Removal of Four Tribes from the Umpqua Reservation 1855-1856

Between the time of the formation of the Umpqua Reservation in the Umpqua basin (1854) and the removal of the four tribes to Grand Ronde Reservation, in late January 1856, Joel Palmer the Indian Superintendent had to make fast and detailed plans. The war of the Rogue River Confederacy was raging in the Siskiyous and the Indian agents for Oregon and California were working with the US Army and the militias of both states to remove the neighboring tribes to temporary reservations to keep them from joining the fight. Tolowa Natives of northern California were imprisoned at Battery Point for over a year, and the Coos people placed on a small reservation in Coos Bay and then move north to the Umpqua. Additional removals of coastal tribes occurred as Indian Agents with the help of the army at times moved tribes northward to be finally placed on the Coast Reservation.

In the meantime, Palmer had the problem of hundreds of tribal people still at the Umpqua and the Table Rock reservations, all of whom were attempting to live peacefully, but were constantly being attacked by vengeful militant white Americans who sought their extermination. The pressures on the tribes trying to live peacefully was extreme and Palmer knew that if they remained some or all of the people who eventually join the Rogue River Confederacy because they would eventually have no choice but to fight for their survival. Neither the United States Army nor the Indian Agents would hold the white militias accountable for their acts of lawlessness and Palmer was reduced to complaints about the situation in numerous letters to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for which he got no relief.

“The existence of a war of extermination by our citizens against all Indians in Southern Oregon, which by recent acts appears to evince a determination to carry it out, violation of all treaty stipulations and the common ways of civilized nations, has induced me to take steps to remove the friendly bands of Indians now assembled at Fort Lane and upon Umpqua Reservation, to an encampment on the head waters of the Yamhill River, distant about sixty miles southwest of Vancouver and adjoining the Coast Reservation.

This plan has been adopted with a view of saving the lives of such of those Indians as have given just and reasonable assurances of friendship. The tremendous excitement among the miners and settlers in that country, goaded on by reckless and lawless miscreants who slaughter alike ??? of both sexes, induced those friendly bands to abandon the reservation and claim protection of the United States troops stationed at Fort Lane. One three hundred of these people are not encamped at that point and as many more in the Umpqua Valley but little less [removed]?. These people are deprived of their usual means of obtaining [food]? And must necessarily be furnished by the Government. The enormous expense attending the transportation of supplies at this season of the year will I think, alone justify their removal. In my instructions to the Indian Agents directing this movement, they are required to call upon the commandant at Fort Lane for such an escort as was deemed requisite to secure a safe passage through the disturbed district. Since these instructions were given I have received intelligence that meetings of the citizens of the Willamette Valley, residing along the route to be traveled by these Indians in reaching the designated encampment, as well as those in the vicinity of the latter have resolved upon resisting such removal, and arousing a determination to kill all who may be brought among them as well as those who sought to effect that object. This feeling appears so general among our citizens I am apprehensive they may attempt carrying it into effect, to avoid which I have to request that if it be deemed by you practicable, that a command of twenty men be directed to accompany these Indians on their removal, with directions to remain at or near the encampment so long as their presence may be required to insure the safety of the Indians.” (December 1 1855, Palmer to Wool M234 R609)

Palmer was able to find an ally in General John E. Wool, Commander of the Pacific, who knew that the violence was being perpetrated by the white militias. The letters between Wool and Palmer addressed the lawless character of the white Americans as causing the flair-up of the war. Palmer’s letter to General Wool of December 1, 1855, was eventually read by Governor General Curry of Oregon, who would go to Washington, D.C. to demand Palmer’s replacement. Its quite clear that the white militias and their territorial supporters did not appreciate being called “lawless miscreants” and actions were taken in the Oregon legislature and by the Oregon executive to get Palmer fired.

While this political maneuvering was happening in the political halls of Oregon, Palmer continued to work the problems of trying to maintain the peace, of ending the wars in the south and the conflicts north of the Columbia river. His solution became to remove the tribes on the temporary reservations from the conflict zones and place on the planned reservations. Palmer got additional critiques for this plan, because the Coast reservation was not too far from the Willamette Valley and the settlers did not want a potential force of 4,000 natives living on their doorsteps. The Coast Reservation in 1855 had just been created through a presidential executive order (unnumbered) and was not yet prepared to receive 4,000 native people. Therefore in the closing months of 1855, Palmer had to hatch a new plan, to place the tribes on another “temporary” reservation, the location being on the South Yamhill River in small valley off of the Willamette Valley called the Grand Ronde valley. By November the “Yamhill River Reserve” came to be known as the Grand Ronde encampment and reservation. The valley became the perfect location to place a good number of Natives because of its already developed infrastructure of roads and fields and some structures, its location close to the Willamette Valley settlements, and it relative isolation. At the same time Palmer planned to have a number of tribes relocated to the coastal zone from Yaquina Bay and north. The Coastal zone was a location were tribes could feed themselves quite readily.

