Soc-te-la Chief of the Luckimute Kalapuya People

The following section of a letter to General Joel Palmer details that at least one chief Soc-te-la knew they were to remove and was working to gather his people in preparation for such a move. It is unclear from the letter which tribe Soc-te-la belongs to and the letter mentions the Umpqua and Siletz rivers.

“Hayden Hall, August 16th 1855,

I am again importuned to write you a letter for Soc-te-la, he informs me he has been very diligent since he last saw you, in hunting his wandering people, preparatory to take a final leave of this valley agreeable to your request; he says there is a few of his people on the Umbaqua [Umpqua] and three or four on the Sillets [Siletz], on the coast. He wishes a little further time to get them. They design going by your house, then to Portland crossing the river there then up the Columbia to some convenient place to rendezvous; collect their people and prepare to take their final leave for their home. Much credit is due Soc-te-la for the industry he has used to comply with your request. The citizens here are having a general jubilee, on account of you having given them their orders to leave, and that Soc-te-la is the chief who is so energetically carrying out your orders, with such promptness-which pleases all, and of which none complains, God send how quick they are off, is the prayer- of all, to their own country, where they can meet their old friends, to never more part with either!” (RG75, M2, R13)

–The letter is signed by F. Waymire who is at “Hayden Hall.” Hayden Hall does not match the names of any towns in Oregon today, but there is a Hayden Hall at the University of Oregon. Some research revealed in the Transactions of the Annual Reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Association (3rd annual reunion, 1876), reports that “Fred Waymire, was a member of the council from Polk county…. In his library were religious works, and among them the writings of Dr. Adam Smith (the Wealth of Nations, etc.); and he named his residence on the Luckimute. Hayden Hall,” after the name of the residence of that great author” (28). Other sources state Fred Waymire served as sheriff of Polk County, and was in command of the local militia.

This clue suggests that Fred Waymire (1807-April 28, 1873) was from the Luckimute area. Looking through the signatories of the Treaty with the Kalapuya etc, of January 22, 1855, there is a chief “Sco-la-quit of John” who is listed second chief of the Cheluk-i-ma-uke Band, the most likely candidate. The names in the treaties are notoriously garbled as the scribes of the time approximated the tribal names on many occasions.

General Location of the Luckimiute Reservation 1855, GLO maps 9s 5w, 9s 6w

Soc-te-la, in the letter, seems pretty free to move about the countryside. By March 3rd, all Kalapuyan tribes were placed on temporary reservations in the valley, in one of about ten different small settlement on farmers’ allotments. That of the Luckimiute was very near the river south of Monmouth. A previous essay about the temporary reservation of the Luckimauke is already written on the blog.

Soc-te-la seemed to be free to travel, which was odd because normally the tribes were to remain on the reservations. Perhaps he manipulated his freedom to move about be his story of having to hunt down his kinsmen. Still taking a trip to Dayton where Palmer lived, then to Portland and then somewhere on the north bank of the Columbia seems bold for this time when the whole country was on edge from wars in the south and on the Columbia.

The Luckimute, like all of the Kalapuyan tribes, had to remove to The Grand Ronde reservation between February and May 1856. In the November 1856 census of the reservation, the chief of the Luckimute is named John, likely this man, Soc-te-la , who became principal chief his people on the reservation.

Grand Ronde Indian reservation census 1856, John listed at Principal chief of the Luckimiute Tribe

Fred Waymire, the letter transcriber, fervently did not like Palmer’s plan to move Indians through the Willamette Valley and was vocal about his opposition, stoking fears that the Indians had sufficient firepower to gather and attack the American settlements. This sentiment caused the Indian Agents to remove from the tribes all firearms once they got to the reservation, except a few held by the chiefs. The lack of firearms was a cause of starvation on the reservations as the tribes could not hunt for food and had to subsist on the meager resources provided by the federal government.

Chief Soc-te-la’s statements in the letter suggest a number of things about his people. They were not necessarily kept on a reservation, one of the temporary reservations in the valley, where they could not leave. That their summer movements were quite a bit further afield than many scholars had previously thought. That traditional seasonal rounds as a model for summer movement may not be quite accurate, for at least the chiefs. Normally chiefs did have some extra privileges, for example, they normally did not work much, everything was done for them by the underlings. With tribal members in the Umpqua and on the Siletz, and the Chief’s travel to Dayton, Portland and across the Columbia to a meeting place, this suggests that the Kalapuyans traveled very extensively in the summers. Where they visiting relatives or gathering resources, fishing, hunting etc. I wonder if this is a new cultural situation, with much of the Luckimute lands taken by settlers, did the Kalapuyans have to travel further afield for resources. Or is this the case of people traveling to normal resource gathering locations? As well, the new American culture may have facilitated travel for the tribal people, perhaps taking jobs with the Americans, or natives accessing riverboats for travel. Still, the Chief’s statements suggest this was commonplace and that it was not much of a problem or an odd occurrence to move up and down the valley taking care of business, and having meetings. There are many questions here that more letters like this could help answer.

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