The Upper Umpqua and Yoncalla are Removed to the Umpqua Reservation

A subject which has had little clarity in the past is when were the Umpqua and Southern Kalapuya, the Yoncallas, resettled to the Umpqua Reservation at Coles Valley. The Umpqua and Calapooia Treaty of November 29, 1854 is the treaty of land cession for these tribes and sets in motion the removal of the tribes to a permanent reservation. But that removal did not happen immediately and significant plans had to be made to create the temporary Umpqua Reservation, and develop it to the point that the tribes may be removed there. The illustration of this process and event was hampered by a thin collection of letters and reports by Joel Palmer and his Indian agents which document the process of creating the reservation.

“You will find enclosed a list of the tribe of Umpqua Indians; also the number of the men women and  children of the same, all of whom are settled in small bands, as you may see by the list, all over the country, each band claiming a tract of land; which tracts of land I have not made an estimate of. The size and quality of each tract claimed by each band, but I will give you a minute sketch of the amount of country claimed by them- which- amount of country in my belief will not exceed twelve hundred full section, of which about one fourth of the amount may be arable land. I have tried to ascertain of the Indians the amount of land claimed by each band, but was not able, as they have some conflicting lines with each other. There seems to have never been a dividing line between them.  Therefore, I think the best course to pursue would be to make all purchases from the entire Umpqua tribe at once, as it would be an endless task treating with each band separately…. Mr. J. Martin sub Ind Agent To Palmer” (M2 R4 7 19, 1854)

South Umpqua River, Emmons 1841, Wilkes expedition

“The Indians in this country as elsewhere when first visited by the whites, obtained their food by hunting fishing roots and berries, but as the white settlements advance these once abundant resources diminish and are sometimes wholly exhausted in this and in Umpqua Valley when a few years since wild game was so abundant and so easily taken as of itself to yield means of subsistence, for the entire Indian population; it has now in some districts wholly disappeared in others the presence of the white man and the heavy draws by the early settlers upon it, has rendered it timid and wild, and only to be taken with fire arms. The recent legislation enactments prohibiting the sale of arms and ammunition to Indians has also to some extent diminished this means of gaining subsistence. The occupancy by whites of many districts heretofore yielding an abundant supply of nutritious roots used by them for food has destroyed the hope of subsisting themselves in that way, and the comparatively few residing in the valley of Umpqua  who are able to take fish, and the scanty and inadequate supply of berries taken together leaves them no alternative but either to follow the pursuit of the whites in cultivating the soil or to starve, few have chosen to engage in agriculture;… Joel Palmer to Wm J, Martin Sub Ind Agent” (M2 R4 7 29 1854)

Joel Palmer first meets with the tribes of the Umpqua Valley in late November 1854. He had previously written a treaty with the Cow Creek in 1853 and so knew the tribes of the area and could well describe them and their challenges. By 1854 they are struggling with finding enough food in their valley to survive and already resorting to stealing food from the farmers. American farmers are not willing to share their wealth of food with the tribes whom they characterized as “thieving savages and vagrants.”

(The settlers did not try to see the world from the perspectives of the Tribes who did not till the soil and did not put up fences but would share their wealth with neighbors when people were in need. The Tribal peoples did not fully understand why their lands were being taken away from them and were somewhat upset that they could not find enough food, could not live in peace, and why they were not tolerated. The character of the Americans was racist against Tribal people who did not conform to “European ideals of philosophy and order.” To Americans it was chaos to not have each parcel of land claimed with title and to allow people to come harvest from it, but this was the culture of the Tribes of the Umpqua who shared the prairies and did not jealously guard “their lands” from other people. The Umpquas shared the valley with the Americans but there was no reciprocation by the Americans. see essay Stingy settlers)

The Cow Creek band of Umpqua were not “Umpqua Indians” except for the fact they lived on a tributary of the Umpqua river. The Cow Creek are instead Takelma Speaking people (Nahánkhuotana according to the Cow Creek Language program), and so more closely related to the Takelma or original Rogue River peoples. The Umpqua peoples of the central Umpqua Valley are the an athapaskan speaking people, originally having migrated centuries previously from the Clatskanie of Northwestern Oregon and other Athapaskan peoples of western Washington (see Harrington notes & James Teit manuscripts for stories of the migration south). [further note, the Upper Umpqua is still wrongly associated with S.O. Athapascan in many linguistic charts, see: Glottolog] The Umpqua Band was not immediately related to the other Southern Oregon Athapaskan tribes (Dee-ni peoples- Tututni, Dekubetede, Galice, Tolowa, etc) who originate from the Tolowa Deeni landing at Yontocket near Smith River north of Crescent City (see Tolowa Oral Histories in R. Gould, P. Drucker, L. Bommelyn, A. Reed-Crum).

