Missing Pages: Additional Signatory Tribes to the Willamette Valley Treaty

For more than 166 years the following pages were missing from the history and legal record of the Grand Ronde Tribe. It appears that sometime in early March 1855 Joel Palmer secured additional signatories to the Willamette Valley Treaty from two Molalla tribes and two other tribes on the Columbia River, The Klatskania tribe (Clatskanie) and the Ne-pe-chuck band. These additions were hinted at in a letter from Palmer on January 9th of 1856.

“One village of Indians in the vicinity of St. Helens have not yet signed the treaty of the 10th January 1855 but are ready to do so. The Clatsops, Nehalems, Tillamooks, and Nestockies have not yet entered into negotiations. Arrangements for this purpose were made immediately preceeding the breaking out of hostilities. Since then I have deemed it advisable to await the restoration of peace. It is however understood that they are willing to confederate with the other coast tribes. [under the Coast Treaty is the suggestion, a treaty never ratified and whose negotiations never reached the Columbia River]” (January 9, 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, M234, R609)

It is January 22nd 1855 when he appeared to have finalized the Willamette Valley Treaty and sent it to Washington, D.C. for Congressional approval. Up to now (5/24/2021) these signature pages were unknown in scholarship and buried in the vast Letters to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs now the M234 microfilm series. In a comprehensive survey of the contents of Reel 609 these two pages were revealed as pages 492 and 493 respectively.

The letter of page 491 could have easily confused a researcher as the treaty reference in the letter of the introduction states January 10, 1854, suggesting a date one year earlier than January 21, 1855, that of the Willamette Valley treaty, perhaps suggestive of the failed Tualatin treaty which was written in 1854. But the dates revealed on the two treaty pages place them both in 1855, January, and March of that year. In addition, Palmer’s term in office was ending because he had many political opponents within Oregon. Therefore many of his letters may have been discounted in the last few months of his tenure. Still, the two pages found represent a significant addition to the Willamette Valley Treaty solidifying the Grand Ronde tribe’s claims to areas of the Columbia and the Cascades because these tribes are noted to have mostly removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation. There are today, familial inter-tribal kinships between most reservations in the region, and therefore many people may trace their lineages to those included in the Willamette Valley Treaty, but all of the tribal governments of 1856 removed solely to Grand Ronde Reservation, along with the majority of their citizenry.

new signature page with Molalla tribes, Page number 492 Roll 609 M234 microfilm series Letter to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs

The above image contains the signatures of the Santiam Forks and Mountain band of Molalla Indians. These tribes lived in the Santiam Canyon and south of the canyon and in the Oakridge area of the Cascades. This treaty area is not shown on the 1855 Belden map but is shown on the 1851 Gibbs-Starling map. Notable is the signature of Jo Hutchins, “Yalkema” who was the second chief of the Santiam Band of Kalapuyans, but then appears to have status in the Santiam Band of Molallas too, likely because of his marriage to Chief Coastno’s daughter. Hutchins did sign the 1851 Santiam treaty on behalf of the Santiam band of Kalapuyans, as second chief, but his signature is absent from the 1855 Willamette Valley Treaty on behalf of the Santiams, instead it appears here under the Molalla Band as chief of the Chiwean Santiam Band. This suggests that Hutchins may have “moved” into a position of chief of the Santiam Forks Band of Molallas sometime between 1851 and 1855. This may also suggest that the Chiwean Santiam were separate from the other Santiam bands and so this is the official signature of the Chiwean band. If the latter is the case, then this signature page includes one additional tribe, the Chiwean band of Santiams, a band that was not known about previously and who was closely aligned with the Santiam Forks Band of Molallas. What is alreayd known is that the Santiam tribe was one of the largest and most powerful of the Kalapuyan tribes and that each village had its own chief and that they had autonomous sovereignty over their own decisions. Hutchins then took some time to agree to the terms of the Willamette Valley treaty and did agree two months later than the other Kalapuyan tribes. (I am a direct relation to the Hutchins/Hudson family.) The two sets of signatures are signed March 1st and 5th respectfully, some two months after the other tribes signed. The March 5th signature may represent the only time a tribe signed onto the treaty after it was ratified by Congress on March 3rd.

