Chief Eagle Horse Baritone Singer from Alaska

Charlie Cutter, a student of Chemawa Indian school from about 1898 to 1902 was a noted baritone singer. Cutter was born in Shaken Alaska in1880  and had a native name, Dockh-hoh-kharckh,  which was difficult to pronounce, so the Indian agents just called him Charlie Cutter while at school. He is noted to come from the Klawock tribe of Southwest Alaska.  Newspaper accounts suggest that he had encountered missionaries for the first time as a child and became interested in going to school in the south. In Chemawa he was an older student, which was not uncommon for the time.   He was a regular student from Alaska taking wood shop classes until 1902 when music professor W. H. Boyer of Portland noticed he had a good strong voice. Boyer began training Cutter in 1902 and began booking him for performances and plays in Portland and Oregon City. Cutter mastered songs in several languages in preparation for an Operatic career.

Charlie Cutter, Oregonian photo

The Chemawa American  (May 25, 1906) wrote of Cutter, “None of the conventional adjectives will describe the quality of his voice. It filled the church and gave you the impression that it could fill all out doors just as easily. There is in the voice of a timbre peculiar vibrant quality that must be due to his race and his early environment. It brings to mind illimitable distances, inhospitable solitudes, the elemental savagery of a great, wild land and a great wild people. Let us hope he will keep that quality and not become just like the mob of trained men vocalizers.”

Below is a selection of some of his early engagements.

1902- Vocal Solo- a Thousand Years Under the Sea (Petrie)- Chemawa Commencement performance.

1902- Chemawa HS Band in Portland- July- summer event

1902- Gladstone Chautauqua- Vocal solo- The Legend of the Fire (Woodworth)

1902- making chairs in a chair factory- Portland

1902 moves to Portland to train with Professor Boyer

1902 Taylor St Methodist Church Choir

1904- January- Fundraiser for Sacajawea Statue- two songs

1904- Marquam Grand Theater- Fatinitza- Chorus

1904- Marquam Grand Theater- The Ameer- bass

1904 Marquam Grand Theater- Queen Esther- Beggar part

1904- Carmen Selections- The Monk, Zuniga

1905, July- Sacajawea unveiling performance

1905- The Carnival of Venice performance

Oregonian quote, (1905) “he possesses a basso voice the equal of which has not been heard in Portland for some time.” 

In October 1907 Cutter sang for famous musician John Phillip Sousa when he was visiting Portland and Sousa recommended him for entry into the newly formed Conreid School of Opera, which is the precursor to the MET School of Opera of New York City. There is no record of his entry into the school. News reports suggest that Cutter trained in Portland and Chicago before going to New York.

By 1910 Cutter had taken a stage name, Chief Eagle Horse, as he was consistently cast in novelty roles in Portland’s playhouses, like the Peoples, Marquam, and Star Theaters. Chief Eagle Horse was advertised in the Oregonian as an Alaskan baritone singer, and took the habit of dressing in Native American regalia from the plains. By 1910 Cutter was living in a boarding house in Portland pursuing his acting and singing career as the one and only Native American singer in the small Portland market.

Chief Eagle Horse in New York, 1917, Popular Mechanics

In 1917 Chief Eagle Horse was in New York City, hired by the U.S. Military to help sell liberty bonds to help the World War I effort. He is depicted in at least two photos talking to crowds of New Yorkers and posing as if he is joining branches of the service, the Navy and Army in a handshake.

In 1919 Chief Eagle Horse appeared in the Cole Porter Play Hitchy-Koo, a now-renowned play for the period which was disappointing to Porter in its time, as it only played in New York for 72 weeks. This play was likely the height of Cutter’s career. During the 1920s Chief Eagle Horse does not appear in print much, and newspapers describe him as playing the circuit.


Charles Cutter died in Juneau, Alaska in an Indian hospital in 1938.

Cutter, Chief Eagle Horse, matured during the time when the United States Arts and culture were looking for positive images of Native peoples that they could appropriate and exploit. Many of these images were novelty performances to engage an audience and many of the stories significantly altered historical understandings, and altered peoples ideas about Native peoples. The romantic model of Native peoples is exploitative in the extreme, recasting notions of natives to align with American traditions of colonization, missionization, and dispossession and even war as beneficial acts that helped native peoples assimilate to the proper civilized way of being.  Cutter presents as a native man of extreme talent who likely significantly effected Portland culture for some 20 years, and who has been largely ignored in historical discourse.


John Wacheno on Fishing Rights and Land Inheritance, 1931

In 1931, John Wacheno of Grand Ronde tesified before a subcommittee from the Committee of Indian Affairs at Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon. The subcommittee is investigating conditions of the tribes and calls Wacheno late in the day. The two previous witnesses were Mrs. Sam Riggs from Grand Ronde and a witness from the Klamath tribe, a Mr. Meekham.

