Lewis 2008, Termination of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Chapter 8

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 8

Federal Indian Termination, 1943-1961

 

 

 

Termination is one of the most destructive, one of the most awful things that has ever happened to any people here in the United States – Bob Tom 2006.

Chapter Outline

This chapter addresses the history of the events around termination. Included are the events that occurred at the Grand Ronde tribe, the confusion surrounding termination, questions about Indian consent for termination, and the final details of termination. I use documented discussions and events around the termination of the Klamath tribe to explain many of the decisions to terminate the western Oregon tribes. Wherever possible, Indian perspectives and oral histories are drawn into the discussion to portray the nature of the termination process and effects on Native communities using Native perspectives and voices about termination.  Information relating to the Siletz Reservation and Southwestern Oregon Indian communities centered at Empire, Oregon are included in the discussion because government sources of information integrate information about three communities (Grand Ronde, Siletz, southwestern Oregon) within their reports and correspondence to a high level, making it difficult to differentiate the context. As well, is revealed much of the confusion about termination experienced by Native peoples in Oregon. Native oral narratives are used to help illuminate the native experience of termination.

Introduction

Previous chapters outlined the history of Indians affairs in Oregon and in the United States, summarized the beginnings of many of the concepts and notions that culminated with the termination of Indian reservations in the 1950s. In those histories are followed various actions taken by the Federal government that lead to the erosion of tribal sovereignty and the removal of tribal lands from Indian ownership.  Key among these actions were genocide, forced removal, and assimilation, all of which proved highly effective strategies that removed Indians from the American landscape, to remote Indian reservations.

Taken collectively the actions by the American Government and its people constitute a continuous history of colonization of the west. Federal policies which continually erode tribal land, culture and populations become a long-term pattern of efforts to eliminate Native people from the landscape and to make that landscape open to American settlement and development. Native cultural lifeways are ignored in favor of assimilation of the tribal people into American society. The erosion of native lifeways becomes erosion on the ability of the tribes to continue their sovereign relationship with the United States as there is a net loss in tribal people and their adherence to tribal sovereignty.

The strategies of American colonization were supported by a philosophy that morally and ethically justified actions by the settlers. This philosophical concept was manifest destiny, the idea that Americans were destined to inhabit the continent from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. The philosophy of manifest destiny empowered Americans to disenfranchise Indians from their land and sovereignty rights.

Termination of Indian reservations represented the latest era of colonization for Americans. Where before, Indians had been killed or forcibly removed; now the Federal government reclassified Indians as no longer culturally Indian. Those tribes who exhibited any sense of self-sufficiency were placed in an assimilated category, and once terminated were designated by federal officials, the public, and the remaining reservation tribes as non-Indians.

The result of the termination of the tribes of Oregon was the opening up of vast natural resources for exploitation by the American business and Federal and state governments. Similarly, this is what occurred during the previous eras of colonization in Oregon; where after the treaties were negotiated in the mid-1850’s, and after the Dawes Severalty Act was implemented in 1897, the tribes lost millions of acres of land, which immediately became subject to settlement and exploitation by Americans. Termination comprised one of the last acts of colonization perpetrated by the United States government.

Termination was devastating to tribes. Many native people were unprepared for assimilation and when it occurred they lost land, resources and access to health care. Many native people lost their identities as Indians and were reclassified by other tribes and the public as no longer Indians. They became culturally disenfranchised in American society, neither accepted nor welcomed in any culture. The results of these and other social problems were poverty, disease, alcohol and drug abuses. Additionally, tribes lost history, community consciousness, and culture through a disintegration of their tribal centers.

Termination Context

Termination in Oregon involved 64 tribes of the 109 tribes terminated while the federal termination policy was active. More tribes were terminated in Oregon than any other state. An estimated 13,000 Indians were termination nationally, roughly 4,000 of them from Oregon (Ulrich 2006). Of the reservations terminated, 2,500,000 acres of land was removed from trust status (Nations 2008).

Termination of the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations was implemented differently from that of other reservations. Grand Ronde contained a confederation of twenty-seven tribes, with a much smaller reservation land-base, and had a membership of about one thousand people. The reservation had been mostly sold out of federal trust status in the decades following the Dawes Allotment Act. Grand Ronde was a checkerboard reservation with many non-Indian settlers living amongst the allotted Natives. The people at Grand Ronde by the 1950s had integrated their lifestyles with those of the surrounding white people so that they lived in apparent assimilation with Oregon society. Despite this, Indians were still treated differently from whites, and had very laborious lives, work in agriculture and timber were the most predominate sources of work to be found for the Indians. Many Indians lived on their reservation allotments without the benefit of running water or electrical services well into the 20th century.  This was the situation at Grand Ronde up until about 1950 as described by Norma Lewis:

when I was young, clear up until I don’t know how long, they didn’t have a road back in there but it was just a dirt road, but in the winter time, well they finally got money together and they planked it with big planks, and they run on these planks up to the house, for years. And the planks would slide out and people would drop in and get stuck, oh I can remember times like that. And then, I never did have electricity in that house, lived in that house when they had electricity. I was married and everything and later on they did have electricity up that road. (Lewis 2006).

 

Associated with Grand Ronde was the Siletz reservation some 20 miles away, in the Siletz valley of the coast range. Siletz had very similar conditions as Grand Ronde, many of the Siletz members were related to Grand Ronde members through marriage or tribal culture. Both memberships could claim some of the same traditional origins and tribes from southwestern Oregon and had similar Native cultures. The difference between Siletz and Grand Ronde was that Siletz was more remote, and Siletz members held more affinity with the coastal region of Oregon while Grand Ronde members originated from the inland valleys. Both reservations were originally situated in what was the Coast Reservation (1855-1875), and in 1938 the reservations were joined under the same BIA Agency, the Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency, which included administrative oversight for Chemawa Indian School and the southwestern Oregon Indian communities.[1]

Outline of Termination History

In 1954, 64 tribes in Oregon from three reservations and other rural groups were terminated under two congressional bills. The western Oregon Indians were initially terminated in 1954 under Public Law 588, which included the tribes on the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations, and the tribes in southwestern Oregon that did not reside on reservations. In addition, P.L. 588 mentioned several tribes that had traditional territory within Oregon, but who resided in either Washington or California states, altogether 60 tribes. In the termination acts, the individual names of the each of the tribes which existed previous to their removal to reservations and each was written into the heading of the law. Therefore an effort was made to terminate every historic tribe, regardless whether they had been removed to a reservation. Superintendent E. Morgan Pryse wrote the law and stated that it was a Herculean task to find every name, “we keep finding more tribes and groups all the time scattered throughout western Oregon” (Pryse 1953e).

The reservation tribes under P.L. 588 were then given two years to put their affairs in order and correct their membership rolls and then were finally terminated in 1956. All federal services ended in 1956 and members received their share of the community land sales soon after. By comparison, the Klamath Reservation was initially terminated in 1954, but because of their vast land holdings of about 1 million acres, the government decided to sell the land before termination. The Klamath Reservation was terminated in 1961, well after their scheduled termination date of 1956.

Early Termination Discussions

 

In 1943, John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, participated in one of the first in-depth discussions about termination, in the hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs. In the 1930’s Collier lead the charge to strengthen Indian governments and land-claims. Collier was highly successful. Yet in the 1940’s, amid criticisms that the Office of Indian Affairs had impoverished the tribes, and that all of the programs of the 1930s had been ineffective toward advancing tribal governments to self-governance, Collier participated in hearings about the changed status of the American Indian. During these hearings Collier fully explores the possibility of the relieving Federal supervision if the tribes with senators on the Committee on Indian Affairs.  Here, Collier presents a letter from an un-named attorney from California:

Of this 400,000, how many of them are full-blooded Indians, how many are half-breeds, and how many of the blood of lesser degree? Should the Federal government be concerned with 400,000 Indians through its Indian Bureau? I suspect that probably not more, if 200,000 of them, are half-blood or more. Are we not just handing out political pap to a great number of persons who are not Indians; who do not live as Indians, and should not be subsidized as Indians? (Committee on Indian Affairs 1943:15-16).

 

The anonymous attorney is articulating a position held by many of the time about Indian identity. Indians, in the perceptions of many, are supposed to live not as Americans. They are also supposed to have at least one half Indian blood to qualify as Indian. The attorney feels that all Indians who do not meet these criteria should not be Indian and therefore should not be subsidized by the government. The re-definition of Indians with narrow qualifications is a common manner of removing tribal populations from government services and thus relieving the government of its responsibilities to the tribes.  This is a manner of bureaucratically instituting a form of social Darwinism on minority populations. The anonymous attorney continued:

 

Are we not, in order to do this, maintaining a considerable administrative staff that should not exist in the Indian Bureau?… Should not a means be devised to eliminate the guardianship and place these Indians, or so-called Indians, depending on blood, irrevocably in the normal citizenry of the country where they belong? Could not practically the whole California situation be terminated as a federal problem within the next 5 to 10 years at the outside? (Committee on Indian Affairs 1943:15-16).

 

Here the attorney links the issue of Indian cultural identity with that of assimilation. The government had been advocating and supporting assimilation efforts for many decades, since at least the 1860s, yet they efforts were all unsuccessful in eliminating Indians as a burden to the government. The final linage is the logical conclusion that if the guardianship is eliminated then this would save the federal government money through the elimination of administrative staff. At this early date, the proposal for termination and many of the fundamental arguments in favor are fully formed in the letter from this anonymous attorney. Then, Collier appears to agree with the un-named attorney and states:

Why not begin and find out how many of the Indians, here and now, can be relieved of Federal supervision, or relieved after certain definable intermediate steps? I suspect that you will find that more than 100,000 could be released, or could be “shed-off” from Federal subsidy…. The Indian Service is spending a million dollars a year, or even more, on the unproductive handling of fractionalized heirship land…. I have made it a point… to tell them that we are spending unnecessarily millions in these unproductive real estate operations, and legislation is needed to terminate this waste (Committee on Indian Affairs 1943:16).

 

In this issue, John Collier agrees that there is significant waste in the Indian Bureau. In Collier’s statements he is agreeing and even proposing the principles behind termination, regardless of his past support for Indian self-sufficiency and self-governance.  The Committee on Indian Affairs report is summarized by S. Lyman Tyler as coming to two basic conclusions by the end of the joint deliberations:

  1. The Bureau under Collier had been “dragging its feet.” [and] Why hadn’t more tribes advanced further with self-governance and managed their own business affairs as their constitutions and charters would allow?
  2. They were concerned with the cost of administering Indian Affairs under the IRA and the possibility that they might be building up in the Bureau an expensive machine that would tend to perpetuate itself indefinitely (Committee on Indian Affairs and Representatives 1943:1054; Tyler 1973:142-143).

 

Many tribes had not adopted the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) (1934). The Grand Ronde Tribal Council had adopted the IRA and some progress had been made towards creating a canning industry under the Rehabilitation Program (1937) (Lewis 2007). However, the tribe had a very small land base and few resources to begin with and the cannery was fully subsidized under a federal program. It would have taken a decade or more for the tribe to gain the skills necessary to develop their business to be self-sufficient.

In 1944, Scudder MeKeel wrote about the inception of termination sentiment in Congress from the earlier conversations:

Regardless of class or region, our collective guilt as a Nation because of our past treatment of the Indian has seriously prevented an objective attitude toward him. Such guilt reinforces a sentimental viewpoint and helps maintain a sizeable budget for the Office of Indian Affairs in Congress, but does not lead to a solution of the fundamental problems involved. The “hard-boiled” approach has just cropped up in Congress. The Indians ought to the turned loose immediately even if it means starvation for large numbers. Neither of these attitudes is realistic.

The Indian problem must be viewed objectively in its social and economic terms. For these folk people have ways of life which are radically different from ours. Their cultures must be thoroughly understood so that differences may be constructively used by the administration. The close kinship groups, the natural communities, and other social groupings are still of binding importance in the majority of Reservation societies. Both missionary and Government have fought these institutions as hindrances to progress. Only recently have we seen that they can be potent tools in the re-establishment of morale and in the successful initiation of many programs which have previously failed.

There is no question but that drastic changes in the mode of living were necessary for most American Indians tribes. They had to meet changed conditions. Recently a new and more constructive policy which seeks to reorganize Reservation societies on an economically sound basis has been initiated. Whether it can be carried through to success remains to be seen, but certainly this is not time to abandon the whole effort (MeKeel 1944:11; Tyler 1973:143-144).

 

Scudder MeKeel, an anthropologist, clearly establishes a premise that something needs to be done.

Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs

The Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs was concerned with hearing testimony on Indian affairs and other matters relating to, “care, education, and management of Indians, including the care and allotment of Indian lands and general and special measures relating to claims which are paid out of Indian lands.” In 1954, the committee received a survey team report regarding a study of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  The report made specific “recommendations for a more efficient and effective organization and improved operating procedures” (Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 1954a:vi-1).