As Palmer was quite concerned with the lawlessness of the white between the Umpqua Valley and the Grand Ronde Reservation, he send word to folks he knew along the route preparing them for the removal of the tribes and assuring them there would be no problems. He also took a late trip down to the Umpqua to visit the reservation to make sure all of the arrangements were made. While there he signed his final treaty, that with the southern Molel peoples and had them moved onto the Umpqua reservation. In November 1855 Palmer had sent word to the agent at Table Rock Reservation to have the tribes removed as soon as possible, but the Agent, Culver, wrote back saying the snow was quite deep and he would rather wait. That winter then the weather was not friendly to travelers and so Palmer was forced to wait until early 1856 to remove the tribe. Still he was able to make some detailed plans and preparations that indicate his depth of thinking and care for the tribes.

“Sir, I have to direct that you will proceed to the Umpqua Reservation and superintend the removal of the Umpqua, Calapooia, Cow Creek and Molallalas Indians now assembled at that point, to the encampment on the headwaters of Yamhill River. Mr. Courtney Walker has been directed to aid in that service acting as commissary; one team of three yokes of oxen and wagon has been purchased of W. Richardson and delivered, one team of three yoke of oxen and a wagon had been purchased of Mr. Barnard which is to be delivered in a few days; one yoke of oxen and one wagon has been purchased of Mr. Cadwalader and has been delivered. Two other teams have been engaged upon condition that they are delivered by the 30th of the month, and if they are such cattle as represented that is, in good working condition and the wagons good substantial ones.

It is presumed that six teams of three yokes of oxen each will be sufficient to transport such of these bands and their effects as will be necessary to haul. Should you find it otherwise, you will purchase or hire as many as may be demanded for hire, it would be well to purchase as considerable delay will unavoidably be experienced in their removal, at this season of the year. Besides the teams will be required upon the reservation during the ensuing season. I would therefore recommend the purchase of teams instead of hiring, where it can be done and pay the purchase price after their arrival in the Yamhill Valley.

Louis the head chief of the Umpquas and the head chief of the Molallalas tribe, with three of his people have been sent after the absent member of that tribe. They will undoubtfully arrive in a few days.

A due regard to the comfort of all the members having reference to economy in their removal should be studied, bearing in mind that the goods originally designed for these people are in the Willamette Valley and can be furnished them after their arrival at the encampment.” (December 24 1855, Palmer to Indian Agent Robert Metcalf, M234, R609)

As we can see there were careful plans for collecting as many Natives as possible and provide for some of their comfort, especially once they arrived at Grand Ronde. The tribes at Umpqua Reservation and in the valley had not been idle, and many had been taking up the culture of the settlers, putting in crops, owning livestock, and some had good houses already. Because they were natives, they were not US citizens and so were then subjected to automatic removed to the approved Indian Reservation. They were then forced to leave much of their belonging behind with no plan on the part of the United States for reimbursing them for their losses.

“The services of W. McGruder may be dispensed with unless you should deem it proper to direct him to collect and dispose of the effects belonging to the Indians which have been abandoned by them on their removal to the Reservation or taken from them by the volunteers or citizens. In such case you will give him specific instructions as to his duties limiting the time of service to that actually required to accomplish the object.” (December 24 1855, Palmer to Indian Agent Robert Metcalf, M234, R609)

There were a few cases where Native-owned horses were borrowed by the Indian office and when the chiefs complained loudly enough they would be compensated for their lost property. Palmer sent a detailed report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs Manypenny, of his travels to the Umpqua valley which is very illustrative of the many things accomplished on the journey.

