Lewis 2008, Termination of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Chapter 3

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)

Chapter 3

Early Federal Indian Policy in Oregon (1805-1900)



Oregon Indian Policy

Most federal Indian policies affected the United States Native peoples as a whole. These policies gave general guidelines for how to manage Indians, yet in regions like the Northwest Coast, policies had effects either beyond what was intended or made no impact at all. Federal Indian policy in Oregon manifested in unique and powerful ways that set the stage for western expansion and eventual acquisition of the whole continent from Atlantic to Pacific. This chapter presents in-depth information about the Oregon natives’ situation, and how events did or did not follow the assimilation policy of the government.

Written histories of the Oregon Indian wars spring primarily from the perspectives of the settlers. Those perspectives involve an ethnocentric bias that establishes Native peoples as the aggressors. As such, the events are collectively known as “Indian Wars” when they could also be legitimately termed “American Wars of Indian Extermination.” The bias grew out of the fact that Indians, for the most part, did not hand down written accounts of these events, and many settlers did. There is a genuine lack of curiosity and understanding of the Native perspective in nearly all such writings. In effect, Oregon histories present only half of the perspectives of these historic events since the Indian perspective is omitted.

Oregon Fur Trade

Ownership of the Oregon territorial region was a point of contention between Americans and the British-Canadians.  In the first half of the nineteenth century the two countries established fur trading outposts, or forts, in Oregon. Fort Astor was the first such outpost established in 1811 by John Jacob Astor, an American businessman (Carey 1971:157). Astor’s business enterprise (the Pacific Fur Company) failed and in 1813 was bought out by the North West Company who renamed the outpost Fort George. In a territorially significant moment the United States Navy arrived in 1818 to re-take the fort for American military interests, and raised the American flag in advance of the British (Carey 1971:216-217).  This constitutes the primary American claim to the region known as the Oregon territory.

Fort Vancouver, established in 1825, was the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company’s outpost, and was intended to replace Fort George as the official British fort for the area (Carey 1971:237). Thereafter, competing American and British-Canadian fur traders moved into Oregon, first the Pacific Fur Company and then the North West Company at the renamed Fort Astoria, and then the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver. Hudson’s bay Company eventually out-competed all competitors and purchased the North West Company to become the sole fur trading company in the area.

The fur trade companies sought trade for valuable furs (beaver, sea otter) and traded heavily with Indians for the resource. The Hudson’s Bay Co. became the most powerful and well organized of all of the competing companies. The company’s Chief Factor John McLaughlin had immense power given to him by the King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Charles II, in the form of the Royal Charter (1670) for incorporating the Hudson’s Bay Company (Carey 1971:43, 151):

And whereas the said undertakers for theire further encouragement in the said designe have humbly besought us to Incorporate them and grant unto them and theire successors the sole Trade and Commerce of all those Seas Streightes Bayes Rivers Lakes Creekes and Soundes in whatsoever Latitude they shall bee that lye within the entrance of the Streightes commonly called Hudsons Streightes together with all the Landes Countryes and Territoryes upon the Coastes and Confynes of the Seas Streightes Bayes Lakes Rivers Creekes and Soundes aforesaid which are not now actually possessed by any of our Subjectes or by the Subjectes of any other Christian Prince or State (Hudsons Bay Company 1670).


The Royal Charter gave the Hudson’s Bay Company sole legal rights to represent England in the Northwest. The Chief Factor was given the right to decide life and death over the Indians in the Oregon Territory. Aboriginal rights were ignored, since Indian nations did not rise to the level of a “Christian Prince or State.” For McLaughlin’s time as Chief Factor, 1821-1846, there were few events or incidents against the Indians, , although his record in this regard was not spotless (Carey 1971:317).[1]

Hudson’s Bay Company was the most powerful business in the region, outlasting rival American attempts and the North West Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company established a series of frontier military-style forts in support of their fur trade empire. Hudson’s Bay Company remained prominent even after Oregon was annexed by the United States. The forts formed a support network along the Northwest Coast for traders, explorers, and settlers.  In addition, Fort Vancouver served as a deep water trading port, a secure area against Indian invasion, and also provided education for children, and religious services for the settlers.

Aboriginal Land Claims

In the 1840s, before the United States ceded Oregon into the union as a state (1859) American and French-Canadian settlers formed the Oregon Provisional Government that met at Champoeg in 1843 and established territorial laws and policies regarding Indians. Within the first organic law (1843) a passage stated:

Of utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians, their lands and property shall never be taken away from them without their consent and in their property, rights and liberty they shall never be disturbed unless it be in just and lawful laws, authorized by the representatives of the people (Carey 1971:336).


The passage adopted the language of the United States Ordinance of 1787 concerning Indians. This territorial law was established before and was intended to help manage the settlement and action of the initial waves of settlement to Oregon. In the following year over 800 Americans arrived in Oregon. The passage in the Organic Act (1843) shows that the provisional government intended to protect the rights of the Indians.

The Oregon Provisional Government also wrote this passage in 1844: “any person refusing to pay tax… shall have no benefit of the laws of Oregon, and shall be disqualified from voting at any election in this country” (Carey 1971:337). Paying taxes was an action that the Indians did not do, and therefore they were not protected by the laws of the provisional government. However, settlers Oregon were protected in their property and persons against the Indians by the same provisional law.

During this time, the Oregon Tribes had no legal standing in the United States, so the laws and policies of the United States did not apply to them. The few provisional laws that stated a level of protection also had provisions whereby lands and property could be taken away from the Indian by “representatives of the people.” Tribal laws were ignored or assumed non-existent by the settlers, many of whom commonly assumed that “Indians did not own land” and that many Tribes simply “wandered around the landscape,” while many settlers believed that Indians had no concept of government, and really were not civilized.[2] In the words of one settler the Indians “…are a thieving, pilfering, slothful, disgusting, dirty set and these inborn propensities make them troublesome and destructive” (H.A.G. 1852:2). These beliefs about Indians provided some assurances to the settlers that they could simply settle any lands they wanted without regards to the rights of the tribes in the area. It was noted by one settler that “… they still, rightfully…consider themselves the bona fide owners of the soil” (H.A.G. 1852:2). The provisional government’s organic laws did recognize Indian rights, but there was little enforcement of these laws on behalf of the Indians.

In the early nineteenth century, the United States assumed ownership of all of the Oregon Territory through “right of discovery”, first adjudicated in the United States Supreme Court in 1823 in Johnson v. M’intosh (Supreme Court of the United States 1823).[3] This ownership remained tenuous as it relied on the protocols of exploration and discovery.  Europeans and, later, Americans believed that only through the exploration and mapping of formerly unknown lands could land be legally claimed. Tribal nations did not explore and map their lands in this manner, relying in large part on oral and experiential knowledge of where their lands were. Tribal land ownership in the Pacific Northwest manifested as occupation rights. Those tribes who occupied certain lands had first claims to those lands. Other tribes were not precluded from using those lands, either through fishing, hunting or even temporary settlement, but they owed a ”rent” to the primary tribal owner, usually a headman of an important nearby town. These rents took the form of a portion of their catch or kill, usually the choicest portions.

Permanent and temporary settlements and camps were established by tribes for many thousands of years in the same locations, as demonstrated by shell mounds and oral histories, which established the tribe’s rights to resources in those areas (Ames and Maschner 1999; Matson and Coupland 1995). According to Indigenous land law, this constituted ownership of land for tribes who had encyclopedic knowledge of their land and that of the neighboring tribes who were normally their longtime trading partners. The tribes were knowledgeable enough about their regions that when Lewis and Clark explored the Columbia River, the explorers used information gleaned from local tribes to navigate their path. The Lewis and Clark journals include many examples of Tribal headmen and elders drawing maps of the river path ahead, with accurate landmarks (Lewis, et al. 1969e):[4]

[Clark] … one of the Indians drew me a sketch of the river, in this sketch he makes the 1st large Southerly fork of Lewis’s river much the longest and on which great numbers of the Snake Indians reside… (Lewis, et al. 1969e:9).


… I provaled on an old Indian to mark the Multnomah R down on the sand which [he did] and perfectly corisponded with the sketch given me by sundry others, with the addition of a circular mountain which passes this river at the falls and which connects with the mountains of the Seacoast. He also laid down the Clackamos passing a high conical mountain near its mouth on the lower side and heads in Mount Jefferson which he lais down by raising the Sand as a very high mountain and covered with eternal snow. The high mountain which this Indian lais down near the enterance of Clarkamos river, we have not seen as the hills in it’s direction from this valley is high and obscures the sight of it from us…. This Indian also informed me that Multnomah above the falls was crouded with rapids and thickly inhabited by Indians of the Cal-leh-po-e-wah Nation (Lewis, et al. 1969d:254-255).


The fact that the tribes knew their territory well, and also knew the territories of the surrounding tribes, demonstrates their tribe’s long-term aboriginal ownership and right to their lands.

American Perceptions of the Oregon Territory

American settlers in Oregon saw the region as a promised land where they would have the opportunities they did not have in the east.  The vision of settling the Northwest was supported in large part through the efforts of the earliest Methodist missionaries to Oregon, including Reverend Jason Lee who arrived in 1834. Reverend Lee became concerned about the lack of white women in Oregon and he saw white men marrying Indian women, so he engaged in a recruitment effort to attract white people to Oregon. He traveled back to the east in 1838, to the United States, and engaged in a speaking tour selling the virtues of Oregon and an Eden-like promised land to attract farmers (Carey 1971:292). Reverend Lee’s efforts bore fruit, and many white settlers came to Oregon following his tour. Rev. Lee’s journey included a request to Congress to take possession of Oregon as well as fundraising efforts for his Methodist Church (Carey 1971:292-293).

The Oregon Territory became part of an imagined Eden for people in the east. Beginning with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the idea of Oregon as a place of great wealth entered poetry, maps, and journals and inspired Americans to move westward (Carey 1971:11-13). Poet William Cullen Bryant used the word Oregon in 1811 in his poem Thanatopsis, “Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound Save his own dashings-yet the dead are there” (Carey 1971:15). The River Oregon, later called the Columbia River, was associated with the search for the northern passage to the Pacific Ocean, the earliest search being conducted by Major Robert Rogers (Byram and Lewis 2001; Carey 1971:8-9). This search has also become associated with the indigenous concept of Oregon and the Northwest coast as being places of wealth. Some theorists have also found cultural and linguistic linkages to the “Ooligan” smelt grease, as a wealth trade item (Byram and Lewis 2001).  The American settlers capitalized on Oregon as Eden concept and advertised this to other Americans to attract more white settlement. In 1852 a writer to the Oregonian Newspaper described the northern part of the Oregon Territory, Puget Sound region thus:

… The valley of the Chickeeles (Chehalis) contains probably four hundred thousand acres of most excellent land, prairie and heavy timber alternating; the soil is a loam, with a large proportion of clay, and the principal growths are spruce, cedar, white and yellow fir, balm of gilead, maple… Do not me dear … imagine that I speak couleur de rose on this subject, I assure you such is not the case, I wish to deal simply with facts, and their legitimate and irresistible inferences; it is in this spirit, looking to the advantages possessed by this country in its vast agricultural capacities, its magnificent, valuable woodlands, its inexhaustible fisheries, its unrivaled inland navigation, its geographical position, its immense quantities of choice steam producing coal, its perfect accessibility to the markets of the whole Pacific, that I can arrive at but one conclusion, which is, that ere many lustrums, this Puget’s Sound country will be one of the most important and interesting agricultural and commercial districts shadowed by the broad aegis of the stars and stripes of the United States (H.A.G. 1852).


The author writes using highly descriptive language and portrays the Oregon Territory as like an Eden. Descriptions like this would help promote the flood of settlers to the Oregon Territory, where they would be seeking the freedom to realize their dreams in the United States (Byram and Lewis 2001). This article occurs well after the first surge of settlers in the 1830s and after the main settler surge of the California gold rush in the early 1850s, and is contemporary with the discovery of rich gold fields in the Cascade Mountains and Southwestern Oregon. Articles like these were often replicated in newspapers across the United States.


Political land-claim conflicts were not a primary concern with Chief Factor McLaughlin, as when they arrived overland or by sea, he aided both American and French-Canadian settlers to get to their land claims. McLaughlin helped many American settlers become established in the Oregon Territory, giving them food, supplies, and at times transportation to their claims. His aid to the American settlers was heavily criticized and he paid a political price, resulting in his resignation in 1846 (Lewis, et al. 1969d:252).

Despite the prominence of Fort Vancouver and the Hudson Bay Company, the American settlement in the Oregon Territory far outstripped the British Canadian efforts. American settlers began arriving in great numbers about 1842 (Lewis, et al. 1969d:375-378), far surpassing the British Canadian population of mainly former employees of Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1844 there were approximately six Americans to every British subject, or 6000 to 1000 (Lewis, et al. 1969d:402).

