Into the last decades of the 19th century the Indian agents at Grand Ronde struggled with many aspects of assimilating the tribes to American culture. In fact, there was a meeting in 1871 in Salem, at the First Methodist Church with all the tribal leaders in Oregon to convince them to given up their Indian doctors and begin accepting white doctors. The tribal culture, however was persistant, and when the federal government fail to help the tribes for more than 20 years, without funding and effective services, the tribes had really no reason to convert to white American culture. The other culture described is that of the Potlatch. It common in the region for families to hold a giveway when a member of the family dies. There is a cultural purpose to this, and a way of healing.
Hon. John H. Oberly
Indian School Superintendent
I herewith have the honor to submit my reply to yours of April 8 – 86 on Education.
1. Fifty-five (55) are at the present time accommodated at the school.
2. The probable average for the next fiscal year will be seventy (70) attendance.
Since writing the above have received authority from the Hon. Secretary of the Interior to make the necessary repairs of School building, which when done will accommodate the pupils with good healthy sleeping apartments. At present they are overcrowded and in my opinion detrimental to the laws of health. (yes this is the boarding school, with sleeping accommodations)
3. Twenty-five acres have been plowed, same being sewed down with timothy wheat and good oats. The Agency oxen has not heretofore been used for farming purposes and in consequence of their not being broke, an Indian was employed by me to drive and break them into the work, which was done for three (3) days. After this the School boys took them in hand and performed the work quite manfully. They are now engaged in planting from eight (8) to ten (10) acres of vegetables. Some of the boys complained that heretofore they were not worked while attending school but became reconciled when told it was ordered by the Government. When not in school they are employed in the garden or upon the farm or doing chores. There are three (3) boys learning trades, (two blacksmithing and one carpentry). Only two receive pay, namely one apprentice blacksmith, and one apprentice carpenter. The girls receive instructions from the Sisters of the order of St. Benedict (Catholic) in vocal and instrumental music, sewing, dressmaking, tailoring, cooking, washing, ironing and general housework.
4. From thirty-five (35) to forty (40) acres has been cultivated this year. And with the same kind of help I can increase this to one hundred acres this coming year. I propose to do this by school children. To improve this one hundred acres I will have to take land belonging to the Agency which has been used by the Indians for several years free, the Government receiving no rent for the same. The men using this land are in good condition and do not need it, having sufficient of their own to answer their present wants. If, however, it became necessary I could accommodate them with other land outside the Agency farm. I do not expect to work the Agency farm proper unless I am ordered to do so by you. I propose to [do] all the work for the school by employees and children.
5. The positions needed and the salary for each position are a principle lady teacher, Sister Placida, at a salary of four hundred and fifty ($450.00) dollars per year; assistant and industrial male teacher Paul Fundman at a salary of four hundred dollars per year, a matron and seamstress , Sister Sophia, at a salary of three hundred and twenty-five per year, a cook and laundress, Sister Girvasia (?) at a salary of three hundred and twenty-five ($325.00) per year. I hereby recommend the above named persons for the next fiscal year at the salary affixed [to] their names. I am well pleased with the manner in which the school is conducted and the good treatment of the children under the sisters care. (note Catholic sisters provide much of the instruction, so both educational and religious instruction in a boarding school)
I desire to state the worst thing I have to contend with is the Indian doctors in regard to the school – principally women doctors. They are very anxious to doctor the Indians and impress them with the belief that they (the “doctors”) are the only ones who can perfect a cure. When the Indian children are taken sick the Indian doctor who is employed make the statement that some other Indian “doctor” has made them sick at the school by performing the “Te-man-i-mus” [ceremonies, or sacred acts] while eating with the children at the table. This “Te-man-i-mus” which they propose to make is the same as what we understood as witchcraft long years ago. They pretend to have the power, by throwing their breath on any Indian man, woman or child, although that person may be ten feet from them, and can kill then on the spot, or make them sick for a period of weeks and then die.
You can perceive how absurd this doctrine is but not withstanding, there are very few of the full blood or half breeds but what believe it to be a fact. They have carried this so far that the Indians have settled, and named one of the Indian women “doctors”. And the statement is made that this woman sat down, at the same table to eat, by invitation and made the “Te-man-i-mus” at the time so that many girl pupils were taken sick with what appeared to be a contagious disease, so much so that I was obliged to close the school for a short time. Three of the girls taken sick have died and one is still sick. The other pupils are well. Since learning these statements I have conversed with the sisters on the subject and found that this woman “doctor” did eat at the table with these girls and they appeared to be afraid of her, and found further from the sisters they were annoyed considerably by Indian women coming there to eat and I concluded and did make a general order that none of the Indian women should eat there which has been carried out, and further still, ordered that certain Indian “doctors” shall not be allowed to enter the school building so as to satisfy the superstition of the Indians not withstanding its so absurd.
