Joe Lane 1849 : Report of the Tribes and Bands of the Oregon Territory

General Joe Lane was an early politician and war hero for Oregon. He served as the Indian Superintendent for Oregon as well as Governor of the territory in 1848 and 1849, and in 1850 participated in battles and conflicts in southern Oregon, famously making peace with the Rogue River Confederacy in the first agreement of Southern Oregon, a treaty of peace.  In 1853, he leads another battle with the Rogue River tribes, at Evans Creek and forms another peace agreement with the confederacy at Table Rock. Previously, Lane had been engaged as an officer in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War, in towns like Puebla. The outcome of the war was that the United States took sole possession of half of the Mexican lands (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and parts of other states) for United States expansionism. In a very real sense, Lane was also engaged with taking lands from the Oregon tribes, by tamping down their uprisings, making promises of peace, promising to bring them under the protection of the territorial government, and making their full independence costly in lives.

In 1860 Lane runs for vice president of the United States, likely based on his military successes. He and his running mate John C. Breckinridge ran on the Southern Democratic ticket and with their loss and the beginning of the Civil War, Lane’s political career ended. He was a pro-slavery advocate most of his career but did not join the south during the war. Rumors of Lane having slaves are yet to be confirmed.

Joe Lane lived in the Umpqua Basin, and as such he was central to the conflicts within the area. He is a legend among the tribes of western Oregon and had their respect for his ability as a leader and warrior, lending his name to the Lane family at Siletz. His first name he gives to Apserkahar chief of the Rogue River Confederacy, in 1850, after a treaty of peace, a great honor.  Thereafter, Apserkahar is called Chief Jo.

He is appointed Indian Superintendent of Oregon by letter of August 31, 1848, in June 1848. The letter from the Office of Indian Affairs, Department of War reached him in St. Louis and assigned him the duties of Indian Superintendent and appointed J. Quinn Thornton, George C. Preston, and Robert Newell as his sub-Indian agents.

His instructions from the Indian office took some time to reach him when he got to Oregon, but he had already begun seeing all of the tribes and bands and collecting information about the tribes and began the process of diplomatically instilling goodwill among them with presents and good speeches. His sub-Indian agents received their instructions from him, and Thornton and Newell immediately began work, Preston never showing up for his appointment.

The territory was divided by Lane into two sub-agency districts, with Thornton gaining the territory north of the Columbia and Newell the southern area, or Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.

Newell was well chosen for his position, he had spent over ten years as a mountaineer and was settled in the Willamette Valley, knew the tribes, and their cultures, and could speak many of their languages. From his reports, Lane extracted many details necessary for the Office of Indian Affairs.

[Abridged excerpts]

Shoshones or Snake Indians (Paiutes)- Small bands of this tribe are scattered from the headwaters of Snake River to the Grand Round (NE valley of Oregon), a distance of four or five hundred miles, They number 2000 individuals with 700 in the main tribe. They subsist on fish, roots, grass, seeds etc. They are very poor and indifferently armed.

Ponashta Indians- occupy a large district south of the Snake River, to Great Salt Lake. They are related to the Shoshones, and have 350 people, 80 warriors. (likely a Paiute tribe)

Coutenay [Kootenay] Indians- in BC and Washington state or northern Oregon Territory, 400 people.

Salish or Flathead Indians- on the Bitter Root River, they number about 220 people with 100 warriors. They are well armed and hunt buffalo.

Calispelm {Kalispel] Indians- they number about 1200 with 450 warriors, from Fort Colville to the lakes north. The have farms and hunt buffalo.

Ponderas [Pend d’Oreille] or Squiaelps- East of Colville they have 1200 people with 450 warriors. They are well armed and hunt buffalo.

Kettle Falls or Colville- near Fort Colville- they have 800 people 100 warriors. The arm not well armed and live of fish and roots.

Coeur d’Alene or Pointed Hearts- live near the Calispelm and have 500 people, 40 are warriors. They live n fish, roots and small game, and have few arms.

Spokan tribe- live between Fort Colville and Saaptin- they have about 1000 people. They are well armed and live on buffalo, fish and roots.

Oukinagans, [Okanagans] are north of Fort Colville, well armed and number about 700.

Senpoils- [Sanpoils] live at Kettle Falls on the Columbia and number about 500. They live on fish, roots etc.

