ignored. Rarely if ever were tribal peoples asked their history, and few other ethnic minorities were similarly regarded as possessing any history. As such, without other perspectives, Oregon’s history was severely abridged and stunted. It is really only with the contemporary inclusion of other perspectives that we can approach a deeper, fuller, and truer history.
It is extremely disheartening, knowing how much work that the tribes have done to tell their stories, as well as how much work I have personally done in the Willamette Valley to tell tribal stories in numerous exhibits (Mission mill, Washington Co, Linn County) as well as this blogsite (over 380 essays), and through hundreds of presentations. Then, the State Education Department is right now testing a new native curriculum, a project which has seen a lot of notoriety and attention in the media, to help educate students in the state about Native history and culture. It’s disheartening that there is so much well-researched and inclusive history available but that the curators of this exhibit chose to ignore all of that to tell a much-dated version of Oregon history. Our government institutions should know better, and many people in them do know better, and our government should be expected to tell a better story of the formation of our state, a story which does not ignore hugely important history in favor of a narrow story of how well manifest destiny worked.
All photos are my own, taken at the public Open House.
Phillip Drucker’s field notes from the 1920s and 30s had him questioning many Native people from the region, from Grand Ronde and Siletz. Many of these people were not living on reservations. His Molalla notes are brief compared to his work on the Tolowa and Clackamas. They are embedded in with Coos and Tolowa and Rogue River notebooks. Drucker’s Molalla (La’tiwi) informant was Kate Chantel, a well known Molalla woman, and sister to Henry Yelkas, a well known Molalla chief. They lived for a time at Dickie Prairie, apparently the village name is Mokanti, south and east of the present town of Molalla. Drucker noted the name of many placenames for towns and peoples. The Molalla had a large affinity for a good portion of the Willamette Valley, from their villages in the foothills to Lake Labish. The name for Lake Labish (Tcinti galug) for the Molalla is also a name found. The pattern of of some of the Molalla placenames see to follow that of the Kalapuya placenames with Tci- or Tca- as a prefix, while Kalapuyans have Tsi-, or Cha-, Che-, which are really the same sound. These Molalla placenames in Drucker may be actually Kalapuyan language placenames, in part.
Drucker furthermore notes good details of kinship, dances, dress styles, plankhouses, and ceremonies, plants used, hunting and fishing, trade, and much more. I was excited to be able to put together a map of placenames from his information. Unfortunately the exact location of many villages is still not known. The villages in the Willamette Valley were likely only seasonal village sites, or encampments, habituated for a few weeks of the year through the summer. They also have winter villages in the valley, at Mt. Angel and perhaps along the Molalla River. A couple notes by Drucker stated that the Molalla did not have true villages of large clusters of houses, but instead had smaller towns of 2-3 houses. Its likely that the named villages had chiefs and thus were more important and named.
Other documents online from the Dibble house- and written by historians- seems to mischaracterize the Molalla houses as having the plankhouse roofs thatched. I tracked the information back to Drucker (4516-78 vol 1) and saw that the notes may be somewhat confusing, but that they do state that the houses were make of split cedar, and their roofs of bark.
“houses scattered about 2s & 3s, atc– not concentrated in towns…
Hil’em- house of cedar bark, houses 1/2 excavated, rectang. walls & roof of cedar bark-posts. Firepit in center, smokehole overhead, doorway wide side, floor covered w. tule mats, hung from wall over bed. Door-made of suspended rush mat.
Summerhouse- bark etc. walls roof, thatched with bunches of tules.”
Drucker here did not state that the roof was only thatched, but it was a bark roof, thatched. The one photo we have shows a cedar plank house with a plank roof. There is no indictation of using teepees in the Drucker notes.
Phillip Drucker fieldnotes from the NAA, Smithsonian Institution, but not collected in the SWORP collection at UO. This fieldnote book is Drucker 4615-78 vol.1. The scanned file I have shows that the UO file may be out of order, there is one page of Molalla placenames, then the Molalla notes do not continue until page 43, and thereafter. The rest of the file is Coos, Tututni, Tolowa, and Rogue River.
