Fishery Politics with the Yakima Reservation Peoples: 1890s

Chilluckittequw: In what was to become Skamania County, the first residents called themselves Chilluckittequw (Ruby and Brown) and they lived along the rivers that drained into the Columbia between Beacon Rock and about Hood River. They spoke a language later classified as the Upper Division of Chinookan and could communicate with other tribes that lived along the Columbia from The Dalles to the mouth at the Pacific. Explorers Lewis and Clark (1805) called them the Smock-shops and other observers dubbed them Sahellellah, Shahala, Ninuhltidihs, and Kwikwuilits. American settlers named them the Cascades. (


The Cascades/Watlala peoples of the middle Columbia River lived in roughly three main communities in the 1850s. Those Cascades on the south side of the river at Cascade Rapids; those on the north bank of the river at what is now Stevenson, Skamania County; and those at Dog River, now called Hood River. The Cascades were ethnographically all one larger tribe. They were direct neighbors of one another and well interrelated. The Cascades people would habitually live through the Spring, Summer, and Fall at their villages at the Cascades and may have in the past traded sides and locations of the villages. The villages were strung out along the river from Sandy River to White Salmon on both sides of the river and were mapped by Lewis and Clark and later ethnographers. At the time of the Middle Oregon Treaty of 1855 (Yakima, Wiahram, Wasco, Deschutes, and Cascades), the Yakima claimed the Cascades on the north bank as their people, even though the chief at Hood River on the north bank Chief Wallachin refused to acknowledge this, and instead refused to sign the treaty because he did not like the Wasco people. Wallachin did not want to remove to any reservation at all.

Lewis and Clark’s map of the vicinity of the Cascades, October 30 1805, Bieneke Digital Collections, Yale University.

Later the Hood River Cascades did move to Warm Springs, and some cascades on the North Bank integrated with the Wishrams and Klickitats at White Salmon reservation and removed to Yakima by 1859. A good number of Cascades were also integrating with the white people and took important roles in the industries along the Columbia. These Cascades, or part Cascades, never removed and simply assimilated with the new American culture. And, as I have argued elsewhere, some Cascades families, likely those at Cascades Rapids, did remove to Grand Ronde. The Cascades had a winter village at Government Island, and this was very close to the Clackamas/Multnomah region, and there were kinships with the Clackamas. three of the last Clackamas leaders at three villages near Willamette Falls were sons of Chiefs of the Cascades.

Ethnographically, culturally, the Cascades were one tribe. When the Americans came the Cascades are was divided into three administrative areas, and so the three principal culture area was likely created with the imposition of Indian Superintendency administrative districts.

After the establishment of the E. Washington Superintendency, which was variously managed by the Washington Territory Indian Superintendent and the Oregon Territory Indian Superintendent, the Cascades peoples on the north side of the river were treated differently from those on the South side. The tribes on the South Side, were expected to remove to reservations, Grand Ronde and Warm Springs, mainly as part of Treaties (Middle Oregon 1855, Willamette Valley 1855), but after the Cascades Massacre of March 3, 1856, as a necessity to keep the peace on the Columbia. The Tribes on the North side were generally ignored for a time, while Wallachin refused to sign the treaty of middle Oregon. The north side in this vicinity was also very lightly settled by whites, so there was less chance of conflict with whites. In fact, Skamania County at the Columbia was lightly settled up into the 1880s.

The main differences between the treaty of Middle Oregon and the Willamette Valley treaty, is fishing, hunting, and gathering rights. The Willamette Valley treaty did not name these rights for the signatory tribes, while the Middle Oregon treaty does. The naming of these rights likely enabled by Isaac Stevenson, the first governor and Indian Superintendent of the Washington Territory, who, along with Joel Palmer, the Indian Superintendent for the Oregon Territory. Palmer did not include these named resource gathering rights in the Willamette Valley treaty. The tribes themselves may have been a big factor in the Treaty of Middle Oregon, as the tribes in this treaty all had prominent fisheries on the Columbia and wanted to maintain these places and practices. The fisheries were not just culturally valuable, not only a part of the culture for over 10,000 years, but were also proving to have value in the new economy being brought to Oregon by the Americans. The tribes saw this and wanted to maintain their economic dominance of salmon fisheries on the Columbia.

Lewis and Clark’s map of Celilo Falls, October 22, 1805, Bieneke Digital collections, Yale University

This is an important point because while mostly we hear how fishing is part of the culture of the tribes, it also has significant economic value, which was a resource which the new American settlers wanted to get ownership of. In fact, most of the impetus for colonization of the West is an economic discussion, about the removal of the tribes from their lands and resources, and giving the land and resources to white American Christians who could “properly use and develop the land and resources.” Competition by tribes in the path of  American development, really a part of their manifest destiny, was heavily discouraged, and tribal peoples were murdered and removed to make way for American dominance. These removals were supported by the Federal Government in order to “keep the peace” and if the tribes were too vengeful and violent in the face of mounting American settlement, the Army would be called in to punish, attack, subdue and remove the “savage” Indian tribes. At the heart of most of the conflicts like this was American settlement and the protection of the American settlers’ rights to make wealth unimpeded by tribal savages. Some extreme examples of this include, the Rogue River Indian war (gold mining and settlement); the Chetko-Tolowa conflicts (gold mining, settlement, port town development); the Nez Perce War (gold mining and settlement) for a few examples.

Yakima Ceded lands, cultural lands, Reservation, Cascades are in the Wind River-White Salmon Tract

The Yakima Fishery

Interestingly, today the fisheries of the Columbia Gorge are well compensated by the Federal government for four tribes who lost fisheries with the building of dams on the Columbia in the 20th century. Billions of dollars are allocated to the Warm Springs, Yakima, Umatilla and Nez Perce, as per their agreements with the United States. Even so, the compensation for the loss of the fisheries will never replace the fisheries and nearly all members of the tribes would rather have the fisheries returned, rather than take the money. But this compensation is a new development, a part of 20th-century Indian policy and law. In the 19th century, for decades following the signing and ratification of the treaties, even the Treaty of Middle Oregon, there was little protection for tribal fishing on the Columbia even though the language of the treaty suggests this directly.

“the exclusive right of taking fish in the streams running through and bordering said reservation is hereby secured to said Indians; and at all other usual and accustomed stations, in common with citizens, of the United States, and of erecting suitable houses for curing the same; also the privilege of hunting, gathering roots and berries, and pasturing their stock on unclaimed lands, in common with citizens, is secured to them. And provided, also, That if any band or bands of Indians, residing in and claiming any portion or portions of the country in this article, shall not accede to the terms of this treaty, then the bands becoming parties hereunto agree to receive such part of the several and other payments herein named as a consideration for the entire country described as aforesaid as shall be in the proportion that their aggregate number may have to the whole number of Indians residing in and claiming the entire country aforesaid, as consideration and payment in full for the tracts in said country claimed by them. And provided, also, That where substantial improvements have been made by any members of the bands being parties to this treaty, who are compelled to abandon them in consequence of said treaty, the same shall be valued, under the direction of the President of the United States, and payment made therefor; or, in lieu of said payment, improvements of equal extent and value at their option shall be made for them on the tracts assigned to each respectively.” (Article 1, Treaty with the Tribes of Middle Oregon 1855)

At the Yakima Reservation from the ratification of the treaty in 1859 into the 1890s, fishing rights were not assured. Numerous annual reports suggest that the Yakima Tribes did not have an adequate fishery on the reservation, and even their rights to fish on the Columbia were not secured.