The valley had several villages of Yoncalla – a Kalapuya tribe- that spanned the Calapooia Mountain divide between the Willamette and Umpqua valleys. There were in addition, Southern Molalla tribes in the Cascades foothills. The fifth and final tribe was the Lower Umpqua, again not an “Umpqua” tribe but more related to the coastal neighbors, the Siuslaws, and Yaquinas.

The Umpqua and Calapooias signed onto the treaty proposed by Palmer, about which Palmer noted was a difficult process. Palmer had to give them more money than that given to the Rogue Rivers for their lands. Then while Palmer is in the valley he chooses the land for the reserve and outlines its boundaries. He does this all personally and describes it well in a report (see Palmer papers).

Then Palmer travels back to the Willamette Valley as he has already made plans for the treaty with the tribes of the Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley treaty is sent to Washington, D.C. on January 22nd 1856.  Of the Umpqua and Calapooia Treaty there is not yet found a transfer document and so it may be that both treaties arrive in Washington, D.C. in the same mailing, and are heard by Congress at the same time. The Umpqua and Calapooia Treaty is passed by the Senate on March 3rd, and President Franklin Pierce ratified the treaty on March 30th 1855.

section of ratification page, NARA digital documents, National Archives Records Administration

“The goods purchased of Bradbury were distributed among the Coquille Indians …. Some of which still remains on hand, has been given to the Umpqua Indians to enable them to hunt. Misters Wilson & Applegate have each according too your instructions, raised a crop for the use of the Indians of this valley, as specified in the abstract of disbursements, which is not stored for them and will be distributed from time to time. .. the Indians of this district are still quiet and disposed to sell their lands.” Martin to Palmer (M2 R5 September 1854)

“I have already entered into Treaties and purchased the entire country between the Calapooia Mountains and our Southern boundary and between the Summit of the Coast and Cascade Mountains. Palmer to F. M. Smith” (M2 R5 12 9 1854)

“I had much difficulty in persuading the Umpquas and Calapooias residing in that valley to comply with my terms, but they finally consented and the Treaty consummated on the 29th Ultimo. The cost will be a trifle above that of the Rogue River purchase and annuities have been graduated and run for twenty years, no cash payments. I have made a temporary reserve in the bend of the Umpqua River between the mouth of Calapooia Creek and Elkton, isolated from white settlers and almost inaccessible. I visited the reserve, designated the boundaries etc. They have agreed to remove to and reside upon this reserve or such other tract as may be selected for them within one years from the time of ratification if the proper provisions are made. Palmer to {Washington D.C.}” (Palmer Collection Papers: 12 10 1854)

Palmer reports the details of the Treaty of November 29 1854 (The Umpqua and Calapooia Treaty) to George Manypenny, Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. (Few Treaties originally have a title, most titles are imposed by scholars and normally the treaties are referred to by their date of negotiation in federal communiques.) Much of Palmer’s descriptive narrative is conjecture on his part. In many reports he and his Indian agents will put a positive spin on the tribal perspectives regarding selling their land and moving to the reservation. Below Palmer writes “inspired them with a hope of realizing something in future.” This is clearly beyond what he could hope to learn from the tribe in his short meeting. They may have been excited about getting money, and knew the value of the money proposed but “realizing something in the future” is character spin on the part of Palmer. It may be that Palmer knew how many different eyes would be reading these reports, even those far into the future, and wrote to the different audiences in positive ways to cast the best light on the situation of colonizing  the tribes. Palmer was an advocate for justice, for lawful actions towards tribes, and yet saw the need for colonizing the tribes and removing them to reservations, and these notions are at odds with each other. It is also the case that in late 1854 and well into 1855, Palmer did not yet envision removing the Umpqua tribes from the valley. So in many of the quotes we do not read of plans to remove but instead plans to make their situation better, build up the resources at the Umpqua Reservation, like the Blacksmith shop proposed below. I think Palmer knew they would remove to another reservation but when that would occur was a question. The “when” question was solved with the outbreak of the Rogue River Indian war and significant actions by the American settlers to promote genocide as the next step to dealing with the Indian problems.