Digging through previously collected digitized documents, I found several accounts of removal of the tribes to the Siletz Reservation. These are worthy of commentary for the historical origins of many of the details emphasized. Its apparent that oral accounts are in many ways more accurate than written histories. A good number of early written histories were produced by non-native writers, who did not ask native people about their perspectives on their histories. This was quite common, and so most early histories and many recent histories who do not access more than one perspective tend to privilege a specific bias. Many are overly nationalistic, written for a white American audience and seeking to aggrandize and beatify the role of white Americans in the colonization of the West. Mostly what is emphasized are stereotypes of native peoples, which become powerful erroneous tropes in history and literature. There are numerous generations of the teachings of these stereotypes and it is a tough sell to convince people inculcated in this “knowledge” that what they were taught is simply wrong. The struggle is not just with non-natives but also native people as well, many of whom truly believe the erroneous narratives of historians, even though most also know that the promises of the government are not to be trusted. Many natives were separated from their culture through assimilation processes, and there has been little attempt to recover the missing histories beyind the immediate needs of their tribes for federal processes of restoration. The following is a sampling of narratives offered for comparison with the final essay, narrative #5. I have liberally edited and corrected misspellings, and offer a critical set of comments to accompany most of the issues noted.
Narrative #1- This essay by a native man, a member of the Coquelle tribe shows unique information about Siletz not found in other accounts. Most significant are the details of the ship journey, the feelings of the tribes, the accuracy of where the travels took place, how they were treated when they first arrived, they actions for self preservation, and the details about the name Siletz. The power and accuracy of the native oral history here is very apparent.
February 5, 1950
A Story of Siletz
About the year 1855 there was a great unrest throughout a section of Southern Oregon where a number of Indian Tribes were living. Among the tribes were the Chetcos, To-to-to-neys, Coquelles, and other Rogue River bands. All of these Indians were going to be moved to a new home, and after a brief war among the Indians and white settlers and soldiers of the United States, a man by the name of Joel Palmer made treaties with various bands of Indians. In these treaties the Government agreed to give all the Indians land, a home made of lumber, horses, cattle, and machinery if they would move to the new location. Some Indians agreed, but many did not want to go, because they knew no other lands except their home where there was plenty of game and fish and acorns.
(This sentiment is important, the new reservation was a strange land to the tribes from the south and there were many concerns about moving from establish food sources. But many of the native food sources were being destroyed by settlement and development.)
When some Indians refused to go the soldiers were summoned and they were forced and, in many instances, killed in front of their loved ones to show that the Government meant business.
(This is true, many of the volunteers killed Natives as a way to pacify tribes.)
What was a poor Indians to do, but go. In the meantime the Congress of the United States failed to ratify those treaties made by Mr. Palmer, so now, today, the Indians who were forced to move by those treaties, have been allowed a recovery of 16 and one half million dollars for the wrong done to them by the unratified treaties of Joel Palmer, agent of the U.S. Government.
I am a Coquille Indian, my father is Coquelle, and his father was one of the original signers of the treaty. (There were two Coquelle Treaties, that of 1851, and the Coast treaty of 1855.) He had to sign because he was a tribal chief.
(This is likely in reference to the Coast Treaty, which went unratified, the other Palmer treaties for the tribes mentioned, were ratified.)
He was named after our first President, Washington, only the Indians called it Wah-shoe-toon-ya. So at my father’s passing I shall inherit the honor of being the Chief of the Coquelles, the title held at present by my father. I will tell you now the story of how my grandfather was moved up here to become one of the first Indians at Siletz about 95 years ago. I repeat his words:
“It was summer time, we all herded down to the edge of the ocean at Port Orford, Oregon by the Government. Some people were crying. Others were just quiet- nobody talked. Each person was allowed only one package or pack, generally made up in a basket. Naturally the Indians took mostly something to eat, as they did not know where they were going. The only clothes were that they wore; later on the Government did give us a blanket apiece. We left behind many fine canoes, homes, tanned hides and other belongings found in an Indian colony at that time. We are all heart sick, someone said they are going to shoot us and throw us into the ocean- but my father would speak to them and assure them that the whites meant no harm.
