Redressing Payments for Clatsop and Tillamook Peoples’ Landclaims


The North coast of Oregon had several tribes of Native peoples, the Tillamook tribes and bands (Tillamook, Nehalem (Naalem), Nestucca, Nechesne) and the Clatsop tribe of Chinooks. These tribes were all approached by federal Indian agents and treaties written with them in 1851 and in 1855. In the fine details of these treaties, it was the Nehalem, Tillamook, and Clatsops which had 1851 treaties, while the Nestucca and Nechesne (Salmon River) were treated with at the Umpqua River meeting of the Coast Treaty in 1855. None of these treaties were successful, the 1851 treaties, all 19 of them, were tabled by Congress, because the lands to be set aside for the reservations in the Willamette Valley were already claimed by settlers. The 1855 Coast Treaty was never ratified, for unknown reasons, the only explanation being that it was forgotten about. It is my thought that there was so much going on in Oregon at the time of the Coast treaty, the summer of 1855, several wars and removals of tribes, that the treaty was forgotten about by Indian agents and perhaps never sent to the Senate. Some histories have suggested that the Coast Treaty covered the whole of the Oregon coast, but that is not true, the Naalem and Clatsop were completely left out of the treaty.  The following Senate committee report and conversation reveals some details of what should be done for the Naalam and Clatsop since they had never been paid for their lands and yet had lost them to settlement.

I transcribed some of the report and cherry-picked areas of interest that reveal the thinking of the Senators in about 1905. Looking over the statements for Senators and its apparent that something was going to get done, but the discussions clearly show that the Senators were unaware of many things that had happened in Oregon and about details of the history of the tribes. Part of the problem of working with politicians to manage affairs of things they are not conversant in, is they are learning on the spot and much of the time they do not have accurate information and do not know what they are really addressing or the impact of their actions. It would be better if experts would be working on these issues rather than politically-appointed “professionals,” many working in the Indian Office, who also do not know much about Indian affairs and are learning as they work, nor the politicians who have many other motivations for their actions, other than the well-being of the tribes. Comments are offered within the text transcribed.


(58th Congress, 3d Session, Report No. 3221)

Mr. GAMBLE, from the Committee on Indian Affairs, submitted the report. [To accompany S. 2854.] The Committee on Indian Affairs, to whom was referred the bill (S. 285+) to provide for a final settlement with the Clatsop tribe of Indians, of Oregon, for lands ceded by said Indians to the United States in a certain agreement between said parties, dated August 7, 1851, having had the same under consideration, submit the following report thereon and recommend that the bill do pass with the following amendment:


It appears that on August 7, 1851, Anson Dart, superintendent of Indian Affairs, negotiated a treaty with the Clatsop Indians, under and by virtue of the act of Congress dated June 6, 1850, wherein the Indians, in consideration of the sum of $15,000 agreed to ceded to the United States about 500,000 acres of their lands in Oregon. (See Ex Doc. No. 39, 1st sess., 32d Cong.) In the same treaty between 3,000 and 4,000 acres at the mouth of the Columbia River were expressly reserved to the Indians. The treaty was presented to the Senate but was never ratified. The lands are not of very great value, the reserved lands alone being worth several thousands of dollars.

The United States light-house and Fort Stevens, as well as several suburban towns, are located upon these lands. The Government of the United States who negotiated the treaty found the Indians in the undisputed possession of the country, and it is a matter of history that they have lived there and made it their homes for many generations. Schoolcraft  [an anthropologist] and other historians mention them. No other tribe ever claimed the lands. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Atkins, in a report dated April 21, 1888 (Ex Doc. 154, 1st sess., 50th Cong.), says the Government recognized Indian title by negotiating the treaty, and the title has never been extinguished.

The following comment suggests that the Oregon Donation claims act was 1853. I recall it as 1850, but there may have been an amendment in 1853.

Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Meacham, in his annual report for 1871 (Report for 1871, p.304), says that immediately after the passage of the act of 1853 [sic-1850]  (the Oregon donation act, 10 Stat,. p. 158) the whites began to encroach upon the Indians, and the encroachment continued until the Indians were actually crowded onto the oceans beach. In the same report he says-

“there is no evidence to show that the Indians ever received any benefit or annuities beyond a few presents at long intervals’ hence it is clear that they have never ceded to the Government their country, and since the country was not acquired by legitimate conquest, it is clear that these people have rights that ought to, and will some day, be secured to them.”

