Rogue River People

Rouge is a common enough mis-spelling of the word Rogue. Rouge is a French word that means red, while Rogue is another French word meaning brigand, outlaw, criminal or similar meanings. There are numerous cases of people mis-spelling the placenames and titles Rogue River, Rogue River Peoples, Rogue River Indian War as Rouge river, Rouge Tribe, or Rouge River War. I always will correct this. But oddly enough Rogue is a stereotype of the native people of this place due to a negative encounter of explorers in this place. The Rogue River people did not like outsiders traveling through their places without the proper diplomacy due to any people who are the occupants and owners of their lands. They would attack and take the goods of travelers who were not protective enough of their goods.

The people of the Rogue River are not actually Rogue Tribes, they are instead athapaskans (Tututni, etc), Takelmans, Shastans, and Cow Creek Umpqua. Rogue River is a rename of the whole area by fur traders and explorers. The name was first applied to the Takelma people then later gained fame in the Rogue River Indian War, and thereafter was primarily associated with that event.

The people descendant of the Rogue Rivers like the idea of being “rogues” or outlaws in our culture, as sort of anti-heroes or counter-culture heroes. The term Rogue has stuck around and becomes a favored term in the tribes today. The leaders of the Rogue tribes in the 1850s were fighters for their rights and land in the face of white volunteer militias bent on destroying the natives who were in the way of gold extraction. In light of this understanding, the Rogue tribes were actually guarding their nation against invaders from a foreign nation. It was the militias who were truly the outlaws, ignoring tribal predominance and sovereignty and their own national laws regarding the rights of tribes to live peacefully on their lands. The militias sought the extermination of the tribes and would kill all the men and rape the women, and kidnap the children to meet their end to destroy the tribes. The violence that came from the tribes was purely a response to the continued violence from the white militias, a response today which we would call justified. Federal agents, like Joel Palmer, during the Rogue River war  recognized that the tribes may have a legitimate complaint and reason for the actions they took.

Probably the most well known of the Rogues, Chief John, Tecumtum, is a hero to the descendants. Chief John fought back against the attempts to exterminate his people, he gathered a large group from the Table Rock Reservation, at least five bands of different tribes. They left the reservation and went back to their land and tried to take back their land by killing all of the white people. The treaties which had been ratified and were supposed to keep the peace did not keep the whites from attacking the people on the reservation. In the mind of the tribes the Americans had reneged on their treaties, the agreements were worthless, and so the native people deserved their lands back. It is tribal leaders like Chief John, Chief Sam, and Chief Jo who become the heroes to the tribes in the region thereafter.

We get our ideas of the violent and lawless association of the Rogue Tribes strictly from our history books. There are now generations of people who have grown up with this history of violence of the Rogue Peoples and the white militias thought of as being the righteous who are liberating the frontier from the savages. Those histories have ignored the facts of history as documented by numerous federal sources, including the Superintendent of Indian Affairs and the Commander of the Pacific Department at the time of the war.

It is histories like this that have taught people to not trust scholars because there are so many cases of scholars altered the facts to fit a political agenda. In this case, the agenda is to justify the illegal takeover of tribal lands and make their western civilization appear to be always the better, most advanced, most civilized, most justified for acts of terror committed on Native peoples to take away their lands and rights. If there are no more living native people, then there are no rights to protect.

It is important for scholars of history to always ask questions, and seek out the truth in the intent of the writer. We suffer from an extreme lack of critical thinking skills at this time, yes scholars and experts have made intentional and unintentional errors in their work.  It is very important that we do not simply take what is written for granted and always seek to understand the interconnected contiguity of bias and intention behind which is being conveyed.

3 thoughts on “Rogue River People

  1. Hey David, In your opinion would it be of any value to the many Natives that are left Tribeless in Southern Oregon to have a new Tribe formed for them? Please reply, ok? Dawn

    On Sat, Oct 10, 2020 at 12:06 PM NDNHISTORY RESEARCH wrote:

    > Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD posted: ” Rouge is a > common enough mis-spelling of the word Rogue. Rouge is a French word that > means red, while Rogue is another French word meaning brigand, outlaw, > criminal or similar meanings. There are numerous cases of people > mis-spelling the placenames and t” >

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