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Gifts for the Chiefs: Visitations to the Superintendent’s Office in Dayton

After the tribes were removed to the reservations and the treaties were ratified payments began to the chiefs. The tribal chiefs would get the annual payment to their tribes and would be responsible for doling out the money and supplies to their people. For some 20 years this was the pattern for leadership at the reservations. Between 1856 and 1861 Edward Geary was the Oregon Indian Superintendent. He had been Joel Palmer’s assistant but took over the position when Palmer was fired. Geary kept the Commissioner’s office at his house in Dayton where he lived near Palmer. At Geary’s house would come for visitations leaders from among the tribes of Oregon. They would all receive a gift and perhaps dinner for their journey. Within the agent’s annual budget were several thousand dollars for the purchase of these gifts.

Geary’s records for his time are quite good as he produced large ledger pages for all expenses and payments made. The ledger sheets he kept from 1860 to 1861 were records of the gifts made to numerous tribal chiefs who visited him from the reservations. As you will see in the detail images, some of Geary’s noted tribal affiliations appear to be incorrect and they may reflect the reservation where the person was living. Presented below are only the parts of the ledger pages that show the names of the visitors.

January 1860


June 1860


September 1860


December 1860


March 1861


June 1861


July 1861

As seen, a good number of chiefs and their families visited Geary. The above images are altered to fit the tribal affiliation with the chief names. Unfortunately the reservation origins are not noted. We can assume that the Clackamas, Calapooia were at Grand Ronde and the coastal tribes were at Siletz. Of other tribes, like the Cascades and Dog River, its still unclear where they were living. Clickitats in particular could come from several reservation as well as others may be living off reservations. Several chiefs are shown to have visited twice.

These recorded tribal names are rare for this period and do not appear in written records, even on censuses of the time. Each chief needs to be researched closely to determine their likely origin. These documents are original federal documents and thus would constitute records of the tribe if we had their reservation origins.



Edward Geary Papers, Boxes 2-6, Oregon Historical Society Library.

Full ledger page example

Full Ledger page as photographed 8/22/2017, noted accounting of gifts to chiefs

Categories: columbia river eastern oregon General History Grand Ronde Reservation Oregon Coast Oregon indians Rogue Valley Siletz Reservation Umpqua Valley Willamette Valley

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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.

2 replies

  1. Similkameen from BC?! Plenty of Spokane, Colville, Pisquose (Wenatchi) etc., more Salish people from far away. Were they living in Oregon, or was Geary known as generous to traveling Native people? Fascinating…


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