Section of Gibbs-Starling map with Santiam and “Mountain” band Molalla Claims

The Santiam Forks Band of Molallas was known to be good friends with the Northern Band and camp with them seasonally at Dickie Prairie. There is not a lot of ethnography of these people besides a few genealogical notes. Chief Coastno was the chief of this tribe and his daughter married Alquema or Jo Hutchins of the Santiam Band of Kalapuyans who lived originally in the Scio-Lebanon area. Of the Mountain Band of Molallas there is some ethnography through the Tufti family. The Tufti family’s genealogy is another essay on this blog. The Tufti were Molallas of the Oakridge area and had interrelations with many tribes in the region, the Wasco, the Umpqua, the Yoncalla, and the Santiam. The members of this family are split between the Grand Ronde and Warm Springs reservations. (I am a distant relation to this tribe through familial connections with the Santiam and Yoncalla tribes.) Charlie Tufti famously took an off-reservation allotment near Oakridge and his former land claim is the subject of activation in the last few years by members of his Warm Springs family.

new signature page with Ne-pe-chuck and Klatskania tribes (Clatskanie) Page 493 roll 609 M234 Letters to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs
Area of the Columbia Claimed by the Clatskania and Ne-pe-chuck tribes

The signatures on page 493 above are from the Klatskania and Ne-Pe-Chuck tribes. This page appears to have been created on January 20th, 1855 and it is not clear why it was not sent with the other treaty pages on January 22, 1855 to Washington, DC. What is likely is that Palmer got the signatures later because he notes in an earlier letter that he was still waiting for the agreements of the Ne-pe-chuck people. Therefore Palmer got this page signed and sent along with those signatures of the Molalla tribes in March. These tribes are already known for being removed to a reservation near Milton together in 1855. There is a census of this temporary reservation. The Klatskania were the Clatskanie people an athapaskan speaking people living on the south side of the Columbia with some land on the river and most of their territory in the northwest mountains of Oregon. Their 1851 treaty notes their land-claim. Their population was greatly reduced by malaria in the 1830s and by 1850 they had maybe 30 surviving members. The Ne-pe-chuck are Chinookan peoples likely the remainder of the Multnomah peoples and other small bands along the middle Columbia. They too have few people at the temporary reservation. The Chinookan peoples on the Columbia normally had landholdings on both sides of the river and yet the Willamette Valley Treaty only purchases holdings on the south side of the river. The treaty admits that there are areas on the north side not yet paid for and yet claimed by the parties to the treaty. The Cascades and Multnomah tribes both had significant landholdings on the north side of the river.

It appears that the United States government is unaware of these pages in their records. Normally ratified treaties are segregated in a special archive and these pages appear to have never been added to the official collection at the National Archives Records Administration in Washington, DC. In 1999, I viewed the treaty in person while I was on a research project with the SWORP team, and later the tribe ordered photos of the treaty. These pages are not in the photos so it is likely the federal government is not aware that these pages exist or they would have added them to the treaty collection. In addition, there is no other scholarship on these pages which were apparently missed by generations of researchers. The addition of these pages adds significantly to the tribal claims to areas of the Columbia and Cascades, The treaty boundaries do not change but now we have a direct relationship where before it was an assumed relationship based on the treaty boundaries. As tribal scholars, we never knew why these tribes which were well documented in 1851 and even 1855 through census and treaty documents did not have signature pages in the treaty. We assumed that the government had made a mistake, that perhaps there were lost documents, or that the tribes in question were removed but did not sign the treaty. The addition of these treaty pages solidifies the claim of the Grand Ronde to the sections of a territory named and provides genealogical evidence that the tribes did join the confederacy at Grand Ronde.


Letters received by the Office of Indian Affairs 1824-81. Roll 609. Oregon Superintendency, 1842-1880; 1856, Pages 492, 493

The 1851 Gibbs-Starling Map

The 1855 Belden Map

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