Albert B. Meacham was an Indian agent in the 1860’s and 70’s and oversaw some changes in the reservations. He attempted to give the tribes some voice in this situation, worked to get the tribes to adopt western medicine, and began warning the tribes that their treaty funding was about to end. In short, he seemed to care about the tribes and his reports suggest that he deeply cared about what the tribes had gone through for some 16 years. He even wrote a book of his experiences, Wigwam and Warpath, which addresses nearly all of the tribes in Oregon. The appendices of the book contain many of his best reports.
The following section of a 1871 report is directly related to the Coast Treaty and the fact that it was never ratified. The tribes of the southern Oregon coast were removed beginning in 1856 to the Coast Reservation, and the Umpqua temporary reservation, as a way to eliminate conflicts in the southern Oregon gold fields, and coastal estuaries. The tribes and the Americans were fighting over land and resources with the tribe unable to put up with continued attacks on their people and rights, even after they were made promises by Indian agents they would not be disturbed. The Rogue River Indian War, and numerous other conflicts and battles outside of the war zone, caused a need to halt hostilities. American federal agents did nothing to the Americans who caused the conflicts and placed all of the blame on the tribes by refusing to give them equal protection under U.S. laws and by removed them to reservations. White Americans were not disturbed in their movements to take land and resources, that belonged to the tribe.
The tribes, once removed, were placed in coastal estuaries on the Coast and Umpqua Reservations (Umpqua, Alsea, Siuslaw, Yachats, Siletz, Salmon River (Nachesne). There they essentially fended-for-themselves with little or no funding for food or necessities. The funds are paid irregularly and much is used for the salaries of white workers. They lived in this fashion for seventeen years, putting up with horrendous conditions, inhuman treatment by Indian agents, poverty and starvation. At first they were waiting for the treaty to be ratified, but by 1860 it was clear that this would not happen so they were then forced to remain on the Coast Reservation and not return to their homelands. Its estimated that at least half of these people died due to mistreatment on the Coast Reservation. When they were released, they have nothing, they worked for several years to return to their homelands, because all of their villages, houses and lands were now claimed by and occupied by white settlers. Many stayed with the Siuslaw people, for a time, they were privileged to have not been removed, their lands were inside of the Coast Reservation boundaries. Meacham’s statements below take place a couple years before the southern section of the reservation is terminated (1875) and before these peoples, the remains of their tribes, are released from the reservation.
There are at this agency (Coast Reservation: Siletz Agency) some fourteen tribes and parts of tribes of Indians, numbering , in the aggregate, at the time I took charge, about 2,000. Separate treaties were made with all of these different tribes in 1855, at the conclusion of what is known as the “Rogue-river war.” (actually concluded summer 1856) Some of these treaties have been, in part, confirmed and complied with by the United States Government, but most of them have been entirely and persistently disregarded (Truth!). In expectation, however, of the immediate ratification of all the stipulations entered into, the Indians were all removed from their lands in the Rogue -river country to Siletz Reservation at the close of the war above referred to (Actually, it was the coastal tribes and the treaty is the Coast Treaty, some of the tribes were from Rogue river, there are other Rogue river tribes that have two other ratified treaties). Here they have been kept ever since as prisoners of war (emphasis mine, accurate situation, even though the tribes not paid and who suffered the most were mostly not involved in any war. Tribes involved in the war, other Rogue River confederacy tribes, may have lost their claims to the treaty, even if they went to war to protect and save their people. This is a question that remains to be proved. ), supported by a removal and subsistence fund, appropriations for which, varying from $10,000 to $30,000, have been annually made by Congress.
For sixteen years this scant, irregular, and uncertain charity, doled out to them from time to time, has been the only evidence they have received that they were not utterly forgotten by the Government. For sixteen years they have been fed upon promises that were made only to be broken, and their hearts have sickened with “hope deferred.” For Sixteen years they have seen the white man gathering in annually his golden harvests from the lands which they surrendered; and for all those sixteen long, weary years they have waited, and waited in vain, for the fulfilment of the solemn pledges with which the white man bought those lands (the lands were taken without payment, and white people made much wealth off of their lands).
What wonder is it that, suspicious and distrustful as they are by nature, they should, under such tuition, cease to have any faith in the white man’s word, or to heed his solemn preachments about education and civilization? Who can blame them if, after such an experience, they come to regard the whole white race, from the Great Father down, as a race of liars and cheats, using their superior knowledge to defraud the poor Indian? And is it amazing that, with such an eminent example before them, they should use every possible exertion to escape from the restraints which, as they believe, the white man had imposed upon them only for the purpose of defrauding them? In my judgement it is safe to assert that by far the greater part of their restiveness and indocility is justly attributable to this cause. I am fully satisfied that it has more than doubled the difficulty of controlling and managing them for the past eight years. So thoroughly have I appreciated this fact, that I have again and again urged, in my annual reports, the necessity of entering into treaties with the Indians at this agency who are not now parties to any stipulations.
Feeling as I do the neglect with which these Indians have been treated in this particular has been most unwise as well as grossly unjust, I cannot permit this last opportunity of expressing myself officially on the subject to pass without again earnestly urging a speedy correction of this grievous error and wrong. (A.B. Meacham Report of October 1, 1871 Yaquina Agency; Wigwam and Warpath 686-687)
Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD
PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher.
I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.