Once the Oregon Territory became United States land, John McLaughlin and many of his employees- many of mixed French-Indian descent- decided to remain in Oregon and become citizens. The French Canadian trappers had made a practice of marrying Indian women from Oregon, and beginning in 1828 many settled in the Willamette Valley, mainly in the French Prairie region, in the towns of Champoeg, St. Paul, Butteville and other early towns in the Willamette Valley and along the Columbia River (Lewis, et al. 1969d:267). After the Oregon Territory was annexed by the United States in 1846, American government legislation forced the take-over of at least 14 parcels claimed by British subjects (Lewis, et al. 1969d:251). Even John McLaughlin was forced to relinquish most of his personal land-claims in Oregon City in 1849, and the remainder were stripped from his estate after his death in 1862, despite the fact that he had become an American citizen (Lewis, et al. 1969d:253). When Indian treaties were signed by the Oregon tribes between 1853-1856, creating the two western Oregon reservations of Siletz and Grand Ronde, the former French Canadian men took advantage of their wives’ Indian heritage and claimed allotment rights on the reservation, most moving to the reservation in the first waves of Indian removal (1855-1857) (Munnick and Warner 1979).[5]

American settlers entered the region and claimed land with the help of the Oregon Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, which attracted settlers by the thousands.[6] It was “An Act to create the Office of Surveyor-General of the Public Lands in Oregon, and to provide for the Survey, and to make Donations to Settlers of the said Public Lands.” [7] This act spurred the settlers’ desire for   Indian lands. The Act was passed before the Tribal aboriginal claims were settled. Therefore, in 1851-1852 Anson Dart was appointed Indian Commissioner; he was expected to obtain signed treaties with the Indians and thus formally cede the Oregon Territory to the United States. At the time, many Americans believed in the popular nationalistic philosophy of Manifest Destiny. This philosophy held that it was the destiny of Americans to own a country which extended from Atlantic to Pacific. They believed it was their right to settle within this imagined national landscape without ethical worries about previous aboriginal land claims (Stephanson 1995).

One of the problems with settler encroachment on Indian lands was that Indians were not even considered “people” much less thought to have “laws”. Early anthropologists captured this lack of consideration of Tribal society when Lewis Henry Morgan theorized that Indians were on the lower ender of a linear progression of civilization and therefore labeled as savages or barbarians in their level of development (Morgan 1877).[8]  Morgan’s notion of Tribal societies was a common understanding for American settlers and missionaries who benefited by being within his civilized level of development. Missionaries, from the earliest contact periods in the Oregon Territory worked to save tribal societies through conversion to Catholicism or Christianity.  Many settlers encroached without knowledge that they were encroaching because there was almost no consideration that Tribes had organized government much less laws.  For many settlers this is the situation, for others, like miners, their intentions were to acquire gold at any cost, regardless of who they impacted or where they trespassed.

Missionaries and Indian Religion

There were additional “battlefields” drawn along religious and economic lines. Nationalism, during this period, was associated with religious affiliation. People of Catholic affiliation were considered British Canadian, and those of Protestant affiliation were considered American (Carey 1971:302-303). Perhaps one of the most significant indicators was in the conversion of Indians to either Protestantism or Catholicism. To prove the extent of their influence, the competing religions made tallies of their supposed native converts. Both religions remain prominent in Indian communities on the Northwest coast to the present day.

Religious conversions consisted of dunking people under water or splashing water on them and did not constitute true spiritual conversion (Schaefer 1929). Many tribal people never fully converted from their Native spirituality and became religious amalgamators, whereby many of the new religions were combined with their traditional spirituality.[9] For Indian societies of the late nineteenth century, these religious amalgamations offered hope when their people and societies were dying off. In this era Indians were declining in population, losing control of their societies, and had little hope for the survival of their cultures.

Warfare against Indians continued into the 1880s in the west.  The specter of the extinction of the people helped create religions such as the Indian Shakers, and spawned messianic revivalist native religions such as the Warm House, and the Ghost Dance.  The Warm House and Indian Shaker religions were active in western Oregon from the 1890s until the 1950s. These messianic spiritual movements were meant to save the people from impending disaster.

Oregon “Indian Wars”

The “Indian wars” in the Oregon Territory were caused by the ongoing intrusion on Indian land by settlers, miners, and explorers. Americans and other new arrivals gave tribes little respect for their indigenous rights to the land. Settlers would claim land regardless of the presence of Indian people. Tribes attempted to protect their rights under Indian law; for their efforts they were considered the aggressors. Before the 1850s, the United States had not made any agreements with the tribes to expropriate Indian land from aboriginal ownership. Largely beginning with the Oregon Trail immigrations into Oregon, land conflicts became more common. There had been several important conflicts before the treaty era, such as the Jedediah Smith expedition massacre in 1828 and the Whitman Massacre in 1847. But the Rogue River Indian Wars of the 1850s constituted the most violent and continuous of the “Indian Wars.” Many of the battles in these wars were perpetrated by tribes seeking retribution for land encroachment and other abuses. However, a large number of the conflicts were instigated by loose organizations of volunteer militias, which were organized by and supported by the Oregon Territorial Government. The volunteers and their settler allies set about creating the appearance of an environment of constant raiding or depredations by the Indians. There were reports of some volunteers dressing up like Indians and raiding American camps. Despite the hysterical rhetoric by the motivated settlers, the population centers of Oregon were unaffected and never were threatened by the tribes. Nearly all of the problems occurred in the frontier areas of Oregon, where there was a lack of oversight of the settler and miner populations (Beckham 1971; 1977; Douthit 2002; Schwartz 1997).

One of the first such conflicts over land encroachment was the Jedediah Smith expedition (1828), involved conflicts with the California and Oregon Indians over the party’s intrusion on tribal lands and the party’s violent actions toward the tribes. Jedediah Smith led a party of trappers through California and Oregon and driving a herd of 330 horses and mules the group entered southwestern Oregon where they trapped and hunted as they moved through the land, never asking permission of the local tribes (Carey 1971:164).[10]

Under tribal law, for any travelers to trap on tribal lands is something that must be requested and paid for (Drucker 1937). Tribal headmen charge a fee for this, usually a portion of the take, a common enough practice and courtesy.[11] To travel with so much wealth, the herd of horses, it would be expected to gift the tribes, in order to remain in good relations. Smith exhibited no concept of this as his party indiscriminately hunted and trapped wherever they camped. The party’s reputation spread through tribal communications networks,[12] probably an idea that had not occurred to Smith. Thus, by the time that the party reached the Oregon coast their reputation as violent and thieving rogues who were selfish was already known to the tribes. Many tribes fled to avoid the violent party, and others attacked.

In a different situation, that of the Whitman Massacre, tribes on the Columbia held Dr. Whitman responsible for the deaths of their tribesmen from diseases. The Whitman Massacre involved the capture of fifty-three settlers, men, women, and children–and the killing of fourteen members of the Whitman Mission by members of the Cayuse and Umatilla tribes (Carey 1971:312). During this time, there was a tense environment in the region, with new settlers and traders arriving daily. Catholic and Methodist ministers argued over the religious conversion of natives.  Many of the new arrivals carried diseases. The Cayuse Indians became very ill with cholera and measles, and more than half of their population died by 1847.

Dr. Marcus Whitman visited the sick Indians, those afflicted with measles and cholera, and professed that a belief in God would save them. There were rumors that the diseases had been introduced by the missionaries (Carey 1971:312). In Tribal society if a healer was not successful, they were subject to retribution from the families of the dead, sometimes this meant death (Carey 1971:312). Thus when the Cayuse began dying despite the efforts of Dr. Whitman, the Cayuse took retribution against the mission. There was an initial outbreak of violence and then the Mission inhabitants were captured and held for ransom for one month until it was paid, about $400 in trade items, by Peter Skene Ogden, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver (Carey 1971:312-313). A few years later, in 1850, the Cayuse chiefs who had been present at the Whitman Massacre were sought out and put to trial in Oregon City, and found guilty. On June 3, 1850, Tiloukaikt, Tomahas, Kiamasumpkin, Iaiachalakis, and Klokomas were publicly hung (Jackson, et al. 1881:407).

In another example of tribes acting out against encroachment in 1856 a conflict broke out under the Indian leader Kamiakin who sought to cut off military communication lines. On the Columbia River, Kamiakin led a force of Yakima, Klickitat and Cascade Indians in an unsuccessful bid to take control of the region (Carey 1971:604). In the conflict fourteen Americans died, while enraged settlers murdered a family of non-aggressive Chinook Indians (Carey 1971:607). The result of this massacre was that Cascade Chief Chenoweth and eight other Cascade Indians were executed in retribution for the massacre (Carey 1971:606). For some months following the executions, volunteer militia raids were conducted on Indian villages and Indians executed at gunpoint for any provocation (Carey 1971:607).[13]

Volunteer Militias

By the 1850s, the Tribes in Oregon became a concern to the American settlers. As the population of white settlers increased and made more demands for land and resources, the Indian tribes began to defend their rights to remain in their traditional lands. In the early 1850s Oregon was still a territory and the United States had not taken full control of the region. The Oregon Territorial Government and its leading citizenry sought to create an image of conflict with the Indians in order to have a legitimate reason to righteously massacre them, and to attract the martial influence of United States Army to Oregon. Volunteer militias, made up of settlers, miners and other political leaders, committed acts of genocide against Indian villages where every man, woman, and child was exterminated. The battles that ensued launched a propaganda campaign intended to get the U.S. Army to come to Oregon and remove the Indians.  However, the United States Army was engaged in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) in the region that would become the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado. The Army could not spare the military for the Oregon Territory until 1855.

General John Wool was appointed as Commander of the Department of the Pacific following the Mexican-American War and was stationed in northern California. When General Wool became involved in the issues with Indians in Oregon, he was highly critical of the excesses of the volunteers in the Walla Walla country in 1855. General Wool was of the opinion that the volunteers only served to rile up the peaceful tribes and uniting them against the whites (Carey 1971:588).

The settlers’ encroachments into Indian lands were not met with the same organized resistance as that in the Midwest. The Indian population had been decimated by disease, and by regular acts of violence committed by settlers and miners. Despite this, the Rogue River Tribes [14] were spurred on by mass exterminations and territorial encroachments, and mounted several years of guerrilla-type warfare, from 1854-1856. The Rogue River tribes fought a series of battles in southwestern Oregon and northern California against constant encroachment on their lands. Indian ownership of this land was questioned by the militia:

The Rogue River Indians ceded to the United States a large amount of territory to which they had no title, and over which they had no control, except the right of the robber to collect toll from the passing immigrants (Evans 1889:420).


Thus, the militia pursued what they thought was a righteous campaign against “blood-thirsty savages” who had no rights to the land and despite warning from the local Indian chiefs to leave their lands, the settlers maintained their presence causing additional stress. In the end, the removal of the natives to the Coast Reservation, and to the Grand Ronde Reservation, served to protect the Indians from the continually aggressive settlers.

The territorial militias, in southern Oregon and northern California[15] became a tradition of organizing “volunteers,” essentially settlers, miners, and former military men, who periodically participated in extermination campaigns against the Indians (Beckham 1971; 1977; Douthit 2002; Reed-Crum 1999; Schwartz 1997). These volunteer militias committed acts of genocide where whole villages were exterminated and everything was burned to the ground. On the California Coast in established Indian towns, in Smith River (Yontocket, Howonquet), dance-houses full of native people participating in their annual religious ceremonies (Nee-Dash, World Renewal, Feather Dance) were burned to the ground with as many as 700 people inside (Bommelyn 1997; Drucker 1937; Reed-Crum 1999).[16]  These acts of genocide were literally holocausts to the tribes in the area.[17]

In Oregon, the Oregon Territorial Government initiated its own volunteer militias who participated in campaigns in Southern Oregon. Much of their actions contributed to the general Indian unrest in the region, especially the Rogue River Indian War. The first battles in this war were pursued by the militia, and the American military stepped in during the later stages and found a way to end the conflict through removal of the Indians to reservations. Additional fuel was added to the fire of public opinion through a constant stream of news from the Rogue River country, much of it published in the newspapers in Oregon, of public calls to rally against the “savages.”  In an early account from The Oregonian newspaper, all of the elements were gathered to exterminate the Indians:

Camp on the Branch of Rogue River

June 28th, 1851.

Dear Sir: -I have but a very few minutes to spare to tell you of our operations during the last week, and must be brief. At noon on the 22d our express from the Rogue River mines returned, and reported that a small party of citizens were at the Ferry, ready to co-operate with us; but that, as a general rule, the citizens could not be made to turn out. So much delay for nothing was rather discouraging and it was determined to commence our operations at once, without reference to parties of citizens to operate in other directions. It was deemed expedient to obtain a position on the other side of the river, without, if possible, the knowledge of the Indians. Therefore, as soon as it was dark, we saddled up and at 9 ½ o’clock, quietly crossed the creek, and went up the valley for 20 miles, when we forded the river, near where it emerges from the mountains. Then, sweeping down the right bank, we reached “Table Rock,” where we supposed the Indians were assembled. But much to our regret we found the main body had dispersed. We had a little skirmish in the bushes, in which one of our men was wounded in the arm. In the afternoon of this day we found a ranchero which we destroyed, killing several males, and capturing 8 squaws with some children. I forgot to mention that some 20 or 30 citizens, joining our packers before leaving camp, formed with a party of about 50 which accompanied us, and rendered us much assistance. The Indians being dispersed, we had to give up all hopes of a regular fight and all we could do was scour the country, and destroy any small parties we might find.  On the 23d inst. we were joined by a party from the Shasta diggings, among whom was Maj. Freaner, the “Mustang” of Mexico and Texas notoriety. During the night of the 24th, Gen. Lane, with a small party of citizens also joined us, and we had now quite a formidable party. From the time we have been searching about in the mountains, destroying villages, killing all the males we could find, and capturing women and children. We have killed about 30 altogether, and have 28 prisoners now in camp. The prisoners we will take with us and probably send them from California by sea, to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon. He having them in possession will probably be able to bring the tribe to terms.

