In March of 1855, Joel Palmer was working on securing temporary reservations to locate the various bands of Kalapuya Indians in the Willamette Valley. The promises of the Willamette Valley treaty of January 22, 1855, were that the tribes would cede their lands to the United States for some money, for services, and for a permanent reservation to live out their days. But at the time there was not yet a reservation prepared. Palmer was working with the US military stationed at Fort Vancouver to create the reservation.
The Louis Band of Santiams was perhaps the most prominent band of Kalapuyas at the time as they signed the Treaty first on this day (January 22nd) as shown in the treaty text,
We, the chiefs and headmen of the Santiam bands of Calapooia Indians, being duly authorized by our respective bands, give our assent unto, and agree to the provisions of the foregoing treaty. In testimony whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals, at Dayton, Oregon Territory, this twenty-second day of January, eighteen hundred and fifty-five.
Tow-ye-colla, or Louis, first chief, his x mark. [L. S.]
The tribes received a good number of benefits for the sale of their lands,
Indians claiming territory and residing in said country, the several sums of money following, to wit:
Ten thousand dollars per annum for the first five years, commencing on the first day of September, 1855.
Eight thousand dollars per annum for the term of five years next succeeding the first five.
Six thousand five hundred dollars per annum for the term of five years next succeeding the second five.
Five thousand five hundred dollars per annum for the term of five years next succeeding the third five.
…The United States agree to pay said Indians the additional sum of fifty thousand dollars
In addition to the considerations specified, the United States agree to provide for the employment, for the term of five years from and after the removal of said Indians to their permanent reserve, of a physician, a school-teacher, a blacksmith, and a superintendent of farming operations.
These services and benefits were not to materialize for a year. In January of 1856, the Chiefs of the Kalapuya tribes were invited to visit the Grand Ronde valley to view the proposed reservation lands. Joel Palmer did not want to force the tribes onto the reservation as there were still a fairly large population in the valley and could have caused a lot of mischief if they wanted to. Palmer chose to gain their agreement so that the chiefs would carry news of the reservation back to their people and so they would come willingly to the reservation.
Therefore, after the Congressional ratification of the treaty on March 3, 1855 Palmer worked to remove the tribes and the following agreement was reached, which also assigned special Indian agent status to William Ralston.
I William Ralston agree to permit the Santiam Indians that belong to Louis’ Band to hold as a temporary reserve that part of my land claim which is bordered as follows. Beginning at my south eastern corner; thence north to the timber; then South West along the timber to Russel Hill’s land claim; thence east on the line of said Hill to the place of beginning; containing about twenty acres; the said Indians to live upon and cultivate said reserve for four years from the date hereof or til the time within that period, that the said Indians shall be removed in pursuance of treaty stipulations. I also agree to let said Indians have sufficient timber suitable for rails to fence said land or such part thereof as the Indians may desire to enclose. The rails and enclosures to be mine when the Indians are removed. Witness my hand this 10th day of March 1855, William Ralston, attest Russel G. Hill
Interesting enough, Ralston seemed to want the Indians to do a bit of work for him. It would not have interested the tribes to build fences, it would not at all have interested them, but if the Indians did the work, that would benefit Ralston, who needed fences. Then he notes that he owns the proceeds of their labors when they leave. William was the son of Jeremiah Ralston who surveyed the town of Lebanon in 1851, and named it after Mount Lebanon.
Russel Hill also agreed to allow the tribes to remain on his land claim,
I Russel T. Hill agree to permit the santiam Indians belonging to Louis’ Band to hold as a temporary reserve for four years or until the time within that period that said Indians shall be removed in pursuance of treaty stipulations that part of my land claim bounded as follows. Beginning at the south east corner of William Ralston’s land claim on my northern boundary; thence south forty rods; thence west twenty rods to my line aforesaid; and thence along said line to the place of beginning; containing about eight acres. In testimony wherein I hereto subscribe my name this 10th day of March 1855, Russel T. Hill, Witness William Ralston.
This temporary reserve is located between two buttes, directly within the homelands of the Santiam tribe and near the south fork Santiam river.
The area from 1855 aligns well with an area just off the downtown of Lebanon Oregon.
Within this area in Lebanon today is Ralston Park.
Presumably, the reservation was east and south of the Ralston property. Ralston was able to secure some pay for providing service to the tribes, oxen for plowing a field, as well as food.
Memorandum agreement this day between Edward R. Geary acting for Joel Palmer supt. Ind. Affairs and William Ralston, witnesses that in consideration of the said Ralston’s lotting to the Santiam Indians two acres of land in his enclosure to cultivate the same for the ensuing season the said Ralston giving the Indians the use of one yoke of oxen in plowing the same, the said Geary acting for the said supt. Ind. Affairs agrees to pay the said Ralston the sum of ten dollars. Witness our hands this 10th March 1855 Edward R. Geary for Joel Palmer supt Ind. Affairs, William Ralston.
Louis was principal chief of the Santiams in 1855. Previous principal chiefs were Tiacan and Alquema (Joseph), who signed the 1851 Santiam treaty. Louis may be the American name of Tiacan which may be a version of name Tow-ye-colla of the treaty of 1855.
During 1855 Palmer decided on the Grand Ronde Valley, as an area that could be protected from white settler encroachment, and bought out the DLCs of most of the settlers. The majority of the Kalapuya tribes were removed to the new reservation in February 1856 after the special Indian agents received orders from Palmer to send the Indians to the reservation. After removed to the new reservation the Santiams were the most numerous of the Kalapuya tribes there, with 81 people.
Life on the reservation was tough for the people. They had to erect canvas tents for the remainder of the winter. Many died of exposure and sickness was common in the encampments. The reservation medical doctor erected a hospital but the majority of the sick remained in their camps. Indian populations, which had declined by 90-97% due to malaria and other illnesses in the 1830s-1840s, declined further.
The health report for September 1856, about 6-7 months after the tribes got to Grand Ronde shows 613 of 1950 people at the reservation, an astonishing 31.4 percent of the population who are sick during this month, which is the end of the summer.
The Santiams continue to be prominent at Grand Ronde, many serving on the tribal councils or on the business committee for the next hundred years, until the reservation is terminated in 1954-1956.
(note: the author’s major tribe of note is the Santiam Tribe with direct relations to Alquema)
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.