The survey report had many recommendations. The recommendations illustrate the matter of termination and the decisions of Federal officials regarding the competence of Indians to be freed of government management. The recommendations are in relation to the definition of Indians, and the competency of Indians to be independent, and the plans for transferal of responsibility for Indians. The most troubling of the recommendations, on the eve of the termination of Oregon tribes, is that there is some confusion over the definition of an Indian. The committee reported that “The survey team found that no one can answer precisely the question “Who is an Indian?”” The crux of the problem was that Indians were defined differently by various sectors of society, but for the government “This problem of definition involves the related questions of wardship or trusteeship, tribal membership, and maintenance of tribal rolls.” The report suggested that until it is settled by law, the problem remains open-ended and not even a gradual narrowing of the limits of Federal responsibility will be possible (Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 1954a:vi-1).[2]

The implication of the findings of the survey is enormous. Even though there was a lack of a legal definition of who is an Indian, the federal government still commenced with the termination of federal responsibility over tribes but with the understanding that they needed to collect some basic data before they were finished. Additionally, in the same set of recommendation the survey team found that “The Bureau is handling the affairs of many completely competent and oftentimes financially independent Indians. The survey team believes that some way should be provided, by legislation if necessary, to enable the Bureau to turn over to such Indians the complete responsibility for handling their own affairs” (Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 1954a:vi-1). This observation partially contradicts the previous recommendation. It is confusing that the survey team notices that the BIA did not have a definition of what an Indian is, yet the tribes still needed to the terminated.  The survey team had an economic agenda that disregards and overrides the issue of what is an Indian before they were to be terminated.

Legislative Beginning: 1947

Previous to the termination legislation of the 1950s, we find a number of informative hearings that paved the path for termination to follow. In the hearings before the Committee on Civil Service, United States Senate, January 21-24, 1947, we find the initial formation of the basic reasons for termination, as well as the creation of the method of evaluation by which tribes were chosen (Committee on Civil Service 1947).

In 1947, the post-WWII period, government employees  had increased  195.7 percent in comparison to people employed by the government in 1938 (Committee on Civil Service 1947:8). This was an incredible burden on the government and the committee wanted to get rid of all “surplus employees” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:8). The Indian service was chosen because they had 11,500 employees to take care of roughly 350,000 Indians and the committee “figured they had too much help”, even though the whole Interior Department had only increased by 3,562 employees since 1938 (Committee on Civil Service 1947:9).

William Zimmerman, Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs was subjected to a barrage of questions from 13 Congressmen regarding eliminating or reducing the annual expenditures of the BIA. Chairman William Langer is notable among them as coming from South Dakota, a state with a high population of American Indians. William Zimmerman first provided the context of the Indian Service and that the Indian Bureau was constantly under-funded “There has not been a single year in which the Budget Bureau has allowed us the full sum requested by us to do the job, and I think it is also true that in no single year has Congress approved the estimate as submitted by the Bureau of the Budget” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:74). Yet, even with this information Chairman Langer still maintained that “it seems to be after 100 years if these Indians cannot take care of themselves now they never will be able to” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:78).

However, this trivializes those Indian people that are taking care of themselves and does not take into account that fact that many tribes simply did not want to live according to American cultural values. In addition, tribes knew they needed to hold onto the rights and land as “few Indians have been willing to renounce their tribal membership unless they could get the pro rata distribution of the tribal assets; and those assets, in many instances, include [indeterminate] claims against the Federal Government” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:81).

This issue is significant and points out the continued benefits of membership in a tribe. The settlement of the Indian claims became one of the goals that Indian Agents exploited to reportedly force tribes to approve termination. The oral history that originates from this issue continues to this day and contributes to the “welfare state” status of many tribes. Many tribal members hoped that the federal government would follow through with its responsibilities, and so wait for the future settlement.

The issue of tribal claims is significant, as this is another of the Indian problems which was beginning to cost the federal government millions of dollars to settle. It was noticed by Zimmerman that “These provisions for the graduate relinquishment of Government supervision would tend certainly to reduce those claims and ultimately to eliminate them (Committee on Civil Service 1947:124).[3]

During the Committee on Civil Service hearing discussions the beginning of a plan for termination of the tribes begins to take shape. Zimmerman stated that the necessary inventories of federal assets has already occurred “We have made a study of each reservation, of each Indian group and have attempted to measure their present assets and have attempted to work out a program for each group (Committee on Civil Service 1947:86). These inventories are the Ten Year Plans conducted in 1944. Zimmerman later suggests the elimination of some federal services to the reservation “to turn law and order over to the States” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:126).  Additionally, Zimmerman begins to break up the Indian population into separate groups, those who are assimilated and those are not, “a substantial portion of the Indian population can be relieved of Federal supervision in 20 years” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:128). Legally, Zimmerman assures the Congressmen that “Congress has it within its power to negate treaties and repeal treaties and statutes (Committee on Civil Service 1947:130).

Finally the plan takes shape:

The personnel of the Indian Service is engaged in rendering a variety of services that provide education, medical services, building roads, developing irrigation systems, and generally developing Indian reservations, and assisting the Indians in bringing them into use. Obviously, the cost of this service can be reduced. It is possible to curtail or eliminate any one of those. It would also be possible to reduce the number of Indians who are entitled to this service” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:543).

 

 

During the next hearing Zimmerman fully articulates the plan for defining and deciding which tribes to terminate. Zimmerman broke down the tribes into “three parts. The first list includes those which in my judgment could be denied Federal services immediately or in the future.” Zimmerman then summarizes the second group “a number of tribes who should be able to function with a small degree of Federal supervision, or no Federal supervision whatever, within 10 years . . . termination of Federal service would place the burden either on the Indians or on the States.” Then Zimmerman summarizes the third group, those that remain unassimilated “tribes which . . . would require a longer term than the 10-year term. Under Zimmerman’s plan, services to about 100,000 Indians would be eliminated within 10 years, the need for about 500 employees eliminated, saving the federal government as much as $5 million dollars annually (Committee on Civil Service 1947:544-545).[4]

In Zimmerman’s plan, he lists Grand Ronde as part of the second group. Grand Ronde here is actually the Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency and includes the Southwestern Oregon Indians as part of the agency’s oversight. In the termination categories from 1954, Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency was included in the first category (Affairs 1954b). It is unclear why there was a category change, although the rise of Oregon’s Governor Douglas McKay to the position of Secretary of the Department of Interior a year before the decision was made may have been a factor. In the associated tables that Mr. Zimmerman included in this presentation, Grand Ronde is identified as having “no resources” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:545-546). This was probably the factor that situated the Grand Ronde and Siletz Agency in the second category in 1947 (Committee on Civil Service 1947).

As mentioned in the Ten-Year Program for Grand Ronde, the western Oregon Indians would have needed help from the government to become self-sufficient enough for termination, (Affairs and Agency 1944). However, additional aid did not occur over the next ten years, 1944-1954. Support from the government to acquire additional lands ended when John Collier resigned as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (1945). The attention of the federal government in the 1950s was on how the Indians could be expeditiously terminated and their land sold to the public. When termination occurred, all of the lands owned by the agency were sold off as part of the termination program.

The 10-year termination period for the second group was first called “arbitrary” by Zimmerman, and then he establishes some better reasoning:

I selected it [10 years] for two reasons, first because we had in the Indian Office prepared data, to which some reference has been made previously, on our so-called 10-year program, and the second reason is that the Indian Claims Commission has made a 10-year period in which to make its findings on the claims of the Indians against the United States” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:546).

 

Therefore, Zimmerman presents a connection with the Ten-Year Programs and the Indian Claims Commission proceedings. The final settlements for both issues would be settled at the same time, neatly clearing up the “Indian problem.” Zimmerman continues:

It is entirely possible that some of these tribes who have very substantial assets will receive substantial recoveries, and it, as a result of judgments paid by the United States they then have substantial assets, my judgment would be that the amount or degree of Federal supervision could be properly and probably immediately curtailed, because those tribes would be in position then to finance their own functions (Committee on Civil Service 1947:546).

 

What actually occurred was that the settlements, while substantial, were not enough to provide self-sufficiency, and there are accusatory stories of the Indian Agents holding the claims payments hostage to gain signatories in favor of termination.

In the Secretary of the Interior’s report for 1947, William A. Brophy makes a compelling case for termination based on economic figures:

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is charged with the responsibility of so administering the resources held in trust by the United States for Indian tribes and individuals that, through the development of these resources for effective use by the Indians, it may remove itself as trustee and withdraw the public services which it now provides for the Indian population (Brophy 1947).

 

Brophy goes on to list a number of problems of Indian farmers:

So long as the agricultural income of Indian farm families, derived from the use of their land, remains at its present low level the Indians will be unable to pay property taxes sufficient in amount to reimburse either the States of the Federal Government for the cost of the services provided (Brophy 1947).

 

This is a well-known problem for tribes at this time. Rennard Strickland has described the problem well by critiquing the fact that Indians in Indian schools were taught mainly farming trades at a time when farming was becoming an unsustainable lifestyle in the United States. Millions of people began moving into the cities to become wage laborers during the early part of the 20th century. Only farmers with very large land holdings could sustain in the economy. Yet, tribes were not included in their industrial change and so farming was all they knew how to do. Compounded with this, Brophy identifies the associated issue:

The poverty of Indian people is largely traceable to the fact that during the 50 years preceding 1934 they were induced, often compelled, to dispose of their best lands. Between 1887 and 1934, Indian land holdings decreased from 138 million acres to 50 million acres… (Brophy 1947:345-346).

 

Therefore, what we see occurring is the continuation of educating Indian people and expecting Indian people to farm their lands to subsist when they are losing land, and when the economy cannot sustain that lifestyle. Brophy was seeking an expeditious way to recommend termination for the near future based on the impossible condition of the Indian people.

 

Indian Office Termination Meetings in Western Oregon

Despite the overall Indian Office administrative oversight, each reservation government maintained its own identity. Each tribe had a tribal council and Grand Ronde had a business committee to oversee its affairs. It is with these committees that most of the discussions between the BIA, Portland Area Office staff and the reservation communities took place. E. Morgan Pryse, Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the Portland Area office, and other Indian agents, made many visits, from 1948 until 1956 to Siletz and Grand Ronde to have meetings with the tribal councils and the general assemblies, to discuss termination.  After one such meeting in 1951, Superintendent Pryse communicated the outcome of the meeting to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. by telegram:

September twenty-eighth results meeting Siletz September thirtieth, indicated vote twenty eight to nothing to hold another meeting October seventh when decision would be made on acceptance of legislation on withdrawal indicated by vote sixteen to nothing legislation accepted with few exceptions to be worked out next Sunday October seventh.

Unanimous opposition by the forty-four members present to accept sub section B of section two unless before corporation under state law is formed the tribal timber lands are sold and proceeds of sale distributed among membership contending that is corporation accepted fee patent and sold such land much of proceeds would be eaten up in Federal and State tax assessments thus dissipating their heritage. Apparently Siletz Indians wish form corporation to conduct enterprise and operate cemetery following Federal withdrawal. If Secretary of the Interior will approve sale of Tribal timber land now we believe no further opposition by Siletz in approving proposed legislation (Towle 1951).

 

The early date of this telegram and the information help us understand that the Siletz tribe was fully negotiating the proposal and was considering approval. Their main concern was for the timber lands which would be the basis of the tribe’s future wealth.  The proposal for a corporation is similar to that of the Menominee tribal arrangement, where after their termination; the tribe formed a corporation to manage its vast timber resources (Peroff 1982).

In 1953, E. Morgan Pryse reports further on his meetings with Siletz and Grand Ronde, detailing the amount of work he contributed to termination:

The writer spent much of his own time on Saturdays and Sundays from 1948 to the present in meeting with various Indian groups, County and State officials in proposing withdrawal of the Indian Service over affairs of Western Oregon Indians and knows of no one opposing such a proposal; therefore it is recommended that the proposed legislation… be presented to Congress with strong recommendation for favorable action thereon at an early date (Pryse 1953f).

 

In Pryse’s summary it is unclear which tribes he is referring to. There is evidence to assume that the Siletz and Grand Ronde committees approved of the concept of termination (Indians 1951a; 1951b; Oregon 1951a; 1951b). However Pryse does not reference any actual documents which contain such information. The discussions which took place in the 1940s and 1950s between Indian agents and the tribes set the tone for termination of the tribes, with people eventually coming to an understanding that termination was an inevitable event. Grand Ronde elder Bob Tom, who grew up at Siletz, and whose father was from Grand Ronde recalls how his father knew that termination was happening and moved his family to Salem in advance of the termination date:

My folks moved to Salem in 43’, 44’, and my dad and mom moved there specifically so that we could go to public school there and get a better education.  My dad and mom may have bought into the termination methodology of,  you need to go out there and compete with the greater society, as an equal (Tom 2006).

 

At Grand Ronde, other elders have expressed how they had heard from their uncle Abe Hudson. To help the tribe keep constant track of the legislative discussions, Grand Ronde tribal member Abe Hudson took a job as a janitor at the State Capitol to keep up with the news.  Abe traveled to Grand Ronde on the weekends, and spoke with family about the inevitability of termination. The following is from Tribal Council Chair Cheryle Kennedy who describes her feelings about termination as a child:

…we knew we were involved in the sessions, when we would come. We had an uncle, Abe Hudson, married to my aunt, grandma’s sister, that was on the council,… I remember they’d be sitting around the table like that and talking and sometimes other relatives would be there, and it was like this, … as a child you just sense, … We’re scared! Something dreadful is going to happen. And we don’t know how to stop it…. We knew that something bad was coming cause I was Indian (Kennedy 2006).

 

That feeling of inevitability caused many Indians to make decisions to preserve their families well before there was any assurance of termination occurring. The feelings of inevitability were strong enough to influence children’s emotions.