I regret I have so little time that I can give you none of the details of our operation. We are all well in camp, and to-morrow we re-commence our march towards California, which I hope will not again be interrupted (R.S.W. 1851:2).


The area covered by this letter is near present day Table Rock and Grant Pass, Oregon on the Rogue River. The original party was commissioned to find a good wagon road from Oregon to California. On the way they are clearing the area of the apparent hostile Athapaskan tribes, those tribes who are actively objecting to intrusions in their homelands. In the letter we can see the relationship between this part-volunteer and part-military militia and the gold mining of northern California. An open wagon route would expedite gold traffic to Portland and the Willamette Valley and enrich the businessmen who were establishing themselves as rich traders to the world.

The earlier conflicts, as detailed above, were perpetrated by volunteer militias, who were under orders from the territorial government to generally clear the way for continued settlement and business development.  The Oregon-California trade networks were part of this development and appropriated Indian trail systems as their primary routes. This network became especially important after the California Gold Rush. Later in the 1850s there was a smaller gold rush on southern Oregon.

In the same newspaper were other opinions about the cause of the hostilities. Again in the Oregonian newspaper in 1851 is an opinion which seeks to reveal the cause of the hostilities:

…General Lane told us, the evening before his departure for the States, that Gov. Gaines had done all that could have been done to terminate hostilities between the Indians and the whites , — that he had full confidence , if the whites would refrain from practicing any further lawless and inhuman cruelties upon the Indians, they would remain peaceable and quiet, and all would be well. He looked upon the treaty as an important matter to our citizens and gave Gov. Gaines much credit for its accomplishment….All charges and innuendoes that have appeared in the Statesman are false. Gen. Lane, Jesse Applegate, and many other old, substantial, and well known citizens of Oregon,… deny the allegations of the Statesman. … Let the people of this Territory who have interests here above that of party, look well to the motives of these men, who would plunge the Territory into a bloody war with the Indian tribes within our borders, at the expense of millions of dollars, and at the sacrifice of life and property, to build up a political party who might pander to their political ambition. Such persons are now here—persons who, by making false representations seek to incite the relentless hands of lawless men to the commission of outrageous acts of violence against the Indians, thereby inducing them to re-commence the war which was terminated by the treaty of Gov. Gaines… (Anonymous 1851a:2).


The passage above presents an opinion about who is causing many of the conflicts among the Indians. The different political parties in Oregon may have been seeking to gain ground against the older settlers to Oregon, those who were in charge of the territorial government. Therefore, the Indians appear to be political pawns in a colonial struggle for political domination in Oregon.[18]

These early conflicts did indeed cause further war in southern Oregon. The first round of nineteen Oregon treaties negotiated in 1851-1852 by Anson Dart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Oregon Territory, were not ratified in Congress. Later, Joel Palmer, Dart’s successor, negotiated a second round of treaties in 1853-1855 which were nearly all ratified. Volunteer militia operations continued to apply pressure to the Indians during and after the treaties were signed:

Indian Superintendent Joel Palmer negotiated treaties with Oregon Indians which placed them on reservations. The U.S. Senate delayed ratification of the treaties, however, and Indian-white tensions increased. On October 8, 1855, a band of white volunteers surrounded a camp of reservation Indians and killed twenty-three men, women, and children. These men then scalped their victims and returned to Jacksonville. Indians began to attack whites the next day.[19]




The first business of the volunteers was to ascertain the locality of the main body of the Indians. Scouting parties soon found that their stronghold was their position of the year before, near Table Rock, to which they had added fortifications with considerable skill. They numbered at least three hundred warriors, commanded by Joe, Sam, Jim and several other minor chiefs; and all were defiant and aggressive, pledging themselves to a war of extermination. The tribes of Chiefs John and Elijah were known to be somewhere on Applegate creek, to the south and west of Jacksonville, and therefore very dangerous to the safety of the town, if an advance was made to Table Rock, which was nearly north. To ascertain the force of these Indians, and to drive them from their position, if possible, Lieutenant B.B. Griffin, of Company A, and Captain J.F. Miller, with a detachment of twenty-five men, were ordered to march on the morning of June 10th. The Lieutenant proceeded to Sterling creek, where he destroyed the rancheria of Chief Elijah after a slight skirmish… (Evans 1889:412-413).


This incredible action was an act of genocide against the natives, far outweighing the original offense and likely not punishing the original perpetrator responsible.

Besides the general regional battles, volunteer militias were involved in Columbia River and Klamath-Modoc campaigns. When the U.S. Army arrived in Oregon in 1856 following a successful Mexican campaign (Carey 1971:543), General Wool conducted his own research and concluded that it was the Americans who were the sole aggressors (Beckham 1971; Douthit 2002; Schwartz 1997). General Wool’s correspondence, printed in the Oregonian newspaper during the conflicts, emphasizes the severity of the regional situation:

…the war against the Indians will be prosecuted with all vigor, promptness and efficiency, I am master of, at the same time without wasting, unnecessarily, the means and resources at my disposal, by untimely and unproductive expeditions.

With the additional force which recently arrived at Vancouver and the Dalles, I think I shall be able to bring the war to a close in a few months, provided the extermination of the Indians, which I do not approve of, is not determined on, and private war prevented, and volunteers withdrawn from the Walla Walla country.

Whilest I was in Oregon, it was reported to me, that many citizens, with due proportion of volunteers, and two newspapers, advocated the extermination of the Indians- This principle has been acted on in several instances without discriminating between enemies and friends, which has been the cause, in Southern Oregon, of sacrificing many innocent and worthy citizens, as in the case of Maj. Lupton and his party (volunteers) who killed 25 Indians, eighteen of whom were women and children. These were friendly Indians on their way to their reservation, where they expected protection from the whites. This barbarous act is the cause of the present war in the Rogue River country, and as Capt. Judah, U.S.A. reports, is retaliatory of the conduct of Maj. Lupton.

By the same mail which brought me your communication, I received one, now before me, from a person whom I think incapable of misrepresentation, which informs me that the friendly Cayuses are every day menaced with death by Gov. Curry’s volunteers. The writer says that they have despoiled these Indians- who have so nobly followed the advice of Mr. Palmer, to remain faithful friends to the Americans- of their provisions. Today, he says, these same volunteers, without discipline and without orders, are not satisfied with rapine and injustice, and wish to take away the small remnant of animals and provisions left. Every day they run off the horses and cattle of the friendly Indians. They have become indignant, and will not be much longer restrained from resisting conduct unworthy of the whites, who have made them so many promises to respect and protect them if they remain faithful friends. The writer further says, if the volunteers are not arrested in their brigand activities, the Indians will save themselves by flying to the homes of their relatives, the Nez Perces, who have promised them help, and then all Indians of Oregon and Washington will join in the common defense, This information is, in great measure, confirmed by a person who, I am assured enjoys your respect and confidence.

I need not say, although I had previously instructed Col. Wright to take the Walla Walla country at the earliest moment practicable, that I directed him to give protection to the Cayuses from the depredations of the volunteers.  It is such conduct as here complained of, that irritated and greatly increases the ranks of the hostile tribes, and if the Nez Perces join in war against us, which I hope to prevent, we shall require a much larger force than we now have in Washington and Oregon Territories to resist savage barbarities and to protect the whites(Wool 1856).


As stated in the letter from General Wool, the Indians became outraged and retaliated by killing some of the new arrivals and their horses. The settlers fought back by killing many more Indians, sometimes wiping out whole villages. The settlers, mainly private citizens interested in ridding the landscape of the “savage barbarians,” would not recognize that Indians owned any portion of the land, and once the Indians began retaliating, were motivated to “show them their place” of humility toward the whites (Beeson 1857; Douthit 2002; Wool 1856).

Western Oregon Indian Treaties

In 1851 and 1852, after gold was discovered in southern Oregon and the Oregon Homestead Act (1850) was passed, the U.S. government realized that they had not extinguished aboriginal title to the valuable Oregon lands. Anson Dart was then appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon and assigned to negotiate treaties with most of the tribes in Oregon (Carey 1971:548). The original philosophy behind those treaties was to move the Indians from western Oregon into eastern Oregon, away from the prime agricultural lands of the Willamette Valley.

The United States utilized its superintendents of Indian affairs to negotiate treaties with all of the tribes in Oregon Territory. In this era, the United States policy regarding treaties changed dramatically from what was practiced in the east. The first thirteen treaties were negotiated by Superintendent Anson Dart with the western Oregon and southern Washington tribes, most of them west of the Cascade Mountains, in 1851-52. These treaties went unratified in Congress.

On April 11 and 12, 1851 at the Santiam Treaty Council in Champoeg, Oregon Territory, the leaders of the Santiam Kalapuya tribe expressed strong opinions about where they were to live. The Santiam leaders Alquema[20] and Tiacan maintained their desires to remain on their traditional territory, between the north and south forks of the Santiam River.

Tiacan said, they were friendly to the whites and had always been and that they were willing to do as their Great Father (President of the USA) wished and part with all of their lands, except a small portion, that they wished to reserve to live upon, feed their horses and cattle and cultivate.


The Board asked if they would be willing to remove beyond the Cascade Mountains provided our Government would give them as good a piece of land there and pay all of their expenses in the removal.


They all answered decidedly “No.” Alquema said they had once been a great people but now they had decreased to nothing, and in a short time the whites would have all their lands, without their removing.


[after a night for consideration]


It was time to get the exact boundaries of the territory claimed by the tribe… They claim from a point on the Wallamette River called Butte [at Butteville near Champoeg] ; thence up the Wallamette River to a point about 15 miles above the mouth of the Kallapooya River, for a western boundary, thence East in a direct line to the foot of the Cascade Range to a point East of the head waters of the Moo-lal-le River, for an Eastern boundary; thence, west in a line about midway between Moo-lal-le river and Butte Creek that empties into Pudding River until within about five miles of the mouth of the Moo-lal-le River, where the line turns, and runs about southwest  to the place of beginning for a northern boundary….The Tribe appeared willing to make a Treaty, selling all their lands, except that between the forks of the Santiam, which they wished to reserve.


Gov. Gaines asked if a reserve could be made there without taking the claims occupied by white Settlers.


It was said it could not be done.


Gov Gaines [stressed again removing beyond the Cascades for the good of the tribe]


Alquema objected to removing, said that they could now see that they had thrown away their country; but that they wanted to keep this piece of land as their reserve.


…Tiacan, said their hearts were upon that piece of land, and they didn’t wish to leave it.


[another night of consideration]


The Hanshoke [Ahantchuyuk] people… decided to unite with the main tribe… and acknowledge the chiefs as their chiefs…


Alquema said they had thought over it and they had determined to reserve the country between the forks of the Santiam and that all the Indians would go together into this reserve.


Alquema- “We don’t want any other piece of land as a reserve than that in the forks of the Santiam river. We do not wish to remove (Beckham 2006).


As presented above, the plan failed when the chiefs of the Santiam tribe refused to remove east, and instead negotiated a reservation within the forks of the Santiam River (Brauner, et al. 1994:40). The negotiated reservations and settlements were heavily protested against and the treaties were not ratified in Congress (Carey 1971:549-551). The Commissioner of Indian Affairs made this statement in 1852 regarding neighboring treaties in California and Oregon:

Regarding the policy of the rejected treaties [in California] as finally abandoned, and considering the removal of the Indians from the State as impossible, I suggest, as worthy of consideration, the plan of forming them into two grand colonies, to be suitably located; one in the northern and the other in the southern portion of the State. Like circumstances recommend a like policy in relation to the Indians west of the Cascade Mountains of Oregon (Affairs 1852:301; Coan 1922:4).


Joel Palmer, hired after Superintendent Anson Dart resigned as the Indian agent in western Oregon, recommended four policy points: “a home remote from the settlements laws guarding them from degraded whites; laws governing the Indians in their relations with one another; and the aid of schools, missionaries, and instruction in agriculture” (Coan 1922:4; Palmer 1853a:450).  In 1853-1855 seven additional treaties were negotiated by Superintendent Joel Palmer.

These treaties were:[21]

  1. Cow Creek Band Umpqua Nov 19, 1853
  2. Rogue River Tribes 1853
  3. Rogue River Tribes 1854
  4. Chasta Costa Nov 18 1854
  5. Umpqua and Kalapuya Nov. 29 1854
  6. Conf. Bands of the Willamette Valley Jan. 22, 1855
  7. Molalla Dec. 29, 1855


The two 1853 treaties of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua and the Rogue River Tribes established the first temporary reservation at Table Rock. This did not fully halt the hostilities as many tribes continued to defend their lands.   Later other treaties were made with tribes that eventually covered all of the Willamette Valley and southwestern Oregon.  The Willamette Valley tribes, the Chinook tribes and the Molalla all moved to the Yamhill River Valley[22] beginning in January 1856.