We were to camp at Port Orford for one night and during that night many Indians disappeared and were never heard of again. The next day about eleven o’clock we saw a large boat with many sails on it coming straight in from the ocean. It came to within 300 yards from the shore and anchored. Boats were let down and came ashore. Then began the task of loading all the Indians on this ship that had just landed. After several hours the Captain gave the word that the loading was completed and we were ready to sail. It was our first night at sea; many of the Indians got sea-sick – some tried even to jump overboard and swim back. It was an awful night many were sick and could not eat. As day broke we could not see land then all were afraid, we begged the Captain to turn around, and the sea was getting angry also and the boat seemed to almost capsize with each swell. This went on for five days and nights. Then one morning when daylight came we could see land- all were happy again, the water was smooth- we did not know it then but we were in the Columbia River. We sailed up the river to Portland Oregon, only a few large buildings at that time. Here we got off the boat, we were fed and transported to Dayton, Oregon for our last part of the trip.
From Dayton we traveled by ox-team to Grand Ronde, Oregon. Some people stayed at Grand Ronde and the rest of us went on to Salmon River. The Government had provided stations along the way so food was quite plentiful and we could always get soldier’s hardtack. When we reached Salmon River it must have been September because there was an abundance of fish in the river, some men killed deer, while others got mussels from the rocks. Winter was beginning to draw near and my father was anxious to get shelter for his people. When he inquired about the houses for his people the Captain only laughed and said, “You Indians don’t know how to live in houses, what do you want with a house.” This made my father angry and he gathered followers and started south, hoping that maybe we could find some place to build a longhouse so we could withstand the rain and cold wind.
Then came the measles. It killed many of our people, when spring came we only had a handful of people left, 16 in all. We started up the Siletz River (at that time is was called Se-La-Gees) and finally stopped at Euchre Creek and built a longhouse and other small huts so that another winter would find us prepared. There was plenty of camas, fish and deer, and my father said, “We will stay here.” In the meantime the Government was opening up more territory west of Fort Hoskins and it wasn’t but a little while until they came as far west as the Siletz River at about where the town of Siletz now is.
They found some Indians on the Siletz River – as near as I can remember my father told me they did not come with us, but were here all the time. When the soldiers found this nice valley and river with Indians already here they merely presumed that the Indians were some that were brought from southern Oregon. However, this is not true because my father understood what they were always here. When the agent wanted to know their name they told him SE-LA-GEEs – so the agent just called it Siletz after his own pronunciation. Consequently, the birth of a name, a tribe and an Indian Reservation all at the same time. Siletz now stands as an old Indian Agency town, with many stories connected with its name. Now the white man has made it a town for a city with laws and a city council and everything that goes to make up a modern city.”
(George Thompson, February 5, 1950, OHS Library, MS 1531
Narrative #2 -This narrative from the Harrington Microfilm records is quite brief. The story of the rumor about being thrown into the sea is a common notion in narrative 1 & 2. The information about Kings Valley, the the northeast of Siletz Valley, is unique and does follow a few other accounts. There many have been an encampment for the Coquelles at Kings Valley that was short-lived.
JA (John Albert?): They embarked the Rogue River war Inds. at Port Orford (=Sixes) & the woman carried on something horrible when the whites started to embark the people saying we will all be thrown into the sea. The whites forced them aboard, saying: We are g. (going) to take you to Astoria. The Inds. had never heard of Astoria. They took them in thru the Col. mouth to Oregon City, but the Inds. did not like it there, cd (could) catch no salmon. So they moved them from there to Kings Valley, an out of the way place NW of Corvallis. The Inds. liked it there. Later they moved them to Siletz.Harrington (21:48)
Narrative #3 – This narrative from Hoxie Simmons addresses Klamath Indians and their possible contribution to the Rogue River Indian War. Some few details are accurate, include battel details and treatment by soldiers, and removal through Grand Ronde.
Hoxie Simmons: The Inds. were working for the whites in the mining work, the Kl. [Klamath?] were chased down RRiver down the RR at Big Bend. There was a post of Am. soldiers. The soldiers in this every log house- every night the soldiers – coming out & get water- they sent 2 Shasty boys out to get water& the besieged Inds. killed them. Then these Inds. mourned over Inds. killed. Then it was that Hoxie’s mother’s uncle… How we got to get away, instead of killing all these Kl. Inds. … lets just quit- The next morning they hoisted white flag & threw the guns all out & that happened to be just what the gvt. soldiers wanted, & at once the soldiers issued them rations, & took them in a boat in 1857  to Dayton near Portland, and the Jacksonville res. Inds. [Table Rock Reservation] they brought by wagon by inland route to Grand Ronde. [February to March 1856] After 1 year there were so many Inds. at Gr. Ronde overpopulated & shifted some over here to Siletz putting a fort here at Siletz. [Fort Hoskins] (Harrington Microfilm, 28: 3-4)
Narrative #4 – unknown author of this story. The removal of the Coos to Yachats took 8 years to accomplish, they were first removed to the Umpqua Reservation in 1856, then remained there until 1863, they were forced to remove north to the Yachats sub-agency. They were treated very poorly while there, as I have noted in other essays.
