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Coles Valley settlers want the Resources on the Umpqua Reservation, 1854

The following two letters are an example of how the settlers could not live with the tribal people having any resources. The settlers in 1854 had won, and they were about to gain the whole Umpqua Valley. There had been no war or any real conflicts from the Umpqua tribes. The tribes of the Umpqua Valley, numerous bands of the Yoncalla Kalapuya, the upper Umpqua, the Southern Molalla and the Cow Creek band were completely removed to reservations by summer of 1855. (except the Molalla who were not moved until December)

The only real conflict was from the settlers who took many opportunities to attack tribal people when they were traveling on the roads.

So the tribes were being removed and administered on the Umpqua reservation, and yet even then the settlers had to ask for more land and resources. Palmer’s plans for removal were very public, most being published in the newspapers. Everyone knew that he was going to remove tribal people to a reservation in the coast range. Yet they still could not be patient and had to push for more access before the tribes were removed.

 


December 9th 1854

We the subscriber inhabitants of Douglas and Umpqua Counties in the Territory of Oregon having land claims adjoining and in the immediate vicinity of the Indian Reserve proposed for the Umpqua Indians, would respectfully represent to you our interest in relation to the location of the line of said reserve on the side adjoining our claims or the settlement called Coles Valley; and would respectfully request you to change the location of said line accordingly. As the line is now located a portion of one or two persons claims is included in the reserve. And furthermore this whole settlement of nearly so is dependant entirely upon the sides of the Mountain adjoining our claims or this settlement for timber for fencing and building purposes, which are now included in the reserve as the line is now located.

Therefore we would respectfully and earnestly request that you change the location of said line so as to give us access to said timber. and would suggest the following location viz; Begining on the line as now located n the middle of the Umpqua River at the lowest point of said line in said river, thence down the middle of the channel of said river to a certain fall in said river about one fourth of a mile below the mouth of two mile creek thence in a Southwestern direction, or running about one fourth of a mile west of said creek.

respectfully submitted,

F.H. Marsh, K.W. Bradley, P. G. Pierce, David Redenor, Ashford Clayton, Bunetha Churchhill, Elisha Ping, Thomas Thrasher, James G. Patton, P.P. Palmer, C.P. Statton, David Erasco, John Emmitt, Whilloughly Churchill, Jessee Caduavader

[Answer]

December 29th 1854

Your letter of the 9th inst. by hand of Mr. Churchhill upon the subject of the Indians reserve has been duly received and in reply would state, that I regret exceedingly I did not better understand your record before signing the treaty. I had supposed from the information derived from the settlers that the boundaries of this reserve would not interfere with any claimants, and I am yet inclined to that opinion. It is possible you may misunderstand the precise boundaries, it is as follows, commencing on the south side of Umpqua River “at a point three miles due south of the mouth of a small creek emptying into the Umpqua River near the eastern boundary of John Churchhill’s land claim at the lower end of Coles Valley; thence north to the middle of the channel of Umpqua River, thence up said river to a point due south of the highest peak of the ridge immediately west of Allen Hubbard’s land claim; thence to said peak; thence along the summit of that ridge dividing the waters, to its termination at or near the mouth of little Kennon Creek, thence crossing the Umpqua River in a westerly direction to the highlands opposite the mouth of said creek, thence following the divide until it reaches a point where a line drawn to the place of beginning will run three miles south of the extreme southern bend in the Umpqua River between those two points; and thence to the place of beginning.

The only boundary which can at all interfere with the claimants is between the mouth of Churchill’s Creek and the starting point, and I must be greatly deceived if a south direction would strike any settler’s claims. the extreme foggy weather at the time of examining its boundaries may have misled me. the limited amount of agricultural land embraced in the reserve induced me to approach the settlement as near as possible but I had no intention of encroaching upon settlers or cutting off their contemplated supply of fencing and building materials

It is not likely the reserve now selected will long remain such, as I have good reason to hope that we may be able, ultimately, to remove them entirely from the settlements. Had I the authority to change the line as you proposed I would readily do so, but the boundaries are defined in the treaty and no alteration can be made short of assembling all the bands so as to obtain their assent and with great expense and cause doubts and confusion in the minds of Indians.

Mr. Churchhill informs me that it has been the design of some persons to erect a mill on the creek. Some two or three miles below the western end of Coles Valley. I doubt not such an arrangement may be entered into as will enable the parties to do so, and it is possible arrangements may be made by which the settlers could obtain timber situated on that part of the reserve, by paying a fair valuation, as there is no probability of its being needed for fencing or building purposes on the reserve, as all events they would have the same reason to expect this as they would to believe they could purchase the right of the government.

I feel fully satisfied that in the event the boundary impinges upon any claimant, such arrangements can and will be made as to secure him or them all the rights to which they are entitled.

Palmer to Marsh, Brady, Pierce and others


It is Palmer’s action of standing his ground and politically saying no he will not change the borders of the reservation, that stands out. This is one of those cases where Palmer refused to do what the settlers wanted and by so doing, he doomed himself in his job. By the early summer of 1856, after the tribes had been removed to reservations, Palmer was fired and replaced due to political outcried from settlers again his actions and plans for tribal removal. The stated reasoning was that he was too sympathetic to the Indians. Palmer in his career refused to not stand up for what was right. He knew that the tribes had to be removed and was on board with the plans for opening up of all lands to the settlers. But when illegal acts took place against the tribes, like the genocide against the Chetco villages, he would stand up for their rights. He would try to send white men to jail for murders, he would refuse to allow tribes to be massacred, and moved the tribes to the safer reservations to save them from certain destruction by vengeful whites. For this, he was fired, unjustly.

Categories: General History Oregon indians Umpqua Valley

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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.

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