These seven treaties set the stage for the formation of the Grand Ronde Reservation. The first reservation for the southern tribes, Table Rock Reservation, hosted the Rogue River, Takelma, and Chasta peoples as a temporary reservation beginning in 1853. After the final treaties were signed in 1855, these people moved to the Yamhill Valley Agency in 1856.  There were many tribes on the reservation from the Willamette Valley that arrive during this same period and the different tribes and bands encamped in separate locations around the Yamhill River below Fort Yamhill.

Removal to Reservations

The Oregon Territorial government had originally advocated for removal of the tribes to the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. The Territorial government used the aforementioned propaganda of “Indian depredations” to imply that the Indian tribes were guilty of not being peaceful and were attacking settlers in southern Oregon. This propaganda was meant to draw the U.S. Military to Oregon to save the American settlers.  The propaganda was successful however the original plan of removed was rejected by General Wool, who worked with Joel Palmer to establish the Coast Reservation. The reasons for Indian removal were reported as removing violent hostiles away from the settlers. The reality, as initiated and reported by General Wool was to protect the Indians who were being murdered throughout the region by marauding volunteer militia.

The legislatures of Oregon and California had passed legislative bills allowing for financial claims by Americans to offset the costs of fighting Indians. In fact, when General Wool’s men were moving tribes during the “Oregon Coast Trail of Tears” many Indians were murdered by marauding Americans following the removal caravan (Beckham 1971; Schwartz 1997). Once the tribes were installed in their new reservation lands at Grand Ronde agency and the Coast Reservation, three military forts–Hoskins, Yamhill, and Umpqua–were built in the mountain and coastal passes. These forts were meant to enforce order on the reservations, to keep the Indians on the reservations, and to keep the whites off the reservations (Brauner, et al. 1994). The regional Indian removals by the U.S. Army were indiscriminate and members of the same tribe were separated and removed to widely dispersed reservations in Oregon and Washington, including Grand Ronde, Siletz, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Yakama.

The fact that no treaties were ratified was misunderstood by the American settlers and military officers. In May 1853, Benjamin Alvord, Bt. Major of the 4th Infantry at Fort Drum of The Dalles, published this notice in the Oregonian Newspaper:

[Title] Notice by the Commanding Officer at the Dalles of the Columbia, Oregon.

Emigrants, and other white persons, are hereby warned not to settle in the Indian country East of the Cascade Mountains, in the Territories of Oregon and Washington. The Indian title has not yet been extinguished by treaty. Congress by the act of 5th June, 1850, authorized negotiations for the lands West of the Cascade Mountains, but no act of congress has yet authorized the president to commence any on the East of those mountains. Therefore it is not proper for settlements to be made there. The same act of Congress extended “the act of 30th June 1834, to regulate trade and intercourse with Indian tribes,” over this territory. By the 10th and 11th sections of that act, it is my duty to warn off settlers from the Indian country.

No Assent or consent, of any kind, has been given by any of the organized and powerful Indian tribes, to any settlements being made. The government alone, according to the act of 14th August, 1848, has power to treat for the extinguishment of the Indian title; and it becomes all good citizens to wait the action of the government (Alvord 1853).


This notice appeared in 1853 showing that military officers were well aware of the actions of Congress and their responsibility to extinguish Indian title. Regardless, settlers seeking the bountiful Willamette Valley were following the Oregon Trail by the thousands by this time.

Joel Palmer and Indian Removal


When Anson Dart’s treaties were not ratified in Congress, he resigned. Joel Palmer was then appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon. For a short time Joel Palmer attempted to remove the tribes to a permanent reservation in the Klamath Lake area, but the Indians refused this move. Palmer settled instead on the coastal area for all western Oregon tribes (Brauner, et al. 1994:45). The Coast Reservation was intended to be the sole reservation in western Oregon, for the Willamette Valley, southwestern Oregon, and coastal tribes. In the eastern parts of the territory, the tribes were supposed to move to two other reservations:  Warm Springs in the north, and to Klamath in the south. Later, and the Malheur Reservation was created in eastern Oregon for the Paiute people, but this reservation lasted for only a short time, 1872 to 1878.

Joel Palmer wrote treaties that set aside a permanent reservation for the Tribes in western Oregon (Brauner, et al. 1994:44). These treaties, except for the Coast Treaty, were all ratified. Because of continued acts of genocide against the tribes, efforts were hastened to remove the tribes from southwestern Oregon in 1855 and 1856 (Brauner, et al. 1994:44).

In the Molala treaty of 1854 Palmer mentions the future Grand Ronde reservation as being “on the head-waters of the Yamhill River adjoining the coast reservation” where later, after improvements are made they are “to remove to said coast reservation” (Palmer 1855b).  This is the only time in the western Oregon treaties that the Yamhill River is written into a treaty in 1855.  While Palmer was implementing the plan to remove all of the treaty tribes to temporary reservations until they could be removed to the Coast Reservation the Yamhill Valley was identified as a temporary reservation area. The Yamhill Valley already had a well-developed agricultural system with established farmstead buildings from previous white settlement, with a good wagon road. The Army bought out the land claims of many of the American settlers and with Joel Palmer’s help established the Yamhill River Agency. In late 1855 Palmer’s plans changed again.  Palmer and the Army were hastened by the Indian conflicts in southwestern Oregon to move all of the tribes in western Oregon as soon as possible.

When the Indian peoples from western Oregon were removed from their aboriginal homelands, they were promised a permanent reservation that was referred to in at least seven ratified treaties (Palmer 1853b; 1853c; 1854a; 1854b; 1854c; 1855a; 1855c). The removal to a permanent reservation on the Coast, however, had to wait until the Army had built the facilities for the reservation. This is what Joel Palmer was responsible for organizing.  Joel Palmer’s plan was to remove the tribes to temporary reservations while they waited for the permanent reservation to be developed (Beckham 1971; Brauner, et al. 1994; Douthit 2002; Kent 1977; Schwartz 1997).

The first of the temporary reservations was Table Rock Reserve where the Rogue Rivers, Takelmas, and Chastas lived for about two years, from 1854 to 1856. The Cow Creek Umpqua Indians were removed to two temporary reservations in the Umpqua Valley for a short period of time.[23]

The Coast Reservation


The purchase of the Yamhill Valley lands represented a significant investment by the military. Between November 9 and December 21, 1855, when the Molala treaty was negotiated, Superintendent Palmer, in collaboration with General Wool, decided to add the lands of the Yamhill River Valley to the Coast Reservation. This action is clearly represented in the “Sketch of the Indian Reservation on the Western Coast of Oregon drawn by Lt. Bonnycastle, A.D.C. to Gen. Wool, 1855” (Adams 1991:13). This sketch shows that the Coast Reservation at the south end begins at the town site of Florence, and at the north ends at the Nestucca River, about the site of Pacific City. The eastern boundary is a straight line about twenty miles inland, intersecting the crest of the Coast Range to about the Siletz River, then jogs to the east another ten miles or so, turns north for about ten miles, then turns west and ends in a straight line with the Nestucca River at the coast. The western boundary is the Pacific Ocean. The shape of the Coast Reservation is not rectangular but instead an inverted “L” shape. In addition, Brauner’s map of the Coast reservation indicates a similar structure of the Coast Reservation, including an additional portion of lands to the north on the coast (Brauner, et al. 1994:79).[24] These lands would include portions of the Nehalem Tillamook traditional aboriginal homelands.

These maps clearly indicate the intention of the military to include the Yamhill Valley and by extension the Grand Ronde Agency as an integral part of the Coast Reservation. Archaeologist David Brauner expresses Superintendent Palmer’s plan thus:  “…(the removal of ) Indians to Grand Ronde Valley as the initial step in carrying out the proposed policy of concentrating all the Indians west of the Cascade Mountains on one large reservation” (Brauner, et al. 1994:49).

Joel Palmer’s plans for the removal of the Indians changed with the addition of the Yamhill Valley lands to the Coast Reservation. Since the Yamhill Valley was well developed and had established and accessible routes for supplies, Superintendent Palmer decided to use the valley as a second temporary reservation for many of the tribes in the Willamette Valley and southern Oregon until the Coast Reservation was prepared for them.

As stated previously, this was a change in the plans from the past, as Palmer had previously written into the treaties temporary reservations within the ceded lands of the tribes until such time as they could be removed to the Coast Reservation. But in 1855 when the option of a second and more accessible valley became available, Superintendent Palmer decided to use the land as a staging area and add it to the sizeable but undeveloped Coast Reservation.

Superintendent Palmer decided then to separate the tribes based on level of aggression toward American settlers.  Palmer moved the Willamette Valley and Columbia River tribes to the Yamhill Valley, because they were “more civilized” and had been more peaceful toward the settlers. The southwestern Oregon tribes had been more aggressive and warlike and so Palmer decided to remove them to the more remote Siletz Agency (Brauner, et al. 1994:48).

The causes of the change in plans came in 1856 due to pressures brought on by the third Rogue River Indian war. In 1855 Superintendent Palmer was ready to remove the southwestern Indians to both the Coast and Grand Ronde agencies, but there was another eruption of war between the tribes and the settlers and miners in southwestern Oregon. The necessary military support for Indian removal was not available as the military was engaged in the Rogue River area and could not be spared. Regardless Superintendent Palmer managed to round up enough local support so that between January and April 1856 1,500 friendly Indians walked and rode to Grand Ronde Agency from the Umpqua and Rogue Valleys (Brauner, et al. 1994:52). Some tribes were removed to the Grand Ronde Agency in 1855 from the Willamette Valley, mainly the Kalapuya and Molala Tribes.

The story of this removal became the inland Oregon Trail of Tears commonly known at Grand Ronde among the descendants of these people. On the journey, it is said, 8 people died and 8 babies were born.[25]

When the Rogue River tribes arrived at Grand Ronde Agency in 1856 from Table Rock Reservation, Palmer made a decision that they could stay.  These tribes had been peaceful, they had maintained their treaty agreements, and had remained on the temporary reservation at the Table Rock Reservation (Brauner, et al. 1994:52). The Grand Ronde Reservation was established by Executive Order on June 30, 1857. At that time it encompassed 61,440 acres in the far northern portion of the Coast Reservation (Pierce 1957). Later in 1857, about two-thirds of the Rogue River Indians moved to the Siletz Agency from Grand Ronde to join their fellow tribes.

Following removal of these tribes to the agencies, Superintendent Palmer, in collaboration with the United States military, established forts at the Coast Reservation to protect the Indians from encroachment by murdering settlers and militia, to protect the Indians:

…Three forts were established around the boundaries of the Coast Reservation. They were Fort Umpqua at the mouth of the Umpqua River, Fort Hoskins in Kings Valley, and Fort Yamhill near Valley Junction. They were located at strategic points to intercept any Indians leaving the reservation (Kent 1977:8).


Two maps from the Grand Ronde Agency site Rogue River, Umpqua and Shasta villages within the reservation. The Hazen Map (1856) sites the Rogue Rivers and Umpquas in individual villages (Griffin 1994:8). The Nesmith Map of 1858 shows Shasta and Cow Creek (Umpqua) villages grouped around the William Kuykendall estate (Griffin 1994:4). The 1858 date of this survey tells us that some of the Shastas and Umpquas that were intended for permanent removal to the Siletz Agency of the Coast Reservation remained in Grand Ronde Agency and reservation after the 1857 date when many people had moved to Siletz.

History of the Oregon Trail of Tears

In 1855 and 1856 the situation in southwestern Oregon became desperate for the United States military.  Volunteer militias were attacking Indian villages throughout the region, and a confederation of Rogue River area tribes began retaliating. This new outbreak of violence caused some Rogue River tribes to ask for help from peaceful tribes in retaliation against the militia. Many tribes moved from the small temporary reservations on the coast to Port Orford to protect themselves from the volunteer militias. By May 30, 1856 most of the tribes had gone to Port Orford to seek protection from the volunteer militia. Many of these Indians voluntarily gave up their weapons and agreed to remove to the Coast Reservation (Brauner, et al. 1994:53). In June, the fighting subsided and troops became available to help with the removal. By the middle of June there were about 2,000 Indians in Port Orford. At the end of June, Superintendent Palmer requisitioned two steamships and took the Indians to Portland, and then down the Yamhill River, where they were marched through the Yamhill Valley to the Coast Reservation. In all, about 1,400 Indians from the Rogue River, Umpqua, Chetco, and Pistol River areas were removed by steamship. Another 250 Indians, the last to surrender, were marched up the coast to the Coast Reservation, to settle on the lands along the Siletz River where the future agency had still to be built. The coastal march has become known as the Oregon Coastal Trail of Tears by members of the Siletz Reservation and other tribes in southwestern Oregon.  Other small groups of Indian— Coos, Lower Umpqua, Alsea, and Siuslaw—remained in their homelands at Winchester Bay and Alsea Bay, which later became the Umpqua-Alsea Sub-agency (Brauner, et al. 1994:54).

Conditions at the Siletz Agency were extremely rude. There had been no building or development before the Indians’ arrival in late summer 1856. Between summer of 1856 and 1857, the Indians had to fend for themselves. Food shipments were lost in poor weather and during the harsh winter (Brauner, et al. 1994:54). The Siletz Agency was not developed until 1857 when Agent R. B. Metcalf took charge (Brauner, et al. 1994:56-57).