Annual report 1891- The Indians complain very bitterly that they have been and are being treated unjustly by the Government in regard to their fishing grounds, especially at Tumwater fishery. The Indian still claim this as their fishing ground under the treaty, but on account of the trails being fenced and fish wheels being placed in the Columbia River, they are practically prevented from catching any fish. I quote the following from a report of Deputy Special Indian Agent Thomas S. Lang,  1889, in which he says; There is no doubt that these land jobbers intend to worry the Indians out of all rights they have in the fisheries, and to my certain knowledge have annoyed and molested their free enjoyment of their treaty rights under the decree of the court of Washington Territory in their favor, and intend to drive them off from the enjoyment of this great privilege. What was predicted in that report has come to pass, and very bitter if not hostile feeling exists among all the Indians in regard to this matter.  (Annual Report of COIA 1891 p 462)


Annual report of the COIA 1894- The disputed fishery rights of the Indians along the Columbia has given me a vast amount of trouble. They have had a great many councils during the past year, and urged the inspector, the special agent, and myself to use every effort to restore to them their accustomed fishery. During the month of May I visited the Tum Water and Wishram fisheries on the Columbia River, where Indians have fished from time immemorial. (Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for Yakima Reservation Washington, 1894, p326)


Annual report of COIA 1895- Wisham fisheries on the Columbia River- From time immemorial the Indians have been accustomed to fish in the Columbia River; but inch by inch they have been forced back by the whites from the best fishing grounds and not allowed to fish with the whites in common as provided in the treaty concluded June 9, 1855 (12 Stats,. 951). They have borne this denial with patience but urged that they be restored to their ancestral and treaty rights. Agents have twice been sent to investigate and ascertain the best method of settling the matter. Both agents reported that it was the duty of the Government to protect the Indians in their treaty rights to their valuable fisheries, and recommended that the treaty rights to their valuable fisheries, and recommended that the attention of the United States district attorneys for Oregon and Washington be called to the existing state of affairs, in order that proceedings might be instituted in the Federal courts looking to the protection of the Indians, and with a view of enjoining encroaching parties from further interferences with them….The Indians have used the fisheries in question as their chief means of subsistence from time immemorial. Should they be deprived of their rights their main source of support would be gone. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, D.M. Browning, Commissioner (Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1895, 108-109)

Yakima Tribal council complaints were heard by the Indian Agent Jay Lynch in 1892, who pointed out that the Yakima treaty guaranteed fishing rights, yet they did not have any rights,  at that time, on the Columbia. A court case in 1887 had given Americans the upper hand in fishing the Columbia and several companies had installed fish wheels and worked to eliminate Native fisheries. The Agent was fired in 1893 for unspecified reasons, but it’s clear that he had raised the Indian rights issue in an official report, and for some reason, this was not something the Federal government wanted to give the tribes.

Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1896- The fishery rights of these Indians and the stipulations of their treaty were brought before and defined by the supreme court of Washington Territory January 25, 1887, in the case of the United States v. Frank Taylor, reported in the Pacific Recorder, volume 13, page 333. Under that decisions the Indians have the right to use and enjoy their fisheries as they had done before the conclusion of the treaty of 1855; and the court held that where a person obtained, under an act of Congress approved subsequently to the treaty, a patent to land abutting upon the Tumwater fisheries and erected and maintained thereon a fence which obstructed the approach to the fishery which had been reserved by treaty to Indians, equity would interfere by an injunction and cause the removal of the obstruction; and that persons so obtaining patents hold such lands encumbered and charged with such easements and rights…. The decision was a victory for the Indians, reversing the judgment of the district court, which had been against them; but Agent Erwin Yakima Agency, Wash., stated in his report of February 2. 1895, that although the supreme court of Washington Territory remanded the case for further proceeding, in accordance with the stipulations contained in the decree, it was never prosecuted beyond that point, as he was informed… Since the decision of 1887 was rendered, the Winans Bros. and the Seufert Bros., and others have erected fish wheels in the Columbia River, denied the Indians the right to fish therein, and obstructed their ingress and egress there. (Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1896, 98-100)

By 1892 a proposed solution was being worked on by regular and special Indian Agents for a land swap. A portion of land on the Yakima Reservation which had proved useless as a fishery, was by 1896 traded for the Wenatchee fishery, after a survey occurred

Annual report of the COIA 1894- During the month of November Col. John Lane, special U.S. Indian Agent, and myself were appointed as a commission to buy what is known as the Wenatshapam fishery, a body of land comprising 23,000 acres upon the Wenatchee River. After many councils and much deliberation, we succeeded in making the purchase. The Indian recognized the fact that this was not the proper place for a fishery. It had not been used for such and was too far up the Wenatchee River for salmon. The sale of this property has given perfect satisfaction to the Wenatchapam Indians who live in that vicinity, and a large majority of the Indians upon this reservation. There is however, a dissatisfied element who are opposed to selling the white men any more of their land. (Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for Yakima Reservation Washington, 1894, p326)

The land swap was made law by a Presidential Executive order of Benjamin Harrison, November 28, 1892,

Yakima reservation fishery- By Executive Order, November 19 1892, setting a tract of land for a fishery, as provided by article 10, United States treaty with Yakima, 1855, I have to report: The survey of this tract has not as yet been made, although I am informed the contract for the survey has been let. I am led to believe that if the matter were properly presented to the Indians they would be willing to dispose of this tract of land containing about 2,300 acres, at a fair and reasonable price. (Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for Yakima Reservation Washington, 1893, p 340)

Such was the solution worked out by the Yakima Tribal Council working with wa=hat appears to be sympathetic Indian agents. This was not at all the case with most Indian Agents, and Jay Lynch may deserve recognition for raising the alarm officially, for which he lost his job.

The Cascades and Mary Stooquin

The story now moves to the situation of one family of the Cascades tribe. Mary Stooquin, a woman with many names, from at least three husbands, her most common being Kaliah, was a daughter of Chief Tumulth and witnessed the Cascades Attack. Mary’s second husband was Johnny Stooquin, a treaty signer and member of the Wishram tribe. Mary moved to the Wishram fishery for a time with Johnny. They were subsequently removed to the Yakima Reservation. In the period from the 1850s to 1880s details of their life are sparse.  But both Mary and her half-sister Virginia Miller were at Yakima and took Yakima allotments. These allotments were awarded by 1891 at most reservations, once surveys were completed.