A better transcription of Meacham’s report is below, Meacham was really on the side of the tribes in the 1870s and worked to get them more benefits and rights. See his book with the unfortunate name “Wigwam and warpath” as its has extensive details about the Grand Ronde Reservation. The following statement may be inaccurate in part. The Tillamooks and Clatsops did get some presents and funds in about 1855, there was an Indian agent assigned to their area from about 1851-on, so they likely got some benefits, and later several people in these tribes went onto the reservations at Grand Ronde and Siletz, moreso the Tillamooks than the Clatsops. But, yes they never did get paid for their lands. 

Estimated location of Clatsop Reservation from the 1851 treaty, Map by David Lewis

It does not appear from the records and files of the Indian Office that any money or other thing of value was ever paid to the Indians for either the ceded or reserved lands, not have they been given other lands. (Reports of the Secretary dated, respectively, April 4, 1896, and February 12, 1902.) During all of the years since the treaty the Indians have lived upon the lands and supported themselves by hunting and fishing.

Yes, hunting and fishing and by the time of this report working in the settler industries, canneries, farms, dairies, logging, lumber mills and on commercial fishing boats. The description does not go far enough and does not state they were industrious and working, because in this period many people thought Indians lazy. This statement sort of suggests that. The statement also suggests that they were not ‘civilized’ ie: working in farming or other industry that is considered ‘worthwhile’ and of a civilized character.

The objection to the treaty, and the only one that appears to have been made, was on account of the provision in the second article which authorized the Indians to retain a reservation with the exterior limits of the ceded country.

Yes, this was the major opposition, but the opposition was in 1851-52 mainly about the proposed reservations in the Willamette Valley, about six of them, which was more of a problem to settlers, because the settlers did not want to live next to savage Indians. This racialization was a common argument against Indians keeping land, besides whites could make better use of valuable farmlands than simply wasting it on Indians. [These are common criticisms against ‘giving’ land to Indians. It did not matter that the Native people had been using this land for thousands of years.]

Section of the Gibbs-Starling Map of 1851 with six proposed reservations indicated. Reservation to be created were Luckiamute, Tualatin, Yamhill, Santiam, Northern Molalla, Santiam Band Molalla. Map edited by David Lewis

Commissioner Lea, in transmitting the treaty to the Secretary of the Interior, expressed doubts as to the expediency of this provision, and the Secretary, in his report transmitting it to the President, says that-

“It will be seen, however that these reservations are of limited extent and in localities which will interfere but little with the future settlement of the country. They were, however, indispensable features in the treaties, because the Indians were unwilling to negotiate on any other conditions.” (Ex. Doc. 39, p.1.)

This is all true, but still does not address the opposition by settlers to Indians getting land, or keeping lands. I theorize that when settlers in 1851 realized that reservations may be set up in the valley- and they would have realized this because the treaty proceedings were published in local newspapers- they then got busy claiming more land so they could either stop the creation of the reservations, or get windfall payments for their land claims when the feds bought them out. The former was the case, the treaties were tabled and the reservations never happened.

The Commissioner who negotiated the treaty states in his report, dated May 14, 1851, that he had no authority to grant the reservations. (Ex. Doc. 39.)