Not represented in the following quotes is the petition by a number of settlers in the Umpqua Valley to move the boundaries of the reservation away from some stands of trees and away from an overlap with several settler claims. Palmer answered that they were mistaken, that they may be some overlap but that he has no ability to make the changes to the reservation boundaries (probably because the proposal is on its way to Washington D.C.). but that the settlers just need to be patient because its unlikely that the Umpqua Reservation will remain in effect long. I wrote up an essay about this petition some years ago as to me its an example of the greed of the settlers. In 1854 the settlers had won, they were about to get the whole of the Umpqua basin, rivers, prairies, mountains, and all, and the tribes were reduced by treaty to a few hundred acres, and were about to be removed permanently to a reservation far away,  and still the settlers could not allow that temporary reservation to be created without asking for more.

“The treaty of 29th ultimo unites eleven bands, numbering three hundred and thirty seven which with the Cow Creek band of Umpquas, numbering one hundred and fourteen, designed to be located with them, make an aggregate of four hundred and fifty one souls. These bands are scattered from Scottsburg situated as the head of tidewater on the Umpqua River, to the Cascade Mountains, and are frequently found in isolated families, a few have commenced the cultivation of the soil, and evince a disposition to pattern after the whites. The district embraced in this treaty includes the entire unpurchased portion of Umpqua Valley and is regarded by many as the best portion of Oregon… I have designated for these bands a small temporary reserve, isolated for the settlements, and containing agricultural land sufficient for their use, but they will necessarily be required to settle along the narrow river bottoms and on small creeks too sparse to make it a desirable location, but I believe it the only tract west of the Cascade and east of the Coast range of Mountains of sufficient extent unoccupied by the whites, suitable for an Indian settlement. The head chief is favorable to a settlement east of the Cascade Mountains in the district around Chametts & To-qua Lakes, he has spent one winter in that region, and thinks it highly favorable to an Indian settlement. He represents the winter as being mild but frosts continuing late in the spring.  I have great hopes of being able to induce all the Indians included in this treaty to give their assent to a removal to that district, should the treaty be ratified during this session of Congress, and appropriations made to carry it into effect. I have also made these bands a small payment which, when distributed among so many is a mere pittance hardly satisfying them for one days travel at this inclement season of the year; but the ratification of the treaties with the Rogue River and Cow Creek Indians, and the payment of their annuities, have inspired them with a hope of realizing something in future. The country purchased by these two embraces it is believed an area of not less than seven thousand square miles- the Umpqua reserve about forty five square miles, the Umpqua River meanders through the latter, in a westerly direction, a course of fifteen miles, while the distance by a direct line does not exceed eight miles. The Mountains are high and precipitous, but portions of them are coated with grass and appear well stocked with wild game; the stream affords excellent opportunities for fishing. … Palmer to Manypenny” (M2 R5 12 29 1854)

“For the Confederated bands of the Umpquas and Calapooias treated with on the 29th November last. In addition to the articles embraced in the list for other tribes. This calls for the purchase of materials for supplying the Smith shop which by the treaty with them will be paid for out of their annuity, while by the treaties with other bands the materials are to be paid for, out of specific appropriations. To the usual materials for supplying the Smith shop, I have added materials for manufacturing their own tin wall and camp equipage, and for repairing their fire arms, making their plows etc. In another communication I have given my reasons at some length for adopting this policy. Palmer to Manypenny”  (M2 R5 1 13 1855)

Palmer has a few letters were he gives instructions to George Belden, a federal mapmaker (perhaps a military cartographer), stationed in Salem, Oregon. Here Palmer explains that his narrative description may have some errors based on his use of field estimates to locate the reservation.