In 1857, when the Rogue River War broke out [1855 actually] the United States government, acting in self-defense, removed the Coos Indians to Port Umpqua. Four years later they were again transferred to the Yahatc reservation [Yachats]. Where they remained until 1876. Yahatc [Harrington here offers a linguistic spelling of the word] was thrown open to white settlers and the Indians of that reservation were asked to move to Siletz; but the Coos Indians, tired of the tutelage of the United States agents refused to conform with the Order, and emigrated in a body to the mouth of the Siuslaw River, where the majority of them are still living. ( Harrington Microfilm 22:89-90, copied from Frachtenberg, Coos, in Bul, 40 2, Introduction 305)
Narrative #5 – This essay by Helen Cherry, appears to be a poorly researched essay from Eugene, Oregon. Many details are inaccurate as evidenced by the many notes I make in-text. The author seems to have relied upon written accounts, all of which were produced by non-native peoples.The essay is full of the stereotype tropes mentioned above.
The Siletz Indian Reservation
The Siletz Indian Reservation was opened in the year 1856, at the close of the Rogue River War in Southern Oregon. After the last battle in which the Indians lost, the government immediately took charge of the prisoners. The group included twenty tribes making some three thousand Indian in all. Among the most important tribes and their chiefs were those of the Shastas and the Great war chief John; the Galice Creek (Tyee Jim); Klamath (Tyee Joe); Tototini (Oheati); Chetco (Tyee Charlie); Mickanootini (Bensel); Euchre (Tyee Jessie); Alsea (Albert); Siletz (Tyee Johnson); and the Salmon river, William. (Unclear about Klamaths with the war prisoners, they may have come with other removals.)
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs at this time was General Joel Palmer. He was in charge of transporting the Indians up north to the new reservation. Then Indians were taken up through the valley; although it is said that a few came up by water on the boat, Columbia, from Port Orford to Oregon City. (Most actually came by boat on this route.)
Those coming by land went up to Dayton, which was the home of General Palmer, from here they went to Fort Hoskins, located on the Luckiamute river some twenty miles northwest from what … is Corvallis.
(The overland route from Dayton was through two boatloads of people, about 1400 people, who were shipped north from Port Orford, into the Columbia and then by steamer to Dayton, mentioned previously. This route brought the people from Dayton through Grand Ronde, and down the Salmon River Wagon road to the coast. Fort Hoskins was not yet built by the 1856 removals. The other overland route to the Coast Reservation was of Natives walked straight up the coast to the Coastline between Newport and Salmon River.)
Stationed at the fort was Lt. Phil Sheridan. He took charge of supervising the Indians in constructing a wagon road from Hoskins to Siletz. A distance of approximately thirty miles. Sheridan also built three blockhouses, one at Newport, one at the Reservation, and one east of the Agency.
(The east blockhouse is Fort Hoskins, I do not have records of the two others mentioned, this may be a mistaken statement. There were other blockhouses, Fort Umpqua, Fort Yamhill, and no blockhouse at Fort Lane, none of which match the description here.)
The reservation had an area of approximately one thousand square miles, and embraced the Siletz, Yaquina, and Alsea rivers as well as the bays by the same names. It was an isolated spot, Siletz, but the valley was fertile and there was an abundance of fish in the bays and rivers. It is said that General Palmer chose the spot because of this. Its isolation helped to separate the whites from the Indians.
The agency proper was centrally located between what is known as the upper farm, east of the agency buildings, and those west. The government buildings were located on a high hill overlooking a narrow valley that spread west towards the ocean. It was a well chosen spot for its beauty alone but also for protection. (Protection from what?)
Robert Metcalf was the first agent. He was shrewd and clever. His tactics in handling the Indians were cruel and militaristic. This was also true of those following him.