Mary Stooquin (Kalliah) and daughter, Abbie Lucy Gerand (Weiser) Reynolds Estabrook (thanks to a good source)

       Mary Stooquin (Willamutit) relinquished Yakima A1-2260 in favor of Vancouver A1-11, under name of Mary Wilwyitit, was a full blood Cascade Indian who dies on December 21, 1906. Fee patent was issued covering Vancouver A1-11. Sister Abbie Lucy Stooquin Reynolds Estabrook is allotted and enrolled in the Yakima tribe as ½ Cascade, ¼ Warm Springs, ¼ non-Indian. (Affidavit of Don Umtuch and Kiutus Jim 1954)

Virginia Miller in Curtis photo

     Virginia Miller, Yakima Allottee no 3459, died July 20, 1927.  Tomalk the father of Virginia Miller, Chief of the Cascades, had four wives, Wah dei gah was mother of Virginian Miller. John Tomalk brother of Virginia, Joe Tomalk brother, Isabelle Tomalk sister and mother of Georgiana, Sally Half-sister to Virginia mother of Michel Martineau- married to Martha Brown, -Mary Henry (Stiquim) half sister of Virginia- daughters Amanda E. Williams and Abbie Reynolds Estabrook , (Affidavit of Georgiana Miller Jackson 1932)

Mary Stooquin, with Johnny, relinquished her allotment at Yakima, in favor of an off-reservation allotment on the Columbia. The site was close to if not at a former Cascade Indian village near what is now Stevenson, Skamania County, Washington. The timing of their move to the Columbia is interesting, on the tail of the 1887 court case giving greater rights to people owning land on the Columbia. It is likely that she (perhaps this was a Cascade group effort) devised this method of returning to the Columbia and gaining fishing rights again, in a political and economic climate which was against Indians fishing in the Columbia fisheries. In addition, the Cascades peoples at Yakima were a minority, and there was some disaffection between them and the true Yakima peoples on the reservation. This disaffection appears again in the 1950s when the Cascades are disallowed from inheriting land and gaining membership at the Yakima Reservation. The reasoning in the 1950s is, that their descendants are not living on the Reservation, which is in part true because Kalliah moved to the Columbia.

The second matter involving Mary Stooquin is the Fishery agreement that was given to the Cascades people by the State of Washington.

Quiuck Miller is Virginia Miller, and Kalliah Tomult is Mary Stooquin. This list is transcribed in this manner to keep the names legible and in order.


Adult members of the Cascade Tribe of band of Indians, laborers and fisherman by occupation, of Skamania county, State of Washington, parties of the first part, and Oscar Foote of the City of Washington, District of Columbia, party of the second part witnesseth, that the parties of the first part in consideration that the party in the second part shall secure to them, for their sole use and benefit the Lands and Fisheries embraced within the following described bounds, vix.:

Beginning at a point in the channel of the Columbia River opposite Wind Mountain, thence down the channel of said river to a point opposite Castle Rock, known to the Indians as Che-che-ap-tan; dividing the waters of the little White Salmon and Wind River; thence along said ridge to the Channel of the Columbia River opposite Wind Mountain, the place of beginning; all in Skamania County. Washington, and that in case they are permanently deprived of said Fishing rights and lands of which they are now dispossessed by the encroachment of settlers and others, then to secure for them a certain indemnity in money form the general government in lieu thereof, they the parties of the first part are to pay to the party of the second part a fee of one-third (1/3) of all money received from the general government as an indemnity, or compensation equal to one-third (1/3) the value of the land within  the railroad limits, and one-third (1/3) the value of the aforesaid fisheries at a fair valuation.

It is expressly understood between the parties to their agreement that the party of the second part is to have three years in which to secure the rights and indemnities heretofore mentioned.

certified by N.D. Bloomfield, Judge of the Superior Court of Skamania County.

The above agreement is quite an anomaly for this time period. Generally, the states had nothing to do with the tribes, as tribal people were completely under the supervision of the federal government. But here we see a fishing agreement with a tribe, The Cascades Tribe, by the State of Washington.

signatures of the agreement

The agreement is perplexing until we think about the context in which this is happening. essentially the tribes did not have fishing rights within the State of Washington, and their fishing on the Yakima Reservation up to 1896 was not adequate for their use. So the Cascades devised with the State of Washington a special agreement for a fishery. Their location in Skamania County would not impede white people from doing what they wanted and so they were not seen as a threat to the fish wheel operators. Then there was likely some sympathy on the part of the state for their cause of regaining a fishery at the Cascades. A report by Indian Agent Erwin at Yakima states that there was indeed some sympathy for treaty rights at the state level.

I am now in receipt, by Department reference, of a communication dated March 23, 1896, from the Attorney-General [of Washington state], stating, among other things, that the treaty of 1855 with these Indians established a kind of servitude in the ceded lands in the nature of a right of temporary injunction in favor of a tribe or tribes which had at least the right of occupancy in the lands; that, the treaty being supreme laws of the land, the State of Washington, while the owner of shore lands, with power to sell them, cannot deprive the Indians by law, patent, or otherwise of this right; that he has no doubt that the courts would enjoin all persons interfering with the exercise of the right; that a suit or suits for injunction could be instituted against past or future purchasers of  land which includes places where Indians are accustomed to fish, and that all such purchasers could be forbidden to interfere with the Indians, and that the purchasers themselves would doubtless prevent others from so interfering. The Attorney-General then suggested that it might be well to have the attention of the government of Washington called to the matter, with a view to securing legislation which would protect the Indians in the enjoyment of their rights. In view of all these facts in the case, I recommend, April 2, 1896, that the attention of the governor of the State of Washington be called thereto, with request that the legislature of that state be asked to enact such legislation as would practically protect the Indians in the free enjoyment of their fishery rights. Very Respectfully, your obedient servant, D.M. Browning, Commissioner, (Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1896, 98-100)

This back-channel notation by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs suggests that the State acknowledges that treaty rights exist, that they preceded the rights of the fishing wheel operators, and that the state needs to create special rights for tribes within the state. It is likely that the Attorney General is aware of the agreement with the Cascades Tribe and sees it as a success and is suggesting that the same agreement become law in the state for all tribes.

Additional details of the agreement need to be worked out. Files of the state of Washington would be helpful, especially those managing the fisheries, as well as the Governor files about this issue. It is unclear here whether the agreement is still in force. This would be a legal question to forward to the state.

Citizens in the area, especially at Hood River, where the majority of the population was, were incensed with this movement of the Cascades Tribe back to the Columbia,

section of the editorial.

…Chapman gathered the Indians known as the Cascades tribe at the Cascades and obtained from them the agreement appended, each Indian was given a copy of the agreement and cautioned to keep the matter secret. The agreement speaks for itself, and it suggests some very ugly things. If these Indians are entitled to anything from the government they are entitled to it without cost, and certainly without giving up one-third of the value of the tract to Oscar Foote or anyone else. that the whole matter is a gigantic fraud is self-evident. The tract asked by Captain Coe to be set aside would be not to exceed ten miles square, and would contain all the Indians need. The tract proposed to be captured by Oscar Foote is an unknown country to the Indians….(Hood River Glacier, OR, Nov. 21, 1891)

By the 1890s, the present population of Americans would be well into their second generation of settlement. Many of these settlers were newly arrived and really knew nothing about the tribes, their culture or original locations. Most people in this situation would see the Cascades as invaders into their area, as unwelcome usurpers of their rights to fisheries and lands. The opposition went on for a few months as the editorial was posted at least twice.