Saaptins or Nez Perces- occupy the Snake, Clear water, and Salmon rivers, intelligent and good with numerous horses and cattle. They have 1500 people with 400 warriors.

Paloas [Paloose] Indians- north of the Cayuse and number about 300. The hunt buffalo, live mainly on fish, roots and small game. They do not like Americans.

Cayuse Indians- are at the foot of the Blue Mountains to near Walla Walla, They have many horses and cattle. They live on fish, roots, berries and game. They are well armed and have 800 people, 200 warriors.

Walla walla Indian- live on the Columbia at Fort Walla Walla, and have large herds of horse and cattle. The are well armed and have 100 people. They live mainly on roots and berries, and fish.

De schutes Indians- a wascopam tribe and live on the Deschutes river. They are poor and number about 300. They live on fish and berries.

Wascopam Indians- number about 200 and live on the east side of the Cascades. They are poor and thievish, live on fish, roots and berries. They are differently armed.

Mole Ally Indians [Molalla]- range in the Cascade Mountains and claim no land in the valley (This is wrong). The number about 100 with 20 warriors. They are well armed and live principally by the chase. They are warlike and do not like Americans.

Clakamas Indian- live on the Clackamas river to one mile below Oregon City. They number about 60 with few arms. They live on fish and roots.

Willamette Indians- {Clowwewalla] live in the east side of the Willamette River near the falls. They number about 20. They live on fish from the falls.

Clickitats- Claim land at the head of the Willamette Valley on the west side (Tualatin?) A number of horses and well armed, brave and warlike. The live on the chase and have 180 with 85 warriors. (Lane is incorrect about land claims here)

Caliooa [Kalapuya] Indians- on either side of the Willamette River, degraded and worthless and indolent people. They live on roots, fish and berries. They number about 60. (this must be the northern band the Ahantchuyuk.)

Tualatine Indians- west of the Willamette on the Yamhill. The have 60 people, 30 warriors, degraded, mischievous and thievish.

Yamhill Indian- a small tribe numbering 90 of whom 19 are warriors. They are poorly armed with few horses.

Luckamiu [Luckamiute] Indians-  on the Luckimiute river on the west side of the Willamette. Party of the Calapooia tribe and number 15 with 5 warriors. They have greatly diminished recently. They live of fish, roots, etc.

Umpqua Indians- number about 200 and live on fish roots and the chase. many small bands throughout the valley.

Killamuck [Tillamook] Indians- in the Coast range, they are not friendly to Americans. They number about 200.

Clatacanin Indians (a Tillamook band?)- Along the coast to the Columbia. They number about 300.

Clatsop Indians- south side of Columbia at its mouth. Live of fish. 50 people.

Catelamet Indians [Cathlamet]- From Astoria up the Columbia 30 miles. 58 people, they live on fish and are quite poor.

Calooit tribe [Skilloot], above the Cathlamet and on the Columbia. subsist on fish, roots and fowls, about 200 people.

Wakamucks, Wamanamins and Wamoit- bands and parts of bands that claim the country from Oak point to the mouth of the Willamette including Wyath’s Island (Sauvie). They have become so reduced that they have united and now live together or near each other, number unknown probably about 70.

Rogue River Indians- occupy the country on both sides of the Rogue river and number some 700 or 800. They are warlike and roguish and given much trouble to parties of Americans. They kill, wound and rob gold miners. They have horses and guns bought with the thousands of dollars they have stolen.

Later Lane also personally visited the Yaquina coast and made his own report of the Yaquina Indians,

Yacona [Yaquina] Indians- on the Yaquina river. They live mainly on fishing and number about 200.

Thornton’s information from North of the Columbia

On the 30th day of July Thornton leaves Oregon City for Puget Sound. At Fort Nesqually Thornton interviews Dr. Tolmie, Chief Trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the sound. As well Thornton visitations from local tribes and much of the characterization likely reflects his personal interactions with the tribes. As usual some of the information is colored by Thornton’s own biases for proper human behavior.

Makaw or Cape Flattery Indians- occupy the country about Cape Flattery and the coast for some distance southward and eastward. 1000 people, warlike, live by fishing and hunting.

Noastlalum Indians- occupy the country around Hoods Canal, Dungeniss, Port Discovery and coast to westward, raise vegetables but principally hunting and fishing. Number about 1400.