“The trip to the Umpqua Reservation was performed through one of the severest storms that I have ever experienced in Oregon. We reached that point on the evening of the 17th (December) where I found nearly three hundred Umpquas, Calapooias, Cow Creeks & Molallalas, under the charge of Theophilus Magruder Esq. who had been appointed by Mr. Martin (designated by me as local agent who declined the appointment) and whose appointment has been approved by Agent Ambrose. The census of this camp gave 89 men, 133 women, 40 boys, and 37 girls, many of whom were suffering from sickness, probably induced by a change of diet, being confined to flour and fresh beef, and exposure. They had been hurried upon the reservation as a means of safety and deprived of their usually comfortable lodges, and variety of roots, berries, and fish, and the crops of vegetables prepared by many for winter’s use, were dying off rapidly. With a few exceptions they were destitute of shoes or mockasins, and many nearly in a state of nudity. But few were comfortably clad. Their lodges were mere temporary structures hastily thrown together and entirely unsuited to a winter camp. Among the number assembled were the head chief and twenty eight of the Molallalas or Molelle Tribe of Indians inhabiting the country along the western slope of the Cascade Mountains, east of the Umpqua and Calapooia Purchase, on the head waters of the North and South Forks of the Umpqua river. These Indians were desirous of being confederated with the Umpquas, but desired to reside in the Umpqua Valley. Alex. Walker who had been directed to precede me with horses to aid in the removal, had submitted the question of removal to the Indians but no definite arrangement had been made, as some were adverse to the measure. The young men desired to go, but a few of the old men were opposed, saying that they had but a few years to live. The 20th ult was set for a general talk, and the Indians directed to consult among themselves on the propriety of confederating with the Molallalas, and all going to the Coast Reservation. The council met according to appointment but the Head Chief of the Umpquas not being present they were unwilling to give a positive answer. The Head Chief arrived in the evening, and the Indians reassembled in council on the 21st and a treaty which had been drawn up in accordance with the suggestions made them was fully explained. The head chief who understands and speaks English quite well, spoke in its favor and urged his people and the Molallalas to accede to the terms declaring himself ready to go where he could have peace and safety. They then all consented, and the chief of the Molallalas and three of his principal men signed the treaty.

With the exception of two of the Umpqua chiefs who were sick, all the chiefs of the bands embraced in the treaty of the 29th Nov. 1854, signed this treaty and those two chiefs were willing to remove in the spring or when the streams and roads might be in a favorable state.

On the 22nd & 23rd proceeding to Roseburg, I purchased a few goods to supply the most pressing wants of those Indians. In the meantime the snow had commenced falling, and on the 27th it was eleven inches deep and the weather exceedingly cold, with a prospect of remaining so for some time. Mr. Metcalf had previously been dispatched to Rogue River and on the 22nd returned and joined me at Roseburg. The inclemency of the weather and bad condition of the roads induced Mr. Ambrose and Mr. Metcalfe to recommend the continuance of the Fort Lane Encampment until spring. Mr. Metcalfe is left in charge of the Umpqua Encampment with instructions (see paper “A”) to remove them at the earliest possible moment.

Three men, ten women and four children were being taken to the reservation on the 28th the day on which I set out on my return. These people belonged to the Cow Creek and Looking Glass prairie bands, and were of the party in the latter place at the time the first attack was made upon the Indian village at that point by the whites, & who escaped to the mountains. The head chief of the Molallalas expected to gather thirty additional members of his band, but the severe cold and snow storm prevented his return before I left them.” (January 9 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, m234, R609)

Palmer details the signing of the Molalla treaty, the collecting of the Molalla people onto the Umpqua reservation, details about the numbers of people on the reservation, and their devastated character, having been forced to remove to the reservation with nothing, living through bouts of settler violence, and not having been given supplies to cloth themselves appropriately for the winter weather. Still the tribes were cooperating, even going out of their way to gather more members as they were asked to do. Indian Agent Robert Metcalfe was Palmer’s go to man to remove the tribes and when it was clear that the people at Table Rock Reservation would not remove very soon, he came to Umpqua to make plans for their early removal. But then Palmer was forced to deal with another issue, that of the lack of funds in his accounts to pay for the necessary food and supplies of completely subsisting hundreds of Natives.

“The expenses of collecting and subsisting the Indians at the various encampments in this Superintendency have long since absorbed all the funds in my hands applicable to such purposes. This class of accounts has thus far been carried under the appropriation for “Adjusting Difficulties and Preventing Outbreaks.”” (January 9 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, m234, R609)

Palmer justified his request to Washington, D.C. by emphasizing the need to keep the tribes peaceful to prevent them from leaving his administration. The Indian Office appears in this time completely unprepared to deal with the large territories of the West, and the expenses of moving food and supplies over vast areas. The transportation expenses alone ate up more than half of many budgeted line items annually. Next Palmer has a discussion about where the funds would come from to feed and supply the Native people. He indicates that he appears to have a conversation, likely in the meeting he refers to, where the chiefs shrewdly state that their subsistence should not be paid from their annuities, because their removal and cause of their supply problems is not their doing but instead the fault of the actions of the lawless and miscreant Americans and the US Indian agents. These costs were not planned for by Palmer in the budget he submitted.

