Newly Found: The March 1856 Census of Indians At The Grand Ronde Reservation

Cover the of the William Raymond Journal of Grand Ronde, Yamhill O.T., March 1856. William W. Raymond Collection, Oregon Historical Society Library

The Census was found at the Oregon Historical Society Archives in the William W. Raymond Collection, by myself on May 9, 2019. That afternoon after my PSU class I took the opportunity to check out a few leads looking for information from Indian agents on the Oregon Coast. Raymond is not so well known, but he spent some years as the Indian Agent of the Astoria District. He lived in Tillamook and managed the Clatsop and Tillamook tribes. Then in 1856, Joel Palmer assigned him to help with the Resettlement of Tribes to the Grand Ronde Reservation. He is there with other special agents who bring tribes to the reservation by walking or traveling in wagons.

List of supplies issued to Tribal Heads of household resettled at the Grand Ronde reservation, William W. Raymond Collection, Oregon Historical Society Library. Notes issues to Joe Hudson for food and supplies. Joe Hudson is likely Chief Joseph Hutchins/Hudson.

The Journal begins with lists of supplies given to native men, pans, food, pots. There also is a list of some properties, houses and barns  already there, left behind by settlers whose land was bought out. Then half way through the journal begins a Census. The Census continues for several pages. It has Kalapuyan, Molala, and Umpqua people. It does not have Chinook, Clackamas, Tualatin, or Rogue River peoples. Therefore the Census was taken down after the Umpquas and some Kalapuyan tribes arrived, and before the Rogue Rivers people from Table Rock Reservation arrived. At the time of the Census the Rogue Rivers are probably on the trail to Grand Ronde.

This Census then is likely the first census for the reservation. The William Raymond Collection is an obscure collection likely not well researched by scholars.

The transcription above contains many errors. Much research still needs to occur to rectify names and spellings. The original journal, now over 160 years old still holds up well, even with the pencil writing. The writing is thought be in the hand of Robert Metcalf, as suggested by Historian Bill Lang, This makes sense as Robert Metcalf appears to have signed the page following the Census. In March of 1856 there were 633 people at Grand Ronde. By November there would be nearly 4000 people from western Oregon resettled on the reservation and at the Coast between Salmon River and Newport Bay. By that time too, Joel Palmer would be fired as the Indian superintendent, and many of the verbal agreements he made with the tribes, to get them to remove would never be honored.

First page of the Census of March 1856. William W. Raymond Collection, Oregon Historical Society Library

William W. Raymond Collection, Journal, Grand Ronde, Yamhill, O.T. March 1856, Oregon Historical Society Library.


Counts of the Tribes and Bands of the Kalapuyans to 1856

Most estimates suggest that there were 19 tribes and bands of the Kalapuyans. This estimate was made in the early 20th century and does not really address the complexity of counting tribes and bands. In the 1850s there were probably less than 19 due to amalgamation of communities because of a huge reduction of populations from disease and settlers pushing tribes into smaller areas. The 19 tribes and bands estimated likely relates to the period from 1805 to 1835 when the Kalapuyans maintained their original village structure before the full effects of diseases were felt.

Boyd and other scholars have suggested that Malaria was the main disease from 1829 to 1835. I have also written elsewhere that Malaria may have been to most likely culprit of the epidemics of the 1830s, but we have yet to address the issues of secondary illnesses caused by malaria and other illnesses that are less recorded. The initial illnesses could be survived, but people have compromised systems, and would get secondary bronchitis or pneumonia and easily died from these illnesses. There is another theory advanced by scholars that suggest that there was a large extermination attempt in northwestern Oregon, but there is no evidence for extermination by the fur traders from Fort Vancouver or later settler folks from the 1820s to the 1840s. There were a few conflicts, but they did not amount to extermination.

Previous to 1805 there is theorized a high probably of disease, like smallpox among the tribes of the region, as there were signs on Chinookans on the Columbia and other evidence. The Kalapuyans likely felt the effects of a smallpox epidemic in 1782 (Zenk 1976:9), suggesting that there may have been many more Kalapuyans bands and people, previous to smallpox.

The next period in reverse chronology would be previous to the 1770s, when the tribes lived in their traditional state, without much in the way of change brought by Europeans. In this period, the tribes felt the impact of the horse, theorized to have reached the region in around 1700. The tribes would have also had stories and rare products from the east. Products like guns and metal knives, fabrics, and glass beads etc, would have passed through native trade networks to the Northwest Coast. There are as well stories also of white people coming westward, and such stories are buried in many tribal “texts” of folklore and Tribal Oral Histories today.  Additional alien trade items would have arrived on flotsam from shipwrecks. Copper nails and siding from ships, china from shipwrecks, beeswax from shipwrecks etc. The metal items would be pried from the flotsam and cold forged into jewelry or tools. Coppers, artistic and spiritual panels in plank-houses, became important spiritual products for the tribes. Many native copper items have been tested and found to come strictly from non-native sources, eliminating the possibility of Native quarrying of native copper.