There is another habit they have been accustomed to is to their down or burn up their house when one of the family die in the house. This I have effectually stopped through the vigilance of the Police, and think in time I can eradicate the other evil.
Another evil exists that has been practiced by Indians. When a member of the family die, of giving to their friends and allowing them to carry off everything they have got, even to their provisions, bedding, horses, in fact all their property, making themselves perfectly poor and miserable. They continued this after I came here at first, but as I learned of it I made them make restoration of the property and ordered my Police to watch over the sick and prevent the practice, and I believe I have succeeded in doing so, and I believe the Indians like my course in that respect. I do not anticipate any great trouble in eradicating those evils by using a great deal of vigilance and watching [by] my Police.
U.S. Indian Agent
Fault at not getting the tribes to trust white American ways is solely on the whites who failed for so long to live up to their promises. Then continued mistreatment for years built up lots of resistance to white culture. Many of these cultural proactices today are making a revival in the community as the community learns to work with one another. Trust for other tribal families is still a big problem.
Southwest Oregon Research Project Letter 12695
Complete Transcript: Written at Grande Ronde Agency on April 28, 1886 by J.B. McClane, Agent
Some letters from the Natives at Grand Ronde are remarkable in the details they reveal of how the people are being treated by the Indian Agents. Shilequa’s (Selquia) letter of 1888 is one such letter, describing in great detail, and with awareness of the likelihood that the Agent is breaking the rules, of many of the acts the agent is taking to enrich himself and take advantage of Indian labor on the reservation. The letter’s frank character also suggests that Selquia is not afraid of consequences of his letter, should the agent get wind of it. Selquia was a leader of the Wapato Lake tribe at the reservation, also called the Tualatin Kalapuyans.
Coversheet: Makes certain complaints against Agent McClane.
Grand Ronde. Polk Co. Oregon
April 5th 1888
To the Honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
I will now take pain as to write to you these few lines in order to ask you a few questions about our Agent’s duties to do here. That is something I want to know. Now I will tell you he has sold one yoke of oxens which belongs to the department for which he got the value of about ninety dollars. And it was one of the very best pair of oxens we had on this reservation and that this could be proved. And also I want to know about this wagon timbers that layed (sic) out all winter in the rain and during the snow. We had here the snow [that] last four weeks and most of this timber [has] been destroyed. That could be proven also by [a] good many citizens. And another thing also. I want to know [is] about him raiseing (sic) a great lots of potatoes here and sell it. He has sold the amounts of 30 bushels for sure. That could be proven also. And again I want to know weather (sic) he has the right to have his work done here. He has bought him a buggy wheeles (sic) and axles and tires and make these employees to go to work and put it up for him and use some irons that belongs to the goverment (sic) and leave the poor Indians work [to] one side.
And I have to do his work first and we be left behind weather (sic) we need our work done right off [or not]. But still he makes us wait untill (sic) he has his buggy put up and after the wheeles (sic) is fitted on. Well now next is to have it painted. Well he goes and tell[s] the Miller Barton Trollinger to paint his buggy and that could be proven also. And another thing I would like to ask you [is] weather (sic) he has [the] right to do such thing like he has done. Well he had his soninlaw (son-in-law) here stoping (sic) with him for sometime doing kind of a work half done around the Agency. This man was from Salem. Well the time he went to Salem J.B. Maclane orders up one of the employees to take his soninlaw (sic) back to Salem with the goverment (sic) teem (sic) while he had his horses in the stable all winter doing nothing. Well so this poor employee had to go. It took him 3 ½ days to go [there] and back while this [same] man had all the work he could do here without him sending this man out side. It [is] because he is an Agent he makes these employees do what he pleases.
