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Dart Introduces the Clackamas Treaty to the US Senate

Anson Dart departed from Oregon in late 1851 after completing the negotiation of 19 treaties in Oregon with tribes. Dart had replaced the Willamette Treaty Commission in June 1851 after they negotiated the Kalapuya and Molalla Treaties at Champoeg. Dart had sent letters to Washington DC stating that the commission were not properly representative of the US government and he was, so that he should assume the responsibility of negotiating treaties. Evidentally this reasoning was successful because Dart became the chief treaty negotiator and duty with consumed the remainder of his time in Oregon.  He also got the budgets for both his roles, Treaty negotiator and Indian Superintendent, and effectively doubled his budget.

The Clackamas treaty stands out as the last of the Dart 1851 treaties. The Clackamas has been approached earlier in the year and had refused to negotiate. They were evidently approached again in the Fall and had a series of meetings with Dart, finally agreeing on the terms. They received the fishing rights in their usual places and the use of their homes for the remainder of their lives. The Clackamas Tribe by this time was quite small barely 30 individuals remained and they only had one longhouse. The house was burned in the early 1850s by local whites who refused to own up to the crime.

Dart as a Superintendent was not a very good manager or negotiator. he appeared to hate being outside of the frontier towns and after leaving Oregon with the treaties, never returned. Some years later he asked President Lincoln to appoint him to the Washington Territory Superintendent of Indian Affairs and Lincoln refused to appoint him. For years following dart’s resignation in 1853, there were allegations that he had misused funds, perhaps having stolen money because his costs appear to be higher than they should be. Anson Dart left Joel Palmer, his successor, no cash on hand and a newly built Indian agent’s office in Milwaukie which was said to have cost much to furnish. When Palmer arrived at the office he stated that the furnishings were low grade and not worth what Dart said they were worth in his invoices. Palmer eventually had to sell the property and moved to Dayton because then he would be away from malaria and could use his own homestead as a base of operations.

Dart’s report lacks specificity and details about the tribes, which he admits. He writes that he would need time to get to know the land and people better. This is probably what he should have been doing when in Oregon rather than building an office and strategizing ways to make his budget larger.

Area of the Clackamas Indians, Portion of the Gibbs Starling map of 1851


July 31st 1852

I will now speak of the Clackamas Treaty, the last and decidedly the most important one concluded among the thirteen bands or tribes of Indians. It embraces a country more thickly settled. than any portion of Oregon. The flourishing town of Millwaukee on the Willamette River, is upon the purchase, and immediately on its southern border adjoining is Oregon City, the largest town in the Territory. Woodland and Prairie[?], conveniently situated for farms make up the western portion of the tract, and upon the north or Columbia side of the country; as well as adjoining the Willamette on the west, are extensive and rich river bottoms. There is much of this kind of land also on a considerable stream marking the base of the Cascade Range of Mountains, called “Sandy River.” (Which joins the Columbia near the north east part of the purchase.)

The Clackamas River which empties into the Willamette just below Oregon City, is a dashing never-failing stream, upon which are many mills, affording besides these, power for many more, there are now in operation about twenty mills in different parts of the tract. I will mention that instances have occurred where farming lands have been sold for fifty dollars per acre, this was of course upon the western, or best-settled portion of the purchase.

The whole eastern side of the Clackamas lands is covered with a dense growth of fir and cedar timber, and has not been much explored, at least not sufficiently for me to give a minute description in these papers.

It was induced to negotiate this treaty although there was an informality connected with it, but which I hope will not prove a serious obstacle to its ratification. I allude to the fact of there having been no one associated with me on the part of the United States. No conformity to the act of February last. You did associate with me Henry H. Spaulding and Beverly S. Allen, but the first named having been [fired?] and his successor not having conferred upon him the power to act with me, and Mr. Allen declining the office, left me the responsibility of acting alone on the part of the government.

At first many unsuccessful efforts were made to negotiate with them, owning to demands made by them, which were unreasonable, and even impossible to comply with, at several of our meetings they refused to sell the most valuable part of their lands, but at length came and expressed their willingness to be governed in the sale, entirely by my readiness to do them justice, and would submit the matter entirely to me, as to the reservations and other preliminaries connected with the sale. The same terms as contained in the treaty were then submitted to them, upon which they deliberated a few days then they met me (every male person in the tribe) and desired the treaty to be drawn up accordingly.

To conclude, I would say that I found so many persons, anxious and deeply interested in the result, that I assumed the responsibility of acting alone. In concluding this report, I would say that I have sought to embrace the principal and important features connected with the treaties herewith submitted without great care as to manner of arrangement. I desire time to become more thoroughly acquainted with each and every band of Indians in this important and interesting section, as well as to examine personally tracts of country occupied by them (portions of which have been but little explored)  before I can enlarge upon many subjects, but briefly alluded to in this report.

Anson Dart, Superintendent of Indians Affairs for Oregon.


Timeline

July 31 1852 report written by Anson Dart introducing the 19 Oregon treaties to the Secretary of the Interior

July 30 1852 referred to the President by Alex H.H. Stuart, Department of the Interior

August 2, 1852 President Millard Fillmore introduces the treaties to the Senate

August 21 1852 The treaties are read and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs

August 6 1852 ordered to be printed in confidence for the use of the Senate


Soon after the treaties are tabled, never to be ratified. Dart found out in Washington D.C. that all of the lands of the Willamette Valley were under Donation land claims and so his Willamette Valley treaties with their reservations would not work. There was no more free land for the Indians the cost for buying out the settlers would be too much and there would be political repercussions. Besides, the settlers did not want to be neighbors with Indians. So Dart suggested in a letter that the Willamette Treaty Commission had failed and that the Senate should table the treaties and never ratify them, which is exactly what happened. The other effect on this was to create a situation where he had then completely failed at his job to negotiate treaties. He was then forced to resign.


Territorial Papers of the United States: the Territory of Oregon 1848-1859 Microfilm Publication M1049, p 25-27 of the 43 page report introduction all of the 19 treaties to the US Senate

Categories: anson dart columbia river treaties Willamette 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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