The Cascades Indians were one of the fishery tribes that needed to return to the Columbia. They found a way to get the rights that were being denied other tribes on reservations and under ratified treaties, outside of the regular practice of working with federal agents exclusively. Their advantage in 1891 was that they proposed to inhabit a thinly populated area which was just seeing growth in the 1880s. Additional details of the agreement; who originally proposed it and how they convinced the official of the state to go forward with it; how long people took advantage of it and whether it is still a viable agreement, need to be understood better.  As well, maps of off-reservation allotments in Skamania County would help us understand how many Cascades may have returned to the Columbia in the same manner.

This story is a small part of a larger story about the tribes regaining fishery rights on the Columbia. I have not looked yet at whether the Wenatchee fishery was successful or not, and how the state found a way to satisfy the treaty. The story of the Cascades Tribes is a rare story which needs further development.


References in-text

Chinook Survey of Indian Claims 1962, Pt. 2

The Clatsop Chinook Indians won their case against the United States in 1958 (Findings of fact in the The Chinook Tribe and Bands of Indians vs. United States, Docket 234, April 16, 1958). By 1960 the Chinook tribe was beginning the survey of their lands so that they may recommend to the court what they were owed for their lands. The survey was quite extensive, included the going prices of timber, salmon sturgeon and other products that had commercial values. The land was also valued at a 1851 price. The date 1851 related to the year that they had a treaty written with the United States and agreed to sell their lands. The treaty was never ratified by the U.S. Congress, so the Clatsop peoples lost their lands, effectively stolen from them. The Indian Claims cases were meant to rectify this illegality, over 100 years after the land was stolen from the tribes.  The survey by the Chinook tribes was completed in 1962.

The value set for the payment of the land was estimated at $568,600 for 76,592.44 acres for a value of $7.42 an acre. This was well below what the land was worth in 1958 or 1962, instead the court chose the  year 1851 as the date the land was taken. $7.42 still seems low for that year. However settlers were gaining free land allotments in 1850, of one miles square, and reselling them a few years later for 1.25 per acre. The tribes with ratified treaties received collectively about .01 cent an acre for all of the lands of Oregon.

The survey result of 1962 suggested that the Chinookan were owed $568,600 for only the land. Additional survey results were needed for the resources on the land.

The value of the furs, fisheries, and tidelands was much more difficult to measure. For over 100 years salmon, sturgeon, and Eulachon had been harvested from the rivers and ocean in their vicinity. The Americans at Astoria had extensive processing of river and marine fishes, much of it exported to other countries or states for profit. In addition, the fur companies had taken hundreds of thousands of furs from the lands. Then logging was a mainstay of Oregon and the coast range in Clatsop County, Oregon and Pacific County, Washington, where the Clatsops resided, had dense forests which had been logged by American owned logging companies for 100 years.

For the Indian claims case, Docket 234, maps were also created to detail where resources came from.

Recorded also were the major villages of the Clatsop and other Chinookans.

Finally, it is very clear that the lawyers were using the unratified treaties because one of their maps was a drawing of the narratives of the territorial outlines in the treaties.

Map detailing 1851 treaties territorial areas of various Chinookan tribes.

The 1851 timber valuation equaled 120,000, for both Pacific and Clatsop Counties. There was not a valuation for the 100 years since the Clatsops lands were taken, because the culture of the Clatsops was not traditionally in a practice of harvesting commercial timber for sale. 

The Salmon harvest valuation was much more difficult as seasonal salmon harvest was part of the Clatsop culture. Therefore an annual harvest had to be estimated until at least 1892.

Sturgeon as well had to be figure out by its annual harvest. Caviar, sturgeon eggs were harvested from the fish to export to Russia.



Eulachon or Ooligan or smelt is not as well known fish today, but was a much more prominent fish to be harvested for eastern markets in the past. Their spawning grounds have since been heavily impacted by development in the Columbia. Native people depended on smelt for late winter and spring harvest of the small greasy fish.

Finally the vegetable harvest also had important seasons for the tribes. Inland tribes depended on roots and berry more than Columbia river tribes who always had plenty of fish and game.

The survey included an extensive cultural ethnographic survey of the Clatsop and related Chinookan tribes.

“as of the date of the making of the unratified Treaty of August 5, 1851, with the Clatsop Indians, the population of this group did not exceed 80 people who were apparently living in the village or villages at or near the mouth of the Columbia River on its south shore near Point Adams.”

Its clear that not all of the tribes in the 1851 treaties were accounted for in the Indian claims suit, docket 234. Map by David Lewis

This population in the report seems low, but is exactly the same number reported by the sub-Indian agent Robert Shortess for the Clatsop tribe, and Joseph Lane reported one year earlier 72 people, while Lewis and Clark had noted their numbers to be 200 in 1805.  The Chinookan population had been decimated by malaria and other mariner and trader born diseases following the period of the fur trade on the Columbia in the 1830’s. However, the numbers do not equal up when we figure in the people of the other tribes who had treaties in 1851. Many of these tribes got treaties which were ratified later, some other tribes and and bands had gone to other reservations., Some Chinooks of this region got land at Quinault, while others went to either Grand Ronde or Siletz reservations, usually by marrying in. At least two young Chinookan boys came to Grand Ronde as orphans.

The final numbers are here inexact. It appears that ,many of the Indian Claims documents were taken from their online website recently, but the Clatsops and other Chinooks party to the case stood to clear some $3 million accounting for land and resources.  However  the final award by the federal government was much less than what the survey found here. The settlement did not come until 1970 and the final number was so low, about $75,097.4, that  the Chinookans refused to accept the award and it is still held in trust for the tribe.

“The Indian Claims Commission found that this land was worth 98¢ an acre in 1851 or about $25 an acre in today’s
dollar. Chinook was appalled by this settlement, and to this date has not accepted the funds which are still held in
trust for our community.” (Chinook Nation website:

This whole history is clear to all an injustice to a once powerful set of tribes and bands of the Columbia River.


Lower Chinookan Treaty Territories in 1851

The Columbia River has been divided into different culture areas by anthropologists since the 19th century. They are Upper, middle and lower Chinook areas, or sometimes written as Upper, middle and lower Columbia too. The cultural boundaries have changed several times based on which anthropologist is making the maps. But cultural maps do not abide by the tribal national territories which did exist in a political division of the Columbia region. These divisions were normally based on powerful leaders who are able to gain the support and allegiance of a large area. Kiesno from 1805 to 1848 was one such leader. He had the allegiance of tribes from the Cascades to the Multnomah, from the Tualatin Kalapuya and the Clackamas, and have kinship relations with the Cascades, Tualatin, perhaps the Santiam and Clatsop through wives and in-laws. In short, he gathered together a huge confederacy of different tribes, perhaps equating to a nation of tribes under his leadership, a confederacy which collapsed soon after his death.