And also I want to know weather (sic) he has [the] right to make the school boys plow and plant his potatoes. He is doing the same thing that could be proved today. And also, about him geting (sic) milk from the school. He has been geting (sic) ever since he was here. That could be proved also. Another thing I will tell you some boys have done mischief here lately. Our Agent seem not to care for this matter. There was a young man [who] made a complaint to him one day about another man getting a way with his wife. This young man came before him [the agent] to make his report to do something to the man [who] got his wife. Maclane refuse to take the complaint and so this young man could not get help from nobody, so he give it up. I think myself that this is very wrong for not helping us. I should think that our Agent was here to correct every one of us weather (sic) wright (sic) or wrong. When a little trouble is to be decided it depends a good deal on him how he feeles (sic).
It seems that he does not care for us no more than dogs. Some people will think a good deal of their dogs but him he says what Indians knows. Indians do not know nothing. I know you will not receive my word but still I’ll let you know what I think is we are here mistreated under J.B. Maclane. While the Inspector Gardiner was her presented he told us what ever is not right here with our Agent for us to write over W.D.C (to Washington DC). Some of us young man that can write and so we are doing. And also I will tell you with the honest[to] God fact about this.
Those Indians policemen that you have here are not fit to keep office no more than [the] one writing this paper. It is a shameful for them to do the way the (they) have been doing all the time. They have been drinking very heavy this year. Captain Frank Qunell [Quinell], Henry Winslow, William Sims [could be Simmons], John Wacheno. Captain Qunell [Quinell] had a good excuse last year. [He] stated that he took some wine which he made himself out of elderberries but this year he change his mind. He thought [it would] be better [to] take strait (sic) whiskey. J.B. Maclane knows very well about this but still he let it rip. He is a good friend with Captain [Qunell]. We are all sick of this business. We wish you would make a change to thing. Lots [of] young men that can read and write can keep law book[s] as well as any of those drunkard. That is the way one of these police broke his legs. John Wacheno. By being drunk.
I hope you will take confidents (sic) in us as to step forward and see to us in our need and please give us a reply some way or give our Agent a little lesson so we will try to get [a]long a little better. I will be much thankful to you if you try and see to us on what we are imposed on. This few lines send by one of your poor Indian suffering soul. We all hope to succeed in our request.
From your very respectully Indian
note The following seemed to have been added as a postscript to the above letter:
Also attention on this charges I have against our Agent Sir I will now tell you again about those cattles (sic) that belong out side. The (they) have been runing (running) here for [a[ long time. I have told my Agent to tell these mens that own these to keep them out from this reservation but still he dont (sic) seem to care for and also I have lost one heafer (heifer) on account [of] him not doing his duty and also I will tell you about these cattles (sic) done lots of damages here all the time but still he dont (sic) care and also when inspector gardiner was here[he] told our agent to see about these cattles business but after inspector gardiner lift (left) here he said I dont (sic) have to do what he says. I can do my pleases. He is not runing (sic) my business. I runing my own business just what he always say. So we cant do nothing with him. I [want] to know also weather (sic) he has [the] right to sell some gardens seed here. He has sold [a] good many that I can prove by the parties that bought the seed. Also I will now state that [I] have made report once before to the U.S. offices in portland (sic) about these cattles here runing (sic) in this reservation. The (they) told me if I can get the agent to sign it before the (they) can take the complaint but he wouldnt (sic) so I cant do nothing. Well, Commissioner I desire you would send inspector to see about these charges that I have to tell you now.
From Yours respectfully
The lack of respect of the agent toward the resources of the agency is a serious problem. The Natives have learned to be careful with their resources because not much was going to be provided them by the federal government. McClane appears to be monetarily benefitting from the position, selling off a good team of oxen, and selling potatoes, and this too is wrong. The Natives were completely under the power of Agent and some 3000 miles form Washington, D.C. so there was no effective oversite of the reservation. Then, by allowing the police to get away with bad behavior the agent then engages them in his illegal actions and they are more apt to look the other way. Liquors were specifically outlawed on reservations and was one of the only ways people could make money at the same time. Many tribal people would make wines, ales, and liquors on their farms and sell it in neighboring towns just to be able to buy basic necessities, as well as aid in the reservation alcoholists’ tendancies. Since state police could not come into the reservation, there was no one to stop the Indian police from doing what they wanted.
Its remarkable in 1888 for a Native person to communicate in this manner, a very brave and selfless act, where he could have and very likely did face retribution and retaliation.
Southwest Oregon Research Project Letter # 10028/88
Indian Letter. Written at Grand Ronde Indian Reservation on April 5, 1888 by Mr. Jim Shilequa.