Wacheno’s first concern is that the Natives at the Grand Ronde Reservation are not allowed to fish on the reservation. At least one boy was arrested by the state officers but apparently was not charged. This situation is quite odd as since at least by 1856, the tribes at Grand Ronde were allowed to fish on the reservation, even in the neighboring reservation, the Salmon River on the Coast Reservation for subsistence. The fishery at Salmon River in present day Lincoln City helped feed the Grand Ronde peoples for decades when supplies and funds from Washington, D.C. were inconsistent and unreliable. From the 1920s to the 1950s there was some question as to whetehr Grand Ronde native could fish legally in the Salmon River once the fishery was under the management of the state of Oregon. The misunderstandings regarding Grand Ronde fishing rights are addressed in a previous essay.  Remarkably, Lynn Frazier, the U.S. Senator involved in this subcommittee hearing, did not know really anything about the rights of the tribes. This is quite understandable because in the 20th century some 80 years after the treaties for Oregon were negotiated few people outside of the small circle of people in the Indian office knew tribal rights and most times the field workers and staff assumed incorrectly the rights for the tribes. This bureaucratic ignorance more than really any thing else is likely the most virulent cause of tribes losing rights. As we see below in the transcript, even the “expert” J. Henry Scattergood, Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, must study and research the issues further.

1870’s Indian Allotment survey records for the Salmon River estuary

The second issue, which takes a bit more time in the hearing, is regarding John Wachino losing out on the right to claim the title to an Indian allotment of his brother Foster Wachino. Foster died in 1904 due to being murdered in an early morning argument at John Wachino’s house by  Louis Savage who shot him after a night of drinking. His death made it impossible for Foster to prove up on the Indian allotment, which required 20 years residence. due to geeting in a fight with.

1891 Indian Allotment, Foster Wacheno, Grand Ronde Reservation

In 1887 the Dawes Act was passed by the US Congress dividing the reservations into Indian allotments. The remaining lands at Grand Ronde were sold as surplus lands. in 1907 those allotements were proved up and people then applied for fee simple titles. In about 1907  the remaining surplus lands were finally sold, mainly to logging companies. The sale of the Grand Ronde and Siletz surplus lands sparked a renewed period of logging in the old growth stands in the Coast Range.

In about 1911 the federal government began a series of heirship investigations in western Oregon. These hearings were meant to record the decendants of the original allottees, many who had passed on before their allotments were proved up on, and decide who would inherit funds from the sales of these lands. There did not appear to be any suggestion that the lands would be inherited and the heirship investigations simply divvied up the shares of the land among descendants.

The land in question below does not appear to be part of these investigations, but part of a legal process regarding Indian allotments. The land in question of  Foster Wacheno was a little over 193 acres in 1891. Foster apparently had no living direct family and so his land was jointly claimed by his mother Charlotte, his nephew Charles (from Daniel Wacheno), and his living brother John Wacheno. Its unclear what happened to Foster’s family, as he was married with three children in 1896 (see Grand Ronde Indian Reservation Census records), a few years later he is listed as single with no sign of the family on the reservation, and still later he is living with his elderly mother Charlotte. Its possible that Foster’s family died in the influenza epidemic in the early 20th century.

Polk Co. Observer Oct. 8, 1912, Newspaper story headline

John Wacheno’s complaint below is based on a lack of transparency of why Foster’s land was given to his nephew Charles. From his testimony there was no equal division of the land between the living family at all, which was normal at this time. Part of the issue at question may have been John Wacheno’s character and history of illegal actions. He is at various times was charged with several serious crimes; he is caught illegally hunting off the reservation (fined); he goes through a trial related to the knifing death of Henry Kiki, perhaps in his house (he is found not guilty due to lack of evidence); and he is arrested and taken to court by his first wife Lucinda for whipping her, which ended up in a likely divorce (he takes another wife, Mary, in the 1920s).  He appears to have been involved with procuring moonshine from off the reservation, had used his house as a place to gamble and drink, a serious of habits which resulted in him being charged with numerous crimes related to the associated effects (possibly a subject for a future essay). Indians possessing alcohol was illegal by federal and state rules and laws at this time, yet many tribal people cooked home brews during prohibition to sell.

One situation which suggests that John Wacheno may not be telling the whole truth is a title transfer document, signed by Calvin Cooledge, which grants both John and Charlie the land in question.

1925 Title Transfer document to John and Charles, the Thompson survey was that conducted in 1865.

Charles Larson, the other participant in the hearings, was a clerk at the Chemawa Indian School. In 1931, Chemawa was the head office of a Indian management district which included Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations and the Fourth district Indians, those not living on a reservation. Larson, it turns out, was a descendant of the Chinook peoples on the lower Columbia River. He know the tribes well and helped them to manage their affairs as much as he could with his other duties at Chemawa. Larson states that the sitaution with the land is unfortunate and nothing can be done.  The situation is suspicious enough that it rates further research. It has already been discovered that the results of the 1865 surveys of the reservation were part of the lands allotted in the Dawes act allotments. John Wacheno in fact had a series of small allotments, at least one of which he originally recieved unofficially in the 1870s, the subject of a previous essay.

Survey of Conditions of the Indians in the United States, Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Indian Affairs United States Senate, 71st Congress, 3rd session, Hearings at Chemawa, Oregon. May 30, 1931. Pp 11755

John Wacheno was thereupon called as a witness and, after being first duly sworn, testified as follows:

Senator Frazier. What is your name?

Mr. Wacheno. John Wacheno

Senator Frazier. Where are your from?

Mr. Wacheno. Clackamas.

Senator Frazier. What tribe do you belong to?

Mr. Wacheno. The Clackamas.

Senator Frazier. Where is that?