Many maps from the earliest studies did not distinguish the various tribal territories. Instead, anthropologists usually have just noted “Chinooks” as the people of the Columbia. The Chinookan people are first recorded on the map by the Lewis and Clark expedition, and even they do not divide their maps into individual territories because they likely did not have enough information to do so. They instead just addressed villages and towns and noted the number of houses in each town. They also noted population counts and may record in this journal that these people in this town are of a certain “nation.” They did record a number of tribal nations, like the Kalapuyans, who they never met, yet heard about from other tribal people, yet they still made estimates of populations. As such many of their counts of the peoples, they did not meet our broad estimations, not to be taken as facts in the record. There is even the possibility that much of the journals may have been written years later from the memories of the people on the expedition (This is a theory, with some evidence, proposed by a researcher in Washington State. I can dredge up the reference if anyone is interested.).

Columbia River- “Portland Area” tribal villages on the Columbia River 1805-1806, Lewis and Clark maps, Bieneke Digital collections

The Wilkes map of the region, 1845, informed by Ethnographer Horatio Hale also did not provide enough divisions of the territory based on tribal divisions. There was a change in the cultures and politics in about 1835 when tens of thousands of people died of malaria (Boyd 1999). This die-off of large numbers of people reduced the Chinook population by at least 50-75%, Causing a reapportionment of tribal territories in the region. The large diversity of tribes and peoples recorded by Lewis and Clark in 1805-06, by the Astorians in 1811-13, and by Hudson’s Bay company from 1813-1835, ended, and from 1835 to 1845 there would be a reshuffling of the territories, with broad settlement of the region by white Americans, French-Canadian fur traders, and even other tribes, Cowlitz and Klickitat, who moved into the area in large numbers, and took over and co-habituated in Chinookan towns with people of many nations. The Chinookans were greatly reduced, confederated together for protection, for survival, and for community. In this period the Chinookans also confederated with other tribes, like the Klatskanies, and perhaps some Tillamooks, and Kalapuyans, to create new communities with new power dynamics. The Chinookan Nations appeared to have maintained their prominence and power until removed to reservations in about 1856, by treaty signing. Some tribes did remove to designated reservation areas because they signed the 1851 treaties, but this turned into a voluntary move because the treaties were never confirmed or ratified by the U.S. Congress. As such many Chinookan Nation lost out on the value of their aboriginal land claims, and the rights to the resources of those lands (timber, salmon, etc) until settled by Indian Claims cases in the 20th century. There appears to be still some outstanding debts that the U.S. owes to Chinookan nations because of the 1851 treaties, as it remains unclear if all of the original Chinookan Nations were party to the Indian Claims cases.

1845 map by the Wilkes expedition, with the ethnographic layer, informed by Horatio Hale, In the philology and ethnography volume, a section of the map noting the Tshinuk-Watlala division. Watlala were the Cascades people, whose territory appears to divide at Wappatoo or Sauvie Island, with the lower Chinook.

Previous maps were not very detailed, even that of George Gibbs, a longtime government employee, participant and translator (using Chinuk Wawa) in the treaties, and amateur ethnographer in the region, who did not divide the Chinooks in his 1870’s map of their territory.

Gibbs map of Chinookan territories 1870s

Finally, as late as the 1980’s, anthropologists and ethnographers appear to not have really fully understood the tribal territories and set very broad and generalized divisions, almost as if they were afraid of getting the boundaries wrong.

Even the Ethnographic map from the Handbook, Vol 7, is not very specific for all of the Chinookan tribes, this map is canted, by me, on its edge to match the compass directions which people are used to.

There have been broad discussions about how Euro-American maps of tribal territories are totally inaccurate, for one reason that tribes did not have tribal boundaries. Many tribes shared their areas and many areas with vast resources may have been shared by dozens of tribes. Areas like the Cascade range, I have noted in previous essays, were not “owned” by the Molalla, even though they are assigned the Oregon Cascades region on ethnographic maps since the original assignment by Hale in 1845. This was likely the truth for most tribes in most regions. However, in areas with permanent villages, with extremely important resources gathering sites, there was ownership of resources areas. Salmon falls, oak orchards, camas fields, wapato fields, etc, would be owned by tribes and families and protected from outsiders from gathering and harvesting too much of the valuable resources. Then as well, the Chinookans knew that their prominence on the Columbia was a valuable position and protected invasion from outsider tribes. The Astorians recorded an invasion of the Columbia in 1812 by the Cowlitz, who were pushed back up the Cowlitz River by a Chinookan confederation led by Chief Kiesno. So for the Chinookans, their culture may have included more defined boundaries than other tribes. But they also tended to share as well, as they needed trade with all tribes in the region to maintain their wealth. Lewis and Clark noted people of many tribes in some villages, probably there for trade relations. Also, the Cascades-Watlala people seem to have some claims well upriver from their permanent villages at the rapids, as they wintered in a winter village on Government Island near Vancouver. This was well away from the Cascades Rapids because the winter weather in the gorge was so extreme. Some of the territorial claims may have passed through kinship-familial relations. The last Chiefs of the Clackamas peoples were from the Cascades peoples at the falls. They were the sons of the chiefs of the Cascades, who married into the Clackamas and took charge of the fishery at Willamette Falls (Drucker notebooks).

The 1851 Tansey Point treaties have not generally been well analyzed by anthropologists. They were not found until the first decade of the 20th century, and as they were never ratified may have been discounted by anthropologists and historians. However, the treaty discussions by Indian agents and the treaties themselves reveal a lot about tribal structures and the intent of the federal government. The 1851 treaties have the best journals of the events surrounding the negotiations, and these journals, letters, etc, are incredibly valuable for understanding the tribes who signed them in 1851. There are 19 of these 1851 Oregon treaties, at least 11 of them (including the Clackamas treaty) engaged with Chinookan tribes and their direct neighbors. The tribes who visited the treaty grounds at Tansey Point were all organized by Robert Shortess, appointed sub-Indian Agent under Anson Dart, who had a Chinookan wife and could speak Chinuk Wawa. Shortess, in his letters, sided with the tribes over their land rights, and for this was fired by Dart.

The Tansey Point treaties were the second round of treaty making by Dart, the first was at Champoeg with the Kalapuya and Molalla tribes. There was a map created by George Gibbs and Edward Starling, during the treaty proceedings, which delineated the Kalapuyan and Molallan territories, and their permanent reservations. The map was originally a river navigation map created by Leonard White, a steamboat captain, which is why the map was so detailed about the Willamette River and its tributaries, and ports.

Center section of the Gibbs-Starling map 1851, showing Santiam reservation at the South and the location of Champoeg at the north.