The natives at the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation underwent extreme hardships. Most of the early years they starved from lack of good effective administration by the federal employees and lack of funding from the federal government. They had only one doctor and rare access to effective medicines. Many people died at an early age because of illnesses at the reservation. In 1872 the people got their first allotments, some 20 years after they had been removed to the reservation. These allotments of land were small, from 20 acres to 100 acres only. But by 1880 they had a grist mill, a saw mill, all operated by the people, and they were independent from government handouts, feeding themselves. This was possible because everyone helped each other out. Many families were small, missing a parent, yet since the whole community helped one another they were able to feed everyone and became self-sufficent. Farming itself was part of the assimilation efforts established by the Federal government to “civilize” the natives so they may gain full citizenship.
Still the federal authorities were pushing for further “civilizing” of the natives, and forced children, from a very young age into the on-reservation boarding school. The following is a description of the needs of Joe Apperson after the death of many men in the community. He is 16 and is apparently the head of his household in 1887 and does not have much land, and needs help. His neice is forced to remain at the Grand Ronde Boarding school and he would like her help.
Apperson notes that the “sisters” were enforcing the children to attend the boaridng school. From the 1860s to the 1890s at the least, the Grand Ronde Boarding school was operated by a Catholic order of Sisters, who were managed by the Catholic Priest at St. Michaels Church. For the first forty years this priest was Rev Adrien Croquet of Belgium. The order of sisters was from Marylhurst. The school then was operated not just for education but for religious conversion, impressing Catholicism on the children from a very young age, in fact immersing them in the Catholic Religion. This could be called Catholic immersion. This tactic was highly successful in growing Catholics at the reservation and eliminating Native cultural ways.
The most remarkable thing about this letter is that he writes it himself, so he has learned to read and write and can now express his needs in a coherent manner.
Grand Ronde, Yamhill County, Oregon
March 5, 1887
Well my friend I just to write to you a little. I am very shaim [sic] my friend for writing to you my friend. I let you know. One time I went and get my niece in the school house to do a little work for me I got permission from the Agent. Then I got her out then the Sister’s went and told the Agent. I took my niece out of school for good then after two days the Agent sent the Polismen [sic] after me and told me to take my niece back to school and the Agent wanted to see me. So when I got to the Agent we settled that together then he told me it is my order to sent the Polismen after the children. Then I told him long time ago when Mr. Sinnitt was here we never had to ask him to take our children home. We always had to see the teacher when we wanted to take our children home. And Mr. Sinnitt would not care if we would take them home for a week or two. And I want to know if you ordered the Agent not to let the children go home unless we get permission from him.
Well my friend I let you know I have bin [sic] here in the Reservation for thirty two years and besides I have been raised in this Reservation and I never had trouble with the Agent or with the Teacher or with anybody I always act a good man. I always sent my children my to School and all my children are well educated. I always force my children to go to School and now they are all well educated. The reason I act that way because my father he act the treaty his the chief in the tribe we are full of blood Indian we not no half-breed. Now I am a single man my wife died and my children died and my Father’s dead. One my Brother died in the Sylum [sic] [probably State Hospital in Salem] his name was Moses Apperson. I suppose you heard from him. Well my friend that the reason I want to get my niece out of school because I am a single man and I don’t want to work and do my own cookin and has soon has I am done ploughing [sic] and done with all my work then I will sent my niece back to school again. I got a fine place here my friend. I make my living and I make money in this place.
Well my friend I let you know we ain’t many here now there were many people died last summer before you sent this Doctor, nearly all the best mens died but now since you sent this Doctor he always gave us good Medson [sic] and we think he his the best Doctor we ever had. And we have got a pretty good Teacher now this last that you sent and we are very glad of that he always tend his business and my children told me that Mr. Carnie is the best Teacher. They say he is not like Mr. Paul, he never tends to them and he doesn’t care what they do and I am glad that you discharged him. Mr. Winslow is a very good Carpintor [sic] he always work steady and never miss a day but our black smith he don’t work steady, he mists [sic] about two or three days in a week but Mr. Winslow never mist a day and that’s the kind of men we want and we have got a pretty good Agent Mr. Mclain [sic] and all the employees are pretty good except the new blacksmith. Mr. Mclain does his business pretty good his not like Mr. Sinnitt [sic] [Sinnott].
Well my friend I let you know one thing we are nearly all well satisfied here in this reservation but only one thing warrant got enough land twenty acres is not enough we can’t get enough wheat and we cat[ sic] raise any stock. We just got enough to make our living.