First Termination attempt

 

The first negotiated attempt at termination of the western Oregon Indians was the Program for the Early Withdrawal of Selected Activities and Withdrawing Federal Supervision over Indian at Grand Ronde-Siletz and Southwestern Oregon, (Pryse 1950). This early proposal sought to expedite termination of the western Oregon Indians. The proposal had fourteen settlement recommendations:

  1. Disposal of tribal lands.
  2. Transferal of unrestricted tribal lands to the Siletz tribe.
  3. Patents in fee to be issued covering the communal lands and buildings at Grand Ronde and Empire.
  4. Patents in fee to be issued for 126 Indian allotments in western Oregon.
  5. 31 allotments to be sold.
  6. Early determination of pending Indian claims cases.
  7. Almost ten thousand dollars in funds be issued to cover this effort.
  8. Bring tribal rolls up to date.
  9. All tribal trust accounts to be transferred to a bonded officer.
  10. Settle funds owed the Empire community.
  11. Pay Tribal member funds owed them, except minors.
  12. Grant Siletz and Grand Ronde members same rights as all other Americans. Revoke all special privileges including treaty rights.
  13. Appoint a special commission to expedite Indian claims awards.
  14. If applications for patents in fee or sale of land is not received in six months dispose of the property (Pryse 1950:1-2).

 

The attention within the proposal for early termination was on the land issues and settling accounts.  In the recommendations above, the tribal members gain ownership of the tribal lands and it would appear that very little of the remaining land would be sold to the public. This plan would have helped tribes to control their own affairs but providing them a land base for operations.

Additionally, the proposal stated that the Indians of western Oregon were “well advanced in the ability to handle their own affairs” (Pryse 1950:3). This statement carries forward the discussions in Congress related to William Zimmerman’s qualifications for tribes that are eligible for termination, that they be assimilated enough to handle their own affairs (Committee on Civil Service 1947).  The proposal provides additional information about the desires of the Indians to be free of government intervention, clearly making a case for early termination:

Many Siletz people have long expressed a desire to free themselves of all further supervision or (what they term) interference by the government. Southwest Oregon Indians were not closely affiliated with an Indian Agency prior to 1938 and consequently, never received much assistance from the government, except for the privilege of sending their children to Chemawa School and supervision of their timber and land sales. Indian of the Grand Ronde-Siletz Administration have already experienced most of the privileges and responsibilities of full citizenship. They have long been accepted by their white neighbors on the same basis as other citizens and are permitted to act on the local school and election boards, as well as other civic affairs (Pryse 1950:6).

 

Discussions were held with the Grand Ronde, Siletz and southwestern Oregon communities to seek the approval of the communities for early termination. Siletz was the sole tribal government to agree to early termination (Pryse 1950:Resolution).  In 1951 Pryse submitted his opinion to Commission of Indian Affairs Dillon Meyer, of the process of gaining tribal support, “I believe the commissioner would be justified in starting action without formal resolutions since not one Indian has objected” (Pryse 1951).

It is easy to see why this early plan was not accepted by the federal government. There are no provisions for the tribes or tribal members to buy their land. The communal tribal lands in western Oregon were not too extensive but in this time logging companies were hoping to gain unrestricted access to the land for make timber profits. As well, the proposal does not cover Klamath reservation, and so the precedent the proposal sets could eliminate the vast Klamath timberlands from being sold to the public. Oregon politicians Senators Morse and Neuberger, as well as Governor McKay would have had concerns that addressed these issues.

National Termination Policy: House Concurrent Resolution 108

Amid the discussions on termination and reductions of Indian services the House Concurrent Resolution 108 (CR 108) was passed on February 17, 1954 and made termination the policy of the federal government.

Whereas it is the policy of Congress as rapidly as possible to make the Indians within the Territorial limit of the United States subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States, and to grant them all of the rights and prerogatives  pertaining to American citizenship, and directing the Secretary of the Interior to report to Congress his recommendations as to what legislation, in his judgment, may be necessary to accomplish the purposes of said resolution (Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 1954b:44734).

 

Concurrent Resolution 108 was passed because Indians had proven too many Congressmen that they were capable of handling their own affairs.  Native soldiers had served well in World War II and were serving well in the Korean War, which proved that they could manage their own affairs. Some Senators, like Senator Watkins, could not understand why Indians did not have every opportunity for advancement that white men had:

Mr. Maytubby: … there are many qualified Indian boys and girls in Oklahoma that would make fine physicians and surgeons if they had the money to go to school and be educated.

Senator Watkins: Why can they not do the same as the white man does, like my family’s physician, for instance? I wanted to be a lawyer. The Government did not come around and offer to pay my tuition and pay my board and lodging and other expenses white I went to college. I had to get out and work long, hard hours for it. I know some fellows, who had rich dads, and they did not turn out so well (Fixico 1986:92-93).

 

Herein is a more politicized language that essentially means that Indians will be freed from management by the Indian Office to manage their own affairs.

Interestingly enough, Indians were already considered American citizens by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. The Indian Citizenship Act does not address their freedom from Indian Office management of their federal trust allotments. Therefore, while they were free, they still had to abide by the policies of the Indian Office regarding their lands. This was a limited freedom.  Indians were still dependant of the federal government for the continued management of their lands and on federal services serving the reservations. Then, in House Concurrent Resolution 108, the last piece of federal management of lands is removed from the tribe, “as rapidly as possible” for all Indians. The intent of this resolution is to set into motion the termination of all Indians and the elimination of the Indian Office.

 

House Concurrent Resolution 83-108 endorsed termination and named tribes as candidates. Under Director of Indian Affairs Glenn Emmons, Assistant Director William Zimmerman created a list of tribes he thought were at one of three stages of acculturation. These lists were created without scientific or any other evidence beside Zimmerman’s personal experiences of visiting the tribes. Zimmerman cautioned the Congress about using the list, yet ten years later they became the de facto lists used to terminate tribes. Secretary McKay, in fact, used the Zimmerman lists and testimony as evidence to support his argument that Congress had gained expert testimony regarding which tribes to terminate:

If you ask how the groups were selected by Congress for inclusion in Resolutions no. 108, it may be that we can find a clue in testimony submitted to the Senate Civil Service Committee on February 8, 1947, by Mr. William Zimmerman, Jr. who was then Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs and is now your associate in the organization which you head. As part of his testimony Mr. Zimmerman submitted to the Committee a list of tribal groups which, he said, “could be denied Federal services immediately or in the future, whichever Congress should decide.” Included were not only the Klamath and Menominee Tribes but several others such as the Flatheads of Montana, the New York Indians, the Potawatomi group, and (conditionally) the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Band of North Dakota which were later named in House Concurrent Resolution  No. 108. In fact the parallel between the Zimmerman list of 1947 and the Congressional list of 1953, while not complete in all details, is remarkably close. To me, therefore, there is no special mystery about the selection of the groups included in resolution No. 108. If the Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs felt that these groups could be denied Federal services immediately back in 1947, certainly the Congress was justified in concluding that such action could be taken in 1953 (McKay 1955).

 

Secretary McKay’s argument about the way tribes were chosen for termination depends on the legitimacy of Mr. William Zimmerman’s report.

 

 

On August 1, 1953, by unanimous consent, Congress passed the Termination policy act, House concurrent resolution 108. This act made termination the policy of the United States towards Tribal reservations. House concurrent resolution 108 stated the policy as, “It is the sense of Congress that as rapidly as possible to make Indians within the territorial limits of the United States subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States.” The policy was passed concurrently with Public Law 280 which applied state laws to some reservations.

Public Law 280

The true legislative beginning of termination is cited by many scholars as the passing of Public Law 280 in 1952, which allowed some states to take over criminal legal jurisdictions for certain Indian reservations. Public Law 280 authorized the states of California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indian reservations, with some exceptions.  In Oregon, Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations came under the jurisdiction of the state for civil and criminal law enforcement. Warm Springs was specifically excluded from the law (Fixico 1986:112).

The law was intended as a reform measure to liberate tribes from federal dependence (Fixico 1986:111). The importance of Public Law 280 is that if tribes are sovereign governments, they are intended to be legally equal to states under the federal government. If states have legal jurisdiction over tribal lands, then states are being placed on a higher legal status from tribal governments. Public Law 280 is an erosion of tribal legal and political power over their sovereign status.

The states did not appreciate the implications of Public Law 280. Under the law they were expected to take on the additional burden of legal jurisdiction over several thousand Indian people and several thousand acres, as well as supply government services to replace those services that the BIA was retracting (Fixico 1986:112). This action intended to take the burden off of the federal government for these services at a time when they were trying to reduce their overhead, and place this responsibility on the states. The states were also in an economic depression and they did not welcome this responsibility. The primary reason for this act was to manage the historic social and economic problems that remote rural reservations and those with no abundant resources experienced. These reservations had less access to services, and the administration of their reservation was severely under-funded by the BIA for decades. These reservations had suffered from neglect and had been subject to local opportunism since their beginning (Fixico 1986:111). The law intended to rectify these problems by turning over the responsibility to local state programs who could more easily respond to local issues through established state, county, and urban service organizations.

Public Law 280 was the first of a proposed series of laws intended to dismantle the BIA. Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay established a survey team to make recommendations as to how to ease the withdrawal of Indian services (Fixico 1986:112 , endnote 5).[5] “The team recommended decentralization and consolidation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington through a reduction of its functions and personnel” (Fixico 1986:113). Responsibilities would we transferred to the area offices, and area offices would be consolidated. These actions would reduce personnel and ease overall operating costs (Fixico 1986:113).

Second Termination Attempt

1953 Tribal Progress Reports

In the 1950’s, E. Morgan Pryse Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Portland Area Office, spent much of his time traveling to meetings at Siletz and Grand Ronde. Following the meetings Pryse would send reports to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and tribal leaders. The reports maintained that the tribal members exhibited continuous support for termination. In 1953, during the second attempt to terminate the western Oregon tribes, Superintendent Pryse stepped up his efforts as the next year the termination act would be passed. The first such report for 1953 is to Mr. Vernon Reibach, of the Grand Ronde Tribal Council, establishing a deadline for review of the draft termination act:

October 6, 1953

This proposed bill is a rough draft for discussion purposes only. It is requested that each Indian group meet together with their respective tribal bodies at the earliest practicable date and make any changes or additions that they believe advisable. Any suggested changes or additions adopted by tribal action should be drafted and sent to this office immediately for further consideration. It is recommended that resolutions similar to those contained in the “Plan for the Withdrawal of Federal Supervision over Indian Tribes of Western Oregon, Portland Area Office, 1951” be prepared and submitted as evidence of affirmative action on this proposed bill.

We have been instructed by the Washington Office to submit a draft of proposed legislation not later than November 1, 1953 with your comments (Pryse 1953d).

 

In this letter Pryse is notifying Mr. Reibach of the close deadline of the draft legislation and requesting comments on the proposal. It is also interesting to note that Superintendent Pryse needed current recommendations, updating those drafted for the 1951 termination plan.  Later in October, Pryse informs the Commissioner of Indian Affairs of the timeline for community meetings and his expectations as to the outcome from these meetings:

To Commissioner, Bureau of Indian Affairs by E. Morgan Pryse

October 23, 1953

We expect to hold meetings with the Grand Ronde- Siletz people November 1. These folks are scattered over a very large area up and down the coast and since it is also their busiest season it has not been practicable to hold meetings at an earlier date. We do not anticipate anything but favorable action on the Grand Ronde-Siletz bill (Pryse 1953c).

 

Here we note the expectation of favorable action. This is an expectation built upon previous public statements and resolutions from both tribes in favor of termination. During this time the tribes expected that termination would release them from BIA administration and thus free them to live like other Americans.

In addition, from a meeting in Siletz on November 1, 1953, Indians from western Oregon were concerned about the awards from their Indian claims cases and wanted final settlement before their approved the termination bill. They questioned why the Alcea settlements had not been paid yet. Others expressed a concern that they required more time to review the termination bill before they would approve it.  Superintendent Pryse makes a simple comment in his letter of report, “I believe it would be good business to grant their request” (Pryse 1953a).

Pryse then makes a second report of the tribes’ issues to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs on November 5, 1953. He presents a positive image to the commissioner as to expected outcome from these meetings:

Preliminary reports on legislation …Western Oregon mailed … November 3. Indians have taken no affirmative action yet. Expect affirmative action on Grand Ronde-Siletz after meeting with them again November 22. … (Pryse 1953b).

 

Unexplained in Pryse’s report is why the Grand Ronde tribe is delayed in their comments nor why there are not current resolutions from the Tribal Council.

On December 7th, another report was submitted by Pryse for termination of the western Oregon Indians. In this report Pryse continues to make his case that the tribes favor termination, and that the tribes were held up on the final settlement of the Indian Claims Cases. Again, there is no evidence submitted which supports the current termination bill and in fact a small statement is inserted that seems to present the tribes wishes that termination not be carried out:

 

The attached report… contains resolutions from the affected tribes, together with statements from local officials, including Honorable Douglas McKay, Secretary of the Interior, who was then Governor of Oregon. Both Siletz and Grand Ronde Indian groups, in recent meetings, asked that no withdrawal program be carried out pending distribution of the moneys which were recovered by the plaintiffs in the case Alcea Tribe of Tillamooks, et al v. United States. We do not believe, however, that there has been any change in their general attitude which favors the termination of Federal responsibility at an early date. In fact some Indians have expressed informally their displeasure in the delay in obtaining legislation to accomplish Federal withdrawal (Pryse 1953f:Emphasis mine).