Treaty Ratification


By 1855, most of the treaties negotiated by Palmer with the western Oregon Indians had been ratified by Congress. The ratified treaties included tribes from the Columbia River, the Willamette Valley, the Cascade Range, the Umpqua Valley, and southwestern Oregon. But the Coast Treaty had not been ratified. By 1861, Congress had decided to stop negotiating treaties with tribes since it was a time consuming undertaking which created an enormous financial burden for the government.  When the Civil War erupted, treaty making was suspended for the duration of the war (Brauner, et al. 1994:60-61). After the Civil War, Congress ended treaty making with tribes with the Appropriation Act of March 3, 1871. It was stated in the act that “… no treaties shall hereafter be negotiated with any Indian tribe within the United States as an Independent Nation or People.”[26]

Reservation Structure

A four-agency system was established on the Coast Reservation. In the south was the Alsea sub-agency. In the middle was the Siletz Agency, at the Yamhill pass was protected by Fort Yamhill at the Grand Ronde Agency, and there was a Salmon River sub-agency just northwest of Grand Ronde. Grand Ronde Agency served the Salmon River sub-agency and the Siletz Agency served the Alsea sub-agency. The Coast Reserve included all four agencies with three military forts (forts Umpqua, Yamhill, and Hoskins) that protected the passes into the reservation area. The forts were actually a two-way barrier: They were established to keep the Indians on the reservation, but also kept the whites from entering the reservation and killing Indians (Beckham 1971; Brauner, et al. 1994).

On December 21 1865, President Andrew Johnson signed an executive order removing a southern portion of the Coast Reservation, the Yaquina Tract, from the Coast Reservation. This split the reservation lands into two parts where Siletz Agency administered the lands in the north and the Alsea Agency administered those in the south (Brauner, et al. 1994:65).[27]

Congress officially created the Siletz Reservation on March 3, 1875. At this time the final southern tract of the Alsea Agency was removed and the agency offices closed. Most Indians removed to the Siletz Reservation but many stayed and joined their off-reservation brethren. Siletz Reservation maintained administration of lands up to the coast with Cape Foulweather at the southern and Cascade Head the northern boundaries (Brauner, et al. 1994:71). In 1894, following the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887, Siletz lost the remainder of its coastal acreage. In 1895 the ceded lands were opened for white settlement.  During the period of 1875 to 1895 the Siletz Reservation maintained administration over the Salmon River and Siletz River allotments (Brauner, et al. 1994:74).

The Kalapuya[28] tribes resided throughout the Willamette Valley. The Yamhill Valley was the original traditional homeland of the Yamel[29] Kalapuyas, Salem was the original traditional homeland of the Santiam Kalapuyas, while the southern valley, south of Cottage Grove, was the homelands of the Yoncalla or Kommema[30] Kalapuyas. All of the Kalapuya tribes and bands, Upper Umpqua River, or Takelma people, as well as the Molala peoples of the Cascades were removed to the Grand Ronde Agency in 1856. When the tribes arrived in the Yamhill Valley in 1855-1856 they established separate and distinct Indian camps along the Yamhill River down the hill from where Fort Yamhill was built  (Griffin 1994:4,8).

The most famous oral Indian account of Indian removal to the Grand Ronde Reservation is that of Martha Jane Sands. Grand Ronde elders say that Martha Jane Sands a Takelma Indian survived the Rogue River Indian wars when she was a child by hiding in a beaver dam. Later Martha Jane walked barefoot to the Yamhill Valley. This probably took place in 1857.[31]

Creation of the Grand Ronde reservation was the result of the forced Indian removal policies. The native people who came to Grand Ronde were the victims of the colonization, settlement, and for many near-genocide within their traditional homelands. Their stories are the same: mistrust, war, genocide, and death were the experiences these people had at the hands of the Americans. A policy of consolidation was instituted where many small tribes, reduced by disease and warfare, were concentrated on few reservations. In western Oregon, the 60 or more individual tribes were removed to the Coast Reservation, to only two valleys, Siletz and Yamhill.[32]  In the Yamhill Valley, at the Grand Ronde Reservation more than 25 tribes were removed, many of whom were traditional enemies.


Description of Western Oregon Reservations

As stated previously, the Grand Ronde reservation in 1855-1857 consisted of settlements of several tribes in separate areas around the Yamhill River. The settlement was called “headwaters of the Yamhill” or the “Yamhill River Reservation” at this time (Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1854-60). In June 1857 Grand Ronde was given permanent status as a reservation and at that time two thirds of the Rogue River peoples, mainly the Athapaskan-speaking peoples, moved permanently to Siletz. The Takelman speaking Rogue River Indians stayed at Grand Ronde.[33]

By 1857 most Indians in western Oregon had been removed to the reservations at Siletz and Grand Ronde. Initially, the many tribes established separate villages around the Yamhill River down the hill from Fort Yamhill. The few remaining Indians, members of the Alsea and Tillamook tribes (removed after 1875) and a scattering of other individuals and small family groups either refused removal, or escaped the reservation to return to their homelands. A good example of this escapement are the Tututni and Tolowa tribes who were removed to Siletz during the “Oregon Trail of Tears” and later fled the reservation to return to southwestern Oregon and the Smith River-Crescent City area of northern California (Drucker 1937).[34]

At the time of the establishment of the reservation there were about 1,000 Indians residing in the Grand Ronde Reservation. This population declined due to disease, malnutrition, and assimilation, so that the population at 1900 was about 300 Indians. In 1891, many tribal members gained allotments under the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. Since there were only about 300 Indians, much of the reservation went unclaimed, and the unclaimed acreage was sold to white settlers. In time, the Indians married and had children with people from other tribes and ancestries became complex. Now, many descendants can claim up to a dozen indigenous ancestries. Intertribal marriage was a well-established tradition well before settlement by whites.

At the reservations, the Indian peoples were kept in a constant state of stress over their safety and security. P.B. Sinnott, United States Indian Agent at Grand Ronde Reservation in 1877, wrote about their insecurity in his report to Congress:

The Indians of this agency are kept in a state of constant uneasiness and insecurity by reports of whites with whom they come in contact to the effect that they are soon to be removed from their present homes, and that the deeds to their lands are valueless, and may at any time be annulled or canceled. Now it is immaterial whether there is any truth in these reports or not; the effect upon the minds of the Indians is just the same so long as they have no deed in fee-simple, or no assurance from the government that they will be permanently protected in the possession of their lands; and it will be impossible to induce them to permanently improve their farms and become self-supporting until they have some land to improve, as they are no more anxious than white persons to work for years and improve lands for the benefit of others. If they are to be permitted to remain permanently upon any reservation, none could be selected more suitable for them and having any greater natural advantages than Grand Ronde has (Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1877).


The 1877 Sinnott report, published more than twenty years after the reservation was settled, clearly indicates the impermanency of the Indian peoples’ situation. The Indian tribes had been removed from their homelands in 1855, following the second round of treaty negotiations. Most had lived temporarily on the Table Rock Reservation, then in 1857 they were removed again to the far north, some 600 miles away to the Coast Reservation, and the Grand Ronde and Siletz agencies. Two years later many of the Rogue River peoples were moved to the Siletz Agency. When the remaining Coast Reservation lands and the sub-agencies were removed in 1865 and 1875, more Indians were forced to move to a much-reduced Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations. Then in 1894 the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations were further reduced through the sales of unallotted reservation lands being sold to the public. White settlers desired the Indian homestead lands, and immediately when the Siletz lands were reduced, white people showed up at the Indian houses and forced them out without fair payment or even time to gather their things (Beckham 1971; 1977; Brauner, et al. 1994; Schwartz 1997).[35]

The reduction of reservation lands was only the beginning of a number of other policies that consistently threatened Tribal abilities to remain resilient through the later half of the 19th century. Active colonization seemed to end in this period as Tribal people were removed from their lands and appeared to be stable in reservations. However, the full impact of the Dawes Act was not to be felt until well into the 20th century as reservation lands continued to be sold to the public. For most of the Oregon reservations this created a checkerboard effect.

The low point of population for the Oregon tribes, between 1890 and 1910, appeared to spell the end for the Indians. During this period, anthropologists descended upon them hoping to capture every nuance of their cultures before they vanished forever (Cole 1985; Jacobs and Seaburg 2003; Seaburg 1996). This conception of Tribal societies and cultures as resources is called “salvage anthropology” (Cole 1985) and continued well into the twentieth century, even though tribal populations rebounded and became the fastest growing ethnic population in the United States (McNickle 1962). However, the rebounding of tribal populations did not match the plans of the federal government for the eventual assimilation of tribal people. Many policies and laws passed and implemented by the federal government between 1880 and 1954 sought to hasten this process.

Because of its tribal diversity, Oregon was one of the main regions visited by ethnographers and later, anthropologists and linguists, in their efforts to preserve, extract, or salvage the remaining tribal cultural phenomenon. Douglas Cole makes the point that much of this effort was caused by a fear that once the tribal cultures were extinct, that there would be no work for ethnologists, folklorists, or their colleagues (1985).  This situation is supported by the fact that few researchers chose to return any of their research findings to the tribal cultures they had studied, either in books, through reciprocal education, or simply as an aid for their obviously deteriorating plight. It is likely that this situation was aggravated by the fact that the researchers’ and society’s conceptions of the moral and ethical treatment of research subjects were several decades from being fully formed.  However, this period for researchers led to a whole host of valid critiques of the intentions of the anthropologists and other researchers of the time (Deloria 1969; 1995; Smith 1999).[36]

Living Conditions on the Reservations


Indian life on reservations in Oregon, in the 1850s to the 1890s, was very difficult. Forts were built at the mountain passes near the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations. These forts were manned by army troops whose main purpose was to keep the Indians on the reservation. (At one time there were as many as 250 troops at Fort Yamhill on the Grand Ronde Reservation.) The troops also served as a deterrent to murderous white men coming on the reservation and to those taking advantage of them. Indians were not allowed to leave the reservation except with a pass, although many Indians still chose to leave temporarily during the harvest seasons and work as farmers in the Willamette Valley.

Just a few years after establishing the reservations, the federal government began to drop funding for services guaranteed to the Indians through treaty. In 1861, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, William P. Dole asked that the government fund these services at Grand Ronde:

…I desire, however, to call your special attention to the condition of the property lately turned over to the present agent. All of the mechanical tools are worn out or broken; out of twenty ploughs only two are reported as fit for use. The wagons are out of repair, while the horses and mules are not worth wintering. The saw and grist mills both need repairs, and even the agency buildings are in a dilapidated condition. … I have submitted in my annual estimate the amount which will be required for repairs on the mills and  for the necessary fixtures to make them complete,…I would call your attention to the treaty stipulations with the Umpquas and Calapooias of the Umpqua valley, of the 29th November, 1854.  The second article of this treaty provides that the United States shall pay to said confederated bands the sum of two thousand and three hundred dollars for the term of five years next succeeding the first five. By reference to the laws and appropriates for the two past years you will observe that Congress failed to comply with this stipulation. I have estimated for this deficiency, and trust that you will embody the same in your estimate for the ensuing fiscal year….The articles forwarded have invariably failed to give satisfaction to the Indians. They are of inferior quality, unsuitable to their wants or tastes…. It consumes the entire annuity fund for “beneficial objects” and a large portion of the “incidental fund”, to transport these articles to the place of distribution. …better articles can be obtained in this market at a less price, and such as are adapted for their wants. This fund should be husbanded and dispersed for objects calculated to benefit the Indians, and not in such transparent trash as has usually been received. …only a portion of the funds appropriated in 1860 have, as yet, been received… (Commissioner of Indian Affairs and Dole 1861:7-9).


In the Agents’ reports it was normal to find that funds needed for buying new equipment, for food, and for clothing were not available. Agents regularly wrote the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for more funds. The lack of full support and funding for basic services continued to impoverish the Indians despite the fact that their ratified treaties guaranteed these services.

It was hard to make money on the reservation because Indians were paid exactly one-half salary of what whites were paid for the same job. Therefore, many Indians chose to leave the reservation alone or with family groups to harvest crops, timber, or work in canneries. In Grand Ronde and Siletz, Indians were particularly known for working in hops, beans and logging.[37] In the summers the reservation was cleared of Indians who earned a good portion of their yearly income in the Willamette Valley. Winters were mainly spent on the reservation. This annual economic cycle continued for over one hundred years, from the 1850s to the 1960s.[38]

Inconsistent Management


During the 100 years of Indian administration as practiced by the BIA, there were several changes in administrative centers. The changing status of administration lent itself to uneven management of Indians. The following table shows the various administrative changes since the beginning of the reservations in 1855 (Pryse 1950).










Administrative Office Years
Siletz Agency 1855-1925
Grand Ronde Agency 1857-1908
Roseburg Agency 1910-1917
Salem Indian School 1925-1938
Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency 1938-1947
Chemawa School 1947-1948
Area Office 1948-present (1950)

All table information (Pryse 1950)




































The Grand Ronde Indians gained their Indian allotments in the 1890s through the Dawes Act. There were off-reservation allotments and on-reservation allotments. Each allotment was between 180 to 280 acres and they were given to each men, women and children. Many of the allotments were for lands that were in rough and rugged country where people could not live, so many families shared the better allotments and houses.