There were, it is true, far too many Indians at Siletz. The Department of the Interior admits that in their reports on Indian affairs.
(The reports do address the lack of funding for some 3000 natives at Siletz, but the landbase was huge for the first 10 years, 1.1 million acres at the Coast reservation, and there were people settled in the Siletz Valley and on the Coast in at least five other sub-agencies, Agencies, and encampments. The problem was lack of federal resources for the agents to effectively feed and provision the native people.)
The tribes were also inferior both physically and mentally. Also, for years these tribes had been at war with each other. But above all they were like little children being led by the great Tyee at Washington.
(There is much to be noted here about the prevailing stereotypes and misinformation about the tribes by Americans. It was not the case that the tribes were constantly at war, and all of the suggestions of inferiority were perpetrated by settlers and white people seeking to degrade the tribe’s peoples and culture and substantiate their forced land dispossession and assimilation by missionaries and schools. The notion that tribal people were “like children” was a common thought in 19th century romanticist literature, which is carried forward in movies, cartoons, and mascots in the 20th century. This notion is also perpetuated by the Marshall decision that suggests that tribes are wards of the United States.)
(portion of essay by Helen M. Cherry manuscript, ND, at OHS Archives, MS 1531)
There are a few reports that open the windows wide to a vision of the reservation, its changes, its struggles, and its peoples.
In the 1863 Grand Ronde reports from the employees at the reservation there are great details about the two schools at the reservation. The schools were originally funded through treaty annuities, provisions agreed to, to provide services to the tribes on the reservations should they agree to sell their lands and remove to a permanent reservation. As I have noted in other essays, funding for all services was inconsistent and most services then were given for limited durations any year directly following the money reaching the Indian Agents. Congress was very slow to approve appropriations and building new facilities, maintenance on the old facilities and funding of basic needs of the tribes turned out to be much more expensive that was originally planned. Still Grand Ronde Indian reservation was well supported by treaty annuities, being the recipient of at least seven ratified treaties. The annuities were not doled out directly by the agent, but normally through the Chiefs of the respective tribes. This traditional Chief leadership political structure continued through the remainder of the 19th century, being formalized in the 1870s with a formal Indian Legislature who passed at least 26 laws. At the termination of the treaty annuities in about 1875, some 20 years after the tribal treaties were ratified, as stipulated in the treaties, the political structure likely suffered, as all funds then were given at the whim of Congress.
However, in 1863, the tribes at the reservation were struggling to survive under unconsistent funding and support by the federal government. In 1861, after a Special Indian Agent visited the reservation, the tribes gave testimony that they did not have the equipment, the seeds, nor good soils to effectly grow food at Grand Ronde. By 1863, Indian Agent James Condon had somewhat dealt with this problem by installing a general agency farm of 300 acres for growing wheat, oats, and hay with Indian labor (even today hay is the most common crop in the valley). He struggled to do this became of the extremely poor nature of the soil in the Grand Ronde Prairie.
“I found it difficult to operate successfully, as most of the soil is of a heavy, clayey nature, hard to break and prepare for the crops, and it requires constant care and attention to keep it in good condition. The appropriation for the pay of farmer for the Willamette Tribes having been exhausted during the first few years of their stay here, I found it necessary to adopt some method of instructing these Indians in agricultural pursuits; accordingly I laid out the commenced the cultivation of a farm comprising about 300 acres, for the general good and benefit of the tribes, employing the Indians, and paying them a per diem for their labor out of the annuities. I learning how to farm they have made good advancement, and the money thus expended has been well laid out, the object being as much to educate them as the benefit from their labor. …The Indians have also shown a commendable and praiseworthy spirit in conducting their own farms. A majority of them have permanent homes, and have small farms or enclosures of their own under cultivation. They have raised a large quantity of wheat and oats this season…. The amount of grains raised upon the department or home farm under this system this year were 3,057 bushels of wheat and 268 bushels of oats, also 20 tons of hay. (Condon 1863 annual report)
Condon’s efforts were likely compelled by the extremely poor report he recieved in 1861, prompting him to adopt new methods, including educating the Natives in farm techniques and directly overseeing the farm with a Farmer staff position. The issue emphasized here is that of needing to have enough funding to hire a farmer and to buy the appropriate equipment and supplies. The facilities for processing grains, grist mill and sawmill, were not yet fully operational in 1863, and this remained an issue into the 1870s. This image of the food problems suggests that the Native peoples at Grand Ronde had to struggle hard to find food to survive, that there were likely many people who had malnutrition and subsequently died of the effects of long untreated illnesses. That there was little help for elderly people who were partially or totally dependant upon the help of others to feed them. It might also have been the case that tribal people welcomed the initiation of the manual training school in October of 1862, because when their children were there, they would not have to feed them, and the agency would then have that resonsibility instead. This was the case in the 1930s, when the Dust Bowl caused the collapse of agriculture in the midwest, then native people would intentionally place their children into Indian boarding schools so they would not starve.