For whatever reason, there does not appear to have been a similar tribal territory boundary map, a ceded lands map, created for the Tansey Point Treaties, or of the third treaty proceedings, with the tribes in Southwestern Oregon, negotiated at Port Orford later in 1851. One reason may have been the fact that after the first month of treaty signing, May of 1851, the Willamette Valley Treaty Commission was effectively dissolved. The Commissioners were not federal employees who could legally represent the federal government and so Dart effectively criticized this fact by suggesting that the treaties by the commission would not be legally binding. Dart’s criticism was so effective that the responsibilities of treaty making, and the money which came with the job, fell to him, as he was the Superintendent of Indian affairs for Oregon. So afterward Dart had the sole responsibility for treaty making in Oregon, along with his sub-agents. Dart may not have thought of or arranged the second negotiations at Tansey point as well as the commission did at Champoeg. Also, the Willamette Valley treaties were more complicated, and included, all of them, permanent reservations within the original tribal territories (see map above). While of those treaties from Tansey Point, all but one, did not include reservations. The Clatsop Reservation was the only true reservation created in this region from a treaty. All other treaties basically stated that the tribal peoples would reside in their houses, in their towns, until they passed.

There was one set of maps created which referenced the 1851 Tansey Point treaties, those maps created on behalf of the tribes who joined the Indian Claims cases for Dockets 234 and 240. I just happened to encounter these maps in the Cartography division of the National Archives in College Park Maryland in 2014 and took a few quick photos. I did not think I would ever use these images or what they really meant at the time. A much better set of scans should be done of these maps.

Map of docket 240- showing the same names of the tribes as the 1851 treaties, and showing a greater division of the territories than we see in ethnographic maps even to the present. likely 1950’s map, this gave me some clues as to the borders that are not very exacting in the treaties and sometimes are confusing, NARA Cartography division

Section of Map of the entrance to the Columbia showing hand-drawn tribal village locations, and Native place-names., This is likely a Docket 234 map.

Larger photo of the same map as above with tribal territorial divisions like the 1851 treaties.

Map section showing tribal divisions, place names and village locations, Docket 234, NARA Cartography Map

Section of the same map showing gathering areas and resources gathered, likely created for the survey of the region to finally recommend the pay-out from winning the Indian Claims case in 1958.

Section of Docket 234 map showing tribal resources on that region. NARA Cartography Division

This last week, I began to plot these tribal territories on the Mymaps app from Google, from the narrative descriptions in the treaties. Some of the descriptions were very confusing so it was helpful to recall that I had the NARA maps (above), which gave me clues about the northern tribal territories and the divisions between the Clatsop, Wallooskee, and Kathlamet. I made each territory a different color. They are shown in greater detail in the remainder of the essay. The lines are broad estimates based on the historical reference points that could be identified.

The Clatsop territory was significant for the claims on the river and the ocean. The treaty included a reservation, which the other Chinook treaties did not.

The Clatsop reservation noted in the treaty as being 2 miles across at north and one mile across at the south, the only reservation in any of these Tansey point treaties

The full claim of the Clatsop extended down the coast.

I am still unclear which is the Yockesplahta Creek or stream?, Also I have assumed that Smith Point is Ahwahpinpin point. The treaty had one spelling of the name of the point and a later correspondence had another spelling, likely incorrect.

The Lower Chinook on the north bank

This north boundary of this territory was helped by the Docket 234 map

The Wallooskee (the last of his tribe) and Kathlamet territories.

I was highly confused about the Kathamet and Nuc-que-clah-we-nuck territories division, The narrative is not good here and the Docket 234 map helped with the shape you see here. The Nuc-que-clah-we-nuck tribe at this time in 1851 was a single man, the last of this tribe.

The Koonaak, or Skilloot territory, is much more straightforward, and the only tribe who owned property on both sides of the Columbia. The division between the Chinookans and the Klatskanie was a big question mark and still is.

The Waukikum had a huge land claim, bordered on the north by the Cowlitz and the Wheelappa.

Note the division at the Lahbacluthl river, noted in at least two treaties, I still need to check if these tribal place names are in the USNGS databases.

The Klatskania territory is not well defined in the narrative of their treaty. This is what it might look like. What is clear in the narrative is that they had land, on the Columbia, which is not a part of any history or map I have seen.

Klatskanie Claim note land claim bordering on the Columbia, perhaps a revelation for most scholars. They are always noted in ethnographic accounts as being inland only.

The Shoalwater Bay and Wheelappa tribal territorial narratives are not well detailed. They likely owned as far inland as the Cowlitz claims. The Docket 234 map shows Wheelappa claims up to the southern Shoalwater Bay which is why that is shown here. More work needs to be done on this.

The Tillamook tribes, who were known to trade broadly into the Columbia and had good coastal claims from the Coast to the crest of the Coast Range. Some of their place-names are as yet unknown to me.

Territories of the Naalem (Nehalem) and Tillamook bands of Tillamook Indians.

This is what I have at this time, it took a few days to read through the treaties and establish the boundaries. I will likely complete the whole map by adding the Kalapuyan and Molallan territories in the interior, and later the southern Oregon tribal territories, Rogue, Coquille, Tututni, and lastly the last treaty of 1851, that with the Clackamas. Some of the historic place names have changed dramatically and it took a look of research to find their original locations. The map now created does show a greater diversity of tribal ownership that any maps I have seen previously. It is not my intention in doing this to make a political statement, only to find the truth of the tribal territories of 1851. This is a small window into this time period, which may very well have changed dramatically after 1851, due to any number of factors. There were clear differences perhaps greater diversity of tribal ownership and control of territories previous to 1851, of which we may never find the truth.

References, the 1851 Oregon Treaties, found in the US Territorial Papers M 1049 roll 1.

The Maps of the NARA Cartography division dockets 240 and 234.

& Various bits of uncatalogued information in my dusty brain.

Ongoing Chinook Territorial and Recognition Claims, Pt. 1

The Chinook Nation is still seeking recognition in 2018, despite having one of the oldest and longest relationships with the United States of any tribe on the West Coast.

In 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition reached their final destination on the Columbia River, within the territory of the Clatsop and other Chinookan tribes of the lower Columbia. The expedition built a cabin, Fort Clatsop, and lived there throughout the winter of 1805-1806. During this time, the expedition members interacted daily with Chinookan peoples, trading with them, having visits with tribal leaders and mapping and recording the territory up and down the coast, on behalf of the United States. Peaceful and welcoming hosts. the Clatsops namely Comcomly and other tribal leaders, aided the Americans in many ways. If not for the help of the natives in procuring food and, maintained a peaceful and trade relationship with the explorers. The lack of aggression helped the expedition to survive the Oregon winter. Winters in Oregon at the time were much harsher than today, it would get cold enough to freeze the Columbia with a solid sheet of ice. The Clatsop Chinookan people would not normally remain at their village at Pt. Adams through the harsh winter, but moved inland to a seasonal village site on one of the rivers, to shelter themselves from the cold and wind.  The explorers had done nothing to lay up foods for the winter, and knew little or nothing about the native vegetables, and so were completely dependent on what they could capture, kill, or trade for. The Clatsops did have winter food stores as they normally planned ahead for winter survival, but had not planned on a party of explorers camped on their doorstep. Still they traded with the Americans, despite the harsh weather and rough conditions. In 1806 the expedition returned to the United States, roughly backtracking their path to the east while within Oregon.