Mr. Wacheno. Just north of Oregon City. It is about 30 or 40 miles from Oregon City, where I was born.

Senator Frazier. Have you a statement?

Mr. Wacheno. I was the man that met commissioner eight years ago when we were having trouble about the land, I am glad to see you, of course. I can not talk very good English. I am old. I am doing the best I can. We are glad to meet you, sir. I wish you would see my country. We have a fine country. They stop us from fishing. My treaty calls for fishing and hunting grounds.

Senator Frazier. Who stopped you from fishing?

Mr. Wacheno. There is Washington. One of our men were arrested for fishing trout in the creek.

Senator Frazier. Whereabouts were you fishing?

Mr. Wacheno. I live in Grande Ronde, They took me away from Clackamas when I was about 7 years old. Now, I am over at Grande Ronde.

Senator Frazier. Have you land at Grande Ronde?

Mr. Wacheno. Yes.

Senator Frazier. This man that was arrested for fishing, was he on his own land or on Indian land?

Mr. Wacheno. He was in the reservation creek. Not the creek in the agency. We used to have an agency there. We told him we thought we were entitled to fish, our treaty calls for fishing and hunting.

Senator Frazier. Did they fine him for fishing?

Mr. Wacheno. No. They let him go. But there is a warden hanging around there and all the boys are scared to fish.

Mr. Scattergood. You write that in to the Indian Office and we will have it looked up. We will see if we can not give you a letter that will help out the situation because if it is on a reservation the Indian have a right to fish on the reservation without interference from any State authority.

Mr. Wacheno. Over at Oregon City I went there once and saw Judge Campbell. He said he was going to write to Washington and find out, and he never do it.

Mr. Scattergood. He never found out?

Mr. Wacheno. He is here in Salem and another fellow took his place. Another thing I want to ask you. I have been troubled for about three or four years, maybe five years. My brother he died. He had 193 acres of land and I want to get patent one time. I have gone spoken about it. When he died I bought his casket, his clothes and everything. Then I had timberland and Mr. Joe he told me he will buy that timberland and get deed for that timberland. So I took Mr. Hudson down with me to McMinnville and I had given him a blank to fill out. I told him I couldn’t write. I can not read and write myself because I never was in school since they brought me there. I had a chance to go to school but I had to take care of my father and didn’t go. So I give it to Mr. Hudson and he couldn’t do it. We went to see an attorney at McMinnville. He filled up the blank and sent it to the Indian Office. It has been gone quite awhile. Finally it came back, The agent stopped it. He said they could not issue no patents. I say all right. I am satisfied I get it. All at once about three years ago I get notified, they say they send the patent. Well I came over here and asked the superintendent, Mr. McGregor, and he stated the form it is down at Portland or maybe over at Siletz, so I went over at Siletz and I asked him and he says it is not here.

Senator Frazier. Did you not get the Patent?

Mr. Wacheno. It went along and they sent it to my nephew. They sent it on his name. I got the patent. It is 100 acres. I ask him if he made application for that. He said no. We made application in McMinnville by the attorney and they turned us down. Finally they sent it in his name and he mortgaged that land the same day.

Senator Frazier. That was the end of it?

Mr. Wacheno. Yes. I wanted to find out. I came here and Charley could not understand about it. The Sheriff sold it on him.

Senator Frazier. What about that?

Mr. Larsen. If I remember rightly, the application was made by the heirs for this piece of property. It was their intention to reserve a small portion, but somehow or other the application went through for the whole allotment. He did not understand it that way and when the taxes came due and they notified him why he was, of course surprised. That is as far as I know about it. It was sold for taxes.

Mr. Wacheno. It was sold for a mortgage.

Senator Frazier. Is there anything else you can do about it?

Mr. Larsen. No, not now. It is one of those unfortunate cases.

(Witness excused)

John Wacheno gets little information in this meeting. Larson is looking into the fishing issue. a search of Larson’s records at Willamette University did not reveal a report or further actions on his part.

Summer Cycling at Minto-Brown Island Park

This summer, I have been returning to mountain biking in the local park, Minto-Brown Island park. I used to mountain bike a lot, when I lived in California. I would take excursions to parks in and around Sonoma County. Bolinas Ridge, Annadel, Sonoma Mountain were my favorite parks to visit. Annadel was my very favorite, with many different trails for serious cyclists, lots of hills and lots of fast downhills. I did tons of road riding too, throughout the county, to the coast, along the coast highway and doing the Highway 12 route, through the Valley of the Moon. I even entered two races, one road race and one mountain bike race the Rockhopper.

When I lived in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, my bike was the main transportation throughout the towns. I continued biking when I came back to Oregon, but did not continue riding mountain trails. I rode constantly to class at the University of Oregon for some 11 years of there. Since we have had kids, biking has been more difficult, as they need to be transported around. Taking a job at Grand Ronde also eliminated cycling for a few years. I became more of a summer and weekend warrior, riding into the Salem downtown for weekend study trips.

