The Northern bands of Calapooias, perhaps the most affected by the early settlement of the Willamette Valley, the Ahantchuyuk inhabited the prairie east of the Willamette River above Lake Labish at Salem. This is one of the earliest areas settled and became known as French Prairie because of the numbers of French-Canadian/ French-Indian employees of Hudson’s Bay Co who retired from their contacts and settled the area beginning in the late 1820s. This is likely the most robust agricultural areas of Oregon with some of the richest soils.
The Lake Labish complex, in general, has some of the best soils in the world, where onions and fruit orchards grow. The Lake and its associated wetlands were habitats to a rich ecosystem, yet in the 1920s was drained to make way for more agricultural land. The lake is mentioned in Native oral history as being a place to gather wapato and cattail and its likely that several villages in the area were populous with Kalapuyans who regularly harvested food and weaving materials from the lake. The lake was known for a populous deer population which it is named after, “la biche” meaning female deer in French.
The following is a description of the lake and surrounding lands from 1851 GLO journals helps us understand the character of the environment,
The land in this township is mostly of the best quality, and is principally all claimed by settlers. The surface is gently rolling except the SE which extends into the Waldo Hills. There is also two buttes in SE 11 & 14 from 150 to 200 feet in height & are round with boulders and basalt. The Township is well (fed) with springs and mountain streams whose waters remain extremely cold the whole season. Pudding river running strength the western part of the township is from 2 to 3 chains wide from bank to bank & in the wet season is full of water & would be navigable from small steamboat if it had not so many sharp turns & crooks. The bottoms on said river vary from 20 to 40 chains in width and are subject to inundation in the wet season. There is a small portion of Lake Labish extending into sec 7 in the township & is the eastern outlet of the lake which is dammed for milling purposes. The dam is from 8 to 10 feet in height & I think it overflows more land than it would if there was no obstruction to the water. The south & east proportion of the township is principally prairie except strips of trees along the streams. The balance of the township is timbered with opening interspersed small patches of prairie. The timber is principally fir with some cedar yew alder & maple along the streams.
In 1855 Edward Geary contacted the son of Richard (Dickey) Miller of the Abiqua valley at Dickie Prairie to be a special Indian agent for a tribe of Indians in the area. Bluford Miller had taken a DLC alongside the Pudding River, just east of Lake Labish in 1851 and was settling in. His house was constructed and his wife, Ellen Morris, was with him for the first time in many years, In 1852 (24 Feb 1852 to May 22 1852) Bluford had tried his luck in the Rogue River Gold fields, he returned in June of that year. Then in 1855 he volunteered to serve in the Oregon militia, Company F (Marion County) and was wounded in the Battle of Walla Walla in the leg. He returned home to recuperate. At some point he was given the rank of Captain in the Oregon militia. His reputation was such that Geary gave him the position of Indian agent to the Calapooia Band of Calapooians. His father Richard may have had some contribution as well, as he had been a major factor in repelling the Klamaths from the Molalla area during the Abiqua Battle (1848).
The following represents their agreement,
I Bluford Miller do hereby grant permission to the Calapooia Band of Calapooias under the Chiefs Kiles or Jim and Kow a tough or John to reside and make enclosures upon, and to cultivate the following described portions of my land claim. Beginning at the south east corner of said claim, thence eighty rods west; thence one hundred rods north; thence eighty rods east. and thence one hundred rods south to the place of beginning, containing sixty acres; the said band to hold the same as aforesaid for the period of four years, or until the said band shall be removed in pursuance of treaty stipulations if occurring within that time. In testimony whereof I do thereunto set my name this 21st day of March 1855. Witness Edward R. Geary, Bluford Miller.
Working to locate the Miller DLC on a GLO map was challenging. There is one note of a Miller Property with a house noted in section 16,17 of GLO map 6s 1w. The associated surveyor’s journal suggests that Miller did not have the money to pay the surveyor to survey his property.
The Kalapuyans are moved to Grand Ronde after February of 1856 and June 14th 1857 Bluford dies from a combination of Typhoid Fever and his previous injuries suffered in the Battle of Walla Walla.
The Ahanchuyuk Calapooians signed the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855.
We, the chiefs of the… of the Calapooia band of Calapooias, 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, this ninth day of January, eighteen hundred and fifty-five.
Kaw-ka-ma, or Long Hair, third chief, his x mark. [L. S.]
Kiles, or Jim, first chief, his x mark. [L. S.]
Kowah-tough, or John, second chief, his x mark. [L. S.]
They are listed as Calapooias in the first census of the reservation in September 1856.
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.