Well my friend I let you know that we are hard up here. We are all out of feed and we are out of everything we haven’t got no seed to sow only the rich people and we are not the only people that are hard up evin [sic] the white people lose … round here and please help us all you can. The reason I tell you that because all the Indians were asking the Agent for the seed last fall and I don’t know if the Agent rote [sic] to you about that. Well that’s all I tell you my friend. There is my niece she want to say something to you Mary Ann Homer.
Please I want to ask you my uncle is single and I want to go home and do some cooking for him. I don’t want to see my Uncle work hard and do his own cooking and washing it make me feel sorry to see him do that. He always treat me good has long as I was with him that the reason I don’t want to see him do his own cooking while I am living. I am about sixteen years old now.
Mr. Joe Apperson
Apperson is a member of the Clackamas people from around the Willamette Falls.
Even in 1893, Indian Agents were pushing for children in Grand Ronde Boarding school to remain at the school all the times. The policy of assimilation at all costs was very strong at this time. Grand Ronde had several schools, most of which were built with treaty funds. Studies of Indian Boarding Schools for Oregon are normally about Chemewa and have rarely address the boarding schools at the reservations.
Grand Ronde Oreg Agency
Oct 7 1893
Hon Commissioner of Indian Affairs
The Indians on this Agency state that in the past they have been allowed to take their children home from school every Friday evening and return them on the succeeding Monday. This they wish to continue doing and I do not consider that it is permissible. I moreover consider that it is a bad policy to let them go home, excepting at X-mas and for the regular vacation. I write this at the request of the parent of these children: but must ass that a strict rule requiring children to_ remain _ at school the whole week, is the _ only _ way to make this school a success.
Very Truly Yours,
John FFB Brentano,
U.S. Indian Agent
Here, the students of the Grand Ronde Boarding school use their ability to communicate through letters to petition on behalf of a fired employee of the reservation and to dispell a rumor.
Grand Ronde Agency, Feb. 1 1887
We the under signed pupils of Grand Ronde Indian Boarding School desire to call your attention to the reasons for which our farmer teacher Mr. Fundman has been discharged:
Mr. P. Fundman has been teaching here for the last three years and we are his oldest pupils; all the scholars liked him very much. We do not think that we could get a better teacher than him. The one we have got now does not teach us as well as Mr. Fundman. When the Inspector; Mr. Parson was here he did not ask us any questions about our teacher. Two boys not belonging to the school any more made complaints against Mr. P. Fundman to the Inspector. It was all spite work, they wanted to revenge themselves on Mr. Fundman for one of them was put in jail once as a punishment for his misconduct. We think it was not fair of the Inspector to report to you as true what is false. We can say that what was said against our farmer teacher is not true we never had a better teacher than him. We respectfully ask you Sir to give Mr. Fundman the position back he has filled so well and we consider it only justice to do so.
Hoping that you will give due attention to our petition we are
The Honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs,
Grand Ronde Agency
[and they got an answer to their petition]
Joseph Michael, Esq.
Grand Ronde Indian School
Grand Ronde Agency, Oregon
The letter signed by yourself and five other pupils in the school has just been received, and in reply thereto, I have to say Inst. Mr. Fundman was removed from the position of Industrial Teacher and another man appointed in his place because it was believed by myself and your friends here that it was for the good of the school, that such a change should be made. I am glad to see the interest you take in the affairs of the school, and hope that you will continue to learn everything that will be useful in making you all grow up to be good men.
There were three strategies for “civilizing” the western Oregon natives as part of the colonization of the Grand Ronde tribes, enforced farming, education, and religion, all represented in the letters above. The formula was largely successful, but never completely eliminated Native culture.
Charlie Cutter, a student of Chemawa Indian school from about 1898 to 1902 was a noted baritone singer. Cutter was born in Shaken Alaska in1880 and had a native name, Dockh-hoh-kharckh, which was difficult to pronounce, so the Indian agents just called him Charlie Cutter while at school. He is noted to come from the Klawock tribe of Southwest Alaska. Newspaper accounts suggest that he had encountered missionaries for the first time as a child and became interested in going to school in the south. In Chemawa he was an older student, which was not uncommon for the time. He was a regular student from Alaska taking wood shop classes until 1902 when music professor W. H. Boyer of Portland noticed he had a good strong voice. Boyer began training Cutter in 1902 and began booking him for performances and plays in Portland and Oregon City. Cutter mastered songs in several languages in preparation for an Operatic career.