The remarkable substance of the 1863 annual report is the inclusion of two reports from two different schools at Grand Ronde. The first is the Manual Training school, officially named this, while later the school model would become popularly named a “boarding school.” The original manual training school for Oregon was that of Jason Lee and the Methodists at Willamette Mission and Chemeketa (1834-1850s). The model included the students living year-round in the school and learning regular school lessons as well as trade skills like farming, animal husbandry, carpentry, clothes washing, painting, sewing, and blacksmithy, among others. This model of school was extended beyond those schools ran by Methodists and Catholics to schools on the reservations. For a time the schools on the reservations were administered by and taught by members of a religous order until the Federal government took over reservation and off-reservation education in around 1880. The model offered an immersive environment where the students were kept away from their tribal culture and taught to be Americans in all ways, socially, religiously, culturally, etc. The model was brutal to tribal families and to children by forcing them to adopt American culture, and many children died in the schools of various illnesses and mistreatment by the staff.
“There are two schools in operation on this agency, the manual labor school and Umpqua day school. I would most respectfully request that I be instructed to consolidate the fund of these schools into one, to be conducted on the manual labor system; and that I be also instructed to erect a suitable building for that purpose, not to exceed in expense two thousand dollars, as the present building in which the manual labor school is taught would be totally inadequate.” (Annual report 1863, James B. Condon, United States Indian Agent to J. W. Perit Huntington, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Salem, Oregon)
Then the teacher at the Manual Training school helpfully provides a good description of the school, its mission and its history.
“Grand Ronde Agency School-house, August 1, 1863
The manual labor school at this place was organized on the 1st of October 1862. During the first two months we received twenty-three children, the most of whom we boarded and clothed through the winter. All but two were as wild as quails when we commenced with them, having had no previous instruction; and all were worse than naked, being clad in filthy cast-off garments. At first we found it no easy task persuading the Indians to give up the entire care of their children; but by a course of kind and gentle treatment we succeeded in taming the little fellows, and gaining the confidence of their parents. Herein, I think, lies the secret of success in conducting any school- win the affections of the pupils and the confidence of their parents, and you must succeed. They were all ignorant of the English language at first, and it was found necessary, on the part of teachers, to resort to Chinook, a jargon spoken here by all tribes, as a means of communicating ideas. We have now almost wholly dispensed with Chinook, as the children understand English very well. The Indians seemed pleased with the wonderful change in their children, and whites visiting the school express surprise at the progress they make in their studies. Reading, writing, and spelling interspersed with singing, constitute the principal exercises in the school-room at present. Mrs. Sawtelle has the general management of the housekeeping, and instructs the little girls in the useful domestic duties. The girls are found quite apt at sewing and knitting, and render some assistance in the culinary department. Some of them are bright, promising girls, and with careful training will make industrious, intelligent, virtuous women, worthy examples to their sex.”
There is a Sawtelle Road near Willamina, likely related to this teacher. We can see above that the female students are being tracked into tradition women’s training programs, related to household duties.
“Mrs. George, an Indian woman, is employed as assistant teacher. Habits of industry, regularity, and cleanliness are cultivated, demonstrating the advantages of a civilized life over those of a savage.”
This is a clear reference to cultural change, suggesting that Native traditions are the opposite of “civilized.”