Some white men chose to move to the reservation with their wives to gain the free Indian allotments. The family of Marie Petit (Indian) and Francis Mercier (Belgian), moved back to the reservation to gain an allotment. Francis Mercier was Belgian, a naturalized citizen, and had gained a regular settler allotment when declaring citizenship. Francis’ wife Marie from Grand Ronde and gained the right to a free Indian allotment under the Dawes Act. They sold their settler allotment in favor of the Indian allotment (Bureau of Indian Affairs 1905).

The government provided little health care for the reservation Indians. There was usually a doctor on staff, but the equipment and medicines available were outdated and substandard. Many medicines were twenty years old, and the Indians had to travel to the Willamette Valley to find effective medicine for their illnesses. This situation is written about in a letter from Jack West:

My name is Jack West. I live in Siletz twelve years I stay here. I feel very bad. The Agent does not help me. I have a little girl Sussie West just seven years old this last August. She is not strong. She has a pain in her side most all the time and a cough when she run she gets sick if she goes in rainy days outdoors. Agent tell I want that girl for school. I say not this winter she no strong but soon she get strong, I put her there. I like school for children very well but I don’t want put in boarding hall because her mother can’t look after her if she gets wet and cold. The school got no fire to warm children feet when cold and wet they go bed at night and sometimes wet. Then Agent no say no more but I send my little girl to her grandma with her grandfather and Agent send policeman and drag her off the horse she cry for Police and she don’t know what policeman take her for, Alsea Grant he’s policeman, Buford tell him catch that girl. I don’t know nothing until her grandpa come my home tell me. I write you help me. Doctor tell me first time your girl no strong, next time all right. Doctor no cure my child. I buy medicine outside. She get cure now Doctor made me cause I buy medicine outside.

You please give me my girl back just this winter. I afraid she die, please do. I know Agent will not be cruel to my people. My heart girl have we her side we don’t allow her get cold, she vomit, she get yellow in her face when she afraid and pain in her side … fast white man say her heart too fast (West 1881).


Jack West’s struggle to save the life of his child, Susie, had many dimensions. West was fighting the Indian Agent, the school superintendent, the police, and the outdated medicines at the reservation.

The conditions at the reservations did not improve in the twentieth century. In 1931, Congress conducted hearings about the conditions on Indian reservations in the United States. Several Indian representatives from Oregon reservations made statements about the conditions at those reservations:

Jerry Brunoe testifying at Warm Springs, Oregon May 29, 1931: You go over the hill here and I am afraid you would be awfully ashamed to see the homes what we have …. They are making an awfully hard living on this reservation. We have no income from nowhere, none at all…. The Indians have to go out and find something to do, go out and dig potatoes or pick strawberries or cherries. That is the living we are making in this reservation. I will frankly tell you this is one of the poorest reservations in the United States…. We have no farm land at all, not to amount to anything. We got little patches here and there. We have a stock range. We raise little stock. That is the only thing we depend on today (United States Senate 1932).


The government’s reduction of the Coast reservation down to the relatively small land areas of Grand Ronde and Siletz caused problems with land availability. This limited Indian access to areas of land sufficient to support them. Elwood Towner, a lawyer, of the Rogue River Indians testified at Klamath Agency on May 28, 1931 about land issues at Siletz Reservation:

Senator Frazier-You have a statement you want to make in regard to the Rogue River Indians?

Mr. Towner- [of the Rogue River Indians] Down in the Gold Beach country around 300…. There are a few that live at Siletz, but I do not know how many.

Senator Frazier- How large a reservation is there at Siletz?

Mr. Towner-That is about 24 miles square, approximately.

Senator Frazier- Would there be room for the Indians up there?

Mr. Towner- There is no available room for them. The reservation was opened up for settlement I believe in 1894 [white settlement]. They were given allotments – that is the Indians that were living at that time. Understand the Siletz Reservation is composed of various tribes that were congregated together and moved there by the soldiers of the early age. At the present time there are four sections of land held in trust by the Government but most of that is timber. Otherwise, there is no available land at Siletz to be given to the Indians. The Indians in southern Oregon, or lots of them, many of them, have never received any land, including myself (United States Senate 1932).


After the Dawes Act allotments occurred in the 1890’s the Indians who owned allotments were under pressure to sell their land to white people. Additionally, once the original allottees died, between 1910 and 1920, their land was sold to white settlers and businesses and the proceeds divided among the heirs. Many descendants were never given the right to inherit their parent’s lands.  As the century progressed many thousands of acres were sold off in this manner.  C. E. Larsen, Siletz Agency clerk, testified at Chemawa Indian School on May 30, 1931 about how many Indian allotments remained and what the Indians were doing to make a living:

Mr. Larsen- [about Siletz] four hundred and forty nine [Indians] on the census roll….about 7,000 acres of trust property, inherited land, and original allotments, and 2,517 acres of Tribal land, timber claims, without 30 acres of agency land used as a headquarters site…. There are about 24 tribes….There are only about 15 of the 551 allottees who still have their allotments in trust. The balance is inherited property.

Senator Frazier- What is the means of livelihood of these Siletz Indians?

Mr. Larsen- Well it is timbered country. I can not say. I have been down there nine years and I do not know just what they do for a livelihood.

Senator Frazier- You mean they work for wages?

Mr. Larsen- For wages, road work, and in the timber….they have lost practically all of the good farm land… [through] nonpayment of taxes and sold, mortgages, and loans.

Mr. Larsen- [about Grand Ronde] on the Grand Ronde Reservation there is a total of 333 [Indians]….They are in the same condition as the Siletz with the exception that they have about 60 acres of tribal land and 900 acres of inherited tracts. There are only about, I would judge, 100 that do have inherited land.

Senator Frazier- What kind of land is this?

Mr. Larsen- Burned-over land, hill land, timbered, some of it.

Senator Frazier- Not Agricultural land?

Mr. Larsen- very little

Senator Frazier- What do their Indians do for a livelihood?

Mr. Larsen- They are mill workers and farm helpers (United States Senate 1932).


The grim situation of the western Oregon Indians during the early 20th century translated into little opportunity to change their status. They were forced to find ways to make a living within Oregon society, therefore, many chose to assimilate.

Abe Hudson of Grand Ronde testified at Chemawa Indian School on May 30, 1931 emphasizes more details of the conditions of the Grand Ronde Indians:

Mr. Hudson- There is another matter I wish to take up in regard to the old Indians. I think this matter has been taken up by one of the members of the tribe. I am from Grand Ronde and we have four or five old people that need attention. Of course, I do not blame the Government for not assisting those people. They are considered citizens of the United States.

Senator Frazier- All Indians are citizens of the United States whether they are on reservations or not.

Mr. Hudson- Yes. They sold their land, consequently they have nothing at the present time and we have asked the county courts for some assistance and the State or county and they have sent them over to Chemawa to get rid of them, you might say. They tell them to go to Chemawa, “you are a ward of the Government,” …They are in bad circumstances. Their health is not in good shape.… I would suggest or would ask that there would be some arrangements made whereby there should be set aside something like a few acres where they could do their own farming, raise their own crops, and supply the needs of their home if they have a home….It seems to me that the Government and the counties who take care of things should do that and the Indians should not be shifted from one place to the other (United States Senate 1932).


The hearings of 1931 reveal the conditions and status of the western Oregon Indians prior to the great push by the federal government for the liquidation of the reservation and the termination of Tribes. Oregon Indians had no choice but to find ways to integrate into the larger American society to survive. Thus, assimilation became a common occurrence for the native people. However, despite this, people maintained a connection with their cultural foundations and even though only 333 Indians were living at Grand Ronde, while in 1956 over 1000 were listed on the final termination roll.

This era of western Oregon Indian history took the tribes from owning all of the lands to living on a few thousand acres in the coastal range. Tribal peoples began the era as a free people, living within their own cultures and laws. At the end, they were a managed and manipulated people, subject to the will of American politicians and the American political system. During this era Tribal peoples experienced incredibly inhumane treatment at the hands of another people who called themselves more advanced and civilized. Boarding schools and land reductions were some of the main strategies that the federal government employed to separate the tribal peoples from their culture and power, their claim to lands and fundamentally the treaties, their legal connection with tribal sovereignty. Despite all of the adversities, the Indians somehow persevered and many families survived to see an era of hope for their people and culture. In the next era would come the final federal push for an elimination of the “Indian problems.”

On May 13, 1936, Grand Ronde joined many other tribes in the United States in establishing a constitution and bylaws under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA).[39] Thereafter, the tribes had elected officials and a tribal council that was established under the constitution of the tribe. On August 22, 1936 the Corporate Charter of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon was ratified.[40] The Corporate Charter established a business committee that was meant to further the economic interests of the tribe.  These two documents helped Indian people at Grand Ronde to integrate into the local society by handling many of the political and economic decisions for the tribe. The committee and council also were the main decision making organizations on behalf of the tribe.

Conditions on the Reservations 1900-1940s


Poverty on the reservation was normal. Most Indians made half the income of white people doing the same job throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century (SWORP Collection 1995-Present). Farming provided an unreliable income and thousands of Indians opted to travel into the Willamette Valley to Salem, Independence, Eugene, and the Portland area, to work as  migrant farm workers picking hops, beans, strawberries and raspberries annually. This became a cultural lifestyle that in certain ways mirrored their original traditional lifestyle before the U.S. government intervened.[41] In the 1930s the BIA attempted to capitalize on the farm worker culture through the Rehabilitation Program that instituted a canning industry at Grand Ronde, Siletz, and Chemawa Indian School. The Rehabilitation Program was run through Chemawa since at this time Chemawa Indian School was the agency headquarters. During the program, canneries were built at Grand Ronde, Siletz, and Chemawa. Farms were created to produce canning products, and nearly the whole community took part in the project, natives, their families and the larger Grand Ronde community.  The project lasted only a few decades, producing a canning culture with the native society, a culture that survives to this day (Lewis 2007).

Despite the improvements to tribal life in the 1930s from the rehabilitation programs, in the 1940’s Congress sought to liquidate the reservations and eliminate some of the government’s significant overhead. In 1944, the BIA undertook a comprehensive survey of many reservations in the west and called them “Ten-Year Programs.” The Siletz, Southwestern Oregon, and Grand Ronde Ten-Year Program, 1946-1955 was reported March 1944 and included a detailed report of the economic conditions at the reservations. In the Siletz section, there is a detailed report of the conditions:

One unfamiliar with conditions locally or tending toward hurried judgment is inclined to the thought that most of these people are almost completely self-supporting and no especial problem to the Government. This conclusion is partly true at present and without question all families…except the old age group, are now enjoying earnings never before received. All such wages including residents are gaining from such firms as lumber companies, defense plants, or other activities connected therewith. This picture however will change materially after the war and it is feared unemployment conditions, similar to those experienced during the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] program will return. Data furnished the office during 1938 showed the activities of 76 families with yearly earnings averaging from $152 on the CCC payroll to $1045 at farming. Of the different activities including CC or W.P.A., timber, farming, and miscellaneous, 28 families gained part of their livelihood from Government-made work and approximately 54 families were in relief. One might express regret that employment possibilities available now could not continue and if that were possible the Siletz Indian problem would pretty well settle itself. The Indians have demonstrated an ability and willingness to work if offered the opportunity and it is felt that this field of income should be exploited to the fullest possible extent now and in the future. Those Indians have secured good positions, wherever the location, should remain if possible after the war… (Affairs and Agency 1944:8).


This report about Siletz relates in general to all Oregon Indians. Many Indians found work and fairer treatment with the engagement of the war, similar to when American women went to work in defense production plants during the war. But this situation would end when the war ended, eliminating much of the defense economy, and bringing white men back to the States to return to their jobs. A similar situation was noted at Grand Ronde:

Since the first World War, timber activities have been prevalent in all the Grand Ronde area and for many years, several large mills have operated close to the Indians’ homes. A few of the families engage in agriculture almost exclusively, but most Indians where work full time for the timber operators. During the hops season, each fall there is a pilgrimage to various yards, where each familys’ [sic] earnings are substantial, with all its members being employed…. Defense and other activities, connected with the war, have caused many changes for the Grand Ronde Indians. Earnings are larger. Numerous families have moved to Portland or elsewhere where jobs are plentiful. The young people are mostly away…. In normal times though, the less efficient Indian workers are finally weeded out of the better paying jobs and some of them have trouble to make ends meet (Affairs and Agency 1944:5-7).


Grand Ronde people became well-employed during World War II. But impoverished conditions at the reservations did not change, and in some ways worsened. Because of the growth of the defense budget, many government funding sources dried up and many government-subsidized Indian programs were cut during the war years. Therefore, despite the Indians’ newfound wealth through employment, most of them had to take jobs outside of the reservation or their circumstances on the reservation would have actually worsened.