This summer its been different, the kids are grown, and now hate doing anything with the old man, and I am not heavily scheduled for work, and so I have more opportunity to get out and ride as an exercise every day I want to. I now use a bike rack and go directly to the park for riding in one hour to 2 hour excursions. The muscle memory is helping as I try to get back into riding shape. The Minto trails are quite easy with few hills as I work out kinks. I am saddle sore, and tired most days but feel better at the end of the day than if I do not ride. I also feel lighter and freer getting out into woods. I found many interesting things in Minto-Brown park, interesting vegetation and clear anthropogenic changes to the environment by previous settlers and landowners. All of the photos are taken by me.

Kalapuyan words added as I find the words for various plants. The Kalapuyan tribe in this area, or tribes, were the Santiam and Luckamiuke. The Santiam lived mostly on the east side and had a village named Chemeketa at Salem, and the Luckamiuke villages are not well known for this area, one was across the river from Independence. It is assumed that the river was the division for tribes east and west, but this island is in  the middle of the river.

One of the many sloughs off of the Willamette
An Osprey nest, they will cry out whenever I am near, because I am dangerous (no word yet found for Osprey)
One of the prairies, most have dirt single-track trails for cyclists, watch out for the Thistle trail!
A grove of lodgepole pine trees? yes at the west end of the park is a large grove of pines (Kalapuyan- amkalk- the pine), clearly planted all at the same time
A grove of W. Red Cedars (Kalapuyan- anla’- the cedar tree), also planted in straight rows, there are two such sections of cedars along the trail on the west end
A planted row of what appears to be Incense cedars also on the west end
a couple different types of willows (Kalapuyan-anuha – an+nuha -The willow tree) are also planted in rows
Maybe Red willow, would make good weaving material
Another row of pines, a different type
Lodgepole pine
I thought Douglas Fir (Kalapuyan bufbak- fir bush), but this is Western Hemlock
A short line of Oregon white oaks (Kalapuyan- amif- the oak tree) , they are smaller than the neighbors, they grow slower, but i think all of these groves are planted at the same time
a cherry (Kalapuyan -anuk- the cherry), there are a few (annuk-choke cherry)
lots of ash (Mawilick) and cottonwoods
Early Gooseberry (amptik)?
Lots of wild Raspberries (antebufi- the raspberry)
raspberries (antebufi)
Lots of Oregon Grape (Kau’-kau’)
wild rose (tsa’l)
Native Tarweed (ansawal)
nice pink flowers
White Oxeye Daisies
Juncus along a seasonal wetland
A sea of white flowers and juncus

There is so much Himalayan blackberry in the park, it was good to find the native variety, Trailing blackberry (tkwil)
In the grove of European Hazelnuts, planted when people in Oregon called them filberts, the native variety does not appear in the park, or may be crossed with the european variety (pik)
Struggle between a big leaf maple and pine, or is it a maple-pine tree?
All geared up for the adventure
The trail ahead, whats around the corner?

The Minto-Brown park is quite accessible. People walk, run, skateboard, and bike it all the time. Its very busy. There are lots to see, nice vistas and access to the Willamette River. The groves of various trees intentionally planted in rows is an interesting thing to discover in the park. Now with easy access from the city side of the Willamette Slough, all of this is more open than ever before. Time for another trip, I will be raiding the raspberries again today, and waiting for Himalayans to be ready.

My pony. I built this bike some 18 years ago. My original GT Karakoram had been stolen at UO, and so I bought a frame of nearly the same paint job on Ebay and bought all the parts and put it together myself. I even built the wheels. Cycling mechanics is one of my talents. Recent adjustments are a new seat, a new rear wheel (the old one was a voodoo rim, always breaking spokes and out of true), and new grips. It needs a tune up, and has a odd ticking, but its a good bike.

Tribal Boys Thrown Off Census for Years

At the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation the Indian Agent in 1907, Andrew Kershaw (Kershaw was a long-term agent at the reservation, began omitting Tribal members from the annual BIA Census (which served as the tribal roll).  His reasoning was that the people omitted had gotten their fee simple titles and so their Allotments were no longer “Reservation property” and so the Native allottees were then not living “on the reservation.” He considered them to no longer be under the supervision of the Federal government. From 1907 to 1915, over 328 Natives were omitted from the Grand Ronde Census, such that in 1914, there were only 25 people remaining, while in 1906 there were 353 members on the census. Edwin Chalcraft took over as Indian Agent of the combined Grand Ronde-Siletz agency in 1915, and noted this situation in a short note when submitting the 1915 census. In 1916, he adds most of the Tribal members back onto the census, so that there are 324 people named.

There are many questions about why Agent Kershaw thought to omit names based on the status of their allotments. There does not appear to be a directive from the Indian Office to this effect (as yet one has not been found), and it does not appear that other agents of other reservations took similar actions. Chalcraft actions and letters suggest that this was a mistaken action by Kershaw, and letters from the Indian Office directing him to add the Tribal people back onto the Census, agree with him.

There are effects from the omission of Tribal people for some eight years from the Grand Ronde Census. I documented previously that a woman of the reservation was never added back onto the Census because she lived in Portland. The following story is another couple of cases where Tribal members were left off the Tribal Census well beyond the date of their birth, and may have lost out on benefits due tribal members. The story also documents how Congressmen from the Federal Government knew nothing about what happened, could not answer questions posed to a Congressional sub-committee assembled to document the Conditions of Reservations in the United States.

