In the 19th century Indian Agents were obsessed with keeping liquors away from Native peoples. Whether their motivation was religious, as most were conservative protestants, or concern for the welfare of the Natives, they implemented rigorous protocols to keep liquor and liquor trade from Native peoples. Beginning with Anson Dart in 1851, when he arrived in Oregon he was very concerned with stopping the liquor trade. In various letters Dart describes how Native people really wanted the liquor and would trade anything to get it, including land, money, and food, which of true, would have caused a serious decline in Native societies. Liquor overuse creates a decline on overall productivity and if tribal resource gatherers were to become addicted to drinking, and acquiring liquor, then this would have led to declines in the tribes. Traders would have known this and Dart’s suggestions were then meant to stop the illicit trade with the tribes to help them preserve their society.
Dart’s Indian Agent in the Astoria area was William Raymond. Raymond reported to Dart many of the problems in the rum trade. Astoria being on the outer coast of Oregon, would have had many more ships stopping there than Oregon City or Vancouver at this time, and the liquor trade must have been extreme.
In addition, the Clatsop tribe had negotiated in faith to sell their lands and gain a reservation during the 1851 Tansy Point negotiations. The tribes assumed that they had a deal and made movements to abide by the treaty. yet the treaty was never ratified. They changes to their society were extreme, they had come to rely on the products from the trade with the Americans and were now reliant on the monetary economy. Settlers kept claiming their lands with no benefits coming back to the tribes. The tribes began to imagine a day where their people would be gone, and the Americans would have all their lands without any payment. Raymond here addresses the needs of the tribes and requests help from the Indian superintendent.
In this vicinity are parts of several tribes of Indians accessible to rum and despite the utmost vigilance there are continual differences among them in consequence.
It would be well to require every Indian to go to his own country until provisions are otherwise made for them; this course would greatly prevent their getting rum and when any pilferings are committed we know at once what tribe to hold responsible.
At the time of the treaty with the Indians at this place the Clatsop Chief was promised lumber for a house a suit of fine clothes and a chest of carpenter’s tools, none of which engagements have been met. He has been very inquisitive about them but I have never been able to satisfy him. He thinks it hardly advisable for Government to treat with his tribe. “allow them to stop only a few days longer, and they are all gone, the whites having the country in peaceable possession gratuitously.”
The Indians are in rather a bad situation from two causes; one, the assurance of annuities which caused them measurably to throw off the responsibility of providing for themselves; another cause, their spending what little they do get for rum.
I have many complaints from Washington Territory, and it is with difficulty that I make them understand that I have no jurisdiction over them.
Am I permitted to make distribution to Indians on the north side of the Columbia? I have a few goods on hand.
It is quite necessary for me to have a boat, as well as a horse. Would you advise me to buy or hire? I could not see Mr. Judsen immediately on receiving my instructions as he was absent from his office settling difficulties among Indians in Tillamook, but my services commenced immediately on my return from your office…
There are filed in this office accounts against the Government for Indian depredations, and then will probably be more. How shall I proceed against those supposed to be guilty in selling or giving rum to the Indians?
I should ask for a few hundred weight of flour and some groceries for these Indians. It will do much in quieting them; which disquiet is caused in the treaty not being ratified; which they do not understand.
If it is your pleasure, I will give the Indians alluded to in the above the lumber for his house as it will be a small amount.
Wm. Raymond, Sub-Indian Agent
These events in the 1850s may seem extreme. Most of the tribes in Oregon did receive treaties and payments for their lands. It remains a topic of conversation whether they all were paid fairly for their lands. But for the Clatsop, and most of these lower Chinookan tribes, their fears were realized. The 1851 treaty was the only treaty that was ever negotiated by the United States for their lands. The Chinookans integrated with riverside communities and later some in the tribe did receive allotments at a reservation, Quinault. However the Lower Chinookans, most of them, never were recognized permanently by the federal government. In 1955 the Clatsops were disallowed from joining the Tillamook V US Indian claims Case. The Chinook Nation tribes (a confederation of at least four Chinookan tribes) sued the government under Docket 234 in 1958 and won their case for payment.
In 2000, the Chinook Nation was recognized for a few months by Bill Clinton’s executive order, an order that was terminated by President G.W. Bush in the next year. While the tribal people never disappeared, they have also not ever been appropriately been given federal status and a permanent reservation of their own, even though their tribe has been recognized in various times in the history of the United States, and was an important tribe when the US claimed the region. The Chinook Nation is currently working diligently on restoration, and began a daily letter campaign to President Obama, but they have yet to be restored permanently
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.