Assimilation Policy and Education


The Catholic and Methodist missions that were established in the territory ruled assimilation policy for Oregon before 1846. The church ministers and reverends sought ways to “save” Indians and convert them to the Christian or Catholic faiths. As mentioned previously, the conversion was something of a nationalistic competition between the Catholic British Canadians, and the Protestant Americans (Loewenberg 1976:61). The early policy in the Oregon territory took the form of “civilizing” efforts by the missions who would hold church services and attempt to educate Indian children. Much of the education efforts appear to have been in the Chinook Jargon language, a common medium of communication at Fort Vancouver and at other settlements. A United States national policy about assimilation at the time was not fully formed.   Secretaries of War William H. Crawford and John C. Calhoun’s opinions, expressed in 1816, and 1818, that “the Indian should become a member of the family of freedmen”, and that Indians needed to be prepared “for a full participation and enjoyment … with [other] citizens of all … moral and political rights” (Loewenberg 1976:57). In the Oregon Territory of the 1830s and 1840s Methodist missionaries turned their attentions to Christianizing the Indians in order to civilize them (Loewenberg 1976:64). Their opinions helped shape national policy on how Indians are to be welcomed into American society,

The issue of the assimilation of Indians in Oregon begins with the education of Indians by missionaries who began arriving in Oregon in 1834 (Carey 1971:281). The early Methodist and Catholic missionaries to Oregon began educating and training Indians in the agricultural traditions of their culture. Jason Lee, the first Methodist minister in Oregon, arrived at Fort Vancouver on September 15, 1834 (Brosnan 1932:69). In October, Reverend Lee established his house on the east bank of the Willamette River as described by Cyrus Shepard a year later:

Our establishment is on the east bank of the Willamette [the Multonomah of the maps] about sixty miles above its confluence with the Columbia. There are seven of eight families of settlers within a few miles of us; these are Canadians and Roman Catholics, and have taken native women for their wives….Our neighbors are very friendly, and several of them are desirous to have their children at school with us (Brosnan 1932:70-71).


Jason Lee describes the labors of building of his first house:

We landed where we now are in October 1834 and pitched our tents, unloaded our canoes, and commenced building a house. The rainy season was approaching, and I did not like the idea of living in an Indian hut. We labored under disadvantages, for we were not carpenters. We however went into the woods and cut the timber. We took the green trees and split them, and hewed out boards for our floors. If we wanted a door, a table, or a coffin, we had to do the same. We could not advance very swiftly, and we did not finish our house till after the rainy season had commenced (Brosnan 1932:72).


By February 1835 Reverend Lee had already taken in several Indian children and immediately began to teach them in the agriculture, animal husbandry, reading and writing:

We have three Indian children, (orphans) under our care. One a boy of 17 or 18 years whom we got to take care of our animals, but his mother is dying soon after, we were obliged to take his sister of 12 years to keep her from suffering. The third a boy of 13 years who came here and asked by signs so significantly to be permitted to remain with us that we could not refuse. We devote one hour each evening in teaching them to read and spell, and I think I never knew children make more rapid progress. I trust it will not be long before we shall have a flourishing school here, which I think is the most effectual means of benefiting these truly miserable beings… however it will not be very difficult to bring them by degrees to cultivate the ground (Brosnan 1932:73).


Cyrus Shepard, a member of Reverend Lee’s household and teacher in the school, began the Indian school on March 7, 1835 and oversaw it until his death on January 1, 1840 (Brosnan 1932:75). This mission school represents the first organized effort in Oregon to educate Indian children. Much of the education involved the teaching of Methodism and American cultural ways, like wearing American style clothing, speaking English and renaming them. These are essential elements in the assimilation of American Indians in Oregon. Reverend Lee thought the mission and its associated school to be the greatest hope for converting the Indians to the Methodist faith. Lee housed, fed, clothed, gave them schooling, and gave them American sounding names like “Wilber Fisk” “Osmon C. Baker” and “Elijak Hedding” (Brosnan 1932:82).

Reverend Lee, his mission and the associated school continued to attract Indians, most likely of the Kalapuya tribes who inhabited the Willamette Valley, and an estimated thirty-nine children were taken into the mission in the first two years (Carey 1971:290).  The Mission school was transferred to Chemeketa[42] in 1841, and called the Indian Manual Training School. This school and the associated property were sold to the trustees of the Oregon Institute in 1844 (Brosnan 1932:83). The Chemeketa lands became the area now in downtown Salem, including the Oregon State Capital Building, Willamette University, and the Mission Mill Museum.

One interesting fact about the ten years of the Mission school’s history is that the Indians managed to teach many of the teachers, such as Margaret Smith, the Chinook Jargon. Chinook Jargon became the medium of communication between the Indians and the Americans at the mission.  Smith learned the jargon so well that she was able to give sermons in the trade language (Brosnan 1932:82).

In the 1850s, Indian wars were a common occurrence in southwestern Oregon. Following the discovery of gold in Oregon in 1851, the government sought the extinguishment of Indian land title and their removal to reservations. In 1850, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs gave orders to Superintendent Anson Dart to urge the Indians to “engage in agricultural pursuits” and that missionaries among the Indians were to be encouraged (Bancroft 1888:208).  By 1851, many of the Indians in the Willamette Valley were already well-trained in the American style of agriculture and were integrating their lifestyles with that of the new American settlers. This excerpt from the Oregonian newspaper of April 26, 1851 presents some evidence of the status of the Tualatin Kalapuya Indians, “The Twallatty’s [sic] are, many of them, very good farmers, and are employed extensively during the harvest season in getting in the crops” (Anonymous 1851c).


Oregon Indians were also being taken out of the region for more extensive education. This article from June 7, 1851 indicates that Kalapuya Indians were on the East coast of the United States in the 1840s in an educational program:

Oregon Indians- The schooner Richmond, which arrived at New York on Thursday from Richmond, Va., had on board, as passengers, three Oregon Indians of the Collapooah tribe, on the borders of California. These with six others, have been traveling through the United States and sojourning at Westfield Mass, where they have been receiving a finished English education. They are now on their return to the Pacific Coast (Anonymous 1851b).


The efforts by settlers to educate the Indians were extensive for some. The most notable example of an Oregon Indian receiving a high level of education is that of Ranald MacDonald (1824-1894). Ranald was the grandson of Chief Comcomly of the Chinook tribe, Son of Archibald MacDonald, an employee with Hudson’s Bay Company and Princess Raven, daughter of Chief Comcomly (MacDonald, et al. 1990:337). Ranald was well educated by his father Archibald who was a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and at one time was teaching English in Japan as part of a cultural exchange program (MacDonald, et al. 1990:14-15).

At the reservations, the federal government began to establish concentrated efforts to assimilate Indians within government-run schools. By the end of 1856, most Indians in western Oregon were living on the Coast Reservation. The ratified treaties of 1853–1855 included agricultural and educational services to the tribes as part of their payment for their ceded lands. The following example is from the Treaty with the Chasta, 1854:

…said annuities to be expended for the use and benefit of said bands and tribe in such manner as the President may from time to time prescribe; for provisions, clothing, and merchandise; for buildings, opening and fencing farms, breaking land, providing stock, agricultural implements, tools, seeds, and such other objects as will in his judgment promote the comfort and advance the prosperity and civilization of said Indians…. School-houses shall be erected, and qualified teachers employed to instruct children on the reserve, and books and stationery furnished for fifteen years (Palmer 1854a).


The rest of the Oregon treaties contain similar proclamations for education and civilization of the Indians. In this manner, assimilation processes were included in the process of writing treaties with the Indians so they might someday assimilate into American society.

In 1878 an education issue was described by Sinnott:

The expiration of the treaty with the Umpqua and Calapooia Indians, of $1,450 per annum for school purposes, last July, leaves but $3,000 per annum for the support of schools, pay of teachers, clothing and subsistence of pupils, books, & c [etc]. The amount necessary is $5,000. The average of 100 scholars could then be assured. In my last report I stated the necessity of a new building, suitable for a boarding-house, in connection with the school. The building now in use is entirely unfit for the purpose. I hope to be able to build one the present year (Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1878).


These education funds ended leaving the Indians in a precarious and insecure position as to the education of their children. The lack of commitment on the part of the government to fully support the Indians in their education was apparent during this time.

Indian Boarding Schools


In the 1860s, the reservations gained on-reservation boarding schools. These were initially run by the local Catholic and Protestant churches. Indian children were taken into the school on the reservations and could not leave for most of the nine months school was open. The day school at Grand Ronde was established in the 1860s and was run primarily by the Catholic Church. Catholic Sisters served as the teachers under Reverend Adrian Croquet at Grand Ronde (Van Der Heyden 1905:154).

The original policy for the off-reservation boarding school was established by Captain Richard H. Pratt when he established the first off-reservation Indian boarding school in 1879 at Carlisle. Chemawa was the second Indian off-reservation boarding school in the United States when it was established in 1880, in its first creation, as the Forest Grove School.  Pratt’s policy emphasized the concept of “Kill the Indian and Save the Man” as part of his campaign for Indian education in the later nineteenth century (Garrett 1892:46–59; Pratt 1973:260–271). The government undertook an active assimilation position where education and exposure to American culture were seen as ways that Indians could become socialized away from their traditional culture.

Assimilation policies by the federal government brought a scattering of services to the tribes in the form of off-reservation and on-reservation boarding schools. When the reservation day schools failed to produce “Americans” or Indians stripped of their culture, then it became a policy of the federal government to remove the Indian children from the reservation and ship the children hundreds of miles away to off-reservation boarding schools. The off-reservation boarding school system began in 1978 with Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. At those schools, the Indian children were forced to speak only English, to cut their hair, and to wear American clothing. They were not allowed to return to their families, sometimes for many years. Yet the government intensely supported the program and in 1889 by Thomas Jefferson Morgan Commissioner of Indian Affairs stated his position:

When we speak of education of the Indians, we mean that comprehensive system of training and instruction which will convert them into American citizens, put within their reach the blessings which the rest of us enjoy, and enable them to compete successfully with the white man on his own ground and with his own methods (Hamley 1994).


This education program met with mixed success since many children escaped and returned home even though they were far away. Others formed inter-tribal groups which sought to preserve their culture and traditions, and did so by combining their cultures. This is one of the major factors that produced the cultural phenomenon that is called Pan-Indianism, or a combination of cultures that culminates in the Pow wow celebrations (Lomawaima 1994).

When Forest Grove School was closed in 1884 the school was moved to the Chemawa area, north of Salem, and renamed the Chemawa Indian School (1885-present).[43] These schools, combined with the on-reservation day schools at Siletz and Grand Ronde, provided complete educational coverage for the Indians in western Oregon. Later, most Indian students were sent to schools far away from their homes, usually in different states, so there was less chance for them to escape and return to their reservations. This caused incredible stress on the native communities and forced the assimilation of the Indian children into American society. Compared to the overall numbers of students, few Oregon Indian children went to Chemawa in the Willamette Valley, they were usually sent further away to places like Haskell Indian Boarding School, in Kansas, so that the children would not try to escape and return home.

Many scholars attach a negative connotation to Indian boarding schools. This reputation is deserved for the early period (1870s-1920) since many of the Indian children were treated poorly. A letter from Depoe Charley a respected elder at Siletz Reservation speaks of two incidents involving the poor treatment of Indian children:

1891, Dec. 3, 44579, Depoe Charley, Siletz Agency, Oreg.

Complains of the action of Supt. Walker in whipping children at Siletz School.


Siletz Agency Oregon.

Honorable John W. Noble

Secretary of Interior

Washington City, D.C. Dec. 3, 1891


I will make my statements to you about the Superintendant Mr. Walker. He has whipped a girl of twelve years of age. Here face and hands are all cut by strikes of the whipping of Superintendant Mr. Walker. He has done the whipping on Nov. 24, 1891. The bruises and cut showing on the face and hands which I can prove. And prove by the father of the child and several others. The Superintendant Mr. Walker whipped the child for answering him back for some little thing. John Albert proves that his child is a good girl all the time. And child told him in presence of some others. She has been whipped by Superintendant Mr. Walker. Holding her high above the floor, and then gave her the whipping, holding her by the hair. John Albert went to Superintendant Mr. Walker. For using such hard lick and whipping on his child face Superintendant Mr. Walker, said I whip any child the same way for answering me back. John Albert said next time you want whipped my child, you come and whipped me. I am big enough to be whip. John Albert prove his child head a [and?] ear is not right since she receive the whipping which cause her to be deaf, by pulling her up by her hair. John Albert is an Indian. A Tribe of Alsea Indians. His father is Alsea is still alive is an Indian Chief of Alsea Indians. John Albert is very sorry for having his child treated in this manner of way of whipping. If you don’t believe my statement that the child have bruises and marks on her face and hands. You will please call on the Matron and Industrial Teacher of the Boarding School and Doctor which they will say my statement is true. If you believe my statement as stated as above, you need not refer to Matron and Industrial Teacher and Doctor because you believe is true. I made my report before to Washington about Superintendent Mr. Walker choking two school boys, and I report before U.S. Special Agent again told him boys will get sick if treated in that way. Them boys sent to Chemawa one of them was sick receiving from choking. Been there two months come back and died, Nov. 2 1891 (Charley 1891).[44]


This horrible event was not uncommon at Indian boarding schools. The structure of the schools was based on Colonel Pratt’s military boarding schools, mentioned previously, which had little sympathy for children and were only concerned that the children  assimilate to American culture. In many of the health reports from Siletz and Grand Ronde are shown that Indian children sometimes died in school. The deaths were mainly from diseases, but poor treatment and poor diet were also issues. Adequate medical care, medicines, and good nutrition were continuous issues at the reservations into the twentieth century according to reports to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and letters like the one above (Correspondence in SWORP Collection 1995-Present).