Clark’s Pt Adams map 1805


The Lewis and Clark journals, population counts, and maps have since provided innumerable scholars with very early information about the tribes on the Columbia and connected rivers along the route of the expedition. Their information was also used by President Thomas Jefferson, and successive administrations in the expansionist-minded United States to decide to claim the Oregon Territory in contention with the British and Spanish Claims. Their journals then inspired explorers and fur traders to retrace their steps to the West to begin to gather the great wealth of the region noted in the maps and journals. In fact their journals may be the spark that inspired tens of thousands of Americans to sell everything in the east and travel for nine months over the Oregon Trail to find wealth and opportunity in the Willamette Valley and the West coast.

Lewis and Clark’s Journal, Salmon Trout image page, Salmon was important for tribe and became a major resources for commercial export interests on the Columbia.

The Chinookans of the Lower Columbia continued to interact with successive rounds of explorers and traders on the Columbia. Chinookan Chiefs like Comcomly and Kiesno became wealthy through being intermediaries in the trade between the American, British fur companies, and the tribes of the region. Comcomly benefited greatly by being located near to Fort Astoria, and so grew wealthy in the early fur trade from 1811-1813. Then when the fort was taken by the British, Comcomly continued working with the British at the renamed Fort George in the fur trade until at least 1824.

Chief Comcomly or Concomly (1765 ~1830) was a Native American chief of the Chinookan people.

That year, the British moved their operations to Fort Vancouver, which was in the territory of Chief Kiesno, who then became the primary leader to gain wealthy as an intermediary in the fur trade. Kiesno managed access to the fort for local tribes, assigning men to help with scouting, pulling in canoes, and hunting, and native women for working as maids and laborers inside the fort. Kiesno managed natives of many tribes that lived in the Indian village that grew up on the outskirts of the fort, named Kanaka Village because of the Hawaiians who established it there.

Chief Kiesno,  Paul Kane Drawing

After the fur trade period, after 1850, the Chinookans continued to trade with the Americans who gained sole ownership of the the region below the 49th parallel in 1846 due to the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain. Many natives became fishermen, and boats-men, scouts and guides in various roles on the Columbia integrating into the new culture with their advanced knowledge of the environment and willingness to work hard. When factories were established to process salmon and other fishes for export, Native people were the laborers in most factories. The Chinookan peoples signed eight treaties with Anson Dart, Indian Superintendent of Oregon Indian Affairs in 1851, none of which were ratified. At Tansy Point, the treaty grounds, were also signed a treaty with the Klatskania Tribe (Athapaskan speakers) and with two Salish speaking tribes, the Tillamook, and the Naalem band of Tillamooks.

  1. Clatsop tribe of Indians- south side, at Pt. Adams
  2. The Lower band of Chinook Indians- the tribe directly opposite the Clatsops (north side of river)
  3.   Wheelappas 
  4. Quillequeoquas– Shoalwater bay (north of the Columbia on the coast)
  5. “Wallooska”– the sole remander of a tribe of Chinookans- (east of the Clatsops)
  6. Kathlamet band of Chinooks- East of the Clatsops on the south side of the river for some 40 miles (including Astoria)
  7. Konnaack bands of Chinooks
  8. Waukikum band of Chinook Indians

As well as three treaties with other tribes,

  1. Treaty with the Tillamooks– the country south of the Clatsops, to include Tillamook Bay
  2. Naalem Band of Tillamook Indians.
  3. Klatskania Indians
Map Graphic of the eleven treaties signed at Tansy Point. The Tuality treaty territory added to create the eastern line, The two northern Treaties are inexact related to the treaty descriptions. All borders are approximations based on the treaties. Created By David Lewis

In January of 1855, the Lower Chinookans between the Cascades rapids and Oak Point signed onto the Willamette Valley treaty to be removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation in 1856 (apparently some tribes did not sign at first and Palmer left them the option of signing and removing later). The Lower Chinookans below Oak Point remained on their lands, and were integrating with the new economy and population settling the area. Some of these people were removed to the Quinault reservation and gained land allotments. Some people married with the settlers and remained in their original towns, towns now heavily settled by Americans. Some few others went to Grand Ronde and other reservations based on marriage and kinship.

The Chinookan Nation still maintained a government structure into the 20th century. They, along with hundreds of other tribes across the United States, began seeking payment for their lands, lands that were never paid for by the United States, well into the 20th century, until these “Indian Claims” were settled, some as late as the 1980’s. The tribes who had never been paid for their lands, which technically under US land laws meant that the tribes still owned their territories, because of their  original Aboriginal occupation of the land. In the early 20th century, the un-ratified 1851 treaties of the tribes were found in the National Archives (NARA), and tribes who had never been paid for their lands, hired lawyers to sue the US for the money they were owed. These suits from tribes across the United States, were so many, and complicated, that the United States had to create a new court, the Court of Indian Claims, in about 1947, to decide legally and efficiently what was owed the tribes. The early records of the lawsuits can be interesting and valuable to scholars of Native histories in Oregon.

In 2001 the Chinook Nation was recognized by President Bill Clinton. Their recognition lasted some 18 months when President George W. Bush reversed their restoration effectively terminating the tribe. There are today two efforts to gain recognition for the two tribes of the unrecognized Chinook peoples, that of the Chinook Nation, and that of the Confederated tribes of Clatsop and Nehalem. Still today, these Chinookan tribes, who hosted and welcomed the first American explorers,  are not recognized by the United States, even though they may be some of the most well-known of all tribes on the west coast.

The Marion County Historical Archives has some of the files of these claims. The Crawford Collection, has reports and appraisals related to the claims of the Tillamooks, Umpquas and Calapooias and Chinookans.

For further reading I suggest my textual source reference page.


Methodists in Oregon

Reverend Jason Lee established the first Methodist Mission near Champoeg in 1835. By 1839 the mission had been damaged by flood waters and Lee established another farm and school in what is now downtown Salem. Lee had the sawmill built first, and with the sawed timbers built first the grist mill then his house on Broadway at the Liberty interchange along Chemeketa Creek (Mill Creek)( the house is now situated at Willamette Heritage Center) and then the mission school, at what is now Willamette University. Many of the students at the first mission were taken off of the French Prairie and Willamette Plains and taken into the school as pupils. Other orphaned children were brought there from the Columbia and the valley, and places further away, like Shasta, as many children were left without parents after the malaria epidemics (1829-1835), and this school was the only one of its type in Oregon for at least a decade.

