What did Omission from the Annual Tribal Census Mean to Grand Ronde?

In 1907, the Indian agent at Grand Ronde began redacting, or not listing, native peoples at Grand Ronde from the annual tribal census. The agent was treating the census as if it was a tribal roll, because their reasoning was that those individuals that had proved up on their Indian allotments, and applied to get them turned into fee simple titles. Once the land was freed from federal jurisdiction, the individual tribal members were then living on fee-simple titled lands. This was interpreted by Andrew Kershaw, the Indian Superintendent, as if the individuals were no longer tribal as they no longer lived on the “reservation” lands and therefore Kershaw did not list them on the annual census. What is odd is the same action did not occur at the Siletz reservation. Comparing the censuses, year-by-year we find that there is not a drop in names on the Siletz reservation like there is from 1906 to 1907 at Grand Ronde. In addition, there is not the same notes in the census about omitting names from the census.

Lets take a look at this dramatic change in Indian policy, a policy which appears to have been localized at Grand Ronde only.

1906 Frank and Flora Menard
1906 last names, Peter and Elizabeth Menard family

At the end of the 1906 census for Grand Ronde there are 353 people, the last family noted is the Peter and Elizabeth Menard family. In these early years, Indian agents did not usually alphabetize the names on the census and so they are organically listed based on the manner in which the Indian agents collected the names and data.

1907 last names

This fragment from the 1907 census at Grand Ronde shows the last family, the Yamhills, Joseph and Mary, who we can assume were of Yamhill Kalapuya heritage. They number 148 & 149. This constitutes a drop of 204 people from the census. As the census is treated as the roll of the tribe as well, that means 204 people have been omitted from the tribal roll by the Federal government. The federal Indian agents kept the rolls of the tribe and would add and take off members based on their own decisions. Sometimes tribal leaders would advocate for a change, but until 1936, when the tribe adopts a constitution and takes control of the tribal rolls (Indian Reorganization act), the federal government had near complete control over the tribal rolls.

1907 Frank and Flora Menard family

The Menard Family in 1907 is only 3 people on the tribal census. The Francis & Flora Menard family may have not gotten an Indian allotment. Since Francis is 26, he would have been 5 or 6 when the allotments were being assigned (1887) and so he may have missed out. Or perhaps he was just late in applying for a fee-simple title. The Peter & Elizabeth Menard family completely disappears from the 1907 census, They apparently had Indian allotments and turned them into fee-simple titles.

1907 Kershaw letter

There is a note attached to the 1907 Grand Ronde census. Andrew Kershaw, the Indian Agent states he “omits the names of all those Indian who have asked for and received patents in fee for lands allotted them on this reservation, for the reason that they no longer considered as wards of the Government.” The statement by Kershaw is startling. If they are no longer wards, then do they become citizens of the United States? I do not recall this question being asked previously. Did Kershaw get an order from the Indian office instructing him to make this change? Do the 204 Indians omitted have full rights as American citizens? What does this all mean? Citizenship was not preferred on Native Americans as an ethnic group until the American Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. So until 1924, Native people had no citizens rights within the United States. They were supposed to stay on the federal reservations and states would not offer them services. So all of their rights derived from their treaties, as inheritors of the rights of the ratified treaties, and whatever services they could get at the reservations. If Native people are omitted from the census, are they also omitted from the tribal rolls? Are these two separate things? How were they treated by the federal government and the states after begin omitted from the census, and Kershaw considered them no longer one of his wards? The questions about this change are many.

Lets follow the progress of this new policy until it changes.

1908 last names

In 1908 there are 47 people on the Grand Ronde Census, a loss of another 102 people, for a two year total of 306 people omitted from the census.

1908 the Menard family is gone from the census

By 1908 the Menard family disappears from the census. Perhaps Francis Menard took an additional year to put his land into fee-simple title.

1909 Yamhill family

In 1909 there are 43 tribal members on the census.

1911 census

In 1910 there are 41 tribal members on the census. Joseph Yamhill has apparently passed.

1911 census recap

In 1911 there are 40 Tribal members on the Grand Ronde census. Interesting enough the majority of the listed members are women, likely because women did get Indian allotments but were less likely to get them than men.

1912 census recap

In 1912 there are 35 tribal members at Grand Ronde on the census. Again the majority are women.

The last two names on the 1913 Grand Ronde census. There are 32 tribal members at Grand Ronde. The note reiterates the policy that Kershaw began in 1907.

1913 census letter

Kurt Egbert is the new superintendent of Indian Affairs and he reiterates the policy began by Kershaw. Its unclear at this point why Egbert wrote this letter, but it will become clear in 1916.

1914 Grand Ronde Census, last two names

In 1914, the total number of tribal members on the census is 27 people. The true number is likely 26 due to Kitty Tom dying, probably after the census was taken. If that is her real birth date, Kitty was 110 or 111 years old!

1915 Grand Ronde Census recap

In 1915 there are 25 names on the Grand Ronde census. The Indian Superintendent is now Edwin L. Chalcraft, who also writes a note about how the names of other people were dropped because of fee patents.