Indian opinions of the Indian Agents were dependant on the agent at the time. A survey of the government correspondence following the reassignment of an Indian Agent shows that there was nearly always an investigation. The results of the investigations were not always clear, nor what actions the federal government took, if any. The reassignments alone are proof that agents had to be removed for foul play at times. Some Indian Agents became essential to the communities. For example, at Grand Ronde, Agent Brentano began his career as the agency doctor, then became the Indian Agent and stayed there many years. He gained the respect of the Indians. Other Indian Agents would take their yearly food allowances and purchase the worst quality food, infested grains and spoiled meats, to feed the Indians. It is unclear what they did with the remainder of their funds (Correspondence in SWORP Collection 1995-Present).

By 1883, the Indian people were well experienced with American education. Many could read and write well, and this led to opinions by Indian agents about their level of advancement:

I may safely say, however, that they are constantly improving in morality, and establishing upon a firmer basis the truths of religion, and gradually advancing in the social and industrial habits of life, and a majority of them are capable of becoming citizens”…. “With the addition of the section of country I have referred to (Salmon River) and a small outlay by the government for some stock horses and cattle to be put upon the new tract and cared for a few years to assist the Indians with additional teams, I can discover no reason why these Indians could not in a few years more be thrown upon their own resources for support, and all aid from the government be withdrawn (Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1880:138; 1883:127).


Undoubtedly, the previous comments by P.B. Sinnott, U.S. Indian Agent at Grand Ronde, are a precursor to the arguments for termination in the next century.

In Oregon, many Indian people took great pride in getting their education. For the era 1860–1940, there was little reluctance about sending Indian children to school, despite numerous discrimination issues, because education was seen as a way to help Indian people build better lives. Out-migration from the reservations was a common situation and many children who went to boarding schools never returned, but chose to stay in large cities. This contributed to population decline at reservations. Even so, many people chose to remain in regular contact with their reservation and would return on weekends and for special events.

The tribal social system of the era supported assimilation since Indians knew that if they continued to identify then they would be paid less that white people doing the same jobs (Correspondence in SWORP Collection 1995-Present). Many Indians gave up their tribal affiliations to gain education and assimilated to larger cities to gain the obvious economic and security benefits of that change.


The 19th and early 20th centuries are eras that form Federal Indian policy in the United States and are essential toward understanding the tribal history which follows. In Oregon, there were some unique historical events that lead to disempowerment of the western Oregon tribes. Unlike many tribes in the east, the western Oregon tribes were concentrated on few reservations and integrated together at a greater degree than most other reservations. For one hundred years, the tribes adapted to a diverse tribal environment within the reservation system. This helped the western Oregon tribal descendants to assimilate into Oregon society by making it common to live amongst other people. Many tribal descendants chose to move away from the tribe and stop living culturally as natives.  As such the BIA did not have to invest as much time or effort into helping the western Oregon tribes with their daily business. The following decades set the stage for the termination of their federal recognition.


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[1] McLoughlin did execute an Indian under the Royal Charter.


[2] This is my own summary of common fictions regarding Indians.


[3] “…it was necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements, and consequent war with each other, to establish a principle, which all should acknowledge as the law by which the right of acquisition, which they all asserted, should be regulated as between themselves. This principle was, that discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority, it was made, against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession. The exclusion of all other Europeans, necessarily gave to the nation making the discovery the sole right of acquiring the soil from the natives, and establishing settlements upon it. It was a right with which no Europeans could interfere. It was a right which all asserted for themselves, and to the assertion of which, by others, all assented. Those relations which were to exist between the discoverer and the natives, were to be regulated by themselves. The rights thus acquired being exclusive, no other power could interpose between them. [*574] In the establishment of these relations, the rights of the original inhabitants were, in no instance, entirely disregarded; but were necessarily, to a considerable extent, impaired. They were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to retain possession of it, and to use it according to their own discretion; but their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations, were necessarily diminished, and their power to dispose of the soil at their own will, to whomsoever they pleased, was denied by the original fundamental principle, that discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it. While the different nations of Europe respected the right of the natives, as occupants, they asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves; and claimed and exercised, as a consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil, while yet in possession of the natives. These grants have been understood by all, to convey a title to the grantees, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy. The history of America, from its discovery to the present day, proves, we think, the universal recognition of these principles.” In Stephen F. Ross, COMPARATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW (U.S./CANADA), 9th ed,  Chapter 7. http://www.dsl.psu.edu/faculty/ross/9.chapter7.pdf


[4] I surmise that the accuracy of the Tribal information aided Lewis and Clark in the accuracy of their maps and the ultimate success of their voyage. This is especially true when understanding the neither man was trained in cartography.


[5] This information gathered from Catholic Church records from Fort Vancouver, St. Paul and Grand Ronde. Through the Catholic Church records we can track the French Canadians from Vancouver to Grand Ronde Reservation through their successive generations.


[6] The act gave free land to white settlers who started farms in the region.


[7] Oregon Donation Land Act. Ch. 76, 9 Stat. 496 Sept. 27, 1850.


[8] For further discussion see chapter 1.


[9] This is personal conjecture gained from speaking with elders and others about their adherence to at least two different religions at the same time. Native worldview for many does not discriminate in this manner, and many Indian people adhere to more than one religion. This is a historical and contemporary phenomenon.


[10] The Smith party represented great wealth with the herd of horses, which they jealously hoarded, not giving the tribes any of the horses as gifts for their encroachments over their lands and the use of their resources. When the Smith party did not offer the tribes any gifts for their indiscretions, threatened a few tribes and indiscriminately used the resources of the land, the tribes began spreading the word in advance of the exploratory party. When Smith reached the northern California coast, they began having small conflicts with tribes, where many horses and mules were shot by Indians. Smith and the party reacted with violence to the Indians and continued to move northward. To cross rivers, they tore apart Indian plank houses to make rafts; they stole a canoe, and took an Umpqua chief hostage until a stolen ax was recovered.[10] A few days later Kelawatset. Indians attacked the Smith encampment scattered the horses and killed many of the party, Smith and three men escaped to Fort Vancouver.


[11] It’s a common diplomatic procedure, when visiting a foreign nation to present gifts to prove your peaceful intentions. This is my own understanding of this issue, but this is also a common practice among indigenous societies worldwide.


[12] See the Jedediah Smith journals. Tribes in southern Oregon would disappear before the party would arrive, in apparent fear. This may constitute an example of indigenous communications networks.


[13] As shown by the death of Chinook Chief Spencer and his family by “volunteers.”


[14] A loose characterization of several different tribal groups lumped together because of their common history and common regional context. They are Athapaskan and Takelman speaking peoples, as well as some association with the Chasta or Shasta peoples. There may also be associations with Tolowa-Tututni, Klamath and Umpqua in some histories. American settlers were not too specific when characterizing these “rogues” in the popular media and the name stuck.


[15] The region encompassing southwest Oregon and northern California share a common history of the gold rush and the same Tribal cultures. There is no true boundary in history or in culture between Oregon and California, this is an imposed boundary which some historians and anthropologists have assumed or demonstrated in their research and writing as being distinct. This is an error.


[16] This story is part of the regular tribal oral histories that are retold by Loren Bommelyn, at Smith River Rancheria, California (Bommelyn Personal interviews 1997-2001). Today these locations are actually called “Burnt Ranch” on maps in commemoration of these atrocities.


[17] Holocaust: Great destruction resulting in the extensive loss of life, especially by fire.


[18] Personal opinion.


[19] Oregon State Archives website, http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/echoes/link16.html.


[20] I am directly related to Alquema.


[21] See appendix for the treaty texts.


[22] This land became Grand Ronde Agency.


[23] Louis LaChance personal conversation 2008.


[24] Adapted from Barth 1959.


[25] This is a common story known by members of the tribe. It is printed in various histories but its origin is in oral history of the Tribal Elders. The story changes with individual recitations.


[26] Appropriation Act of March 3, 1871


[27] “Reservation” and “Agency” are intermixed in government documents as if they are the same entity. They are not. An agency is a smaller administration center for the Indians of the larger reservation.


[28] “Kalapuya” has become the normal way to spell the name of these peoples, while other versions are “Calapooia”, “Calapuya”, etc. The “Calapooia” version is now normally used for older histories and contemporary landforms, while other versions are based on author preferences. “Kalapuya” origins appear mainly in linguistic studies. I use “Kalapuya” because that is the version used by contemporary tribes of Grand Ronde and Siletz.


[29] There is a relationship between the words Yamhill and Yamel. Similarly, Illahee and Illinois in the Rogue River area of southwestern Oregon; Atfalati and Tualatin. There are many such words that have been Americanized.


[30] This is the contemporary tribe and organization in the Yoncalla area.


[31] This is a story that many people remember, but there appears to be no official version in print and  sometimes the details of the story change. The only version written down is that at the Spirit Mountain Casino, at the bronze statue of Martha Jane Sands.


[32] By the 1950s, The total lands owned by Indians on the two western Oregon reservations was about 2500 acres at termination, 2000 at Siletz and 500 at Grand Ronde, for a little over 2000 enrolled Indians. Most of these lands were sold at termination in 1956. In nearly 100 years since Oregon statehood, the Indians of western Oregon were completely divested of their traditional homelands with few allotments surviving.


[33] This is an approximation based on the fact that the Cow Creeks and Upper Umpquas remained at Grand Ronde and many now are members of the Cow Creek Band and were Takelman speaking peoples and the descendants of the Athapaskans, ie: Galice Creek, Chetcos, Sixes, etc. went to Siletz. The name Rogue Rivers or Rogue River Tribes is a loose characterization of about 20-25 tribes from several dialects and languages from Southwestern Oregon.


[34] Loren Bommelyn personal conversations 1997. Additional cases among the Tillamook, Nehalem, Yoncalla Kalapuya. It was common for tribal people to gain off-reservation allotments following the Dawes Act. The Tolowas were later removed to the Hoopa reservation and again returned to their homelands. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs purchased lands for the Tolowas in the 1890s in their homelands because of their refusal to leave. The Tututni peoples stayed in southwestern Oregon and formed small community groups that gained some measure of rights through the BIA offices in Portland, but never gained a reservation. They were allotted off-reservation land instead, and men, women and children claimed allotments under this policy. Off –reservation allotment records, National Archives Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Copies in the Southwest Oregon Research Project Collection, Series 2, University of Oregon, Special collections, Knight Library.


[35] Also from discussions with tribal elders and historians. Executive orders of December 21, 1865 and March 3, 1875, A PROCLAMATION by the President of the United States of May 16, 1896. | 29 Stat., 866


[36] Discussion in Chapter 1. The extraction of intellectual knowledge from Oregon’s tribal communities constitutes a model of colonization which reserves for the colonizers, in this case The United States, information gotten from the colonized. Such information is archived at the central colonial government, in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution, and is used to strengthen the colonizer’s management of colonized tribal societies. This situation disempowers Tribal societies and establishes decision making powers with the United States government Tribal information and knowledge is easily taken advantage of and made a resource of the tribal management agency, The Bureau of Indian Affairs. This situation is compounded when anthropologists become a part of the management agency and use their knowledge and their positions to manipulate Tribal societies.  The disempowerment of Tribal societies has a cascading effect on their ability to protect their rights to lands, resources, religion, language, and culture. To be fair, some of the management decisions by anthropologists like John Collier were favorable toward tribal development, but by his time the momentum for assimilation and liquidation was beyond his control.


[37] The Indians of the west were literally the first Indigenous migrant farm workers, a tradition that ended for most following termination.


[38] The agricultural nature of the cycle and the consistency lead me to believe that this cycle from the reservations to the Willamette Valley is linked to already well-established pre-settlement traditions of the Oregon Indians. It is theorized that Oregon Indians participated in a seasonal round, traveling annually to different resource areas when plants are ripe or animals and fish are available for hunting and fishing. Essentially the Reservation-era seasonal round falls into a similar pattern for agricultural harvesting and gathering as that pre-settlement. Various sources have pointed out that this practice ended after termination that Mexican farm labor came into greater use and was advocated for by the government. Loren Bommelyn has stated that Indians were prominent in harvesting Easter lily bulbs in Smith river, but after Mexican farm labor came in, in the 1960s, this practice ended (personal communication 1999).


[39] http://thorpe.ou.edu/IRA/rondcons.html


[40] http://thorpe.ou.edu/IRA/rondchrtr.html


[41] The seasonal round with annual demographic movements of families from winter permanent towns to regular hunting and harvesting localities in the valleys and mountains. This is a rough parallel with the annual migration from the reservations to the valley in the reservation era.


[42] Chemeketa was the original Santiam Kalapuya name of a local Indian village in this area in what is now Salem, Oregon.


[43] Also called Salem Indian Training School and briefly the Harrison Institute. Chemawa is a traditional Kalapuya place name for the area.


[44] Depoe Charley was an important native leader, a judge, at Siletz.


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