“The Indians claim and with much reason, that this expenditure ought not to be taken from their annuity, as the necessity for such expenditure was no fault of theirs. I have previously suggested amounts required to enable me to maintain peace with the tribes of Middle Oregon, along the coast, and on Table Rock Reservation, presuming at that date, Oct. 9th– that the tribes in this and Umpqua Valley would be able to subsist themselves with comparatively little aid.

But the excitement immediately following, rendering necessary their collection, and subsistence, calls for an immediate remittance. [the feelings about the Rogue River War and the attacks on the tribes by Umpqua Valley settlers]

I am of opinion that a sum of less than fifty thousand dollars be placed at the disposal of this superintendency to meet the expenditures connected with the removal and subsistence of Indian tribes and to “Adjust Difficulties and prevent Outbreaks” already expended and likely to be called for before the close of these disturbances will be required and should they continue long that sum with be insufficient. I would respectfully suggest the propriety of asking for an appropriation of one hundred thousand dollars to meet these emergencies and that one half that sum be as early as possible placed at the disposal of the Superintendent.” (January 9 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, m234, R609)

Normally funding for adjusting difficulties would be about $20,000 annually, but this fund was easily exhausted in a sudden wartime situation. Palmer records on January 26th his immediate needs for the new encampment at Grand Ronde.

“Making in all sixteen thousand and five hundred fifty four 45/100 for which I hold, myself, accountable under the following heads of accounts.

Removing & subsisting the Umpqua, Calipooia, Cow Creek, and Molallalas bands of Indians and the erection of temporary buildings at the encampment for the same, and for the purchase of teams, tools & stock. Blankets, clothing and other articles necessary for their comfort and improvement of the farms, for the benefit of said bands. And for medicines and medical attendance, $10,000.00

For the removal subsistence of the Calapooia, Molalles & Clackamas bands of Indians and the erection of temporary buildings at the encampment for same purchase of teams tools & stock, for blankets, clothing and other articles necessary for their comforts, and the improvement of farms, for the benefit of said bands and for medicines and medical attendance. $ 4.554.45

For “adjusting difficulties and preventing outbreaks” in the Oregon Superintendency, $2,000.00″ (January 26th 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, m234 R609)

Following the arrangements for funding to provide supplies to the new encampment, Palmer turns his attention to removal of the tribes to Grand Ronde. He sends out orders to all his western Oregon Indian agents and subagents to prepare their native charges for removal. The Journal of the Umpqua Removal is the subject of another essay.

The journey begins on January 10th 1856 and continues to February 2nd, 23 days journey in the dead of winter. The journal suggests that five people died on the route, 3 women, a baby, and a man, who was murdered by a possible Klickitat Indian. On February 2nd 1856 Agent Metcalfe arrived at the encampment in the Grand Ronde valley with the Indians under his charge. Ten persons, who had fled from his party, could not be induced to proceed; other members of these bands joined his camp, so that there were 380 souls who reached the encampment. The Table Rock Reservation natives, generally called Rogue Rivers are parties of the second large removal of the Tribes to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, and took place between February 23rd and March 25th in 1856. Additional tribes from the Columbia, the Willamette Valley are also removed such that by April 11th Palmer declares,

“With the exception of a few families scattered along the Columbia River, below the mouth of the Willamette, all the bands of this valley are now here, and upon the Grand Ronde purchase: as also those of Umpqua Valley and three hundred and ninety one friendly Rogue Rivers.” Whereas, “there is at Dayton, awaiting means of transportation to the reservation, four hundred and forty Indians: one hundred of whom start today. I have been compelled, in consequence of hurrying from their homes many who had not expected to be called upon so soon, to remove and finding others in a totally destitute condition- to distribute a much larger supply of merchandise than had been anticipated. We have among those friendly bands quite a number from remote points of the territory portions of whom, if not provided for themselves would be driven into the ranks of the enemy. Among these may be named the upper Klamaths, one hundred and forty one souls, who have for several years past been in the habit of residing in this valley during the winter season. We have also a number of Spokans, Klickitats and others from Washington Territory and a few from California who came to this country with miners and others and have become identified with our tribes.” (April 11th 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, M234, R609)

1857 Map of the Grand Ronde Reservation, 2 quadrangles

Now Palmer must deal with the agitation from the settler communities as many of them have continued to call for the extermination of the tribes and were likely to act on their feelings.