“There is little disposition among them to disobey rules, and instead of fighting, or even quarreling, they readily submit all questions of dispute to their teachers. They seem eager, especially the boys, to learn, and engage in their respective employments with pleasure. The health of the pupils has been comparatively good. Of twenty-seven, belonging to the school, only five have been seriously unwell. Three of these were attacked with fever while at their Indian homes, one fell from a horse, badly bruising himself, and one was sick at the school with the lung fever. All have now recovered. Their regular exercises, cleanliness, and out-of-door sports cannot but be conducive to good health. Since the commencement twenty have attended quite regularly. Four boys and three girls were in constant attendance, and as a consequence, they can read intelligibly, and write a legible hand. It had been feared that when the hot summer days should, come the children would desert the school, with its discipline, for the freedom of their old homes, where, unrestrained, they might roam with their parents through woods and over prairies in search of game and berries, lave their dusky hides in the limpid streams, mingle in the midnight dance, and lie in the shade and eat roots and olallies– in a word, be free in the fullest sense of the term. But we have been happily disappointed, for even these little one are beginning to learn that very essential lesson with which the whites have found it so hard to impress them- that indolence, like industry, brings it sure reward.”
There is much to be said about this section of the report. But the romanticist prespective is quite clear, with phrases like “dusky hides” and “midnight dance” (not sure what that is). Its also interesting that the teacher integrates some Chinook Jargon (Chinuk wawa) into the letter suggesting that the teachers were learning the language from their pupils. Olallies means berries.
“The school buildings are located on a beautiful stream of water, and the land around is very good. The garden furnishes an abundance of vegetables, and with fresh butter and milk, the children have a healthy, nutritious diet.”
This school is likely located in Old Grand Ronde near Agency Creek, perhaps quite near St. Michael’s church.
“A small pot of earth for a garden was allotted to each boy, who was left free to draw his ideas of husbandry from the examples set before him in the general garden, and it is truly interesting to notice the various display of taste and muscle in the arrangement and cultivation of the ground. Some of the more industrious have succeeded admirably, and their work would do credit to older and whiter boys. I would suggest the propriety of the larger boys assisting the blacksmith, miller, and carpenter, at such times as they might not be needed at the school. By so doing, these boys might, eventually become practical and useful men among their fellows.”
The Protestant upbringing of this teacher is very apparent, as they write of the male students being “industrious,” and being “practical and useful men.”
“If it should be thought advisable to increase the number of pupils, it can be done with little trouble, as a number have applied for admission, though it would be necessary to have more house-room in order to accommodate comfortably any more than we have at present.”
The need to apply for admission is very interesting. Education then is not given to all but only to all accepted for admission.
“A much larger amount of clothing has been used in the past than will be needed in the coming year. They are very well supplied now. All of the cloth and calico issued to us this summer has been made up, chiefly by the female pupils, and the children seem highly pleased with their tidy “Boston” costumes, and appear to appreciate your determination to elevate them.”
Socially children are sometimes more fashion conscience than adults. As well, there was a cultural admiration of wealthy people and thetribes saw Ameircans as being wealthy. To dress as wealthy Americans would be quite desirable.
The follow section are two lists of students, their attendance and their aptitude. The names are also quite interesting as there is no census of the Grand Ronde Tribe in the 1860s, so this list may be the only time these names appear on any list. This is expecially true because the 1867 education report suggests that many children died in the Manual Training school because of its poor ventilation, suggesting respiratory illnesses may have been at fault. Therefore many of these children may have indeed died of a respiratory illness in the intervening three years.
Appended is a list of pupils, with their supposed ages, etc.
List of boys- Lincoln, Peter, ten years old, constant attendance; Homer, John, nine years old, constant attendance; Baker, Shik-shik, eleven years old, constant attendance; Osyna, Sugar, eight years old, constant attendance; Rolla, ten years old, missed a few weeks; Hooker, Jim, nine years old, missed a few weeks; Bony, Tsiyi, fourteen years old, missed a few weeks; Baptiste, fourteen years old, missed a few weeks; Joe Lane, fourteen years old, missed a few weeks; Butler, Kile-kile, eleven years old, missed a few weeks; Douglas, Bogus, eleven years old, attended bur few weeks; Lyon, Sampson, eight years old, attended but few weeks; Joseph Lewis, eight years old, attended but few weeks; John Long, ten years old, absent half the time.
Among the boys the most extraordinary is Homer, son of Tumwater, Chief. He is truthful, honest, energetic, ambitious, and well-disposed. Surely, nature had some aim in producing such a little prodigy. He is the only flat-head among the boys.