Clara and Adeline Robinson were tribal members born on the Grand Ronde Reservation, in 1893 and 1888 respectively. They are listed on every tribal census until 1907 when their names are dropped from the census by Agent Kershaw, presumedly because they are no longer living on reservation land.

Robinson Family from the 1906 Grand Ronde Census

Clara and Adeline reappear in 1916 on the Grand Ronde Census, Adeline is now married to Leon Reiback from Austria, and Clara is now married (Oct 30, 1912) to a “white” man named Chester O. White who may have lived in Eola. Clara and Chester had a son Orrin Orville White in 1913 in Portland, OR, and, Adeline had three sons by Leon, Harris Jerome, Vernon Alton and Westly Arnold. None of these children, all of whom have tribal heritage, are noted on the Grand Ronde Census in 1916 or for years afterwards. (another possible son of Clara White is listed as Oral Fryso born 1914 as listed on the 1923 census as a Step son of Sam Riggs. Its unclear what this is, perhaps an adoptive son of Clara’s or an affair? )

1916 Grand Ronde census sections, note Adeline’s birth year is wrong, it should be 1888..

Clara White is listed as a “wife’ in 1921 and listed in the off-reservation section of the census, living in Portland with her husband Chester. She returns to Grand Ronde with her son(s) in 1922 (unsure if divorce or estranged from Chester) as she is not longer listed in the off-reservation section of the census but her son is not mentioned. Her future second husband Samuel Riggs is still a widower as of 1922, having lost his wife Ida Wheeler in 1920. By 1923, Samuel and Clara are married and living together. (Incidentally, Clara and Adeline’s mother, Caroline, lived far past her husbands (she married twice, first to Daniel, then to , in the 1920s and 1930s she is listed as living alone as a widow. James Robinson, their brother, is also listed into the 1930s as a single man living alone.)

1924 Grand Ronde Census, Sam Riggs family, note Clara is not listed with the family, but she is listed with the family in the 1923 census.
1925 Grand Ronde Census, Sam Riggs family, note Clara is now listed with the family, and Orrin Orville is not, but note here that Oral Riggs is listed, in 1923 Oral is noted to be Clara’s son.

Clara Robinson/White Riggs still has her son with her when she joins the Sam Riggs family, but her son Orrin is not listed on the Grand Ronde Census until 1931. Orrin White is at least one quarter Rogue River and Chinook and yet is not listed on the Tribal census. There is no hint here about why Oral Fryso was listed as her son in 1923, and his name is changed on the census in 1925 to Riggs. (I suspect that Oral Fryso may be adopted by Clara and Sam.)

In May of 1931, Clara Riggs, or Mrs. Sam Riggs, advocated for her son, of 1913, to be a listed member of the tribe. Clara appeared before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs at Chemawa Indian School, Oregon and stated her case for including her son on the Tribal census, which served as the tribal roll.

Survey of Conditions of the Indians in the United States, Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Indian Affairs United States Senate, 71st Congress, 3rd session, Hearings at Chemawa, Oregon. May 30, 1931. Pp 11752-11753.

Mrs. Sam Riggs, Grand Ronde

I would like to ask a few questions. In 1913 I had a child, so did my sister have three children and I sent their names to be recorded. Well I never knew they were not recorded until the children started to get a little interest money and when I looked into it seen they were not recorded. So I like to know why they were not recorded.

Senator Frazier. Have you got a letter stating they were recorded?

Mrs. Riggs. I did have it until I came back to Grand Ronde. I was born and raised in Grand Ronde and left, you know, and the child I had was in Salem. I came back after the child was 8 years old and burned the letter cleaning up. I depended on him and I burned the letter. Come to find out about it he had not recorded my sister’s three boys and my own. They seem to be the only children denied off the pay roll and always did not feel right and I do not like it and we cannot talk to anybody.

Senator Frazier. Your children were born away from the reservation, is that the idea?

Mrs. Riggs, Yes, sir.

Senator Frazier.

How about that Mr. Scattergood?

Mr. Scattergood. I have no information about the case.

Mrs. Riggs. There were other children born away and came back just the same and they go on the Pay roll. They claim because my child had a white father. There are other people living on the reservation and their children had white people.

Senator Frazier. What tribe?

Mrs. Riggs. Rogue River from my father. My mother is a Chinook and Umpqua and my great grandfather was a chief. He was a chief out there. I can prove it to you because we have the picture.

Senator Frazier. Do you anything about this?

Mrs. Riggs. Mr. Larsen was not in at that time. If he had been in this would not have happened. It was before his time. He has always done wonderful things for us and has helped us in every way and I find him the best we have had since I have been here.

Mr. Scattergood. There were some proceeds from the sale of tribal lands. The proceeds were then distributed among the various parties who were registered as members of the Rogue River Tribe. She claims the children were never registered.

Mrs. Riggs. It was not our neglect. When the child was born we sent it in to be registered and he writes back and said they were recorded. Mr. Larsen was not there. If he was it would have been recorded.

Mr. Scattergood. How long ago did that happen?

Mrs. Riggs. That was in 1913.

Mr. Scattergood. Did you ever make any complaint to the Indian Office at that time?

Mrs. Riggs. I went to the superintendent; yes, sir. I have talked about it. I did not get any other chance to speak to anybody else.

Senator Frazier. Will you take that up and find out about that?