Kalapuyans were part of the Columbia River Trade Network. In the Tualatin Kalapuyan mounds was found metal jewelry and tools, suggesting they acquired such products in the historic era. Such mound-building activities continued into the historic era as recorded by Leo J. Frachtenberg at Grand Ronde Indian Reservation.  See my essay about the Kalapuya Mounds.

Within this context of change we now understand how the Kalapuyan populations may have altered significantly in each period. We have a variety of estimates of tribal and band numbers. The question we then ask is “Where did the estimates come from and how accurate are they?”

Population counts for Kalapuyans

The basis for many counts is Lewis and Clark with 2,000 Kalapuyans,  but Zenk (1976:9) suggests that the Shoshones count of Lewis and Clark, is actually Kalapuyans as there were not Shoshones in the valley, which adds 10,600, giving us 12,600 Kalapuyans. This is likely a severe under-count as the expedition simply heard about the Kalapuyans from a Clowwewala man, and never ventured far into the Willamette Valley. They never saw any village of Kalapuyans nor appear to have talked with a Kalapuyan person.

James Mooney, an anthropologist in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, estimates 3,000 Kalapuyans at 1780, which is also a gross underestimate (Zenk 1976: 9).

Albert Gatschet, a German Anthropologist, one fo the first professionals to work among the Kalapuyan peoples at the Grand Ronde Reservation, collected the names of 17 winter village groups, which by 1850 was really only 16 villages, as one is extinct.  Zenk suggests an estimate range of 15-20 groups based on the experience of the informants, and a date of 1812. Zenk estimates 50 per winter village and 750-1000 for only the Tualatin Kalapuyans. Then Zenk estimates smallpox would have reduced the Tualatins by one third to one half, suggesting a population of the Tualatins as high as 2,000 individuals at 1780 (Zenk 1976: 11). This number suggests some 200 winter villages for the Tualatin alone previous to 1780, as suggested by Zenk’s 50 individuals per village estimate. The Tualatins did have a large area rich in resources, and its possible the territory was larger previously. The Yamhill Kalapuyans spoke the same dialect at the Tualatins.

The tribes and bands count is complicated by the political framework of the Kalapuyans. Each village had its autonomy and could ally with other villages as they wanted to. Normally a powerful chief rises and other village chiefs would align with them. But with 200 villages, this would become somewhat complex,  perhaps too much so, and so there was not likely one Tualatin Kalapuyan tribal Nation but several TualatinTribes and bands, each possessing their own autonomy and sovereignty.

The period following 1812, and until 1840s is thin on estimates. (until I find some related to the fur trade companies)

Joseph Lane’s 1850 census lists Calipoa 60, Tualatin 60, Yamhill 90, and Luckimier (Luckimiute) as 15, a total of 225 of these four Kalapuyan tribes. The Calipoa are likely Ahantchuyuk or Pudding River if these are all northern tribes.  He does differentiate total Kalapuyans from the main band. For the Tualatin he lists 50 for the main band, and for Yamhill 19, and Luckimiute 5. This suggests that as late as 1850 the main Kalapuya tribes he lists, had more than two bands, and likely two villages, aligned with the main tribe. Lane also listys 200 Umpquas, a number which seems large. The count for Umpqua may have included Yoncalla Kalapuyans, as they lived in the Umpqua Basin along with Upper Umpqua tribes like the Cow Creek band and the upper Umpqua Band at Elkton.

The census of April 22,1851 by Rev. Spalding,  lists the count of Kalapuyas at 560. In his report, Spalding states that he is personally visiting the tribes and that the number is an estimate based on the villages he has visited and the village yet to be visited. The number also includes the band on the Umpqua.

Rev. Spalding takes another census on August 25, 1851 and has more detailed counts. For McKenzies (Winefelly) 63; for Kalapooya (Tekopa?) he lists 41; for Santiam 66; for Forks Santiam 21 (there were two or three Santiam bands), Marys River (no number); Long Tom (Chelamela) 71; French Prairie (Ahantchuyuk) 54; and for Yamhill 59, for a total of 375 people. Spalding lived in Brownsville and so he would have had good knowledge of the local tribes and he did not get numbers for Tualatin and a few other major bands.

Spalding’s Letter of 12/8/1850 states 15 bands of the Kalapuyans speaking 7 different dialects.