(Homer is likely Homer Hoffer who apparently has the traditional head flattening; Joe Lane is a name we relate to Siletz Reservation, perhaps the family originally came from Grand Ronde?; Sampson is a known Umpqua family; Bogus too is a known family, Kile Kile Butler is likely related to Henry Yelkus, a Molalla, also called Henry Kilkile)
List of girls- Acarte George, seven years old, constant attendance; Zantippe Joe. Eight years old, constant attendance; Eliza Shik-shik, nine years old, constant attendance; Janette Kidno, nine years old, absent few weeks; Alice Sampson, nine years old, absent few weeks; Maggie Tom, nine years old, absent few weeks, Mary Louis, twelve years old, attended but few weeks; La Rose Louis, ten years old, attended few weeks; Lucy, eight years old, attended but few weeks; Mollie, fifteen years old, absent half time; Ellen Adam, fifteen years old, absent half time; Kate Lano, ten years old, absent half time; Lidia, eight years old, absent half time.(Annual report 1863, C.M. Sawtelle, Teacher, Grand Ronde Manual Labor School to J. B. Condon, Esq., Indian Agent, Grand Ronde Agency)
(The only name I recognize is Kate Lano, the surname later besomes Leno, a large well known family at the tribe)
The Umpqua school is very interesting. This school would be funded by the Umpqua and Kalapuya annuities. Its clear from the desciption that the school is poorly supported. The teacher does a lot of work to make the school useable.
Letter No. 25
Umpqua School, Grand Ronde Agency, Oregon, August 1, 1863
The building originally assigned me for a school-house was defective in many respects; it contained neither benches, desks, tables, nor any of the appliances usually found in our modern school-house, with the exception of superior ventilation; in that respect it was much better supplied than any house I have ever occupied, either as a student or teacher. Since my last report I have made benches and desk, relaid floors, and made other improvements, so that I am enabled now to report the building in comparatively a comfortable condition. The attendance during the past summer has been very engaging; there have been from fifteen to thirty scholars in the school, many of whom have made good progress. Some eight of them can write a passable hand, but they appear to have an imperfect idea of its utility. In point of obedience while in school-rooms they will compare favorably with any white children I have ever taught. The irregularity with which they attend school forms a great drawback to their advancement. The material furnished by you for clothing the scholars has been all made up, and as far as it went, has had the desired effect- that of encouraging a more prompt attendance upon the school, and attention to the instructions of the teacher. There was not sufficient, however, to clothe them all, and in consequence many failed to come who otherwise would have attended.
William J. Bridgefarmer, Teacher, to James B, Condon, Esq., United States Indian Agent, Grand Ronde
The story of the schools of Grand Ronde is a difficult one to tell. The records are well scattered. Previous to the reservation there was a school in the valley that served thje settler families. The next school was began in late 1856. From 1856 to the 1870s schooling was inconsistemnt at best as the Federal government did not fully fund the school and funding from the treaties was divided between Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations. It appears that Siletz got the funding for their school from the Rogue River Treaty. There was some questionafter Siletz Agency was finally settled in 1857 whether Siletz could claim funds from the treaties, as the Rogue Rivers and Chasta moved to Siletz from Grand Ronde were those who had fought the Americans, and its possible that the federal government thought they had breeched the terms of their treaties (at the same time there was no determination or consideration that the American settlers had breeched the same treaties by committing acts of genocide, as the Indians were always seen to be the aggressors in accounts of the time). Then the Manual training school opens in 1862, and the Umpqua school is still in operation, albeit not well funded or supported. In 1867 there are still issues with the schools, the manual training school is in poor repair. In 1880 Chemawa Indian Boarding School, also called the Salem Indian Industrial School, and also called the Harrison Institute, opens in its first iteration in Forest Grove, Oregon as a multistory one building schoolhouse. In 1884 there is a fire at the Forest Grove Manual Training school, and the school is moved to Chemawa outside of Salem. The initial landgrant is smaller and the students work at farmers’ agricultural fields and the money they make is used to buy more land. Grand Ronde students attend then agency schools in Grand Ronde, run in a Day school model, Public schools in the area if they live outside of the reservation, and Chemawa Indian boarding school. Later some Grand Ronde students attend other Indian Boarding schools in California and Kansas and other locations.