 

 

Superintendent Pryse, is referring to the previous acceptance of termination gained from the Siletz and Grand Ronde tribes in 1950, 1951, as an acceptance of termination on the part of the tribes in the present draft legislation (Indians 1951a; 1951b; Oregon 1951a; 1951b).  By this time additional expressions in  favor of termination were gained from several important Indians leaders in western Oregon (Oregonian 1952). Interesting is Pryse referral to “some Indians”, without offering names in support of termination.

In December 1953, Pryse, confident that his arguments in support of termination would succeed, began writing the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act and was confronted with the task of assembling all of the names of the tribes. In a statement of exasperation of the enormity of the task Pryse states “we keep finding more tribes and groups all the time scattered throughout western Oregon” (Pryse 1953e).

In February 1954, only a few months until the termination act is to be passed, Pryse reports at length on the reasons why the tribes failed to produce a favorable review of the current draft:

Plans and procedures for terminal action have been formulated after thorough discussion and study by and with the Indian people involved, extending over a period of more than three years. The proposed legislation, in substantially its present form, has been widely distributed throughout the area and has been discussed at length with the various groups of Indian people. By formal resolution they have expressed themselves as favoring early termination of Federal supervision over their affairs. They declined to take favorable action on recent drafts of proposed bills for the reason that moneys recovered several years ago as judgments by the Rogue River Indians, the Alsea Band of Tillamooks, and others in the area, have not yet been distributed to the members of the successful claimant tribes. These funds are presently deposited in the United States Treasury to the credit of the interested tribes, and bills are pending before Congress which would authorize and direct the Secretary of the Interior to distribute the funds. One such pending bill is H.R. 4118, which was introduced in the first session of the 83rd Congress.

Copies of the proposed legislation together with our program for the termination of Federal responsibility have been distributed to State and County officials and to prominent citizens interested in the welfare of these Indian people. No objections have been voiced. On the other hand there has been widespread approval of the proposal. The copies of the program which have been submitted by the Department in connection with its report include the favorable endorsements of officials in the counties where the majority of the Indian people reside, together with a copy of letter of approval by the then Governor of Oregon, the Hon. Douglas McKay, now Secretary of the Interior (Pryse 1954:Emphasis mine).

 

In the final sections of the excerpt above, Pryse reports that everyone else in the state (local governments, prominent citizens, and the Governor (now Secretary of the Interior)) has agreed to termination, and that the tribes had previously agreed to termination, so that he may build an image of substantial support in favor of termination. Never does Pryse admit that the tribes have not agreed to termination as written in the current draft bill. Pryse instead sidesteps the issue of termination stating that they are in favor because all of his work and years of research say they are, except of the issue of Indian Claims awards. This is an important point of the lack of forthright consultation and negotiation with the tribes.

The settlement of Indian Claims Commission cases was a common issue among the tribes. The tribes feared that if there were to be termination before settlement, that they would have no power to push for settlement of the claims. Bud Lane, Siletz tribal council member, stated that they felt that signing of the termination act was held up, against their settlements, that they were forced to agree to termination or settlement would not be made (Lane 2006).

Contemporary tribal oral histories maintain that the tribe never agreed to termination. The preceding correspondence from Pryse we see how the image of tribal agreement and circumstantial evidence from the larger community, including the Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay, may have leant authority to a lack of an actual agreement.  In addition, Pryse follows his termination statements with a statement which would lead the Congress to assume that any additional Indian testimony would not be necessary:

It is not believed the tribes will send delegates to appear before the committee. They approve the bill in principle, are conservative with their funds, and are busy making a living (Pryse 1954).

 

This statement may very well have been true as few Indian people in western Oregon had the money or could spare the time to travel to Washington, D.C. and testify before Congress. Contrastively, the tribal perspective as expressed by Grand Ronde elder Merle Holmes relates a different perspective:

there was not one word of a meeting, when it was to be, or what is was about I never knew anything about it literally until it was all over (Merle Holmes: Broadcasting 2000).

 

This statement from Merle Holmes contradicts Pryse’s statements. Since the tribes would not be expected, and neither were they aware of nor invited to give their testimony to Congress, their opinions would not be heard.

Superintendent Pryse’s statements set the stage for full approval of the termination bill in Congress with assumed Indian consent. Yet, these statements do not convey what the Indians actually feel about termination at the time and lends to the assumption that any further negotiations with the tribes are unnecessary. In short, Pryse effectively and bureaucratically managed the Indians and manipulated the outcome of the second termination effort.

Pryse’s document is wholly false, misleading to the extreme, and does not convey the true wishes of the tribes. If this was the deciding document to convey the tribal government’s wishes, then the tribal member stories are correct in saying that the tribes never agreed to termination. In addition, it is conceivable that Pryse never asked the tribes if they wanted to testify and led Congress to believe that they did not want to testify, effectively cutting off communication between the tribes and Congress.

Superintendent Pryse does not stop making up inaccurate statements about the tribe’s will. As Pryse had admitted previously no tribal members concerned with the bill were invited to make statements to Congress nor did the tribes issue any official statements nor current resolutions regarding the second termination act. Yet the bill states repeatedly “upon request of the owners” in its presentation text (Affairs 1954b:136). Additionally, the report Withdrawal of Federal Supervision, Grand Ronde and Siletz Jurisdiction, State of Oregon submitted by E. Morgan Pryse (Affairs 1954b:140-153), within the hearings document states:

The attached resolutions indicate the desire of the Siletz and Grand Ronde groups that the Government withdraw its trusteeship over their properties. They are willing to accept the burden of taxation and otherwise to assume full responsibility of citizenship. Many of them are now paying real property taxes on homes and business properties. Those people who have inherited interests in public-domain allotments in the southwestern portion of Oregon have shown that they are in favor of the program of withdrawal by applying for patents in fee and having their restricted lands sold for them by the Bureau (Affairs 1954b:143).

 

The “indications” submitted by E. Morgan Pryse do not rise to the level of “approval” of termination as shown previously. The contention of the federal government has always been that the Grand Ronde tribe willingly consented to termination, but from the evidence submitted this is not the situation. There remains no evidence that the general council of the Grand Ronde tribe in 1953 or 1954 “desired” to be terminated under P.L. 588, the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act. From this evidence, termination of the tribe occurred through bureaucratic misdirection, perpetrated by staff of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The lack of a final decision approving termination by the tribes is confidently stated in the findings of Task Force Ten in 1976:

No referendum vote on the subject of termination by Oregon Indian Tribes ever took place [and] A strong case can be made that most Indians were unaware of the important features of the termination bill, and that cooperation and participation in the passage of the bill was extremely limited  (Commission 1976; Ten and Commission 1976:52).

 

 

 

The Western Oregon Indian Termination Act

On February 17, 1954, a joint bill S. 2746 and H.R. 7317 was submitted to a Joint subcommittee of the Committees on Interior and Insular Affairs for the Senate and House of Representatives.  President of the Senate was Richard M. Nixon.

The Western Oregon Indian Termination Act listed 60 tribes, bands and tribal reservation governments and stated that the United States would have to settle all accounts owed the Indians and tribes, settle all land claims and rectify all allotment issues owed the government. In addition, the bill provided for the “termination of Federal supervision over tribal real and personal property of individual Indians” (Affairs 1954b:138),  and “Federal restrictions are removed from the property of each tribe and its members… thereafter such Indians will have the same status under State and Federal law as any other person or citizen” (Affairs 1954b:139).

The Western Oregon Indian Termination Act, Public Law 588 was passed August 13, 1954 (Congress 1954). Included amongst the 60 tribes listed are several tribes from California (Karok, Tolowa) and a tribe from Washington State (Chinook) who have aboriginal homelands which overlapped into Oregon:[6]

The tribes were: Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Alsea, Applegate Creek, Calapooya, Chaftan, Chempho, Chetco, Chetlessington, Chinook, Clackamas, Clatskanie, Clatsop, Clowwewalla, Coos, Cow Creek, Euchees, Galice Creek, Grave, Joshua, Karok, Kathlamet, Kusotony, Kwatami or Sixes, Lakmiut, Long Tom Creek, Lower Coquille, Lower Umpqua, Maddy, Mackanotin, Mary’s River, Multnomah, Munsel Creek, Naltunnetunne, Nehalem, Nestucca, Northern Molalla, Port Orford, Pudding River, Rogue River, Salmon River, Santiam, Scoton, Shasta, Shasta Costa, Siletz, Siuslaw, Skiloot, Southern Molalla, Takelma, Tillamook, Tolowa, Tualatin, Tututui, Upper Coquille, Upper Umpqua, Willamette Tumwater, Yamhill, Yaquina, and Yoncalla (Congress 1954).[7]

 

As stated previously, no tribal members concerned with the bill were invited to make statements to the committee. Yet the bill states repeatedly “upon request of the owners” in its presentation text (Affairs 1954b:136). Additionally, the report Withdrawal of Federal Supervision, Grand Ronde and Siletz Jurisdiction, State of Oregon submitted by E. Morgan Pryse (Affairs 1954b:140-153), within the hearings document states:

The attached resolutions indicate the desire of the Siletz and Grand Ronde groups that the Government withdraw its trusteeship over their properties. They are willing to accept the burden of taxation and otherwise to assume full responsibility of citizenship. Many of them are now paying real property taxes on homes and business properties. Those people who have inherited interests in public-domain allotments in the southwestern portion of Oregon have shown that they are in favor of the program of withdrawal by applying for patents in fee and having their restricted lands sold for them by the Bureau (Affairs 1954b:143).

 

However, the “indications” submitted by E. Morgan Pryse do not rise to the level of “approval” of termination as shown previously. As well, according to the BIA process of having discussions with the tribes, the southwest Oregon tribes were not consulted about termination, nor rolls were produced for them, nor their opinions sought. Therefore it is unclear what Pryse is using to convey the approval of the southwestern tribes, when simply applying for a fee in patent is not necessarily proof of approval. It may be proof that they understood that their opinions did not count and therefore they were forced to apply for patents in fee for their allotments.

Post-Termination

Following the passing of the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act, the BIA continued to hold meetings and make arrangements with the tribes:

 

Report to: Mr. Foster

From: Martin N. B. Holm

Subject: Trips to Grand Ronde, Siletz, and Salem, Oregon

February 5, 1955

 

On Sunday, January 30, 1955 Mr. Skarra and I attended a council meeting at Siletz. Approximately 40 members and the tribal officials were present. I discussed with them enrollment under the Termination Act, the Judgment Act, the protection of minors funds under both Acts, etc. Mr. Skarra discussed the sale of the Upper Reserve and Medicine Ridge timber units, the formation of a corporation so that they could take title to the cemetery, canal, and the area around the council hall, action that would be taken on their individual allotments, etc. The council was attentive, treated us with courtesy, and expressed their appreciation for our visit.

 

A short stop was made at Grand Ronde where I talked with Vincent Mercier, Secretary to the council. We discussed the proposed roll and I was assured that it would be submitted within a month or so. There is question as to whether or not they will wish to form a corporation to take over the tribal territory there. We need to discuss this with them in the meeting. Mr. Mercier stated that there was very little interest in Termination at Grand Ronde, and that it was difficult to get a council meeting crowd. He is concerned about the delinquent loans and asked that Credit send strong letters to those who are delinquent. This has been passed on to Credit.

 

On February 2 I went to Siletz. Mrs. Service and Mrs. Munsey helped me go through all of the tribal minutes, resolutions, etc., to extract information on past actions and practice regarding tribal membership, enrollment, etc. Mr. Logan, Chairman of the council came for a few hours and the entire matter of membership, enrollment and how it had been carried on in the past was discussed. This information is being furnished the Washington Office so that the Secretary can publish in the Federal Register, membership requirements for the Siletz. There is very little written documentation in the record as to specific requirements (Holm 1955b).

 

There were few differences in the termination plans for Grand Ronde and Siletz. One of the most important differences was the fact that Grand Ronde because accepted reorganization under the Indian Reorganization Act the tribal rolls had been kept up to date and so there was not much work needed by the tribe to submit their rolls. But at Siletz, the rolls had not been kept up to date and their tribal policies for membership, reported to have been passed in 1917, could not be found. Therefore, Siletz had to initiate the process of creating policies for membership. This process took several meetings in consultation with the Indian Office. Then once the policies were agreed on my referendum of tribal council, the rolls had to be created. Therefore, the Siletz rolls took a little longer to produce.

Final Vote at Grand Ronde

In fact, there was a final vote before the general council at Grand Ronde that approved of termination. This voted is reported to have taken place after P.L. 588 was passed.  In 1975, before the Task Force Ten hearings in Salem, Oregon, tribal council member Merle Holmes discusses the final vote in favor of termination:

Mr. Holmes: …of the 882 people on our… termination roll… there were 79 yeses and 11 nos on this, and we feel that this isn’t enough to constitute the majority because it was 2/3 of the adult population, as I recall, in our charter to, we feel, kind of slip it by the people there. There weren’t enough there to actually voice the will of those people….

Ms. Hunt: was this prior to the passage of the act or was this just on the distribution of assets?

Mr. Holmes: that was to accept the act as it was executed.

Ms. Hunt: and it was already passed into law?

Mr. Holmes: Yes (Ten and Commission 1976:128-129).

 

Merle Holmes testimony indicates that the vote of the general council at Grand Ronde was not representative of the will of the people. Also, it is unclear whether the vote was necessary if P.L. 588 was already law as there were no requirements of Congress to gain an agreement of the tribe to terminated Grand Ronde. Approval of the tribes was a part of the government process but was treated as a formality by the Indian Agents.