The Chemawa American (May 25, 1906) wrote of Cutter, “None of the conventional adjectives will describe the quality of his voice. It filled the church and gave you the impression that it could fill all out doors just as easily. There is in the voice of a timbre peculiar vibrant quality that must be due to his race and his early environment. It brings to mind illimitable distances, inhospitable solitudes, the elemental savagery of a great, wild land and a great wild people. Let us hope he will keep that quality and not become just like the mob of trained men vocalizers.”
Below is a selection of some of his early engagements.
1902- Vocal Solo- a Thousand Years Under the Sea (Petrie)- Chemawa Commencement performance.
1902- Chemawa HS Band in Portland- July- summer event
1902- Gladstone Chautauqua- Vocal solo- The Legend of the Fire (Woodworth)
1902- making chairs in a chair factory- Portland
1902 moves to Portland to train with Professor Boyer
1902 Taylor St Methodist Church Choir
1904- January- Fundraiser for Sacajawea Statue- two songs
1904- Marquam Grand Theater- Fatinitza- Chorus
1904- Marquam Grand Theater- The Ameer- bass
1904 Marquam Grand Theater- Queen Esther- Beggar part
1904- Carmen Selections- The Monk, Zuniga
1905, July- Sacajawea unveiling performance
1905- The Carnival of Venice performance
Oregonian quote, (1905) “he possesses a basso voice the equal of which has not been heard in Portland for some time.”
In October 1907 Cutter sang for famous musician John Phillip Sousa when he was visiting Portland and Sousa recommended him for entry into the newly formed Conreid School of Opera, which is the precursor to the MET School of Opera of New York City. There is no record of his entry into the school. News reports suggest that Cutter trained in Portland and Chicago before going to New York.
By 1910 Cutter had taken a stage name, Chief Eagle Horse, as he was consistently cast in novelty roles in Portland’s playhouses, like the Peoples, Marquam, and Star Theaters. Chief Eagle Horse was advertised in the Oregonian as an Alaskan baritone singer, and took the habit of dressing in Native American regalia from the plains. By 1910 Cutter was living in a boarding house in Portland pursuing his acting and singing career as the one and only Native American singer in the small Portland market.
In 1917 Chief Eagle Horse was in New York City, hired by the U.S. Military to help sell liberty bonds to help the World War I effort. He is depicted in at least two photos talking to crowds of New Yorkers and posing as if he is joining branches of the service, the Navy and Army in a handshake.
In 1919 Chief Eagle Horse appeared in the Cole Porter Play Hitchy-Koo, a now-renowned play for the period which was disappointing to Porter in its time, as it only played in New York for 72 weeks. This play was likely the height of Cutter’s career. During the 1920s Chief Eagle Horse does not appear in print much, and newspapers describe him as playing the circuit.
Charles Cutter died in Juneau, Alaska in an Indian hospital in 1938.
Cutter, Chief Eagle Horse, matured during the time when the United States Arts and culture were looking for positive images of Native peoples that they could appropriate and exploit. Many of these images were novelty performances to engage an audience and many of the stories significantly altered historical understandings, and altered peoples ideas about Native peoples. The romantic model of Native peoples is exploitative in the extreme, recasting notions of natives to align with American traditions of colonization, missionization, and dispossession and even war as beneficial acts that helped native peoples assimilate to the proper civilized way of being. Cutter presents as a native man of extreme talent who likely significantly effected Portland culture for some 20 years, and who has been largely ignored in historical discourse.
In 1931, John Wacheno of Grand Ronde tesified before a subcommittee from the Committee of Indian Affairs at Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon. The subcommittee is investigating conditions of the tribes and calls Wacheno late in the day. The two previous witnesses were Mrs. Sam Riggs from Grand Ronde and a witness from the Klamath tribe, a Mr. Meekham.
Wacheno’s first concern is that the Natives at the Grand Ronde Reservation are not allowed to fish on the reservation. At least one boy was arrested by the state officers but apparently was not charged. This situation is quite odd as since at least by 1856, the tribes at Grand Ronde were allowed to fish on the reservation, even in the neighboring reservation, the Salmon River on the Coast Reservation for subsistence. The fishery at Salmon River in present day Lincoln City helped feed the Grand Ronde peoples for decades when supplies and funds from Washington, D.C. were inconsistent and unreliable. From the 1920s to the 1950s there was some question as to whether Grand Ronde natives could fish legally in the Salmon River once the fishery was under the management of the state of Oregon. The misunderstandings regarding Grand Ronde fishing rights are addressed in a previous essay. Remarkably, Lynn Frazier, the U.S. Senator involved in this subcommittee hearing, did not know really anything about the rights of the tribes. This is quite understandable because in the 20th century some 80 years after the treaties for Oregon were negotiated few people outside of the small circle of people in the Indian office knew tribal rights, and most times the field workers and staff assumed incorrectly the rights for the tribes. This bureaucratic ignorance more than really anything else is likely the most virulent cause of tribes losing rights. As we see below in the transcript, even the “expert” J. Henry Scattergood, Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, must study and research the issues further.
The second issue, which takes a bit more time in the hearing, is regarding John Wacheno losing out on the right to claim the title to an Indian allotment of his brother Foster Wacheno. Foster died in 1904 due to being murdered in an early morning argument at John Wacheno’s house by Louis Savage who shot him after a night of drinking and arguing. His death made it impossible for Foster to prove up on his Indian allotment, which required 20 years residence.
In 1887 the Dawes Act was passed by the U.S. Congress dividing the reservations into Indian allotments. The remaining lands at Grand Ronde were sold as surplus lands. in 1907 those allotements were proved up and people then applied for fee-simple titles. In about 1907 the remaining surplus lands were finally sold, mainly to logging companies. The sale of the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations’ surplus lands sparked a renewed period of logging in the old growth stands in the Coast Range.
In about 1911 the federal government began a series of heirship investigations in western Oregon. These hearings were meant to record the decendants of the original allottees, many who had passed on before their allotments were proved up on, and decide who would inherit funds from the sales of these lands. There did not appear to be any suggestion that the lands would be inherited and the heirship investigations simply divvied up the shares of the land among descendants.
The land in question below does not appear to be part of these investigations, but part of a legal process regarding Indian allotments. The allotment of Foster Wacheno was a little over 193 acres in 1891. Foster apparently had no living direct family and so his land was jointly claimed by his mother Charlotte, his nephew Charles (from Daniel Wacheno), and his living brother John Wacheno. Its unclear what happened to Foster’s family, as he was married with three children in 1896 (see Grand Ronde Indian Reservation Census records), a few years later he is listed as single with no sign of the family on the reservation, and still later he is living with his elderly mother Charlotte. Its possible that Foster’s family died in the influenza epidemic in the early 20th century.
John Wacheno’s complaint below is based on a lack of transparency of why Foster’s land was given to his nephew Charles. From his testimony there was no equal division of the land between the living family at all, which was normal at this time. Part of the issue at question may have been John Wacheno’s character and history of illegal actions. He at various times was charged with several serious crimes; he is caught illegally hunting off the reservation (fined); he goes through a trial related to the knifing death of Henry Kiki (Yelkus? ), perhaps in his house (he is found not guilty due to lack of evidence); and he is arrested and taken to court by his first wife Lucinda for whipping her, which ended up in a likely divorce (he takes another wife, Mary, in the 1920s). He appears to have been involved with procuring moonshine from off the reservation, had used his house as a place to gamble and drink, a series of habitual issues which resulted in him being charged with numerous crimes related to the associated effects (possibly a subject for a future essay). Indians possessing alcohol was illegal by federal and state rules and laws at this time, yet many tribal people cooked home brews during prohibition to sell for basic necessities or to drink.
One situation which suggests that John Wacheno may not be telling the whole truth is a title transfer document, signed by Calvin Cooledge, which grants both John and Charlie the land in question.
Charles Larson, the other participant in the hearings, was a clerk at the Chemawa Indian School. In 1931, Chemawa was the head office of a Indian management district which included Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations and the Fourth district Indians, those not living on a reservation. Larson, it turns out, was a descendant of the Chinook peoples on the lower Columbia River. He knew the tribal peoples well and helped them to manage their affairs as much as he could with his other duties at Chemawa. Larson states that the situation with the land is unfortunate and nothing can be done. The situation is suspicious enough that it rates further research. It has already been discovered that the results of the 1865 Thompson surveys of the reservation were part of the lands allotted in the Dawes Act allotments. John Wacheno in fact had a series of small allotments, at least one of which he originally recieved unofficially in the 1870s, the subject of a previous essay.