“The boundaries as established by the treaties may not conform to the actual surveys as we had but a very inadequate knowledge of portions of the country therein described but conformed to the boundaries claimed by the tribes inhabiting those districts. As far as boundaries of the different bands inhabiting their valley can be accurately traced, it is well to do so, but I wish that such labor only as may give a general knowledge of the country embraced by the purchase, and particularly the reserves should be bestowed as I am anxious the map shall be transmitted to Washington at an early day. Palmer to Belden” (M2 R5 2 20 1855)

“Estimate of funds for defraying the expenses of survey of… Umpqua reserve…

For survey of Umpqua Reserve, 300.00

For subdividing Umpqua Reserve and designating tracts for residences of heads of families, 300.00

For Projecting a sketch map of Oregon, 100.00” (Palmer Papers Collection: 4 20 1855)

Belden Map 1855, Umpqua Reservation section, NARA original map

Then March 30, 1855 the Treaty of November 29, 1854 (Umpqua and Calapooia) and March 3, 1855, that of January 22, 1855 (Willamette Valley Treaty) are ratified by Congress and signed by the President. Palmer does not hear about their ratification few a few days. On March 6th, Palmer begins acting to remove the Kalapuyans of the Willamette valley to encampments, which he calls “reserves” to about 10 locations, at the claims of hand-picked settlers in the Willamette Valley. Palmer chooses well established settlers with useful roles in their region for Special agents. For example Joseph Spores was one of the earliest settlers in Eugene and operated a ferry service. He took the role of special agent and looked after the Chafin Kalapuyans, who happened to have a village on his claim. But Spores Ferry also became a transportation hub for money, supplies, for several tribes and reserves in the area, and congregating and moving southern Kalapuyans north when it came time to move them to Corvallis.

“Official information has been received by this mail, that the treaties entered into with the tribes of this valley, Umpqua and Rogue River, have been ratified and appropriations made to carry them into effect. Palmer to Gov. Stevens” (M2 R5 4 23 1855)

Funding for removal of the tribes, set within the funding ratified in the treaty, was slow to arrive in Oregon. The check would not even come to Oregon but instead be sent to the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. Palmer would have to sent a courier by steamboat to San Francisco to get the check and cash it and bring the cash north to Oregon. This process could take several months to complete. What is clear is that Palmer was always out of funds and awaiting late funds for subsistence purchases he was already doing with the tribes. To keep the peace among the tribes and get them to remove to reservations there had to be funding to make this happen. Without actual cash Palmer began invoicing, basically giving promissory notes to vendors and to workers in the project of removal and resettlement of the tribes.  Palmer did this for years, and for years after he resigned the Indian office was receiving invoices for late payments from a multitude of individuals in Oregon. Much of the money for repaying vendors and workers would come directly from the Oregon Indian Superintendency budget, which was mostly made up of funding from ratified treaties. So the tribes paid for all of the services for their own removal in most cases. Some few budgets were made available for non-treaty tribes on the Coast Reservation and coastal Umpqua Reservation (waiting for the Coast treaty ratification which never came), but the Superintendency essentially mingled all treaty funds and would allocate funding where they thought it was needed, and always the settler claims and invoices came first. This is one of the causes for significant lack of resources on the reservations in the first 20 years, due to the poor planning by federal agencies, and because much of the funding earmarked for the reservations actually went to settlers workers and vendors of beef, transportation, etc. that had been promised in the past but were not paid immediately.

In October 1855, when Palmer is assembling the Southern Willamette Valley Kalapuyans at Corvallis, and the Chinook, Cascades, Multnomah, Clatskanie at reserves on on the Columbia and Oregon City.  Palmer is also having his Indian agents in the Umpqua Valley (Umpqua District?) assemble the Umpqua and Calapooia treaty tribes on the Umpqua Reservation. This is when Palmer realizes that he must remove the tribes to a reservation to protect them. The Rogue River war is out of hand and he needs to move all tribes north away from the conflict zone. This was a strategic decisions which appears to have occurred simultaneously in Indian management districts throughout the region, tribes in California were moved south and imprisoned to keep them from the war as well. All of the tribes in this vast region, Northern California to the Umpqua Basin had experienced the same treatment from the settlers and militias and the fear was they would band together against American encroachment and so they all needed to be kept separate so that they could not combine forces. (and they very well might have!) The Coos people were briefly moved to the North Bend Reserve then moved north to the Umpqua river. Several tribes were sent to be concentrated at the Lower Umpqua River which became the new Umpqua Reservation. (Scholars have cast doubts that this Umpqua Reservation was important at all, but federal records show it existed from 1855 (Umpqua District) to 1862, and at its height had more than 700 Natives living there year-round. This makes the coastal Umpqua Reservation more significant than the Table Rock Reservation which only existed for a couple years to be abandoned in 1856. The journal essay about this reservation is forthcoming.)