 

Settlements: Land allotments

For Grand Ronde and Siletz most of the individual allotments were sold as community property based on the resolution of a majority of tribal members, where the majority was thirty percent of the voting membership. Therefore, many members had their allotments sold without their approval. In comparison, Siletz members had held on to their property in greater frequency and so their per capita checks were much greater, $792.50, than the $35 each Grand Ronde member received. We can attribute this to the fact that Siletz Reservation was more remote, and that Grand Ronde Reservation was established on a major coastal corridor, now Highway 22, for urban travelers. The land was sought after in Grand Ronde more than Siletz due to the better access. Tribal members were allowed to purchase back their land from the government, but otherwise they were forced to participate in the per capita program.

In the case study below we see how the sales of the allotments at Grand Ronde proceeded despite the will of the allottees. Fremond Bean was a participating member of the Grand Ronde Business Committee, and, while he had signed one of the referendums, an interview with Laverne Bean, his widow, indicates that he did not sign the second referendum (Bean 2006). This story is substantiated by the fact that the Grand Ronde resolution of August 22, 1951 states:

Adopted by the Business Committee of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community in regular session, duly noticed and called, at which four members representing a quorum for conducting business were present, by an affirmative vote of four members and no dissenting votes… (Committee 1951).

 

However, the signature list includes Fremond Bean as a signatory along with four other names. This obvious error may complicate the legitimacy of this document and is the source of the disagreement between Fremond Bean and the Indian Office that occurs in 1956, just before the termination is finalized for the tribe. The following duplicates the correspondence exchanged between Fremond Bean and the Indian Office when he is forced to sell his property.

Grand Ronde Indians were taking advantage of the Indian Reorganization Act (Wheeler-Howard Act) as late as 1938 when Fremond Bean gained an allotment under Section 5 of the Act. In 1956, Mr. Bean wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs explaining his situation asking for a fair remedy.

Mr. Bean’s first letter presents us with a multilayered response to termination. The terminated Indians on the reservations were forced to purchase the lands they had gotten through allotment, or allow the lands to be sold to the public. The lands were sold at a low rate without considerations for property improvements, heirs, hardship, or time in residence. The Commissioner was valuing the acreage at a present day rate, not the rate at the time that the Indians were allotted the land. Mr. Bean understood this well and he undertook research in the laws and assembled a good amount of information about Indian rights and policy.[8]

Presented below is a detailed exchange between Fremond Bean, Senator Wayne Morse, and officers in the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the impending sale of Bean’s property. The exchange is wonderfully explanatory of many of the issues at play during this time including the hopes and dreams of Mr. Bean as representative of other members of Grand Ronde:

United States Department of the Interior

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Portland Area Office

Post Office Box 4097

Portland 8, Oregon

April 4, 1956 [received April 25, 1956 Wayne Morse]

 

Mr. Fremont (sic) Bean

Grand Ronde, Oregon

Dear Mr. Bean:

As you are aware the Act of Congress of August 13, 1954 (68 Stat. 724) provides for the termination of Federal supervision over the affairs of the Indians of Western Oregon by August 13 of this year, a date that is now only four months away.

 

At a special meeting held the evening of March 22 the Business Council of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Reservation requested the assistance of this office in concluding all matters relating to the assignments of land at Grand Ronde.

 

The tribal records disclose that you occupy Assignment No. 18 consisting of 2.89 acres, more or less, on which the house for which you have completed payments is situated. You also hold Assignment No. 19 consisting of 53.29 acres, more or less. It now becomes necessary to serve notice to you that you must make a decision not later than 30 days from the date of this letter concerning the action you wish to take regarding the land in your assignments.

 

The Business Council expressed itself as desiring that the assignee be permitted to purchase their assignments or a homesite sufficient to take care of their house at the price originally paid for the lands when they were purchased a number of years ago. Because the lands were purchased in large acreages and subsequently divided into the smaller assignments it has generally been impossible to determine what the exact purchase price of the smaller acreage would have been. The present fair market value of the lands has been carefully appraised. Studies of the appraisals and comparison with the information available regarding the original purchase price discloses that on the average present appraisals are very close to the average of the purchase price. It has been determined, therefore, that the assignments and homesites will be offered to the assignees at the present appraisals.

 

You have the option, therefore, of purchasing either one or both Assignments, Nos. 18 and 19, at the appraisals. Assignment no. 18 is appraised at $200. Assignment No. 19 is appraised at $2,435. The terms of the sale are cash within 30 days from the date hereof. Title will be conveyed in fee simple by deed executed by the Area Director. It is Necessary also to advise you that the land which you do not desire to purchase will be offered for sale to the highest bidder. If you do not wish to purchase your homesite assignment, No. 18, that land will also be sold and you will have a period of 60 days for the date of sale in which to remove the house from the premises.

 

It is necessary that you give this matter immediate and serious consideration and that you notify the Tribal Secretary, Mr. Vincent Mercier, or this office not later than 30 days from the date hereof of your decision and that you have prepared to take such action as you may decide upon within the itme[sic] limit.

 

We deeply regret the necessity of taking this action in carrying out the requirements of the Act of Congress and of the governing body of the tribe. We sincerely hope you will find it possible to work these matters out to your satisfaction.

 

Sincerely yours

Don Foster [illegible]

Area Director (1956)

 

The above letter sets the initial stage of notification of Fremond Bean of the need to make a decision in the matter of buying his land, land that was originally allotted to him. The process, as stated here appears to not have allowed Mr. Bean to have any role as an individual in the decision of the sale of his land on behalf of the Grand Ronde community, although he did participate as a Business Committee member in 1951. The land and their house are treated as two separate properties by the BIA. One of the statements above, that “… it has generally been impossible to determine what the exact purchase price of the smaller acreage would have been” rings hollow as a reason as land values are verifiable for each time period for Oregon.

Below, Mr. Bean presents a well-reasoned response to the notice to buy his land or vacate the property. As explained below Mr. Bean originally received his land under the Wheeler Howard Act, also called the Indian Reorganization Act, where some Indians received new allotments and several received newly built houses, which Mr. Bean had to pay for:

 

Fremond Bean                                    April 17, 1956

Grand Ronde, Oregon

 

Under the provisions of the Wheeler-Howard Act passed by Congress to provide homes and land for homeless and landless Indians, I received an assignment of 56.74 acres in the Grand Ronde Community, Assignment No. 18, in June 1938.

 

When this bill was discussed, before acceptance by the Indians, it was understood that if the land was ever sold that the Indians could buy it for the original price. I accepted my assignment in the belief that I would be able to use the land for life and that my children would inherit my rights; and, that, should this plan fail, I could buy the land for the original purchase price.

 

When I received my assignment there was a new unimproved four-room house on it for which I paid $1,100, the price of construction. I have, also, rocked and maintained one-fourth mile of road; built and maintained fences, built a barn, put in a water system and electricity. I built a porch on the house and made improvements on the outside of the house and have maintained it in good repair which was part of my agreement. I have done everything I agreed to do, and I was the first to pay for my home.

 

Now, the property is to be sold and according to the letter I have from the Indian Office in Portland, Oregon, I have thirty days from the date of the letter which is April 4, 1956 to pay the sum asked. They state in the letter that the Business Committee of Grand Ronde has agreed to sell the assignments for the original purchase price but because of the large amounts of land purchased it is difficult to determine a price. The Portland Office has set a price of $200 for 2.89 acres where my home is located and $2435 for 53.29 acres of farm and pasture land. I have a photostatic copy of the deed stating the amount paid was $2515 for 119 acres or $21.13 per acre. Surrounding land is selling for much less.

 

I feel that I should be allowed to purchase my assignment for $21.13 per acre because I have lived up to my agreements and have spent quite a bit of money in the belief that I would always have use of the land, or in the event it was sold, I could purchase the land for the original price paid.

 

I, also, asked in August, 1950, to have first right to purchase the adjoining assignments because, then, I would have enough land to make a workable farm.

 

All the other assignees, and many of the members of the tribe feel as I do. We would appreciate an early reply, because if we cannot get our crops in right away we will be forced to sell our stock (1956).

 

This reasoned response by Mr. Bean clearly articulates the facts of his property. He, unlike the Department of the Interior, was able to find the original and exact price of his property. He detailed the improvements and expenses he had incurred, a very reasonable issue as he likely bought the property from the tribe assuming that he would remain there for his whole life. In addition, Mr. Bean obtained additional time to settle the property based on the fact that the deadline is affecting the wellbeing of many members of the tribe. The implication here is that termination is proceeding without full tribal member support. The 1951 Grand Ronde resolution shows that the community was aware that all land originally allotted and remaining with the tribal members would be sold as community property, but by the letter, not everyone agreed with this. It is also clearly evident that the tribe did not fully embrace the new termination bill as they did not voice an approval, nor were allowed to testify to Congress during the hearings (Pryse 1953f).

There is no sensibility that the government is genuinely concerned with the wellbeing of the Indians as there is no allowance for individual financial situations. However much the Indians at Grand Ronde were assimilated, nearly anyone who suddenly lost their land, and thus their stability, would become financially stricken.  That the land sales would occur in the mid-summer, in the midst of their most profitable farming period, and that their land would be arbitrarily undervalued would place these people into extreme financial hardship.

The following represents the Department of the Interior’s attempt to consult with Senator Wayne Morse about the sale of tribal lands. It is likely here that Mr. Bean appealed to Senator Morse for aid in this matter and he is therefore investigating the case:

 

United States Department of the Interior

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Washington 25, D.C.

May 11, 1956 (rec’d May 15, 1956)

 

Hon. Wayne Morse

United States Senate

Washington 25, D.C.

 

My dear Senator Morse:

 

This will refer to your letter of April 24, enclosing letter of April 17 and attachments from Mr. Fremond Bean of Grand Ronde, Oregon.

 

Mr. Bean has set forth objections to the procedure applied in the liquidation of tribal assets of the Grand Ronde Community under the Act of August 13, 1954 (P.L. 588, 83d Cong. 68 Stat. 724).

 

Primarily these lands are tribally owned in which all enrolled tribal members of the Grand Ronde Community have an undivided interest. There are 862 members on the official and final rolls of this group. Originally, there were 22 assignments made. At the present time, 13 assignments are in use. Of this number some are only partially in use, generally only for a homesite with the balance of the assignment standing idle. The other nine original assignments have been vacated and are not being utilized.

 

The provisions of the act extended to the community several alternatives in the disposition of tribal lands. The community elected to dispose of all its tribal lands and terminate its identity as a tribal organization. The Federal Government’s trust responsibility lies with all members of a particular tribe, band or group of Indians. In view of this factor this office suggested that in the disposition of tribal lands, assigned and unassigned, the community consider the appraisal of all lands with purchase preference given the assignee. This procedure would assure all members of a fair and equitable return on the lands sold. The community has already decided that all funds now on hand and all income from the sale of lands will be distributed to all members whose names appear on the final rolls.

 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs in carrying out its trust responsibility to all members of the Grand Ronde Community has determined that the appraisal method represents a fair and equitable procedure in the disposition of tribal lands in which all members have an interest. The disposition of the Grand Ronde Community tribal lands is accordingly being so processed.

 

The appraisal of the assignments now occupied by Mr. Bean was arrived at as follows:

 

Appraised value of 56.18 acres, more or less, $1,950 without the timber. This assignment includes 38,000 b.m. Douglas fir valued at $685.00. This land includes 14 acres of crop land with the remainder being utilized for pasture. The buildings were not included in the appraisal since Mr. Bean already owns them.

 

The appraisal procedure can readily be recognized as a fair and equitable method of carrying out the disposition of tribal lands. An exception to the appraisal procedure would tend to jeopardize the interest of the other enrolled members.

 

We hope the foregoing will clarify the reasons underlying the procedure following in the disposition of these Community (tribally) owned lands. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this matter.

 

Mr. Bean’s letter and attachments are returned.

 

Sincerely yours,

Barton Greenwood

Acting Commissioner (1956)

 

In the Department of the Interior’s response, there are a number of issues that are glossed in favor of their process. The issue of “…fair and equitable method of carrying out the disposition of land…” does not take into account the right of Mr. Bean for a fair and equitable reimbursement for his significant outlay for the property. It seems truly unfair to have the government buy back the land for more than he paid. Mr. Bean deserves better treatment that this as both a Grand Ronde Indian and a citizen of the United States:

 

United States Senate

Committee on Foreign Relations

May 15, 1956

 

Mr. Fremond Bean

Grand Ronde, Oregon

 

Dear Mr. Bean:

 

Upon receipt of your letter of April 17th, I communicated immediately with the Bureau of Indian Affairs here in Washington in an effort to be of all possible assistance. Today, I received a report from the acting Commissioner.

 

I regret that the report is not more encouraging. The bureau is endeavoring to be fair to all members of the tribe with respect to the sale of tribal lands. If after reading the report, you have any questions or comments, I shall be pleased to hear from you further.

 

Because I believe you would like to have the papers returned to you which you forwarded with your original letter of April 17th, I am enclosing same.

 

With kindest regards,

Sincerely,

Wayne Morse (1956)

 

The multilayered response from Mr. Bean exemplifies an understanding if the rights of Indians and Americans to be treated fairly under the law. At the time that Mr. Bean gained his allotment, he did so under those provisions of the Wheeler-Howard Act that provided protections for Indian allotments. Termination changed the character of that arrangement and is a good example of how federal Indian Policy can be created under a certain understanding yet can change drastically in the next generational of politicians.