This is true, Dart had not this authority, in May 1851, his duties were only as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon, which were to keep the peace, and keep liquor from the tribes, etc., this duty of treaty making and purchasing the land of the tribes was appointed to the Willamette Treaty Commission. Dart made arguments in June 1851 with his superiors in D.C. that treaties could not be negotiated with the commissioners why were not officially appointed representatives of the Federal government, and he won that argument and he was then given the duties of treaty-making. He did not get the Clatsop treaty done until August 6, 1851 as part of about 11 treaties negotiated on the Columbia, and no other treaties were given reservations, only the allowance that the Indians could live out their lives in the lands they currently held. So the details here are important and they Senate in 1905 gets things out of order. Its interesting to point out that the three negotiators in California in 1851 McKee, Barbour and Wozencraft were appointed at the same time as the Commissioners in Oregon, and they were not technically Indian Agents either. They wrote 18 treaties in California and their treaties also failed to be ratified. I think they were appointed Indian agents soon after, with McKee in Alta California (northern), and Wozencraft and Barbour in central and southern California. A comparison of their appointments and powers may be in order. But in this statement above the report does not effectively address the details of the failure to ratify the treaties or make reservations. Dart did agree to the Clatsop Reservation in the Clatsop treaty of 1851, and it has been shown that Indian superintendents have been given broad powers to create reservations in treaties and outside of treaties for the management of tribes. Palmer did this numerous times, as well as Stevens in Washington Territory. and the Indian Superintendents in California were continuously creating and dissolving reservations (note this happened for the Klamath River, Smith River, Nome Lackee, Tule River, and Fresno and others). The assertions about Dart’s powers is completely inaccurate. The only time I have seen push-back from D.C. about a treaty initiated by an Indian Superintendent in the west was the Tualatin Treaty of 1854, Palmer wrote that treaty without permission and it was not even sent to the Senate. Dart’s 1851 treaties were doomed from the beginning. Dart did not well research the land titles, blamed his faults on the Commissioners, and did not really care about the treaties and caused them to be tabled. I do not know the reasons behind the non-ratification of the 1851 California treaties.

The Treaty not having been ratified is not law, and the money appropriated is to be taken by the Indians in full satisfaction of all claims for both the ceded and reserved lands.

The report of the Secretary of the Interior, with accompanying papers, is herewith submitted and made a part of this report.

“ By act of June 7, 1897 (30 Stat,. 78). $10,500 was appropriated to pay the Naalem band of Tillamooks (Doc. No. 47), being the amount prescribed in the treaty with them, and provision was made by the said act, “that said Indians shall accept said sum in full of all demands or claims against the United States for the lands described in an agreement made with them, dated sixth of August, eighteen hundred and fifty-one.”

In its report to the Chairman of the Committee in Indian Affairs, United States Senate, dated April 4, 1896, on the claims of the last-named band, the Department took occasion to say that “The fact that these Indians have some claim seems to have been recognized from an early date, and the records of the Department do not show that it has ever been satisfied or relinquished.”

The claim noted here was actually a claim that all tribes on the coast had, because in 1905 none of the Coast tribes had yet been paid for their lands. Some tribes to this day have never been paid.

These statements apply equally to the Tillamooks proper and the Clatsops, whose claims appear to be fully as meritorious as that of the Neelem Band of Tillamooks. In a report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated July 7, 1899, on the payment to the Naahelm Band, Agent T.J. Buford, of the Grand Ronde Agency, Oreg. said:

“I still regard the Naalems, the Clatsops, and the Tillamooks as one family, only separated in times by an imaginary line; they have all been loyal to the whites and have all met the same fate; their lands have been taken from them without compensation. If the Naalems are entitled to a pittance from the Government (and they were), so in like measure are the Tillamooks and Clatsops entitled to consideration.” Many of the tribes or bands with whom treaties were made in 1851, hereinbefore alluded to, seem to have been broken up, and some have accepted benefits and protection from the Government and gone into agencies, thereby relinquishing all claims to the country they formerly occupied.

I do not agree that if tribal people move into a reservation they automatically relinquish their claims to their lands. This seems not at all legally accurate. Many landowners today do not live on their property all the time. This is an assumption on the part of these politicians. Many things forced these people from their lands, threats of violence, starvation, pressure from the illegal occupation of the whites ie: settlement, acts of genocide, being tricked out of their land title in exchange for liquor, etc. And so the tribes were forced to leave their lands for many reasons, none of which are admitted here.