Assembled at the Reservation are Upper Umpqua and Yoncalla Kalapuyans as the primary populations. Then in census counts and reports is a note about Klamaths being assembled there. The Klamaths and Molallas had an affinity for each other, some scholars have stated they were interrelated peoples and may have related languages (Berman). Klamaths were known to travel over Cascades trails to interior valleys to hunt elk and hang out with their Molalla friends. The stories of the Klamaths in the Willamette Valley are many, with their participation in at least two conflicts, Abiqua and Battlecreek.  Stories from the Yoncalla suggest they would be raided for slaves and wives by the Klamath (Halo in Jesse Applegate, the Yangolers). So when they are in the valley they would be indiscriminately removed to the reservation. There may have been some confusion whether they were Klamath or Molalla, suggesting the co-encampment relationship.  Resettled at the Umpqua reservation are some 232 Umpqua and Calapooia and 30 Klamath/Molalla. The period from signing the treaty on November 29 1854 to removal is about 10 months.

“In the assembling of the Umpqua Indians and subsisting them at the encampment an expense has been incurred for which no funds have been remitted. On your return from Rogue River Valley you will pay such claims as you find just and properly incurred in carrying out my instruction to W. J. Martin, Upon your arrival at Fort Lane if you find that the teams at this point are sufficient to transport requisite baggage and subsistence for those Indians as far as Umpqua Valley, you will dispatch a messenger to meet the pack train sent out , so as to stop them in the Umpqua valley where they may be turned to the Umpqua Reservation to aid in removing those Indians. Palmer to R. Metcalfe” (M2 R5 10 17 1855)

“…in accordance with the appointment and your regulations, I proceeded to work and have collected as many of the Umpqua as I can get. The number of which is two hundred and eighteen of all sizes, and thirty five Molallas or Klamaths which live n this valley, and by the request of the citizens came in and delivered up all their arms and claimed protection deeming it necessary for the safety of our citizens I have taken them in charge and placed them on the reserve near to the Umpquas and issued to them rations as to the Umpquas. There has been issued to all the Indians on the reserve near two thousand pounds of beef and flour. I have in my possession a letter stating that there would be a messenger dispatched immediately for this place with a person and teams for the erection of buildings on the reservation, which I have been anxiously looking for but they have not yet arrived. I am very anxious to hear from you to learn as to the legality of my proceedings in regard to the Molallas or Klamaths, as there is a very great expense incurred every day in procuring & issuing provisions for them….T.R. Magruder Interpreter & Commissary”  (M2 R5 11 7 1855)

“November 15 1855, List of Names and the Numbers of the Umpqua and Calapooia Indians a belonging to and residing on the Umpqua reserve, Nov 15 1855…. 72 Males, 96 females, 30 boys, 34 girls, total 232- T. R. Magruder”(Palmer Collection Papers: Censuses 1855)

“List of the Names and the Numbers of the Umpqua Band of the Klamath Tribe of Indians residing on the Umpqua Reservation Nov 15 1855; 10 males, 8 females, 5 boys, 7 girls, total 30. T.R. Magruder” (Palmer Collection Papers: Censuses 1855)


Palmer reaches the point of ordering removal based on the states of excitement of the white settlers and the safety fo the tribes. The Umpquas are undergoing attacks from settlers in random massacres when the Umpquas are traveling. They are peacefully living on the reservation and yet the settlers will not leave them alone. This is the initial cause of the Rogue River war as well, the tribes are peacefully living on the reservation yet white rangers attacked and committed genocide on the village at Deer Creek. There is no safety for the tribe on the reservations, the treaty agreements do not provide safety. Palmer is faced with another potential war in the Umpqua, with genocide on the tribes, friendly tribes who have not gone to war at all, or removal. This choice is then no choice at all and Palmer orders the removal of the remaining tribes at Table Rock Reservation and the Umpqua In November 1855. Unfortunately the snow that winter is intense and so they must wait several months for a chance for removal. At this point Palmer does not yet have full approval to concentrate the tribes at the new reservation Grand Ronde and his arguments of Nov 12 suggest he was trying to convince the Indian office of the need for full removal. But it is also in November of 1855 when Palmer moves to purchase the lands of the Grand Ronde valley from settlers. He creates a list of the claimants and begins to employ them in setting up the reservation. Many serve as laborers, wagon drivers, and farmers in the first year of the reservation.