The BIA treated the Grand Ronde Reservation Indians equally, and did not account for individual successes or failures. Fremond Bean was a successful man at the reservation, had done well and utilized several properties to his benefit. For his reward, his individual accomplishments are subsumed into the Grand Ronde community to be divided amongst all. Perhaps in a health tribal community, this sort of communal wealth would work fine, where individual achievements help the entire community, but the Indians at Grand Ronde were to be released from federal recognition and assimilated into American society. Mr. Bean then would have to go into debt to purchase the land in order to remain, and that would set him back.

In a letter to Senator Morse from Mr. Greenwood Acting Commissioner of Indian Affair, he states that the Grand Ronde Community elected to “dispose of all its tribal lands and terminate its identity as a tribal organization,” and that “the community has already decided that all funds now on hand and all income from the sale of lands will be distributed to all members whose names appear on the final rolls” (Greenwood 1956). Finally, the letter states:

the Bureau of Indian Affairs in carrying out its trust responsibilities to all members of the Grand Ronde Community has determined that the appraisal method represents a fair and equitable procedure in the disposition of tribal lands in which the members have an interest (Greenwood 1956).

 

There is no explanation of what methods were employed to survey or appraise the land. As well, a statement of Indian approval does not make it so, as detailed elsewhere, tribal members were never given a chance to disapprove nor to have their voices heard before Congress.

The land issues at Grand Ronde were finally settled in 1961. Before and after this time, the Tribal Council at Grand Ronde had to work with the trustee, Mr. Fuller, to buy and sell land that the community maintained. The Governance Hall was still owned by the tribe into the 1960s where it was sold for $800. This sales price was significantly less than it was worth. The buyer turned around and sold the property for $8,000.  Today the governance hall is owned by a tribal member. Other properties were meant to be sold or leased out by Mr. Fuller who did not conduct these sales in a timely manner or at all in the best interests of the tribe. When seeking restoration, the Tribal council at Grand Ronde sought an answer to the land questions, but they struggled to get a clear picture of the status of their land holdings (Ten and Commission 1976:124-125).

The tribe maintained a 7 acre cemetery which was never sold. In 1975, the tribal council sought to understand how large the parcel was, only to find out that a neighboring farmer has appropriated some of the land form farming and had plowed up some of the graves. The tribal cemetery was managed by the tribe throughout the post-termination era and served as an organizing place for tribal business. The tribal cemetery remains a cultural and historical icon of the Grand Ronde tribe.

Settlements: Tribal Rolls

The issues of tribal rolls are some of the most complex at the reservation as the final termination rolls became the restoration rolls of the Grand Ronde tribe in 1983-84. From those rolls is established the legitimacy of every tribal member to have rights at the tribe as well as the power to pass on those rights to their descendants. As such the rolls and the general issue of membership enrollment policies have become embroiled in extensive community discussions and successive periods of policy changes.

By listing all of the tribes on the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act (PL 588), Congress provided nearly full coverage in their termination of the western Oregon Indians regardless of whether everyone knew what was happening.[9]

Through Public Law 588 (August 13, 1954) the tribes to be terminated in western Oregon were tasked with creating their own termination rolls:

Within 90 days after the date of this act, the Secretary shall publish in the Federal Register a list of those tribes for which membership rolls will be required for the purposes of this Act… (Congress 1954; Murray 1954).

 

There are questions of whether Grand Ronde had sufficient time and resources to compile comprehensive termination rolls. For Grand Ronde, since they had kept their rolls current, the roll was easy to compile:

In 1953 a representative committee of ten members reviewed the 1940 Grand Ronde roll and brought it up to date. They found a number of families, primarily living in the Grand Ronde area, who were entitled to be members of the Grand Ronde census roll. They approved these families for enrollment, however, we understand they were never approved by the Grand Ronde General Council and for this reason these families are listed as not having been approved. We have no indication that the enrollment of these families was submitted by the Business Committee to the General Council for consideration and rejected by the General Council.

Since these families were submitted by the representative committee in 1953 and were included on the 1953 roll and have been included on the roll submitted by the Grand Ronde Business Committee for publication as the proposed roll in accordance with P.L. 588, we recommend that the roll as submitted include these families be accepted for publication by the Secretary. Thus the final sheet of the roll submitted would be omitted as these family groups are included in the basic roll (Holm 1955a).

 

After the termination bills passed in 1954, the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations were allowed three months to correct the rolls:

Any person claiming membership rights in the tribe or an interest in its assets, or a representative of the Secretary on behalf of any such person, may, within ninety days from the date of publication of the proposed roll, file an appeal with the Secretary contesting the inclusion or omission of the name of any person on or from such roll. The Secretary shall review such appeals and his decisions thereon shall be final and conclusive. After disposition of all such appeals the roll of the tribe shall be published in the Federal Register and such roll shall be final for the purposes of this Act (Congress 1954).

 

In April 1, 1955, Vincent Mercier, Secretary of the Tribal Council, contacted the Portland Area Office to request the first petition to the termination roll:

Mr. Mercier reported by telephone and will confirm by letter that after the roll was completed and submitted, No. 33 Wilson Bobb, told him he was now a member of the Yakima Tribe and wished to relinquish his enrollment on the Grand Ronde roll. He made the same request for Russell Bobb, Wilson Bobb, Jr., Edna Bobb, Emerson Bobb and Isaac Bobb (Holm 1955a).

 

 

Regarding the process of petitioning the rolls, the Indian Agent Martin N.B. Holm established a formal process in his letter to Vincent Mercier on May 4, 1955. Vincent Mercier had written on April 1, 1955 requesting that the members of the Wilson Bobb family, the Strong family and the Sutton family be stricken from the Grand Ronde final termination roll (Morse 1959):

  1. A formal protest to the inclusion to the inclusion of their names on the Grand Ronde roll should be filed with the Area Director.
  2. The formal protest to the inclusion of their names on the Grand Rodne roll should state the reason for such a protest as being that they are enrolled on the Yakima roll.
  3. Each adult should file a written statement requesting such action, and a formal protest to the inclusion of his name on the Grand Ronde roll. Wilson Bobb should file written statements for his children and Mrs. Strong for Simon, Ramon and Laura.

While the proposed roll had not been published, we believe you will wish to contact the families concerned and advise them of what is required in order to protest the inclusion of their names on the final roll (Morse 1959).

 

The implication of the termination roll is that after the roll was finalized, no new names could be added. This left many people that shared the same heritage as those listed on the roll, off the roll and in a termination nexus. These people, essentially, never agreed to termination. The BIA denied all petitions after the final termination dates.

Membership Petitions

As mentioned previously, as many as 2,000 people petitioned the Oregon State Senators Morse and Neuberger and the Bureau of Indian Affairs after the final termination date, 1956, for information and aid in claiming their tribal rights (Morse 1958).[10] Many of the petitioners could claims rights in several tribes. Many petitioners included detailed genealogical information. In nearly every case the archives, the BIA investigated the legitimacy of the claims and found that they had either petitioned past the deadline, or there was not enough evidence to prove their case. Some of the petitions had nothing to do with enrollment, but instead were questions about their rights, or were requests for help with a particular problem of land which they may not have had any knowledge of how to handle the problem, such as taxes or allotment claims. Some of the problems appeared to be older issues that the BIA had not dealt with previous to termination, such as whether the petitioner had been fairly compensated for a timber deal.

If even half of the petitions for enrollment are legitimate descendants, they present an important theme that continued well after the termination of the western Oregon reservations, into the 1960’s; that many Indian descendants were not included in the termination rolls. Congress likely knew that there would be some people or tribes that would not hear about the termination of the tribes in time, as they simply listed every tribe in western Oregon on the termination bill.

One example of an enrollment problem is in the petition of Prosper Picard and family, of May 15, 1959. In his correspondence, Mr. Prosper Picard, who is 88 years old, petitions Senator Wayne Morse, on behalf of his family, for enrollment in the “Molallalas, Tillamooks, Calapooia, Umpqua, and Chetco Tribes.” These tribes were members of the Grand Ronde reservation, and in the Indian Office’s response, they connect Prosper with Grand Ronde. In his original letters, Prosper Picard relates to Senator Morse the story of his petition and denial experience with the Indian Office, and stories of his growing up in the Willamette Valley. Prosper Picard writes:

The entire Picard family, with the assistance of the Law firm of Critchlow and Williams, at Richland, Washington, prepared and submitted applications to the Portland Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We were rejected as being of Indian blood not eligible to participate. I feel that the Portland Office did not give us proper consideration. I am eighty eight years old and I find it hard to understand that an Indian wouldn’t know his ancestry. Especially in my case, since my Grandmother, my mother and I were born in the Willamette Valley of Oregon (Picard 1959).

 

Prosper Picard wrote on behalf of 141 relatives, each one of whom is named in the correspondence of May 15, 1959, the response from the BIA. In addition, the Indian Office’s letter is very detailed, naming ancestors from 120 years previously, some of the original members of the Walla Walla Tribe east of Portland on the Columbia River.[11]

Prosper’s experience is very similar to that of many tribal people who were denied enrollment based on a lack of evidence. Tribal people have pointed out that for 100 years the government was engaged in a process of assimilation, to eliminate Indian identity and disassociate Indian people from their tribe and culture. This process was highly successful for many descendants, so much so that when they are asked to prove their heritage, they lack sufficient proof to do so. The effects of assimilation in this regard have never been fully documented as many tribes’ assume that those Indians that have assimilated are urban Indians and therefore no longer Indian. This is the case in the post termination era as Grand Ronde and Siletz descendants were not allowed to participate in tribal reservation events (Kennedy 2006; Tom 2006).

Final Termination Act, 1956

Two years after the passage of the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act (Congress 1954), the Portland Area Office completed its tasks in time for the final termination bill to be passed on August 13, 1956. The major issues between 1954 and the final termination date were to settle the land issues, to settle tribal accounts, to finish and publish the membership rolls for Grand Ronde and Siletz, to appoint a trustee for any remaining funds, to complete the training program, and to provide for minors awards.

Of the land issues at Grand Ronde:

At the time of passage of P.L. 588 there were approximately 597 acres of land in tribal ownership assigned in small tracts for use by various tribal members. In consultation with tribal leaders, the identity and history of each assignment was determined, the tracts surveyed and appraised. At the Tribe’s request, open and unoccupied assignments were sold by competitive bidding, and arrangements made for assignees to purchase at appraised price the assigned tract or sufficient acreage for a home site. A total area of 253 acres was sold leaving 344 acres to be transferred to trustee pursuant to Section 5(b). Proceeds of these sales in sum of $16,310 coupled with over $13,000 of other funds to credit of tribe provided for a per capita distribution of $35.00 to each member which was made July 24, 1956. A balance of $3,836.98 of tribal funds transferred to trustee pursuant to Section 5(b). Undelivered per capita of Grand Ronde…have been transferred to Special Deposits…. Individual trust accounts transferred to Special Deposits include 24 of deceased members [for all of Western Oregon] not probated; 6 whose whereabouts are unknown and 30 for information on current addresses, certified copies of pertinent documents or other required records (Office 1956:2-4).

 

Tribal membership rolls for Grand Ronde were published in two stages. The first proposed roll was published in the Federal Register on May 24, 1955. Thereafter, the appeals period for the roll was completed on August 22, 1955. The “final roll was prepared by the Area Office and published in the Federal Register April 14, 1956 with 862 names” (Office 1956:2).

Minors represented a special concern. Determinations of whether minors would receive a check were made after consultation to determine their competency:

Surveys to establish status data were made of all Western Oregon Indians who had trust assets. The members were given personal counsel; close liaison was maintained with State and County Welfare departments and courts; determinations were made of the competency of all individuals who received land sales funds; and assistance was given in the establishment of guardianships, conservatorships, and in management of funds. 11 guardianships were established for adults, 7 conservatorships for adults, 8 guardianships for minors, and 1 voluntary trust.

It was determined that the best interest of the minors would be served by paying their per capitas in care of parents where such existed and disbursing by Bureau regulations to others having care and custody of children. Per capita recipients were counseled by letter and, when possible, by person (Office 1956:7).

 

To manage the minors and adult funds following termination of the tribe a special trustee, Harold R. Fuller was appointed by the Bureau:

Trustee required only for Grand Ronde Tribal property consisting of approximately 344 acres of land, approximately $5,800 in accounts receivable and $3,836.98 in cash. After consultation with tribal representatives and community leaders, Area Director, (under delegation of authority) designated Harold R. Fuller, attorney-at-law, Sheridan Oregon as trustee. Trust agreement executed August 8, 1956. Copies of agreement and deed of trust forwarded separately to Commissioner.

All necessary documents including Bureau files relating to Grand Ronde property in trust agreement to be delivered to trustee. Includes detailed description amd plats of each tract, appraisals, loan records.  And membership rolls. It is expected that the trustee will consult with Bureau from time to time for information to assist in discharge of his duties and examination of other records in Bureau files or in archives (Office 1956:3-4).

 

The trustee held some of the minors funds, although some minors did receive the initial checks for $35 (Day 2006).

In addition, because the Grand Ronde tribe had participated in the Indian Reorganization Act (1934), special loan funds were available to them afterward. Several tribal members had outstanding debts owed to the tribe and to the United States. The collection of these debts fell to the trustee.