Mrs. Riggs. Charley was not in. If he was it would not have happened, because he has been very honest and I can say he has done wonderful things for us.

Senator Frazier. Something ought to be done.

Mrs. Riggs. I think our children are entitles to be on there. I do not see why they were denied admission when they were born on the reservation.

Senator Frazier. Where were you born?

Mrs. Riggs. Here in Chemawa and my sister took up training as a nurse in Chemawa here.

Senator Frazier. Is she nursing now?

Mrs. Riggs. Not now. She is not now. She is getting old. She has three big boys. Of course, her children were turned off but we were on the pay roll and did receive a little money; then our children were thrown off and I did not think that was justice at all.

Senator Frazier. Do you recollect how much money they would have received if they had been on?

Mrs. Riggs. Only $33 apiece. I say if they were thrown off then they would be thrown off again if anything should turn up and I am looking out for their interest. I think they have as much right as any other children because other children have more white blood than they.

Senator Frazier. Your husband is white?

Mrs. Riggs. Was a white man. My father is Rogue River Indian and my mother is a Chinook.

Senator Frazier. I do not know what can be done, but we will have Mr. Larsen look into it.

Mrs. Riggs. I have been speaking to Mr. Larsen. He has been very good. He said he would do what he can.

Senator Frazier. Any other statement you want to make?

Mrs. Riggs. No.

[Transcription by David Lewis]

So, it appears that Clara had sent her son’s name and that of her three nephews to the Indian Agent, likely Andrew Kershaw, to be included in the tribal roll. But since both families were living in Portland at the time, none of the four boys were added to the rolls. And, when Edwin Chalcraft took over the duties from Kershaw, he did not know about the four boys. So they were excluded from the Tribal rolls for as long as 18 years. Clara notes that they lost out on some money, probably the proceeds of the sale of some former reservation lands sold during the heirship sales in about 1918, and were not included as heirs of the Robinson family. Dan Robinson had an on-reservation Indian allotment.

The federal policies were even worse than this. For some reason, Adeline Robinson Riebach was left off the tribal rolls for a time in the 1920s likely because she living in Portland. The early 1920s censuses were divided up by on-reservation members and off-reservation members.

1921 Grand Ronde census. Off reservation section
1930 Adeline appears again, she is missing from the 1929 census, note her 3 sons are not listed and they are living in Portland.

Clara’s son is not listed as living with the blended family until 1932. This is one year after Clara Riggs states her son’s case and that of her nephews before the sub-committee.

1932 first appearance of Orrin Orville White on the Grand Ronde census

Similarly, Adeline’s sons are listed the same year.

1932 Adeline and 3 sons are now listed

The birth date listed for Adeline, on the 1932 census (and many others) appears incorrect as the early census records show she is born closer to 1888.

1890 Grand Ronde Census, showing Adeline is 2 years old. the son is James.

Its interesting that the federal officials did not know about the problems of Gfrand Ronde the census issues. They, during the hearing, turn the matter over to Charles Larsen to rectify. Its clear that Charles did his job appropiately, and that Clara’s trust in him was justified. Charles Larsen, was himself a Native, of the Siletz Tribe, who had a distinguished service at several Indian boarding schools in his carreer. His papers are at Willamette University Archives.

The impact of the removal of tribal people for some eight years is still to this day not well known. As more research occurs I will continue to reveal the facts of Grand Ronde history as best as possible. Its very clear in many examples that the federal uthorities were very bad at record keeping, imposed rules and policies imperfectly and this has likley affected the descendants of these Native peoples. While in Clara and Adeline’s cases, they solved the problem with minimal effects, I wonder how many other tribal members were caught up in the erasure of tribal mebership on the censuses and never returned and therefore may never return to the tribe in the present era.

BIA Indian Census records 1890 to 1932 are available on the Internet Archives,  For Grand Ronde they are reels 169, 458, 459, 505, 506. Reel 506 has a hidden set of Grand Ronde census records not listied in the description for the years 1916 t0 1925. internet site helped me find the first husband of Clara, Chester White. Chester’s son Orrin Orville is incorrectly listed as a Riggs in numerous census records and in the Living in the Great Circle book by Olson. Its understandable that this can be confusing because tribal families are incredibly confusing. It may be the case that Orrin was adopted by Sam Riggs, but I do not have records suggesting this. In addition sometimes the cnesus records liusted (White) next to Orrin’s name, which could be confused as a racial category.

Family site helped with some lookups.

Joel Palmer Returning Indians and Feeding Natives, Siletz 1871

Joel Palmer was the Indian Agent at the Siletz Agency in 1871 and had responsibilities, as emphasized in his 1871 journal, over continuing to removing Indians from the Southern Coast to the Coast Reservation, some of whom had run away from from the reservation earlier. 1871 removal of Tolowa and Chetco to the Coast Reservation. In November Palmer began to gather the necessary supplies together to remove some few Indian families from the coast. Palmer was also engaged in trying to figure out how to feed the people already on the reservation, these two responsibilities split his time significantly.

The 1871 Palmer Journal (all excerpts from the journal)

Memorandum of expenses incurred in collecting Indians who have run away from reservation… the total from several pages of expenses, including food, lodging, and ferriage was $653.59.

