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Recede the Indians to where?

In the course of my research, I came upon this nice little statement from the Congress in 1841, by Congressman Linn. The very same Linn that lent Linn county in Oregon its name. The proposal is to fund an effort to give Americans access to the Oregon Territory. I really must quibble with one section of this statement, that of compelling the roving Indians to recede.  Recession in this comment is in reference to removal of the tribes westward, into the frontier, a frontier as yet unsettled by the Americans. Unfortunately for the tribes of Oregon, we did not have too much further to recede. And in fact there were cases in California where the tribes were placed on schooners and literally dropped into the Pacific Ocean, perhaps the furthest west we can imagine. But in Oregon that did not occur, the original plan was to move all of the tribes to the Umatilla area, but all refused.  The tribal leaders of the Santiam Kalapuyas literally stated they would rather be shot than remove eastward. The western Oregon tribes were moved into the Coast and Grand Ronde reservations, within the Coast range and for 100 miles along the Oregon coast, perhaps as far as practical.  A few tribes were removed eastward, the Nez Perce to Leavenworth Prison, and the Modoc to Oklahoma.

I would not have been a bit surprised if the previous statement had been “Exterminated the Indians”, rather than “Beasts of Prey”, as that is what truly happened for all tribes that got in the path of the Gold miners and settlers organized into bands of volunteer militia bent on extermination of the of the “savages”.  This statement is one of the calls to action for the American people to move to Oregon to seek their opportunities, regardless of the tribes previous occupation on the land for more than 15,000 years.

Finally, I would critique the notion of recession again, as the statement is in reference to the Hunting Grounds. This is a clear reference to the notion of the Happy Hunting Grounds, of which I do not really know where it originates, but is clearly a reference to death, or a native afterlife. Essentially in today’s vernacular Senator Linn is saying that they need to encourage the Americans to move to Oregon, kill all of the large animals, Indians, and extract all of the resources for white men.  For this he gets a county named after him.

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Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD

PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher.

I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.

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