“The Umpqua Indians are but little more secure, one village having already been attacked by a body of lawless bandits and put to death. These bands may also be located and comfortably provided for on the Coast reservation, if the purchase of the tract referred to be consummated. This would concentrate all the tribes in this territory west of the Cascade mountains upon one reservation, which I regard as highly desirable; and now if even this object must be achieved as I believe it the only measure by which they can saved from extermination. … in constructing buildings on …Umpqua Reservations but little progress has been made in that work, so that if a change of location be contemplated it will be highly economical to do so previous to the expenditure of that fund.”(Joel Palmer Collection (Papers Online: Letters October 1855 to December 1855 [5] November 12 1855)

“Having in view the safety and well being of the Friendly Indians in the Rogue River and Umpqua Valleys, as well as the peace and security of our own citizens- I have deemed it necessary to remove the Indians of these valleys, to a tract of country on the head water of the south fork of Yam Hill River currently known as Grand Ronde, for a winters encampment. The Hostile attitude of a large portion of Indians congregating in the Rogue River Valley- the excited state of feeling among our own citizens- rendering necessary to collect the friendly bands at the garrison. Thereby preventing the prosecution of work upon the reservation- on the usual means of procuring subsistence necessarily requiring the government to furnish rations to them pending hostilities. Palmer to Metcalfe (Palmer Collection papers: November 17 1855)

Magruger in other messages is noted as speaking the language of the tribes, perhaps Chinuk wawa. He becomes the second agent at the Umpqua Reservation when Martin resigns. Magruder appears to keep a peaceful camp, likely helped because he can speak directly to the tribes. George Ambrose and Robert Metcalfe are Palmer’s go to men to send into difficult situations and they oversee the removals at the two reservations in the south. Ambrose takes over from Culver when Culver resigns at Table Rock Reservation. Culver is forced to resign because of an investigation against him by Palmer. He is charged with making the Indians work for him raising hay and selling it to local settlers and perhaps pocketing the profits.

“…on a visit to the Umpqua Reservation Mr. Magruder entertains the opinion that no fear need be apprehended of the Indians. They are collected together on the Reservation and disarmed, and evince a friendly disposition. They are much in need of winter clothing and if their annuities have arrived it would be well to forward them out immediately….” G.H. Ambrose to Palmer (M2 R5 11 22 1855)

…a visit to the Umpqua Reservation where I found everything pertaining to the agency being conducted according to your instructions. The names of all adult males and boys over twelve years of age have been enrolled. Special Sub Agent Magruder calls the roll daily and issued to them rations of beef and flour. He apprehends no danger whatever of an outbreak on the part of the Umpqua Indians. In examining their reservation, I found very little good tillable land. If it should be your design to colonize these Indians on the coast, it had better be done before expending any portion of their annuities in agricultural purposes on the present reservation. I suspect however all things considered they could be kept more economically and to a better advantage where they are for the present, than they could be in the event of their removal to the coast. Flour is being purchased at the rates of five and a half cent per pound and beef at the ten dollar per hundred. There are now on the Umpqua Reservation two hundred and sixty six persons including all ages, thirty of whom are Klamaths or Indians from the vicinity of Klamath Lake, with whom no treaty has ever been made. As they desired peace it was thought advisable to take them on the reservation and care for them. The same as those belonging there…. Ambrose to Palmer (M2 R5 11, 30, 1855)

This ends the settlement of the Umpqua valley tribes to the Umpqua Reservation. Palmer does take one more trip south to negotiate the final treaty of his tenure, with the Molalla at the end of November 1855. The southern Molalla are removed to the Umpqua Reservation in mid December pending removal of all of the Native peoples of the valley to Grand Ronde. Days before the removal the Cow Creek band of Umpqua (Nahánkhuotana) are collected from their reserve and valley and brought to the Umpqua reserve. Their journal of removal is written by George Ambrose.



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