Palmer has with him five men and 8 horses from Siletz, L.H. Sawtell, Lorenzo Palmer -his son, and three Indians from the reservation John Howard, Depo Charly, and Chetco Charley. Palmer paid the Indians $37.50  each for their services. (it may be the Sawtell remained behind in Charge of Siletz while Lame Jim was instead the 6th man)  Lame Jim is mentioned as being with the party from the Umpqua to the Coquille, and serves as a guide for the party.  The party is in Crescent City on November 28, a Tuesday and stays overnight for several nights at Smith River where he incurs a $40 bill for room and board. While there Palmer takes stock of the number of Tolowa and other Indians in the area is a short census.                

Cresent City Indians 25

Lagoon Indians about 100

Yontocket south bank Smiths River about 75 (Yontocket is a Tolowa town south of Smith River, CA, the town was attacked numerous times by whites)

Smith Riv. Indians about 150

Clamaths (Yuroks) 25 miles below Crescent City number about 15.00 [could be 1500] no reservation

Palmer Does not initially note the number of Indians he gathers to return to Siletz, however his return ferriage costs reveal the number of people in his party.

At the Coquille, “for ferrying 18 head horses and seventeen persons,17.00, across Coquill River.”

At Coose Bay, “for ferrying 17 horses,18 persons and bagage, across Coose bay.” (they apparently pick up another person and lose a horse)

With the five initial men, plus Palmer, they gather 12 other people from the coast from various locations, mainly Tututni tribal locations. The party would travel up the coast and hire messengers to travel quickly inland to tell camped Indian families to come to the coast to return to the reservation. Several entries suggest that they at times had to find hidden people or chase them down.

On the return trip, the party gathers Indians at Mule Creek, at Mussel Creek (3 sisters), and at 4 Mile Creek. The biggest challenge occurred at 4 Mile Creek

“12th- Joshua John & wife lives at 4 Mile Creek, Sixes or Port Orford John with six women and several children live at Curlis & Emmitts 4 miles above Murrys up 4 mile creek. on Tuesday 12 went there but all had fled to the mountains returned & sent Mr Murry with letter to Curlis & Emmett setting forth a synopsis of the new pollicy in treatment of Indians and urge them to aid in inducing the Indians to return instead of advising them to flee to the mountains, stating that they or any others would be [prosecuted?]2 if they persisted in that folly, 13th- Murry did not return. started women and part of men on the Coquill with letter to postmaster to furnish quarters untill I came up… Murry returned at one PM bringing with him Curlis, Indians agreed to come up in the spring. Reached Coquill at dark.”

Palmer ends up leaving the Indians at the Alsea Agency on December 20th, and continues to Newport and Siletz without them.

On this trip, Palmer successfully returns 12 Indians to the Alsea Agency, but he also takes stock of the other Indian families that remain living on the coast outside of the reservation.  Palmer notes about the families suggest that he gave them all permission to remain off the reservation. This was the policy of the time, that Indians could not be off-reservation without a pass. (We have found a passbook for Grand Ronde, but I have not seen a similar ledger for Siletz.) Palmer notes clearly denotes a pass or “leave”, which is permission by him to remain off-reservation. Palmer for some reason is also concerned enough about Indian-white marriage to capture a few of these relationships.

Jenne or Charley Davis boy is at Whales Head at Smiths, Jenne is living with Rev. Tichner at Big Bend. Jenne is also claimed by Miservy living at same place by whom she has 2 boys one 9 y old named George one Elisha about 7

Thomas Moore has 3 children by woman from sailor diggins in Josephine who is dead one boy 10 y old at Wm Southerlands at scoocumhouse  (head mans house) one, 6 yrs old, at darky Jo Lewis on Smith river a girl 13 years old at Crescent City Charles Strands

George Watson, moved, lives at big bend has an Illinois woman a Chasta has 3 children 1 girl 2 boys. (non-Native with Native wife? and children)

McMullin has one of (Harney’s) Rogue River women no children lives at John Mule Creek. (non-Native with Native wife)

Port Orford John with seven women & 2 children leave to remain on four Mile Creek untill spring

brother to Osker, for home, who will put in on Dick a Chetco and wife have pass to remain on Smith River untill 4th July 1872

Bradford Charley and family leave to remain on Smith River on account of sickness

 Billey & wife – Jo & wife and Jack leave to remain at Chetco untill spring Baby sick

Charley, wife, and mother leave to remain at Chetco untill spring – wife sick

Finally, now that some Indians are returned to the Coast reservation, Palmer must keep his word (which he is famous for doing) and pay the leaders what they have asked to peacefully return to the reservation. The last pages of the journal documents additional payments, gifts, to the Indian men who joined him on the trip, and the leaders, head men likely, who returned. Ironically most of the tribal people likely left the reservation because they were starving and not given supplies and provisions that were originally promised.  It was common for the agents to give provisions to head men who would then divvy it up among their tribal people on the reservation.  But, as I address later, the agency has a food shortage problem.