Anson Dart’s report of 1851 lists 560 Calapooyas. Its highly likely that Dart got his numbers from the Spalding report of April 22 ,1851, because Dart did not go and visit tribes much during his tenure, and the Willamette Valley Treaty Commission negotiated with the Tribes  in May of 1851, without Dart involved.

Joel Palmer’s numbers for Kalapuyan tribes from 1854 is inexact for many. Long Toms, “few”;  Luckamute Band of Calapooias 25 or 30;  Santiam Band of Calapooias 150; Yamhill band of Calapooias 45 or 50; Tualatin Band of Calapooias 50 or 60. Palmer’s total estimate of Kalapuyans is 290 people. His inexact count definitely missed a good number of the people from the main tribes.

March 1856 Journal: The First Census at the Grand Ronde Reservation

In March of 1856, William Raymond’s Journal of the Grand Ronde Reservation is likely first census for the reservation. Raymond was assigned to the new Grand Ronde Indian Reservation to help resettled the incoming tribes. However, the Journal appears to be written in the hand of Robert Metcalf. Metcalf had been in charge of the removals of the Umpqua, Yoncalla and Molalla from the Umpqua Reservation from January to February 1856. Therefore, the March 1856 journal is really the first opportunity at the new Grand Ronde Reservation to take a count of the Natives. As well, the Census list does not have any Rogue River tribes, suggesting that the census was taken before the Rogue Rivers arrived at Grand Ronde, and were still on the trail from the Table Rock Reservation at this time. (below listed only the Kalapuyan tribes)

French Prairie Band, 20 People; Spores Band, 65 people; Santiam, 53 people; Louis Band, 43 people; Long Tom Band, 32 people; Marysville. 35 people; Yamhill 20 people; Lakamiuke, 8 people; Calapooia, 89 people, which equals 365 Kalapuyans.

First Page of the March 1856 Census, William Raymond Journal, Grand Ronde, Possibly Robert Metcalf handwriting. William Raymond Collection, Oregon Historical Society Archives, The Journal with this census was discovered to be the first Grand Ronde Census on 5/9/2019.

The Following image is from the first pages of the Journal (as transcribed by David Lewis). Once written as a transcript it was discovered that all of the Kalapuyan Tribes and bands had not yet been removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation. The Tualatins are not yet represented, as well as the Clackamas, or any groups on the Columbia.

Some words in the journal are illegible or the meanings of the abbreviations still need to be worked out. David Lewis work product 5/12/2019.

This is the first time the March 1856 Census  is used in a publication.

The Hazen Map of 1856 of the Grand Ronde Reservation, lists 392 Calapoyahs in three camps and 137 Tualatins in a camp. The five Umpqua camps likely have a number of Yoncalla Kalapuyans. The Kalapuyans count total is 529 persons. It is not known when the census counts were taken on this map, but we assume it was in 1856, after all removals had occurred, therefore sometime in the summer because the Rogue River tribes are noted.

Section of Hazen Map with Census counts

The first complete census of the Grand Ronde Reservation of November 1856 lists Tualatins 75; Marysville 22; Muddy 21 (Muddy River, Chenapfa); Long Tom 16; Yamhill 26; Luckamute 22; Calapooia (Ahantchuyuk) 22; Mohawk 20; Winefella 23; Santiam 81 and Calapooia Band Calapooia River  (Tekopa)16; for a total of 344 persons. Another section of this census lists Calapooia of the Umpqua tribe (Yoncalla)  at 30 persons. Grand total would then be 374 persons. Comparing the total with those from March 1856 suggest that only a few temporary reservations from the Willamette Valley had been emptied and resettled by March 1856, and that more tribes and bands came later.

Grand Ronde Reservation census after Rogue River arrival, November 1856.


Its unclear how accurate the counts were of the Kalapuyans previous to the reservation. The numbers from various Indian agents fluctuates dramatically from 200 to over 500 persons. The named villages count may prove to be the most accurate count of some tribes. In 1851 The Gibbs Starling Map lists a number of named villages on the Willamette. The map was likely based on a river passage chart prepared by steamboat captain Leonard White. White was an early Salem resident and pioneer of finding passages up and down the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. The 1851 map lists these tribes as Chehalem, Chempoeg, Chemaway, Chemekitty, and Chehalpen, and areas called Chehn-to-uck at the Santiam river, and  Tsi-yahm-hil in the Yamhill basin.

Section of Gibbs and Starling Map of 1851 showing highlighted village names

Ethnographers notes will list more villages. Ethnography did not really begin until the 1877 with Albert Gatschet who collected much from the Kalapuyans. Anthropologists like Melville Jacobs collected Kalapuyan village names into the 1930s.