Still others were provided for by later treaties, some of whom located on the Siletz Reservation in Oregon; but the Clatsops and Tillamooks seem never to have been thus provided for…

In view of the facts stated and in the belief that these claims are not without merit, I am not disposed to oppose an appropriation for the benefit of the Clatsops and Tillamooks….” (E.A. Hitchcock, Secretary. Committee on Indian Affairs- U.S. Senate)

“There are bands of Indians scattered over Oregon That do not belong to any agency. Some of these bands have never been treated with and are the real owners of the soil they occupy or have been driven from. The Tillamooks and Clatsops formerly occupied that portion of the Pacific coast between the mouth of the Columbia River and the northern boundary of the “Coast Reservation.” Their number is not definitely known to their office, but their wrongs have been heard and must be redressed. White men have actually crowded them onto the beach of the ocean, not leaving them country enough for graining purposes for the few horses they possess. There is also a small band on the Salmon River and another on the Nestucca. These, however, are within the limits of the “Coast reservation.” And free from molestation but are stilling living in old Indian style. It is in this case only a question of political humanity whether to attempt civilization or allow them to remain as now. They would consent to take land in severalty and remain in full pay for their claim to the county such amounts of money as will place them on a footing with reservation Indians….

By Letter dated July 7, 1899, Agent Buford transmitted lists of names of the Tillamook and Clatsop Indians, with the statement that, from the knowledge gained while taking the census of the Naalem Band of Tillamooks in 1898, he thought said lists were in the main correct, they contain names of 31 Clatsops and 27 Tillamooks.

In addition to the names appearing on said lists. Agent Buford stated that he knew of several Tillamook Indians residing on the Grande Ronde Reservation and of several on the Siletz Reservation, all of whom were raised on Tillamook Bay. Some of those at Siletz the agent reported as having allotments, while others had none….

Now I need to find that census.  A short search through the 1899 files I have, and there was a move by these tribes to hire attorneys and to get details about their claims in order to be paid for their land. Requests are in correspondence for information about the treaties etc. This though clearly initiates a process of investigating the potential heirs to the lands and appointed was Charles McChesney, who interviewed numerous Clatsop and Tillamooks, some at Grand Ronde, some at Siletz and some on the Coast and on the Columbia and asked many questions about their heirs. A final tribal roll would be created to get the annuities from the worth of the land. The roll created by McChesney appears in 59th Cong. 2d sess., Doc. No. 133, Rolls of certain Indian tribes in Oregon and Washington, now called the “McChesney rolls.”

An essay on the Oregon History Project (OHS) “Losses and Gains for Tribes” states that the tribes were paid $23,500 for their lands in 1907. This is a tribal territory claim of about 4558 sq. miles (counties of Clatsop, Tillamook, Columbia, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz) as a wild estimate, 2,917,120 acres, or .008 cents per acre. The standard rate that Dart was to pay the tribes in 1851, the max amount was 10 cents an acre. If the 1907 Senate had been fair and impartial they would have paid at least .10 an acre or $291,712 to these people, as it was common to pay 1851 rates for land settlement claims later. (Again the territorial estimate may be larger, to include the Nechesne lands at the Salmon River which are now part of Lincoln County.)

There were additional claims made in about 1940s-1960s, part of the Indian Claims cases, to include more settlements for the coastal tribes.

Docket no. 239: Tillamook Tribe of Indians, et al., Plaintiffs, v. the United States of America, Defendant. decision 1955: Partial claims allowed

Docket No. 240: Tillamook Band of Tillamooks, Naalem (Ne-ha-lum) Band of Tillamooks, Clatsop Tribe, Kathlamet Band of Chinooks, Nuc-Quee-Clah-We-Muck Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, Oregon, and portions and descendants of all such tribes and bands, Plaintiffs, v. the United States, Defendant. decisions 1962:1965: additional funding awarded, over $72,000 not including attorney fees

The 1907 McChesney rolls are part of the long term application of the Chinook Nation for full federal recognition as an Indian nation in the United States. The rolls are also the foundation for another federal recognition application, that of the Confederated tribes of Nehalem and Clatsop.  Recent acts on the part of the Siletz Tribe to allow Tillamook and Clatsop descendants to enroll at Siletz may have spelled the doom of the effort for recognition of the CTNC. The Chinook Nation continues to fight for recognition.


Transcribed from the Clatsop Indians of Oregon report, United States Congressional Serial Set – Volume 4756 –

There are two reports in this volume, the first is the Clatsop Indians of Oregon, the second is the Tillamook Indians of Oregon. Both have significant discussions of the matter at hand. If downloading the PDF the two reports are pages 62 to 82.

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