Issuances from Dec 24th 1871 to January 3rd 1872

Mustak (he may have a been a chief due to the provisions given him)

Gave Mustak one horse valued at $35.00, 1 ax – one fry pan, one bread pan

Mustak one half ax, one sissores

Mustak – 10 lbs salmon, 1 sack flour, 1½ B Potatoes 50 lbs Beef,

Mustak 1 sack flour

issued to Mustak 1½ B Potatoes

Mustaks wife

8 yds prints                                                 1.20

1 pair shoes                                                 2.50

1 “ stockings                                                .62½

2 wife 8 yds prints                                      1.20

1 pair shoes pr stocking                              3.12½

1 Blanket                                                     4.00


Gave Selchuck 2 sacks flour

Issued to Selchuck, one sack flour,  $3.00

Selchuck 1 fry pan, 1 tin pan, 1/4 tea

issued Selchuck 1½ B (bushel) potatoes

Gave to Selchuck one pony bought of Barrett  $25.00, in place of one lost on trip

Selchuck33 one Blanket                                $4.00

pair shoes pair socks                                 $3.12½


Charley  pony, 1 sack flour

to Charley 1½  B Potatoes

Charley poney, 1½ B Potatoes,  6 lbs fish

Charles Poney wife

8 yds prints                                                 1.20

1 pair shoes                                                 2.50

1 “ stockings                                                .62½

Charley 1 pair shoes                                    2.50

1 pr socks                                                       .62

1 Blanket                                                     4.00

John Murry

John Murry 1 sack flour

to John Murry 1½ B Potatoes


Tootoon Jack 1 sack flour                                             

James Biddle Indian,  to sack flour, by services of mule on trip to collect Indians forty days at .50 coin $20.00 (lease fee of a mule), Mule in place of his that died in the service

Barney, one sack flour, $2.50

Palmer visited the southern coast under orders to gather escaped Indians. Previous efforts like this in the 1860s were conducted by the Army and by contracted Indian catchers, whose fees exceeded $20,000 for only a few trips. Palmer was able to conduct the same service for less than $1000. The situation at Siletz in the Fall and early winter of 1871 was grim with Palmer predicting the failure of crops, and starvation on the reservation.

September 1871 Siletz Report, Joel Palmer Indian Agent

The Late planted Potatoe crop will be an entire failure on account of a severe front the sixth of this month, a few fields planted early & those in sheltered positions may possibly mature… There can be no longer any doubt that the crops produced upon the Reservation this season will fall far short of subsisting the Indians until another harvest, and we must look to other sources to supply the deficiency. Fish will constitute one of the chief articles, and many are now preparing to take the fall and winter run of salmon. We are also fitting out hunting parties to take elk and deer, with those two resources we hope to materially lessen the expenses of subsisting these Indians through coming winter. A few of the families will have an abundance of provisions and to spare, while many others will be destitute of food. (Palmer 9 9 1871 M2 Oregon Superintendency records)

January 1872 Siletz Report, Joel Palmer Indian Agent

Palmer’s next report in January 1872 tells us the results of his activities for much of the winter.

My absence from the Agency collecting fugitive Indians per your instructions prevented me from submitting my monthly report… Considerable sickness prevailed among the Indians during the month of November but no deaths occurred but in December a visible improvement in their sanitary (health)  condition was observed, Just at present however quite a number of chronic cases in the adults, and some few cases of complaints among children exists. .. I am granting passes to quite a number to go outside (of the reservation) & work for the whites during the winter season, also I have given employment to Indians upon the reservation, in farming, clearing brush, land etc. at the several farms, both for the improvements of the agency and as a means of subsisting themselves and families & as encouragement for them to remain upon the agency. .. We are now compelled to supply quite a number of the destitute Indian families with subsistence, as many of them are without any kind of food and are unable to obtain anything with which to subsist upon… I have during the winter slaughtered several head of the old and crippled cattle and issued them to the Indians, as they were unfit for service…(Palmer 1 3 1872 M2 Oregon Superintendency records)

In the midst of what was an annual problem, feeding Indians, Palmer is ordered to go south and gather up Indians, and so cannot work on the problems on the reservation as he is gone nearly two months. In his reports, the Native people are anxious to get parcels of land so they can grow their own crops and feed themselves. The Farms (upper and lower) addressed in the reservation records at this time are Agency farms ran exclusively by the Agency to common feed the Natives, the land is at this time not owned by Native people yet. It is not until 1872 that the reservations in Oregon are surveyed in preparation for allotment. Then the allotments are quite small, 20 to 125 acres at the most for most. It is not until 1889 that the Natives are issued 260 acres as part of the Dawes Act (1887). Land allotment was promised in the Indian treaties, and yet it took the federal government nearly 20 years to partially complete this treaty right of the tribes on all reservations in Oregon.

The Natives returned to the reservation were from the Chetco and other Tututni tribes of Indians of the southern Oregon Coast. These tribes signed the 1855 Coast Treaty and then over the course of about a decade were removed to the Coast Reservation to live on the estuaries in subagencies of the reservation. The treaty was never ratified and so these native people lost their lands without any compensation by the federal government. The tribes were partially paid after they sued the federal government in the 20th century, but much too late for the original signatory tribal people. As such the “returning” or even the “removal” of the tribes to the Coast Reservation may have been illegal, as there was no law (that I am aware of) that stated that it was illegal for tribal people, even non-US citizens to live off the reservations, it was only Federal Indian Policy.  (please let me know if I am wrong about this)

The 1871 Palmer Journal is a privately owned journal which I have gained permission to publish out of. The owner is a descendant of Joel Palmer.


%d bloggers like this: