Lewis, David, Termination of the Confederated tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, Dissertation, 2008. (Pre-final draft 2007)
“Trends in anthropology have peripheralized or erased significant contributions made by peoples of color and women. Such trends have served to reproduce (re-centralize) andro- and Euro-centric biases in the assumptions, concepts, and theories at the core of the discipline.” (Harrison 1997)
This chapter details the research methods used in the research for the primary questions. Information about archives and human subjects is detailed. I also discuss the process of development of my central research question and how valuable each research source was to the overall project. The research finally is related to larger themes of research in Indian country.
This project involves archival research as its primary information gathering process. The research accessed government records of the western Oregon tribes from the 1940s-1970s. Much of the ethnographic information about Grand Ronde was culled from government documents located in library and archival collections. The history sections include published sources from the 1850s to the 2000s. Additionally, the archival research was balanced by interviews with Native cultural experts from Grand Ronde. The oral historical research focused on elders whose lifespan began before termination and extended to the present day.
The University of Oregon government documents section of the Knight Library is a repository of the Congressional Serial Set, where records of nearly every Congressional act, report or discussion are stored. Additional documents were found at the Oregon State Archives, University of Oregon Special Collections Division, National Archives Records Administration Washington, D.C. and National Archives Pacific Northwest Region, Seattle. Other sources were obtained from the Worldcat, ORBIS and Cascade Union loan consortiums from distant university or archival libraries.
Previous professional work on the Southwest Oregon Research Project archival collection contributed to my knowledge of where to access relevant archival collections. The Southwest Oregon Research Project involved extensive research at the National Archives Records Administration in Washington, D.C. and the National Anthropological Archives in College Park, Maryland. During the three projects (1995, 1998, 2006) the three teams of researchers found in excess of 150,000 pages of documents relating to Oregon tribes. In 2000 I became the principle coordinator and organizer of the SWORP collection. Over the next two years work was done to organize the collected documents into one comprehensive collection with the appropriate archival preservation techniques employed. In addition, a finding aid was created for easy access to the collection by researchers, and tribal members.
In 1997 and 2001 the collection was copied and gifted to all of the tribes in the greater Oregon region in an expression of regional kinship by the Coquille Indian Tribe and the University of Oregon. Beginning in 2000, as the principal coordinator and through the successive years of working with and organizing the collection, I learned much practical knowledge of the nature of anthropological archives. This knowledge was invaluable in this research.
As part of the original research design I conducted interviews with elders from Grand Ronde and other tribes, and even other people who had an involvement with termination or restoration in the time period. Most of the interviews were in the Eugene and Grand Ronde communities of Oregon. Some of the individuals that were politically active in the 1970s, and who greatly aided the tribes, refused to give interviews or grant access to their personal paper collections.
As part of any such research at a university, students must follow human subjects’ protocol. The University of Oregon’s Research protocols for Human Subjects go far toward protecting the subject from exploitive research methods by researchers. The process of satisfying the research protocols was very intensive, involving several weeks of research and writing. Having applied for and receive a human subjects approval for the master’s research, the process became easier in the second round.
The human subjects’ protocol proposed interviews with present Grand Ronde Tribal elders and other Tribal members who were part of the Grand Ronde Reservation at termination. To answer the questions posed, it was necessary to gather different perspectives. Initially, I researched the government’s actions through published documents and unpublished hearings. I interviewed members and former members of the Grand Ronde Reservation and other Oregon tribes to gain their perspectives on termination and tribal history.
For interviews, I traveled to locations throughout Western Oregon to meet with Tribal people. Present and former Grand Ronde Tribal members are scattered throughout western Oregon, and many are now members of newly recognized Tribes. Most of the Indian experts live within 100 miles of Eugene in Oregon. This research sought to gather the perspectives of these Indian peoples on how the termination of the tribe occurred, what effects they saw on the tribe due to termination, how and why they organized for restoration, and how things have gone at the tribe since restoration. The interviewees offered valuable perspectives on an era of our tribal history that is not well recorded, nor written about.
My research methods were primarily interviews with selected native experts in the community. As a member of the community, and a former Culture Committee vice-Chair, I identified several elders in the community who have significant historical knowledge of the reservation. I interviewed them and their personal contacts and asked for additional contacts of other people who may have information. I worked to interview people who lived at the reservation and those who did not so as to gain a wider perspective of people’s understandings of tribal history and in particular the events surrounding termination. The interviews were about an hour, and included audio-taping and note-taking. There are no formal research protocols or approvals to be found at the Grand Ronde Reservation. When it is finished, the products of my research will be presented to Tribal Council, the Culture Committee and the subjects of my research for final editing.
For the research I developed a central research question. From this question was derived related questions and from those questions was implemented a subject-centered approach, allowing the research subject to lead the discussion and volunteer the topics they thought important. This is necessary as often the researcher will bias their research question and their personal biases for specific information. The ability of the subject to control the content of the discussion was critical to revealing previously unknown and unexplored themes.
My central research question was: What is the nature of the United States’ actions with regards to the Grand Ronde Reservation of Oregon? Of the reservation’s history, I focused specifically on the termination era as the vortex of many levels of action by the United States government. For this era, I sought answers to these questions; What was the intention of the United States towards the Grand Ronde Reservation; and; In what ways did the United States recognize and/or ignore the rights of the members of the Grand Ronde Reservation; and; What was your experience with the termination process of the Grand Ronde (or Siletz) tribe?
Initially I wanted to include an analysis of the ways by which anthropological theory and practice had aided the United States in its policy and action with regards to the Grand Ronde Reservation. However, I found little information forthcoming along this path of questions and as the project developed it became apparent that the overall topic was too broad for a single dissertation. Therefore a decision was made to reduce this path of inquiry and attempt to weave in some of these questions in the appropriate sections. I hope to pick this subject up again in the future.
Once I formulated my research focus, I approached the Grand Ronde Culture Committee and members of the Tribal Council for their approval of the research project. I was able to gain approval for the project through these avenues. They agreed that this was an area of research that most members know nothing about and would benefit members.
Previous to this, many elders in the Grand Ronde and Eugene areas noted that they lacked an understanding of their history and family relations. Roughly estimated, 75% of members, out of about 5000 members, lack an understanding of their ancestral and cultural relations beyond 3 generations, and the same percentage have little or no general knowledge of the history of the tribes before 1983, when the reservation was restored. There is currently no complete written history of the tribe from a native perspective available to the membership beyond short summaries available through tribal pamphlets and the tribal newspaper, Smoke Signals. There is one biography of a Tribal member published, Standing Tall: The Lifeways of Kathryn Harrison (Olson 2005), which provides a single perspective of Grand Ronde tribal history in the 20th century.
It was necessary to provide a historical perspective of Grand Ronde Reservation’s early histories (1840-1954), the termination era (1954-1983) and the restoration period (1983-present). This would allow the research to offer a holistic historical image of termination.
Many tribes are concerned with de-colonization, or the reversal of the effects of the colonization of the land, tribe and culture. It was necessary to gather a diversity of perspectives and analyze them in order to understand what the Grand Ronde members have to address in order to recover from the effects of termination as well as how to reconnect with their history and community.
I was truly blessed to be at the University of Oregon for this research as I was centrally located in Oregon for all aspects of the research. Additionally the University of Oregon has the largest research archive in the state. The central primary repositories were readily available and interview subjects were also readily available in the local communities. I was able to travel to Grand Ronde and Salem to conduct interviews.
Perhaps the most important of these interviews from my personal perspective, was that of my grandmother, Norma Ruth Lewis, who passed in 2008. One of the last times I spoke with Norma, we discussed my future and as we knew that her health was declining, I stressed that I wanted her to be there at my PhD graduation, and she said she would be. I believe she will be through her perceptions of termination.
The archival research was also very revealing. I found that there are many loci of information about the tribes in government documentation that few people know about. When I came to this realization, I began copying everything that I researched and now have acquired many documents essential to the history and politics of the tribe. In the midst of the writing of this dissertation, I took a position at the Grand Ronde tribe, as the Cultural Research Department Manager. I found over the next two years that most of the documents I had collected in the government archives were not available at the tribe. I found that the continuous political and legal pressures on the tribe did not allow for a full spectrum legal research library to be developed, and most resources are only concerning the restoration time and after (1977-present). At some time following the end of this writing, I will be gathering together all of those government documents and copying them for the tribe. There remain some resident historic legal and political issues, previous to 1954, to address at a later date, and this library will be necessary.
Beyond the Grand Ronde reservation, this research serves a call within the Oregon Native community for directed research into the problem issues of the loss of culture, language, community and history. In the past ten years we have seen a resurgence of the desire for a restoration of historic knowledge in the form of the creation of tribal archives (SWORP) and the publication of a few Native biographies and histories (Aguilar 2005; Karson 2006; Lewis 2001; Olson 2005).
This research engages with some of the barriers to tribal understanding of history, and at one level will seek to understand the manner and extent to which termination succeeded by contributing to the lack of historical and cultural knowledge, and find methods of overcoming these barriers.
The opportunity to address and discuss issues with tribal elders has changed my life. I have found that many people have felt exactly as I about the termination of the tribe, while others have revealed deeply held beliefs that have at times contradicted and changed my study in important ways. It is a great benefit to find kindred spirits among distant family members and within other tribes. The diversity of experiences at the Grand Ronde Tribe is breathtaking to see as more descendants return to the tribe.
The variety of understandings of termination from different tribal members was startling. Some tribal members did not know much about termination, while others were intimately involved at termination and during restoration. The lack of involvement is revealing of the success of assimilation policies of the federal government. Most tribal members had some experience with termination and felt that they had been somewhat effected by the policy. A few members could express deeply-felt spiritual psychological understandings of the policy which proved to be the most revealing of its effects on the tribe.
The project did what was intended, revealed new understandings of the termination of the western Oregon Indians. Additionally the research design, following a standard cultural anthropological model worked well for answering the questions.
As a native researcher, I have a different perspective of anthropological research from that of non-native researchers. For one, I am deeply engrained in working on behalf of the community, especially since I am culturally and genealogically related to the subject community. Therefore, like other native scholars, I am more personally involved in the research. For some scholars, that may mean that I am too biased by my relationship to my research subject. This may be the case, but I am also aware that I have many people in my community that are aware of what I am doing. This sense of community awareness tempers any attempt on my part to bias the research as any information I reveal must be historically accurate. As well, I feel a responsibility toward the larger Oregon native community to answer their questions about the termination era. There are many people that remain deeply effected by termination.
Aguilar, George W., Sr.
2005 When the River Ran Wild! Indian Traditions on the Mid-Columbia and the Warm Springs Reservation. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Harrison, Faye V.
1997 Decolonizing Anthropology: Moving Further Toward an Anthropology for Liberation. Arlington, VA: Association of Black Anthropologists, American Anthropology Association.
2006 Wiyaxayxt/ Wiyaakaa’awn / As Days Go by: Our History, Our Land, Our People-the Cayuse, Umatilla, And Walla Walla. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press and Tamastslik Cultural Center.
Lewis, David G.
2001 Southwest Oregon Research Project: Inventory to the Archival Collection. Eugene: University of Oregon Library System.
Lowie, Robert Harry, et al.
Anthropological essays presented to Robert H. Lowie in honor of his birthday, June 12, 1933 / typescript, 1933.
2005 Standing Tall: The Lifeway of Kathryn Jones Harrison. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
 The greater Oregon region is defined as those tribes that maintain historical claims, either cultural or political, within the current boundaries of the State of Oregon. This tribal region was first defined by the Oregon State University System in its Oregon native residency program ORS 351.070. “Students who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes of Oregon or who are enrolled members of a Native American tribe which had traditional and customary tribal boundaries that included parts of the state of Oregon or which had ceded or reserved lands within the state of Oregon shall be assessed resident tuition regardless of their state of residence.”
 The first potlatch in 1997 included only western Oregon tribes and two tribes in northern California. At this potlatch were distributed copies of the first SWORP collection in 1995. In 2001, the list of tribes to gift to was expanded to 44 possible, from the greater Oregon region. However, only 17 tribes attended the potlatch and therefore 17 copies were made tailored to the region of each tribe. California tribes received main California tribal information, etc. All of the federally recognized tribes in Oregon received full collections of series 1 and 2. The second collections were completely distributed in May 2002. All invited tribes received a copy of Lewis, David G.
2001 Southwest Oregon Research Project: Inventory to the Archival Collection. Eugene: University of Oregon Library System.
 Protocol #X680-05 Office of Protection of Human Subjects, University of Oregon
 Examples are, ceded land claims, temporary reservation claims, federal trust responsibilities, tribal treaty payments, hunting and fishing rights, effects of impoverishment by the BIA on the tribe, allotments, etc. There are many areas of “accounting” that the tribe needs to perform itself, which have been performed by the BIA in the past, which have come under scrutiny for other tribes in recent years. Historically, the BIA has not proven a good steward of tribal funds, resources or properties, and an accounting needs to occur. There remain many historical assumptions that the tribe accepts as truisms that may be refuted with some good research on our part.
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.