The assignment by anthropologists, historians, and linguists of the whole of the Oregon Cascades to the Molalla peoples since 1846 (Hale 1846) needs to be critically rethought. I began this argument in the recent article on the Ethnographic land claims of the Molallas. My recent presentation at the Clark County Historical Society (11/11/2018), and the questions that followed, suggest this is an important subject to cover more fully.
So what were the Cascades, of not the homelands of the Molallans? Ethnographically they were a common use area for all tribes to visit, pass through, set camps for hunting (Elk, deer, etc), berry picking (lots if berries), fishing (salmon, trout, & eel), quarrying (Obsidian) and trading for all tribes in the region. The tribes had specific trails that traveled north-south and east-west that were used by all peoples for walking or riding horses for their activities.
A few examples:
Kalapuyans and Molallans – they lived in the valleys of Willamette and Umpqua and traveled west to east into the Cascades to trade with other tribes, to go berry picking, for hunting, and fishing. There are specific huckleberry sites, large elk browsing meadows and trails lined with berry bushes into the Cascades. There are also spiritual and ceremonial sites in many locations. Some of the Caves and rock shelters hosted ceremonial activities, such as Cascadia Caves. Tribes knew when to plan their trips into the Cascades to avoid harsh weather and knew where to go to find a variety of resource they could bring back to the valley villages. Encampments would be about two week or more in the midst of the summer. When horses came, travel through the Cascades was faster and easier in bad weather but winter travel was avoided. Molallans lived in the foothills, to the east of the Kalapuyan villages, but heavily interacted with the Kalapuyans, with much intermarriage. Molalla Chief Crooked Finger is said in one source to have a winter village at Mt. Angel. So there was no permanent settlement of these tribes in the Cascades at any time. There were season circuits into the Cascades to regular camp sites to harvest and gather, but these were temporary, if not annual, temporary hunting camps, fishing camps, root camps, or berry picking camps.
In 1854, Joel Palmer was in preparations for negotiating the Umpqua and Calapooia treaty and received a report from the Martin the sub-Indian agent in the Umpqua valley, The letter illustrates a further example of shared territories. W. J. Martin. Martin writes,
Of The Indians of the Umpqua valley, “the size and quantity of country claimed by them” … “will not exceed twelve hundred full sections.” ” I have tried to ascertain of the Indians the amount of land claimed by each band, but was not able, as they have some conflicting lines with each other. There seems to have never been any dividing line between them.” Therefore, I think the best course to pursue would be to make all purchases from the entire Umpqua Tribe at once, as it would be an end less task treating with each band separately.” (7/9/1854 Martin to Palmer, M2 R4)
Martin here confederated all of the “Umpqua” tribes and bands into one Umpqua tribe, when they were really bands of the Upper Umpqua and Yoncalla Kalapuya. The Cow Creek had already gotten a treaty in 1853, and the southern Molalla were an unknown at this time.
Even today, there are few towns in the Cascades. Few people live there or want to be snowed in during the winters. Most permanent establishments are for forest management, or forest, water, and snow recreation. Some people have 2nd homes, summer cabins in the Cascades, which they use occasionally for winter sports, or camping, but they do not live there year-round. It does not seem reasonable to assume the Molallans were living within the Cascades year-round.
Wasco-Wishram- they travel mostly north to south on the crest Indian trails. Most stories suggest huckleberry picking and hunting. The huckleberry sites at 4,000 feet show berry basket making activities from red cedar, yellow cedar trees. They were the recipients of many visits at Celilo by Molalla, Klamath and hundreds of other tribes who sought access to Columbia river trade, and dried salmon. In the historic period the tribes at Warm Springs are known to travel the mountain passes to get to Springfield (Lane Co.) to harvest agricultural crops, into the Brownsville (Linn County) area and, into the Portland basin for the same.
Klamaths- This tribe is a heavy trading tribe who likely operated as middle men between the Columbia river trade and Northern California. One route for dentalium trade was on the north south route. They are well known to have come into the Willamette Valley to camp for the summers and hunt elk and visit their friends and relatives the Molallas. They fought two battles with settlers in the valley, Battlecreek (South Salem Hills) and Abiqua (Dickie Prairie), as settlers drove them out of the valley. They maintained travel into the Eugene area on the Klamath Trail during the historic period, and today, likely caused in part by their federal termination (1954-1961) and restoration (1986), are well known presences around Eugene and Springfield. They may have participated in the slave trade between the Kalapuyans, whom they may have raided at times, and taken slaves into northern California. There is one recorded raid, by them and/or the Molallas on the Yoncalla Kalapuyans. There was very much interaction between the Klamaths and both the Northern and Southern Molallans. Some southern Molallas went to the Klamath Reservation, while a band of the Klamaths were sent to the Grand Ronde Reservation in 1856, but they did not stay.
Paiutes- This tribe has just a few reports of attacking Indian settlements on the edge of the Cascades and perhaps into the Willamette valley. In the historic period they certainly were attacking Wasco, Washram, and Deschutes villages just as they are beginning to be moved to the Warm Springs reservation. They would have visited the Cascades for berry picking and hunting, on the east side at least.
The Cascades, then, are a common-use area, not “owned” in any ways by the tribes in the region. The ownership that we have today with the Molalla assigned to the Cascades, are all created by anthropologists and US government officials who did not understand tribal culture at all, nor did they care to understand. Therefore, it does not make any sense to assign the whole of the Cascades to the Molalla linguistically since multiple tribes were constantly cris-crossing the range using probably 20 to 50 different native languages from the region. The assignment of the territory today as the sole linguistic territory of the Molalla, is really an error, a relic of early anthropology, which needs to be fixed in common studies in anthropology and linguistics.
Politically, there is not much we can do in the United States government as the tribes are assigned such territories in the treaties, which are ratified and the law of the land. Tribes could do a lot informally to heal relationships by accepting and understanding the nature of their true ethnographic cultural land claims and adopt more cooperative and collaborative relationships with their Tribal neighbors regarding these types of land claims, as was traditional for thousand of years before colonization. Otherwise the United States is winning when tribes fight with each other over concepts like land ownership of large territories which where/are imposed on tribes.
This is not to say that tribes did not own some areas. High value resource areas were definitely owned by the villages at that location, and proper protocol was necessary to gain access to the fishing, gathering, hunting sites, whatever they were. Proper and traditional protocol needs to really be re-stored in the region, to reestablish respectful relationships, and to alleviate much of the stress between tribes.
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.