The 1851 Treaties
The 19 Western Oregon Treaties of 1851 was the first treaties of purchase of lands from tribes in the west. The process of negotiating these treaties was fraught with political issues. The treaties were late, an after-thought of the Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850, which caused thousands of Americans to seek free land in Oregon. But land titles with tribes were not settled yet, and so the process was on a clock, with the issue of war looming in the future of a purchase could not be made soon. And wars came, along the Columbia River were the Cayuse and Yakima wars, and in southwestern Oregon, there were the Rogue River wars of 1853 to 1854 and 1855 to 1856. The leading cause of the wars were too many Americans taking all the land and resources of the tribes without there being any fair settlement or payment for the lands.
The following essays seek to find the answers to the issues of the treaties, why they failed and what the tribes thought of the whole process.
Contextualizing the Treaties
The Treaties 1853-1855
In 1853 begins another era of treaties under Joel Palmer. Palmer wrote at least seven successful treaties for western Oregon and works on treaties for eastern Oregon with Isaac Stevens. Additional treaties are written with the Nez Perce, Klamath, and Paiute peoples.
Treaties are agreements between the tribal nations and the United States for sale of the tribal lands. Tribes are promised money, supplies, and services to remove to a permanent reservation for their home. By-and-large, the federal government does pay the tribes as agreed. But payments are late, supplies are cheap or not enough, and the management of the reservations is quite bad. Many native people die of mismanagement, starvation, malnutrition, violence, during the period of the early reservation. Then reservations reductions take more resources and land from the tribes. the western Oregon tribes and Klamath are terminated in 1954, meaning their treaties are terminated. This act, without the express approval of the tribes, is a breach of treaty terms. Seven tribes are restored in the 1970s and 1980s.
Treaties of Oregon tribes give some rights to tribes who desire hunting, fishing and gathering rights. But other treaties, which do not express these rights, do not address hunting, fishing, and gathering at all, and so western Oregon tribes then have the opinion that they did not have these rights taken away. Treaty debates are the backbone of all tribal histories in the present era and provide important context for tribes claiming sovereign rights.