Survey of Conditions of the Indians in the United States, Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Indian Affairs United States Senate, 71st Congress, 3rd session, Hearings at Chemawa, Oregon. May 30, 1931. Pp 11755
John Wacheno was thereupon called as a witness and, after being first duly sworn, testified as follows:
Senator Frazier. What is your name?
Mr. Wacheno. John Wacheno
Senator Frazier. Where are your from?
Mr. Wacheno. Clackamas.
Senator Frazier. What tribe do you belong to?
Mr. Wacheno. The Clackamas.
Senator Frazier. Where is that?
Mr. Wacheno. Just north of Oregon City. It is about 30 or 40 miles from Oregon City, where I was born.
Senator Frazier. Have you a statement?
Mr. Wacheno. I was the man that met commissioner eight years ago when we were having trouble about the land, I am glad to see you, of course. I can not talk very good English. I am old. I am doing the best I can. We are glad to meet you, sir. I wish you would see my country. We have a fine country. They stop us from fishing. My treaty calls for fishing and hunting grounds.
Senator Frazier. Who stopped you from fishing?
Mr. Wacheno. There is Washington. One of our men were arrested for fishing trout in the creek.
Senator Frazier. Whereabouts were you fishing?
Mr. Wacheno. I live in Grande Ronde, They took me away from Clackamas when I was about 7 years old. Now, I am over at Grande Ronde.
Senator Frazier. Have you land at Grande Ronde?
Mr. Wacheno. Yes.
Senator Frazier. This man that was arrested for fishing, was he on his own land or on Indian land?
Mr. Wacheno. He was in the reservation creek. Not the creek in the agency. We used to have an agency there. We told him we thought we were entitled to fish, our treaty calls for fishing and hunting.
Senator Frazier. Did they fine him for fishing?
Mr. Wacheno. No. They let him go. But there is a warden hanging around there and all the boys are scared to fish.
Mr. Scattergood. You write that in to the Indian Office and we will have it looked up. We will see if we can not give you a letter that will help out the situation because if it is on a reservation the Indian have a right to fish on the reservation without interference from any State authority.
Mr. Wacheno. Over at Oregon City I went there once and saw Judge Campbell. He said he was going to write to Washington and find out, and he never do it.
Mr. Scattergood. He never found out?
Mr. Wacheno. He is here in Salem and another fellow took his place. Another thing I want to ask you. I have been troubled for about three or four years, maybe five years. My brother he died. He had 193 acres of land and I want to get patent one time. I have gone spoken about it. When he died I bought his casket, his clothes and everything. Then I had timberland and Mr. Joe he told me he will buy that timberland and get deed for that timberland. So I took Mr. Hudson down with me to McMinnville and I had given him a blank to fill out. I told him I couldn’t write. I can not read and write myself because I never was in school since they brought me there. I had a chance to go to school but I had to take care of my father and didn’t go. So I give it to Mr. Hudson and he couldn’t do it. We went to see an attorney at McMinnville. He filled up the blank and sent it to the Indian Office. It has been gone quite awhile. Finally it came back, The agent stopped it. He said they could not issue no patents. I say all right. I am satisfied I get it. All at once about three years ago I get notified, they say they send the patent. Well I came over here and asked the superintendent, Mr. McGregor, and he stated the form it is down at Portland or maybe over at Siletz, so I went over at Siletz and I asked him and he says it is not here.
Senator Frazier. Did you not get the Patent?
Mr. Wacheno. It went along and they sent it to my nephew. They sent it on his name. I got the patent. It is 100 acres. I ask him if he made application for that. He said no. We made application in McMinnville by the attorney and they turned us down. Finally they sent it in his name and he mortgaged that land the same day.
Senator Frazier. That was the end of it?
Mr. Wacheno. Yes. I wanted to find out. I came here and Charley could not understand about it. The Sheriff sold it on him.
Senator Frazier. What about that?
Mr. Larsen. If I remember rightly, the application was made by the heirs for this piece of property. It was their intention to reserve a small portion, but somehow or other the application went through for the whole allotment. He did not understand it that way and when the taxes came due and they notified him why he was, of course surprised. That is as far as I know about it. It was sold for taxes.
Mr. Wacheno. It was sold for a mortgage.
Senator Frazier. Is there anything else you can do about it?
Mr. Larsen. No, not now. It is one of those unfortunate cases.
John Wacheno gets little information in this meeting. Larson is looking into the fishing issue. A search of Larson’s records at Willamette University did not reveal a report or further actions on his part.