“On August 13, 1954, there remained the following indebtedness to the tribe and the United States” 12 credit fund debts totally $5,973.77; 11 house assignments totaling $6,130.95; and one education loan to the United States totaling $280. At the time of the report and because of the final payments to the tribe and tribal members, there remained $5,784.49 in overall debt (Office 1956:9):

The tribal accounting books maintained by the tribal secretary, all mortgages and other securing instruments, all loan papers including promissory notes and applications, will be released to the trustee. The trustee will also be apprised of individual names and their debts owing under the house assignment arrangement at Grand Ronde (Office 1956:9).

 

Relocation and Education Programs

To aid the assimilation of the tribes into American society, the Office of Indian Affairs established two programs to help Indians move to urban centers. The relocation program began in 1950 after its initial successes with the Navajo Tribe (Tyler 1973:159). The program proved successful whereby in 1956 a reported 74 percent of those relocated remained in the area they had been removed to (Tyler 1973:159).  Relocation became a natural program to access when the tribes were terminated. When the first terminations took place in 1954 thousand of terminated and non-terminated Indians were relocated to major urban centers. Major population centers like Denver CO, Oakland CA, Cleveland OH, and Los Angeles CA were the primary centers for relocation.

The program was heavily criticized by federal officials at the time. Philleo Nash called the program “a one-way bus ticket from rural to urban poverty” (Philp 1986:166).

The education program was operated on contract with the Oregon State Department of Education.

Many tribal members accessed a special education program to become retrained in skills necessary for survival after termination. The Bureau of Affairs worked with the State of Oregon Department of Education to collaborate their services for relocation and education of tribal members to urban environments:

Under contract with Oregon State Department of Education for special adult education and training a total of 71 persons [throughout western Oregon] entered training of whom 53 have stayed in training and have finished or will be finished by October, 1956. Approximately 16 have been placed in jobs as a result of the training program and others are in the process of placement

Funds to permit completion of studies by October 1956 have been obligated by the State Department of Education prior to terminal date.

Under the Bureau relocation program with vocational training 101 persons accepted relocation and entered training. 81 of these have finished their training and are employed or are still in training. A total of 255 individuals (including family members) were affected under the Bureau program.

Approximately one-fifth of the Western Oregon Indian people were benefited by special State program and the Bureau relocation program (Office 1956:8).

 

Both programs served the purpose of relocating members far away from the tribal center. The education program lasted longer than relocation but still ended only a few months after the families were relocated. This left the families to fend for themselves in a strange environment.

Grand Ronde elders Margaret Provost and Kathryn Harrison remember the programs as a way to break up the tribe:

I think it changed a lot of peoples’ lives. Just before we were terminated, they had a program that they were sending people to school. (Margaret Provost: Broadcasting 2000).

 

They had what they called a relocation program. The people from the Bureau of Indian Affairs came here, they said we will send you to Denver Colorado, If some young man wanted to be a welder they would send him to Los Angeles. The tribe looked at that as another way to break up the tribe. Sending the young people away (Kathryn Harrison: Broadcasting 2000).

 

The programs did help get many people skills they could use to find jobs in society and assimilate. But the tribal community at Grand Ronde suffered with the loss of young people and whole families relocated away from the tribe. Once educated these tribal members did not return home as there are few jobs in the Grand Ronde area.

In the urban centers, like Cleveland and Oakland, the relocation programs brought tribal members from many different tribes together. Urban Indian organizations were established where cultural traditions were integrated in cultural events like Pow wows. The cultural integration begun with boarding schools was continued with relocation of tribal members to the cities (Lomawaima 1994).

The Relocation and Education programs buttressed the efforts of the federal government to terminate tribes. All tribal people were able to access the programs because the original intention was to terminate all tribes, and if there was a gradual attrition from the tribe, the resultant brain-drain would help break up the tribes. Indians that remained in cities as “urban Indians” were likely to stay and their descendants would be unlikely to be counted as part of the tribes. In the early part of the 20th century the Indian Office only counted Indians living on the reservation on the annual reservation censuses (Affairs 1965).

Questions about Indian Consent for Termination

Confusion about Termination

Much of the termination period for the Grand Ronde Reservation (1944-1956) is fraught with confusion and misconceptions of the meaning of termination and what would actually happen once the tribe was terminated. The confusion was aided, in large part, by the fact that the issues that were discussed and agreed upon between the tribe and the Indian Office staff in Portland changed during the course of ten years. The understanding that the Grand Ronde Tribal Council had of termination in 1951 for the first attempt at early termination (Pryse 1950) was very different from that passed by Congress in 1954 (Congress 1954).  In 1950, it was assumed by Grand Ronde that they would keep the land, but in the act of 1954 there was no provision for keeping the land as all reservation land was subject to sale.

Despite the many years of discussions between the Portland Area Indian Office and the tribal members as stated by Superintendent Pryse, there was no indication that the people knew all that termination would entail. Confusion about hunting and fishing rights, rights to the reservation timberlands, and their ability to keep their allotted lands were some of the points of contention. In fact in an example from the Klamath Indian reservation, in a Stanford University Research Institute Report, only fourteen Klamaths believed that the tribe had requested trust withdrawal, and four Klamaths believed that the tribal members were more assimilated than other terminated tribes (Fixico 1986:123). Much of this confusion was aided by the fact that the BIA Indian Agents kept the tribes uninformed or misinformed about how the process for termination would work. In the final months of the process, Superintendent Pryse formed arguments in favor of termination which did not include the current opinions of the tribes.  The tribes, cut off from information, and afterward suddenly terminated, were understandably confused as to what their rights were.

Grand Ronde Business Committee

Many tribal stories exist about what happened at the time of termination. There are misunderstandings of which tribal members were on which committee and who signed the termination documents. The Grand Ronde Business Committee receives the brunt of the criticism as they passed resolutions with a committee of only five people. The Business Committee was created as part of the tribe’s acceptance of the Indian Reorganization Act.  In 1951, the Business Committee had to agree on how the land sales issues would be settled between the BIA and the Tribe. This dialogue constitutes some of the elements of that confusion at the time of termination:

Yeah when they were terminated. Fremond Bean, Vernon Reibach, Vincent Mercier, I think Sammy Riggs, and Wilson Bobb were on the committee at the time. When we were terminated. And when they were supposed to have this meeting for termination, Fremond and Bobby decided, or Vernon decided they would not attend that meeting because they could not have a quorum, and they couldn’t vote on it, and so they disappeared, when they had the meeting, and after I came back to Grand Ronde and was talking to Dean Mercier about it, Dean told me that Vincent said Vernon and Fremond signed, were the ones that signed off on the termination, and I said no they couldn’t because they weren’t there. Come out Vincent Mercier was the one that signed.

And then the BIA wanted them to sign off, to terminate the tribe, so apparently there was a meeting, BIA came, and was all supposed to be signed off by these five people…

It was only a meeting of the business council… it wasn’t a general membership meeting… (Bean 2006).

 

The process of approving the method of disposing of Indian trust lands must have been contentious. All resolutions submitted by E. Morgan Pryse were from 1951 and did not directly address the 1954 termination bill. The Business Committee submitted a resolution which approved of the process by which tribal properties, Indian trust properties and allotments would be disposed of in 1951. In 1954, the Grand Ronde tribe and its committees knew little of what evidence was being used for termination and was intentionally kept out of the process by Superintendent Pryse.

It is interesting to note that Wilson Bobb was on the Business Committee in 1951, but in 1954 as he did not remain enrolled at Grand Ronde and instead enrolled his family at Yakima, so his family was never terminated.  While Fremond Bean did not approve of the disposal of the tribal allotments while on the Business Committee in 1951, and unsuccessfully challenged the process in 1956, in defense of his allotment, on the verge of termination.

Petitions

One of the biggest confusions for tribal members, as stated previously, is whether the tribe consented to termination at all. Contemporary elders remain truly confused about this issue. The records from the 1954 termination hearings state that the tribe was agreeing to the provisions of the termination act because of the previous petitions and because of the belief that Pryse had that they still wanted termination (Affairs 1954b). However in elders memories and in the correspondence records from Pryse, there are no statements that the Grand Ronde tribe did agree to termination under the act proposed in 1953 (Congress 1954; Pryse 1953f). The tribal resolutions submitted with the hearings of 1954 did not pertain to the termination act proposed in 1953 and passed in 1954, but instead the early termination proposed in 1950-51.  Therein lies the confusion, there is an approval for termination but the documents were presented incorrectly.

Superintendent Pryse had the support of published perspectives from tribal leaders. In 1952, the Oregonian published a large article about termination with photos from the western Oregon tribes of prominent tribal people, like John Hudson, Coquelle Thompson and Vincent Mercier (Oregonian 1952). In this article, all of these prominent tribal leaders agreed to termination:

John “Mose” Hudson an elder of the Grand Ronde confederation, for example, generally endorses the plan. “Its just 100 years too late, that’s all.” Hudson said. “Many of our old people died of broken hearts because of the way they were treated.” William Simmons, who at 82 maintains an articulate and sprightly interest in Grand Ronde affairs, thinks the full and complete emancipation will be a fine thing for the younger generation. A nondrinker, Simmons maintains, with complete justification, that federal liquor regulations in regard to Indians are outmoded and discriminatory. “That was the worst thing they ever did,” said Simmons. Coquelle Thompson, a leader of the coast Indians, and an ex-OSC football star, thinks federal withdrawal will be a healthy thing for all concerned (Oregonian 1952).

 

While the apparent tone of their responses is positive towards the program, their responses reveal an early understanding of what termination would mean. No where is the statements is there an understanding of the loss of much culture and language, the loss of community and the long-term poverty for many tribal members. The rhetoric of “emancipation” is used as if this were an American nationalist emancipation such as freeing of the slaves. However, the termination version of emancipation was not the same as some of the assumptions of these tribal elders. Additionally, termination did not only involve federal withdrawal, but a liquidation of all tribal assets.

Likewise the opinion of Coquelle Thompson of the Siletz Reservation does not exhibit an understanding that the Siletz Reservation trust lands will be sold off. The 1951 resolutions and their 1952 statements are based on assumptions that they would retain the tribal lands and be able to use the timber resources to finance the tribe, that they would manage their own tribal business without interference from the BIA (Oregonian 1952):

 

It will help him and others of the younger men at Grand Ronde and Siletz to get somewhere in the marketing of timber. As it stands now trust land must be cruised by the federal government before it can be logged (Oregonian 1952).

 

Coquelle Thompson appears to assume that the timberlands now owned in common by the tribe or by Indian individuals will remain in Indian or tribal ownership. This is not what termination allowed the Indians of Grand Ronde or Siletz. Instead, In the 1954 termination bill, all lands were sold, and individuals were allowed the option of purchasing back their land and proceeds of the reservation land sales were split amongst all remaining members on the termination roll.

The parallel opinions of respected elders from Grand Ronde, Siletz and Klamath all apparently thinking that the tribes will retain the timberlands leads to the possibility that in the early tribal discussions with the Indian Agents that they were told misleading information; that they would be able to retain their lands. It is conceivable that in the initial discussion about termination that the tribes were assured that they could keep their lands and that the only change would be the elimination of Indian Office administration as elders from Klamath have stated occurred (Ball 2006).

In the 1975 Task Force Ten hearings in Salem, Oregon, Tribal Council member Merle Holmes conveys some of the early promises made by BIA Indian Agents during the early discussions about termination:

Mr. Holmes: …we are afraid they [elders] were grossly misinformed and didn’t ask enough questions before they voted yes.

Ms. Hunt: Do you know the kind of promises the bureau made? Were they promises that if you do decide to terminate you’ll get money or you’ll be able to drink or this wouldn’t affect future generations or you’ll have things better?

Mr. Holmes: that was in fact the thing that led most of those people on. They said just because you terminated that doesn’t mean we won’t give you money for reorganization. We want you to be self governing here in your tribal structure. There was money to reorganize. They promised they would send us to workshops and conventions, BIA and other organizations, so that we’ll be informed and able to govern our people even though we’re terminated. But this, as we know, nothing along this line was ever done over there (Ten and Commission 1976:135).

 

Mr. Holmes understanding of the promises is based on stories passed down to him by the elders of Grand Ronde. However, his statements make sense when compared to the comments of the tribal members above who make statements about how positive termination would be for the tribes. It is understandable that in the early years of termination discussions that many promises would be made because the policy was not well fleshed out.

Post Termination Petitions

In the years following termination, the BIA and Oregon’s Senators received correspondence asking for information and help understanding what termination entailed. Many officials were convinced that the tribes had approved of termination. The following is from H. Rex Lee, Associate Commissioner of the Department of the Interior in correspondence to Senator Wayne Morse on April 30, 1958:

The members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde community thoroughly discussed the proposed termination on at least two occasions, and by resolution passed on August 20, 1951, voted to have Federal supervision withdrawn. As Mr. Hartman’s wife was apparently not living on the reservation at the time, it may be that these matters did not come to her attention. However, the wishes of the tribes as a whole were taken into consideration by the Department and Congress at the time the legislation was considered and the Act passed (Lee 1958).

 

The contention of the government remained that the Grand Ronde tribe consented to termination but this was not the situation. Senator Morse’s question is in direct relation to the questions he was being asked by Oregon Indians regarding the termination of the tribes.

Experts on Indians

 

Several Indian experts were involved in the state level discussions about termination. Dr. Luther Cressman was a professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon and the resident scientific expert on many of the tribes. Cressman served on the Oregon State Indian Affairs committee for many years.