“The travel through this country, and arrival of the last named Indians, at the encampment is made the ground of serious complaint; and false and exaggerated reports of a few designing public agitators has so wrought upon the fears of the citizens that nothing short of the knowledge of their being wholly disarmed, and a strong guard constantly kept up, would allay their apprehensions; and, even now when these Indians are wholly defenseless, it may be regarded as doubtful whether we shall be able to pacify the public mind and prevent an attack upon them, under the plea of some one having left the reservation and committed some act of violence. Almost every device imaginable is resorted to for the purpose of creating a panic, and abusing the minds of the public against those entrusted with the management of Indian affairs in this territory. The confidence of the Indians, though shaken at times, still appears impounded: they cheerfully come forward & deliver up their arms of every description, guns, pistols, bows and arrows, etc, and appear willing to conform to any rules which may be imposed- save only that which would require them to an immediate removal to the coast.”(April 11 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, M234, R609)

So Palmer decides to request help from the US Army to station some troops at Grand Ronde, more to keep the lawless whites off the reservation than to keep the Natives on the reservation. But before such a garrison can be assigned by General Wool, he must provide for the security of the reservation and so he hires guards to patrol the borders of the reservation and construct a fence.

The threatening attitude of the community lead me to apprehend a general and combined attack upon the camps of friendly Indians located at the Grand Ronde and the slaughtering or driving into a hostile position all who might be residing in the valley. I consequently deemed it necessary to organize a force of armed citizens and place them upon the eastern line of the reservation- cutting off all communication of the settlements and the Indians; and, whilst others engaged in guarding this line, to construct a fence from mountain to mountain as a line of demarcation across which none could pass.” (April 11, 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, M234, R609)

This security force was hired and building a fence by May 1856,

“There appears a calm among our citizens at this time in relation to the Grand Ronde Reservation. One half of the sixty men raised as citizen guards have been discharged, the remaining force is men engaged in the construction of the line of fence at the entrance of the reserve. The usual amount of rainy weather the past month has retarded materially the progress of that, and of other work on the reservation, as also opening of the road to the Coast, but it is now going forward.” (May 10 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, m234, R609)

In May 1856 as well, Palmer is making good progress building up the facilities to administer the tribes, as there is being built facilities for the reservation employees, blacksmiths, office, tin shop, warehouse, wagon makers shop, and a schoolhouse. The natives were given temporary houses, likely the canvas army tents called sibley tents.

“It has been deemed important, in order to carry out as fully as practicable the policy in colonizing these Indians, to construct dwellings, shops and agency building etc, aiming which in addition to the temporary buildings for the Umpquas and portion of the Indians of this valley who were removed during the winter, we have the following one frame agency house 16+ 20 feet, 2 rooms, one story high, designed, ultimately to be an L (L or angle?) to a larger building: one frame dwelling house (for Physician) 16+20, two rooms, one story, not yet quite finished, One frame store and ware house, 20+40, one story, 12 feet high, two rooms, one ware room, and one distribution room; this building has an addition of 12+40 feet divided into two rooms, used as an office and lodging room: one frame tin shop 18+20, one story, one frame blacksmiths shop, nearly completed 18+36: one frame schoolhouse 24+50, one story, one log wagon-maker’s shop, heretofore used as a smith’s shop. The siding and roofing for these buildings as well as for the temporary Indian houses and the boarding houses for employees, were split in the adjacent forests; Those of the permanent buildings put on in a neat & substantial manner; None of these buildings are however fully finished on the inside, and an additional expense will necessarily be incurred in putting on a coast of paint to preserve the work. These permanent improvements in addition to the necessity for immediate use, tended greatly to satisfy the whims and superstitious notions of the Indians, and convince them that we were really acting for their good. Several other buildings are much needed, but I have deemed it better to await the completion of a sawmill before constructing them.” (May 11, 1856, Palmer to Manypenny, m234, R609)

The details of the removal of the Umpquas are part of the history of the tribe and deserves to be known to the citizens of the Grand Ronde tribe. The conditions of the tribes and how they were treated by the settlers also deserves to be addressed in detailed and nuanced ways. There is a significant amount of benefits given to settlers who were able to gain free lands from the tribes while the tribe were subject to attempts at extermination and then forced into poverty conditions on the reservation. Further essays in the blog detail the horrid conditions of the reservation and the complete lack of responsibility of the United States towards the health and welfare of the tribes who sold more than 19 million acres of western Oregon lands in exchange for a reservation, services, and protection from violence. There were actions taken to protect tribes, but never was there an attempt to hold the settlers accountable for there racist and colonizing actions. The Americans broke numerous treaties and agreements for peace with the tribes and yet it was the tribes who paid the whole of the price, getting blamed in innumerable histories for the “Indian wars” and then cast into poverty for more than 100 years without any rights outside of what is given them by the federal government. There needs to be a full reckoning.

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