Willamette Mission

The first Willamette Mission was began in 1834 and finished by Christmas. In the next year, 24 acres were in agriculture. The children brought into the mission were made to do farm work for their room and board. The Methodist’s policies were very capitalistic as they worked to pay teachers and make the school and farm pay for itself from the work of the students. In 1840’s the body of a native youth was brought to Mission by fur traders. They requested that the Mission bury the youth, to which the Missionaries refused, because the fur traders had no money to pay them for the burial. It apparently did not matter to the Methodists that they were stealing lands from the tribes without paying for them at all, as well as freely plowing the prairies, which caused starvation among the tribes,  as the starchy roots of prairie plants would provide season foods for the tribes. This free land was made possible by the introduction of diseases which killed some 90-95% of the Native peoples, including the parents and relatives of the children the mission was taking in.

The Kalapuyan and Chinookan children were taught American farming and ranching, and put in school to learn English. They were given American names and made to wear American clothing. In 1838, Lee took two boys (one Chinook and one Kalapuya) with him to the East to tour with him to attract more “white” people to settle in Oregon. Lee saw that since there were few white women in Oregon, that his Methodists and other white Americans, were marrying  dusky Indian women, also called in church registers, “women of the country”. Lee wanted to attract white American women to Oregon to keep the white Americans pure. He also needed a new wife, as Anna his first wife had recently died.

Lee’s speaking and promotion tour was largely successful, resulting in the Great Reinforcement of settlers to Oregon in 1843, of people who has heard his speak and sold all of their lands in the east, bought wagons, and traveled west to find this now fabled promised Eden of the Willamette valley. Many of the most notable people in Oregon history came in the first few years of the new “Oregon Trail”, people like George Abernethy (judge in Oregon and first American governor of California), Daniel Waldo (Judge and Politician, Militia commander), John Minto (sheep, and agriculture), and the Applegate family (Indian agents, surveyors, politicians). Many of the early emigrees were conservative Methodists, which had a huge effect on early Oregon settler society.

The movement of mainly Methodists in to Oregon, in the early days caused Oregon’s policies to become very conservative Christian, causing policies like the repression or prohibition of alcohol in many communities, and among the tribes and later on reservations; disallowing Indians from marrying whites; promoting agriculture as a civilizing influence;  using education to assimilate natives; and disallowing blacks from moving to Oregon or owning property. These policies, of which many became state laws, caused Oregon’s perceived citizen population to be very “white” for over 150 years. Minority populations on reservations, in urban centers (China towns, urban blacks, etc), and in agriculture (Chinese, Japanese, Latinos, Native peoples) were nearly invisible in historical records.

It was quite common for the the early settlers and French-Canadian traders to take Indian women as wives and companions. For the French- Canadians, as many were French-Indians, where their Indian part was Algonquian of some tribe in the east, or sometimes Cree. And so,  it would not have been strange for them to marry an Indian women, as their mother was likely a native and so native culture would have been familiar. As well their work had them trading with and living with tribal people for decades so they probably had more in common with the Natives than the whites.

Early white explorers also took up with native women and married them, and these women became part of the genetics of the early French Prairie society. Many Kalapuyan women then never went to the reservation at Grand Ronde and instead assimilated to the new society, became part of the American culture of Oregon.

At the school, the Methodist teachers learned to speak Chinuk Wawa from their pupils. The young Jesse Applegate and his family spent the first winter in Oregon at, or near, the Willamette Mission interacting on a daily basis with the Kalapuyans and learned the Chinuk wawa very quickly.

“We learned to speak Chinook Wa-Wa (Talk or language) that winter. The mission children spoke it as habitually as they did their mother tongue. We talked Chinook every day with the Indians and half-bloods. There was one Indian who spoke both English and Chinook. He had a droll way of speaking in Chinook and then in English. He would say, “ Nika-tik-eh chuck, “ “I want water.” “Nika hyas olo,” “I am very hungry,” “Potlatch tenas piah sap-o-lil,” “give a little bread,” and so on. But we did not have a better teacher than this waggish Indian.” (Jesse Applegate- Pp 62)

Oregon Institute

After the flood of the Willamette in 1840 damaged the Willamette Mission, Lee and his Methodist teachers began moving their mission to an area further south, to a place they called the Chemeketa Plains alongside Chemeketa Creek (see my other essay). The Kalapuyan village on the Willamette at the Chemeketa Plains was called Chemeketa and in about 1850 was renamed Salem. On the Chemeketa Plains, in about 1845, Lee established an Indian Industrial School, yet the school failed to complete its mission. One story suggests that the first class of students all died of a disease. Lee died in 1845 and the responsibility for the mission properties was given over the William Willson as the trustee. Willson drew the first plat of downtown Salem (now at the Willamette University archives) and then sold some of the properties to the next wave of settlers to Salem, properties which became downtown Salem. He took personal ownership of some properties and carved out his family legacy from this financial windfall. The Indian Industrial school was sold to the State of Oregon and Willamette University used the school for their first buildings.

dmagaed by  1852 GLO map of Salem showing Mill Creek, suggesting an early naming, there was a sawmill on the creek

Lee’s Mission school was an early model of the United States policy to assimilate Indian people to become Americans. The policy of using religious education to assimilate and remove the Native culture from the native children, to make them all Americans, was taken up as a policy followed by the United States until the 1870’s. In fact, each reservation was assigned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs a specific church denomination, and the pastor or reverend of the church also administered the reservation school. Interestingly, while the policy of the United States was promoting assimilation, even if the Natives became Americans in culture, they still had no rights, and would have to legally disavow their native heritage and declare themselves Americans.

In the manner that the Methodists operated they promoted a white assimilation agenda towards tribes, as if whiteness was the essential part of American identity, which it was, and has been for some time.  In Oregon, and across the country, Native peoples were made to stay on the reservations and not allowed to leave because they were not “American” citizens, which meant they were not white, Christian and civilized into western culture. Once tribal people became Christians, disavowed their native culture and religions, and began living like other Americans, they were allowed to become citizens, in some cases.

Apologies by various churches in recent decades, where they have suggested they are newly enlightened,  have not gone unnoticed, but ring hollow without some recompense for what they did to Native peoples for hundreds of years. There has never been an apology by the United States for forcing Christian white society upon tribes. Native people were allowed to become Americans when the American Indian citizenship act was passed in 1924, making all natives citizens. Still equality under the federal and state laws would take until the 1970’s to achieve.

Lee and his Methodists dramatically had an effect on the tribes of Oregon for generations. Lee was honored, along with John McLoughlin, the Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver,  as being called  the founders of Oregon. Interestingly, both men were not originally Americans but instead born in Canada. Lee and McLaughlin were honored by having statues placed in the National Capitol Rotunda in the 1930’s as the symbols and founders of Oregon. They are now being replaced. Lee’s companion statue resides on the grounds of the State Capitol.

To many Native people, the time of the Methodists is not a time to be admired in Oregon. Their repression of Native peoples and culture dis-empowered the tribes for generations. For Lee to continue to be looked upon as a positive symbol of Oregon, and for his statue to remain in public view at the state capitol, a place which is supposed to represent all of the people of Oregon, is a travesty.


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