1916 Grand Ronde Census recap

In 1916, suddenly, there are now 324 people on the Grand Ronde census, a growth of 199 people. The original population count in 1906 was 353, what happened to the other 29 people? Did they die in the last 8 years? This is a surprising development. What happened is explained in a letter exchange between Chalcraft and the Indian office.

1916 Chalcraft letter

In 1916 Chalcraft writes to clarify whether the Indian Office is in approval of the policy that Kershaw began in 1907, because he did not find an instruction from the Indian office about this policy in the office files.

1916 Meritt letter page 1
1916 Meritt letter page 2

Assistant Commissioner E.B. Meritt’s response seems to be with a note of surprise as the Indian office was apparently unaware of the Kershaw policy of omitting people from the Tribal census if they gained a fee-simple title. It was likely common that while reports and paperwork was collected by the Indian office as part of their regular annual administration, they may not have been reviewing many of the reports. Somewhere in their process of Indian administration, they missed the fact that hundreds fo Native people were being omitted from the Grand Ronde census for at least 8 years (1907-1915).

This situation brings up innumerable additional questions. How many people are now missing from the tribe because they were omitted from the census for 8 years? Are their people born within this period who have never been added to any tribal roll? Did some people move away because they lost their status at the reservation, and the associated benefits from the federal government? How are we to be sure that the 1916 census and those thereafter captured all of the tribal members? How can the tribe today trust these rolls of the federal Indian agents if they can make what appears to be ad-hoc policy decisions about tribal membership? This is not the only policy error, in looking through the censuses of the 1880s, there are many names of families which disappear from the censuses on specific years.

This questions suggest that a more detailed set of longitudinal studies of these federal Indian censuses needs to occur. The names of Tribal people on each census needs to be compared and tracked through all of the censuses to discover what potential errors occurred, which may change the tribal membership status of their descendants. To date this has not been done. In addition, there needs to be research about the Indian policies surrounding Indian censuses to understand fully what decisions were made about creating these censuses, whether Indian agents followed the policies appropriately.

1917 Grand Ronde Census recap

In 1917 there are 333 tribal members on the Grand Ronde census. In 1916 there were 324, a growth of 9 people. Are they all births or were additional people found that were not re-captured on the 1916 census?

1918 Grand Ronde census recap

In 1918 there is again 333 tribal members.

1919 Grand Ronde census recap

In 1919 there are 326 people at Grand Ronde.

1920 Grand Ronde Census recap

In 1920, there are 318 people at Grand Ronde, the population is clearly declining. Its very clear that this lack of records for 8 years of all of the tribal members at Grand Ronde probably had an effect on the tribal families. Did the policy dissuade people from being a part of the tribe? Did it force people to leave? Did it help in the program of assimilation still being pursued in this period? Did the reservation get less funds because they had less people on the record. Many times funding decisions for tribes are based on the number of members that are enrolled. Finally, what does this have to do with tribal membership? As I pursue my studies I will look for answers to these and other questions.


Other interesting items


1921 header Living on the reservation
1921 header Living off the reservation
1921 header All Living on Public Domain (land)

In 1921 the Indian agent began making separate lists of people living on the reservation, people living off the reservation and people living in the Public Domain, also called 4th sector Indians. The federal government is clearly trying to track where people are living, perhaps in preparation for the Indian Citizenship Act. It did take a few years for the law to pass in 1924.

1924 Roseburg Reservation

The Public Domain people, those living off reservation on off-reservation Indian allotments or who had gotten citizenship early, or who were in school at a boarding school, are here assigned to the “Roseburg Reservation.” There was never actually a Roseburg Reservation, but there were shifting Indian administration districts. There was a Roseburg district, which includes much of southern Oregon and northern California. In fact, here are, or may be, lRoseburg district files down in the San Bruno National Archives branch. Perhaps there are files for the Roseburg Reservation in San Bruno? I actually called the National Archives in San Bruno some years ago and they did not know what I was talking about. I had heard that there were files for the Roseburg District which were first gathered at Chico, then later moved to San Bruno, But it would take a whole project to figure out what is the truth of where those records are.

1922 header Grand Ronde Indian of Siletz Agency

Finally, the last interesting item to note is the fact that the Grand Ronde Reservation fell under the jurisdiction of the Siletz Agency for much of the early 20th century. It was actually called the Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency. Which is why there are many files related to Grande Ronde, and related to the off-reservation communities of the Coos, Coquille, and off-reservation Indian people in the Siletz records at the Oregon Historical Society, and in the desk files of the agency at the National Archives in Seattle.


Microfilm set 595, rolls 169 and 505 ( film is on the Internet Archive)

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3 Comments on “What did Omission from the Annual Tribal Census Mean to Grand Ronde?

  1. No one, and I mean NO ONE else is doing this vital research and publishing it like you are David. I value your work so very much!! I hope you never quit this work!!

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  2. I agree with Melvin’s comments. I am so thankful that you are performing this research and making it available to the public. What a fantastic body of work you are compiling here. Thank you.

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