In 1855, the Kalapuyans of the Willamette Valley signed a treaty with Joel Palmer at his land claim in Dayton. This treaty ceded the whole of the Willamette Valley to the United States. American farmers wanted the tribes removed from the valley as soon as possible as they did not want to live near Indians. There were numerous conflicts in the region caused by the encroachment of Americans onto Indian lands and the atmosphere was especially toxic in southern Oregon and on the Columbia River. Americans, insisting that they deserved landclaims, took land from the tribes and completely disrespected previous tribal claims. American editorialists to the Oregon Statesman in Salem called for the outright extermination of the tribes, suggesting that the tribes were going to unite and attack American settlements in the valley.
The Kalapuyans, on their part, never attacked any American settlements or settlers. The Kalapuya chiefs and headmen instead sought to welcome the settlers into the valley and saw opportunity through marriages and trade. This was, after all, the political culture of the tribes at the time, to seek better arrangements through political alliances, which equaled arranged marriages and better trade relations. The Kalapuyans had practiced this for a millennia, and no less than Chief Kiasno (Cassino) had in-laws and relations among the Santiams and Tualatins. Many of the early settlers and fur traders availed themselves of Kalapuyan wives well before American women came to Oregon.
The Tekopa Band were a small band from an autonomous village generally located in south central Linn county. They lived along Calapooia Creek and were likely politically aligned with the Santiams. The Santiams were the most powerful tribe in the region and powerfully defended their rights in from of the treaty commission, in the face of the sale and removal of the tribes. Alquema and Tiacan in 1851 had held firm to the notion of permanent reservations in the valley and these were written into all of the individual tribal treaties. Yet the treaties were never ratified as American refused to live as neighbors to the Indians. The Kalapuyans were then left without treaties and their populations kept declining.
In 1855 the situation was so grim in the Willamette Valley for the tribes that they were ready to accept any treaty. Their lands had been fenced and many farms were replacing the camas prairies. Their traditional food sources were drying up and their people were suffering. Alquema admitted that they had thrown away their lands and if they did not sell them soon they would soon have nothing and their people would be gone forever.
In March 1855 Joel Palmer, Indian Superintendent for Oregon, negotiated a series of temporary reservations for all of the tribes in the valley. These reserves were spaced throughout the Willamette Valley and even along the Columbia. Farmers in the valley were assigned Special Indian Agent status and were able the receive money and supplies for their care of the tribes.
The following is the agreement for a farmer, W.R. Kirk to host the Tekopa Band of Calapooians on his land.
“I William R. Kirk of Linn County Oregon Territory do agree to permit the Indians called the Tekopa Band of Calapooias to have a temporary reserve, until they shall be removed to a permanent reserve in pursuance of treaty stipulations provided said removal be in four years from the date hereof, that part of my land claim known as the Round Prairie containing about fifty acres, it being situated in the eastern portion of said claim, and I give the said Indians permission to occupy and cultivate the same. I also grant permission to the same Indians to build their lodges upon the westside of my claim near the line between my land and that of M Spalding. Provided … that said Indians shall at all times conduct themselves in a quiet and peaceable manner. The 9th day of March 1855.” W. R. Kirk (RG75 M2 Roll 13 1855)
This area is now a good portion of Brownsville (original name Calapooia), likely the area south of Highway 228.
Palmer wrote later that,
The unclaimed land lying north of the land claims of William R. Kirk and Rev. M. Spalding and adjoining the same viz this day set apart and taken possession as an Indian reserve to be temporarily occupied by the Te-Ko-Pa band of Indians, until such time as said Indians shall in pursuance of treaty stipulations be removed to a permanent reserve, Brownsville, Linn Co. March 9, 1855, Joel Palmer, Supt. Indian Affairs, Edward Geary Sec. (Document C of No. 130)
(Notation: Unclaimed land lying north of Kirk & Spalding’s claims taken for Temporary Reserve for Tekopa Band)
The Tekopa were removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in early 1856. The tribes had to remain in separated encampments around the reservation and lived in canvas tents until houses were built for them. Many people died in these first few years from exposure and malnutrition. The federal government was slow to secure food and funding for the tribes regardless of the treaties. Then the people contracted so many diseases to the point that a hospital was being constructed to care for them. The following is a census image from 1856.
The census shows six men, five women, four boys and one girl, a total of 16 people. The leader noted appears to be “Jones”.
The Tepoka Band, a small tribe, were promised a permanent reservation to replace what they lost to settlement. They are one of the 27 to 35 tribes removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, and are some of the ancestors of the people at the Grand Ronde Reservation today.
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.