Snoquamish Indians- occupy Port Orchard and west side of Whidbey’s Island. About 500 people and live by fishing and labor.

Homamish and Matlimamish, Squasenawmish, Sayhaynamish, Stiochassamish- occupy the country from the narrows along the western shore of Pugets Sound. Total number about 500 and subsist by labor and fishing.

Tuanah and Skokomish Indians live along Hoods canal and number about 200, subsist on labor and fishing.

Squalyamish, Puallipamish, Sinnamish Indian live about Nesqually, Puialip and Sinnamish rivers, number about 550. They live by labor and fishing.

Sinahamish Indians- live on that river, and southern part of Whidbey’s Island. They number about 350, warlike and live by fishing and hunting.

Skywhamish- live on that river and the north branch of Sinahamish, They number about 450 and live by fishing and hunting.

Skagets- on Skaget river to the ocean on the north end of Whidby Island and they number about 500. They live by farming and fishing.

Nooklulumie- (Nooksack)- live about Bellingham Bay and number about 220 people. They are warlike and live by hunting and fishing.

Cowlitz Indians- on the Cowlitz river, from the mouth to the settlements, they number about 120 and live by hunting and fishing.

Chinooks- live at Bakers Bay, total number of people is 1000, friendly and live by hunting and fishing.

Quenalt and Chihaylis- live on the Chehayles river and number about 300 people. They hunt and fish.

Kathlamit, Kowick and Wakanascicie- live about Kathland, Oak Point and the fisheries upon the Columbia opposite the upper mouth of the Willamette. They live by hunting and fishing and on roots, and number 150 persons.

Tilhuillewit- live about the falls on the north side of the Columbia and number about 200. They live by hunting and fishing and are friendly.

Wyampam- [Wasco, Wishram] live about the falls of the Columbia (Dalles) north side and number about 130. live by hunting, fishing and roots.

Yacamaws [Yakama]- live on the Yacamaw river between the Dalles of the Columbia and the Coast. They are related to the Klickitats. They occupy the vicinity of Mt. St. Helens. They number about 1500, warlike, have many horses and live by hunting and fishing.

Piscahoose (Spokan ?)- live on that river, number about 350 and live by hunting and fishing.

Thornton clearly was not as well versed in the tribes as Newell was. Lane wraps up his report by giving an urgent appeal, an appeal suggesting that he was well aware of what was happening to the tribes, he knew that the resources were disappearing under the American plows, and that the Americans were creating a humanitarian disaster in the Oregon Territory.

Surrounded as many of the Tribes and bands now are by the whites. whose arts of civilization, by destroying the resources of the Indians, doom them to poverty, want, and crime, the extinguishment of their title by purchase, and the locating them in a district removed from the settlements, as a measure of the most vital importance to them. Indeed the cause of humanity calls loudly for their removal from causes and influence so fatal to their existence. This measure is one of equal interest to our own people.

Joseph Lane,

Office of Indian Affairs

Territory of Oregon

Oregon City

Oct. 1849

Incidentally, in speaking with Robert Boyd about this report, he does not believe the census numbers are accurate. I agree, they are fairly wildly speculated. The numbers for many of the tribes bear no reflection on reality.

Joseph Lane Letterbook, Whitman Massacre 1849, OHS

Congressional Serial Set: [Several locations] House Documents, Otherwise Publ. as Executive Documents13th Congress, 2d Session-49th Congress, 1st Session

, Page 157-

4 thoughts on “Joe Lane 1849 : Report of the Tribes and Bands of the Oregon Territory

  1. Dear David,

    I love your blog and have learned lots from it. I don’t know what happened, but for the past month I have not been able to open any of your links. Usually, when I receive an email in my inbox announcing a new post on NDN History Research, I am able to use the link to get right to it.

    Now the links don’t go to your site. They don’t go anywhere – they just don’t work at all! Has any one else reported this difficulty to you?

    Stay cool!


    On Sun, Jul 22, 2018 at 7:59 PM, NDNHISTORYRESEARCH wrote:

    > David G. Lewis’ Ethnohistory Research, LLC posted: “General Joe Lane was > an early politician and war hero for Oregon. He served as the Indian > Superintendent for Oregon as well as Governor of the territory in 1848 and > 1849, and in 1850 participated in battles and conflicts in southern Oregon, > famously makin” >

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