Cressman is solicited by the Association on American Indian Affairs, President Oliver La Farge in a Western Union telegram of February 2, 1954:

 

DEEPLY CONCERNED TO LEARN REAL SENTIMENT OF INDIANS OF GRAND RONDE AND SILETZ AND KLAMATHS ON PENDING PENDING (sic) LEGISLATION TERMINATING FEDERAL RELATIONS WITH THOSE GROUPS.  GRAND RONDE-SILETZ HEARINGS IN WASHINGTON FEBRUARY 17; KLAMATH HEARINGS FEBRUARY 22 AND 23. CAN YOU HELP US SECURE TRUE INFORMATION AND POSSIBLY ADVISE WHO WOULD MAKE SOUND EXPERT WITNESS IN HEARINGS (La Farge 1954).

 

At this time, on the eve of termination, there appears to be some question of whether the Indians of Oregon approved of termination. The question of Klamath agreement to termination is more directly answered on May 11, 1954, by A. S. Wright, Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Indian Affairs on the eve of the termination:

This bill was prepared by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in accordance with concurrent H.R. 108. It was not requested by the Indians, and, as far as can be ascertained, the majority of them would not favor this particular bill (Wright 1954).

 

The organization Association of American Indian Affairs is a pro-Indian group working to unseat the termination legislation. La Farge is asking key questions and according to the correspondence from Pryse, he is correct in asking them.

Executive Director Association on American Indian Affairs Alexander Lesser raised the same questions a few days later:

Telegram, E. Morgan Pryse

Association telegrams to Reibach, Chairman Grand Ronde and Logan, Chairman Siletz undelivered. Can you help us learn official Tribal views and plans on Joint-House-Senate hearings February 17 on S. 2746, H.R. 7317 terminating Federal relations with Grand Ronde and Siletz? Will Tribal delegations testify February 17 [?] Can you also advise whom Association can contact directly in each tribe? (1954).

 

Cressman was asked to be an expert witness in favor of the Klamath Tribe in the correspondence of February 5, 1954.  Dr. Cressman answers Oliver La Farge in regards to Grand Ronde and Siletz:

The Grand Ronde-Siletz situation is quite different from the Klamath. The former is a small group whose members are pretty well incorporated into the white community. They seem to have good leadership. There is little property concerned. I believe they initiated their own bill to have their relationship with the Federal Government terminated. As far as I can see, this program is what the Indians want and will probably be entirely to their advantage (Cressman 1954).

 

Dr. Cressman effectively sums up his understanding of the situation in Oregon. He appears to be in sympathy with the Indian people over termination. Dr. Cressman states opinions about the Siletz or Grand Ronde Tribes, even though he worked primarily on the east side of the Cascades and directly with the Klamath tribe. In this instance, Dr. Cressman is repeating the federal government’s position concerning termination. It is not clear otherwise how he decided upon this opinion. Cressman mis-states how the termination bills were created saying “I believe they initiated their own bill”. This is not at all the situation. At the end of the letter, Dr. Cressman is forecasting an impending problem associated with termination, something the federal government has not taken into account, the loss of the tribal value systems, which may equate with their tribal culture, language, and worldview.

Misconceptions of Treaty Rights

It was not only the Indians who were confused about Indian issues. Politicians share in much of the confusion by not understanding the nature of treaties. Some politicians did not understand that treaties did not afford tribes special rights, but instead rights they earned for ceding millions of acres of land to the United States. In the Constitution treaties were to be considered the supreme law of the land.  In 1955 Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay in a letter to Mr. Oliver La Farge appears to not understand this arrangement and questions the fact that the Indians must consent to termination:

 

Now let me say a few words about the principle of Indian “consent” which you emphasized toward the end of your letter. We must start, I believe, with the fact (stressed in your letter) that Indians are citizens and now have the privilege of the ballot in all 48 states. This means they are represented in Congress just as other citizens are and that they have the same rights (which they frequently exercise) of petitioning the Congress and of stating their views before Congressional committees considering legislation.  What you are proposing—and let us be quite clear about this—is that, over and above these normal rights of citizenship, the Indians should also have a special veto power over legislation which might affect them. No other element in our population (aside from the President himself) now has such a power and none ever has had in the history of our country. In short, it seems to me that the principle of Indian “consent” which you are urging so strenuously has most serious Constitutional implications. With full respect for the rights of Indian people, I believe it would be extremely dangerous to pick out any segment of the population and arm its members with authority to frustrate the will of Congress which the whole people have elected (McKay 1955).

 

This is one of the most misunderstood issues regarding American Indians. These are not “special” rights but instead regular and normal rights that Indian tribes have gained through treaties, legal and binding treaties with the United States government, which the U.S. government initiated, agreements which do not have a termination date.  This is the basis of why consent from the Indians is necessary, as Indians are people of dual citizenship and have rights under their tribal citizenship of consenting to termination or not.

Whether “consent” from the Indians, freely and without coercion, was acquired is uncertain in many cases. Secretary McKay states that the western Oregon Indians “explicitly requested such legislation” (McKay 1955), but there is evidence that there was no such consent and there was coercive pressure applied to tribes to approve termination or they would not receive their Indian Claims awards (Lane 2006).

Conclusion

Termination was the latest of the colonial movements to divest Indian peoples and tribes of their lands and rights. Western tribes possessed great-untapped resources and lands, and the state and federal governments sought to possess those assets for the benefit of the new settlers in the west and for the growth of the western economy. Coercive agricultural methods that had limited the potential of the Midwest United States needed an influx of raw resources, resources which tribes held the rights to, and the growth of the western populations needed the freedom to exploit natural resources for the growth of the region. Senator Elmer Thomas of Oklahoma helped convey the 19th century colonial justifications for the removal of Indian tribes forward into the termination discussions in 1943 with his testimony:

Though the Indians own approximately 3 percent of the land area of the United States, they, of all degrees of blood, and wherever dispersed, and of whatever economic status, constitute less than three-tenths of 1 percent of the total population-that is they own 10 times their share of the land area of this country. No wonder they can allow 6,464,592 acres of their poorest land to lie, idle and lease to non-Indians 12,432,122 acres of their better lands, since they still have 36,000,000 of average land from which they can choose farming or stock-raising units up to 5,000 acres for each of all families that might wish to use land for productive purposes. Why continue to bewail lost lands which they never used while they are still not using millions of acres of what they do own and on which non-Indians are making a living while paying rents to the Indian landlords (Thomas 1943:6-7).

 

Senator Thomas’s testimony represents an earlier period of colonization of Indian Country by the United States, when one of the arguments to justify colonization was the assumption that Native peoples did not fully use the land and therefore wasted it. White American maintained a belief, from the earliest days that Indians were not deserving of the lands. The same argument was used in the earliest days of colonization of the Americas by Robert Cushman of the Plymouth Colony, “…the Indians let the land lie idle and waste . . .it is lawful now to take a land which none useth, and make use of it…” (Young, et al. 1841:243-244).

The same statement in 1943, at the eve of the decade of efforts to terminate the tribes, establishes that this justification for colonization, for taking land from the Indians, still held power for some in the United States government, regardless of the realities of Native societies and cultures. It did not matter to Senator Thomas that Native people had once owned the entire continent, and maintained legally binding treaties which gave them perpetual rights to their remaining lands and that for agreeing to those treaties, the United States was morally obligated to continue those agreements.

By terminating Indians, the Federal government succeeded on several levels, economically, politically, and publicly. Economically, the states and the Federal government gained access to untapped resources. Timber, land, minerals, and water and its resulting power generation through the construction of dams, were the fundamental resources essential for increased development of the region.

Termination also took care of the “Indian problem” which would more correctly be termed, the “Indian problems.”  At many levels, the Indian problems ceased for the terminated tribes. The federal government gained access to land and resources to help revive struggling economies. For terminated tribes, new Indian Claims Cases ended, for many of the most troublesome tribes, halting any further expenses to the federal government. For Oregon, most of the western Oregon tribes and the Klamath tribe had gained expensive settlements, many of which were paid years after the tribes were terminated.

Indians also finally began assimilating into American society. Aided by government programs of relocation and education, and propelled by the end of federal services, thousands of tribal peoples immigrated to the cities. To the American public this appeared to be a successful example of assimilation. The problem of discrimination was washing into urban “melting pots” where Indian problems were minor, them being only a small fraction of the overall populations.

In fact, termination was a politically motivated experiment. Martin N. B. Holm, Assistant Area Director of the Portland Area office stated, “Western Oregon will be a testing ground…” for Indian termination (Holm 1954).

Holm’s statement on the eve of the termination of the western Oregon Indians is telling. The federal government had never perpetrated such an act as termination before and did not know what would occur, or how termination would affect Indians that had always been protected by federal trust status. The experiment was a politically propelled demographic movement based on the economic needs of the federal government and the continued desire to eliminate American Indians as a liability.

The termination of the Grand Ronde tribe presents an example of the inconsistencies and political manipulations of tribes, of Congress and of the State of Oregon in favor of an incredible “experiment”. This experiment changed cultures and communities in ways that may never be recovered from by descendant peoples.

In the years following termination in western Oregon, many tribal people reacted with confusion, not truly understanding what the act did to their tribe. Many petitioned to be added to the final rolls only to be denied by federal and state officials. Others sought to practice their cultural rights as Indians to hunt and fish or participate in other tribal events. The non-terminated tribes interpreted terminated tribes as having sold-out, and voluntarily giving up being culturally Indian. The state insisted on Indian people obtaining regular state issue hunting and fishing permits even though these rights were never taken away by the termination act.

Finally native communities were heavily impacted for the majority of tribal members. People scattered to far away cities and lost connections with family. Native languages, oral histories and a community consciousness ceased to exist for many.

Most Native families struggled and many immediately began accessing state and federal social services and struggled with assimilation. The issue of whether the terminated tribes were truly assimilated enough or prepared to be terminated was addressed on May 11, 1954, by A. S. Wright, Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Indian Affairs:

A quick survey of the Klamath Tribe would not support the thesis that these people have the necessary education, business experience, background, or the unanimity of purpose of managing a hundred-million-dollar corporation. If the assets of the reservation were liquidated and distributed among the members of the tribe, it is inconceivable that the people would have the necessary business acumen to handle their assets judiciously. Frankly the State of Oregon could possibly face the fiasco of having the reservation liquidated, all the timber cut off, the watershed denuded, and hundreds of Indians in relief (Wright 1954).

 

From this report by Mr. Wright, the administration of the time is well aware of the problems of termination, and in fact his last statement, “…hundreds of Indians in relief,” does foretell the future for most of the Indians in Oregon that were terminated. The final payoff for Grand Ronde members was paltry, only $35 (Commission 1976; Day 2006).

Bibliography

 

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1954b  Termination of Federal Supervision over Certain Tribes of Indians : Joint Hearings before the Subcommittees In Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Congress of the United States, ed. Eighty-third Congress. Washington, D.C.: GPO.

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1955b  Report of Trips to Grand Ronde, Siletz, and Salem, Oregon from Martin N. B. Holm to Mr. Foster: February 5, 1955. In RG 75, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Portland Area Office Records. Seattle: National Archives Records Administration, Northwest Regional Repository.

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1951b  Resolution: “The Secretary of the Interior is requested to terminate his supervisory power over operation and disposition of Tribal lands, and, Tribal Lands be fee patented to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde”. G.R.B. Committee, ed. Grand Ronde, Oregon: Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.

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[1] The agency offices changed during successive federal administrations such that Siletz, Portland, and Chemawa were at various times the central administrative office for western Oregon Indian Affairs. The contemporary situation is different with the reservations self-administered.

 

[2] For the full quote see Chapter 3 appendix, quotation 13.

 

[3] The issue of claims is addressed in chapter 5.

 

[4] For the full quote see Chapter 3 appendix, quotation 15. The Grand Ronde mentioned is the Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency. The two agencies were administered as one in this time.

 

[5] Also see, Principle Recommendations of Survey team to Bureau of Indian Affairs 26, January 1954, box 115, official file, White House Central files, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

 

[6] There were/are Chinook people on many reservations in Oregon and Washington, including a substantial population at Grand Ronde.  This reference is to the Chinook Tribe. Many of the tribal names are repetitious as several of the bands and tribes in the act are also Chinook. This is the same for Kalapuyas and Rogue Rivers.

 

[7] Confusing is the fact that these tribes are largely connected with the Grand Ronde and/or Siletz reservations. Therefore the correct designation would be tribes, bands and tribal governments.

 

[8] When Mrs. Bean gave me documents to copy, among them were several copies of Congressional acts and government policies regarding Indians. I have assumed that these were gathered by Fremond Bean.

 

[9] See page

 

[10] Senator Morse apparently created a form letter to send to petitioners because this was a common appeal.

 

[11] Prosper’s account is accurate for the progress of settlement of white men and Indians. After the early period of fur trade in the Oregon Territory (roughly 1810-1840), many settlements were established by French Canadians and Americans along the Columbia River. Beginning in the 1840s, and some earlier, the Willamette Valley became the primary focus of settlement with towns like Butteville, Champoeg, St. Paul, and Willamette Falls (now Oregon City) being founded. When Americans took political power in the Oregon Territory, during the same period, all of the full and half Indians who worked for the Hudson Bay Company became part if the Indian removal to the newly formed reservations of Grand Ronde and Siletz. This is how the Walla Wallas, a tribe situated several hundred miles east of Portland came to Grand Ronde Reservation. (will insert Picard family tree in appendix)

 

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PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher. I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.

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