Melville Jacobs Field Notebook #33

p’inefu and halpam people

(Kalapuya & Santiam) Salem to Jefferson on E. and S. side of Willamette

antpu’saq (People) W & N side of Willamette

(laqmyut) alaqmayuq  (People) (Independent to Lakamiyuk R. at Buena Vista)

Melville Jacobs Field Notebook #34.

Tsani-hoi- a town between Monroe (Pinefu People)

Han ter yuk- Mary’s river, Kalapuya, Santiam

Twalatin, Yamhill


Santefaq people-  they understand Santiam, good

Halpam people- Santiam

Hanter yu k

Pi ne fu (Mary’s R.)


Tsantce manq la qua- near Albany

Tsa yam hala (Yamhill)

Antatawa- maybe around Corvallis, Same as Pi ne fu

Ne twalati (Atfalati)

Begin Jacobs Field notebook #46

Tcan tku’pi; name of a Kalapuya- speaking place region and band. JBH knows no woman of this name. They lived along the McKenzie R. near Eugene- say between the McKenzie to Eugene. The Yonkallas are immediately to the south, from Cottage Grove on. Jim Spoyse (Spores?) was a Tku’pi’, and he married a  ske’nan woman.

JBH, tca’nu’ha, a band, talking a Kalapuya dialect somewhere near Eugene. One man JBH remembers called Jim Sboyse (Spuiz) [Spores?] , was probably of Nu’ha origin. Their territory was along the MacKenzie river. Sboyies  wife was named Ske’nan, who came from the same tribe as Frank Wheeler’s mother, who was also named ske’nan. Cindy Jackson’s mother was still a third woman, named Ske’nan.

JBH, The Kalapuyas JBH says are those on “this side” of the Yonkallas –  the bands by Corvallis and beyond –  to Eugene. But the Santiam or Ha’lpam

Pi’ne fu’ or Marysville (Marys river)


La’qmaywq or Lakmyuts

Ha’nt’ayuq or half prairie people

Nu’ha, a band near Eugene

Are all called Kalapuyas, so JBH says, they are all to be included in the term Kalapuya. They all talked one language: one band spoke just a little different from the other, but all were mutually intelligible.

Jacobs Field notebook #78

Kallapu’ya includes these and perhaps others, Santya’m, Ha’lpam, P’I’nefu

Eustace was 7 yrs pf age when his Santiam- Penmana’fu father died. At 9 or 10 he heard these old stories from some fine old ladies. His mother was Santiam and most of the rest of his relatives.

Penmana’fu people, close to Salem, near Hukwil, other side of Wheatland – along in that valley there; talked a slightly variant dialect

Ha’lpam, close to Albany, and north of it, and dialectically close to Santiam.

Pi’nefu, people along by Corvallis, macefield, Marysville people, or south of Corvallis. Dialect intelligible to Santiam

Santyam’ ami’m , Santiam people

Punma’nafu, People living beyond Salem some 6 miles in a valley near Hopewell. [across Willamette from Willamette Mission state park]

Jacobs notes contain a mixture of town and tribal names. That is really the nature of the Kalapuyan tribes. Each town was its own sovereign entity. So a Town could be considered a tribe, or it could be  a band, which means they are subject to a larger tribe. Jacobs in these notebooks lists some 20 tribe and bands and towns, and without some work aligning them with tribal territory they all need to be considered separate and distinct.  The Tualatin (Atfalati), Santiam (Halpam), Marys River( Pinefu). Lakamiuke, Yonkalla, and Yamhill standout as the primary tribes, and they in turn had numerous bands and villages aligned with them. It is wrong to assume that because a village speaks the same dialect of a language that the tribes is politically related to the primary tribe.

All of these Kalapuyan tribes were at the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation where there was at the most 374 Kalapuyans resettled by November of 1856. From a high of as many as 20,000 sixty years previously. The decrease for 60 years being some 98% from disease, and small conflicts.







What Happened to Caroline Mercier

I have thought over the years about the tribal people from Grand Ronde who have disappeared from the tribe. In essays, I have written about some of the reasons for people leaving the tribe. The reservation at the turn of the 20th century was developing into a set of Native farms as people took advantage of their new Indian allotments, granted in 1891. The allotments came on the heels of some 40 years of poverty, neglect, and loss for the people at the reservation. The change began in the 1870s with the informal allotments, and some families were able to make a go of it and prospered, others remained impoverished living in multifamily houses in extreme poverty. By 1891 260 Grand Ronde people gained allotments, men, women, and children. But in the allotment act, there were no specific allowances for allotting people after the initial allotment. So those tribal people born after 1891 did not get allotments except in rare instances.

The remainder of the tribal lands were then packaged by the Indian agents as surplus lands to the sold in a public offering. The newspaper report of this public offering in 1905 and thereabouts, suggested that there was something wrong, something perhaps illegal about the way that most timber companies were able to snag all of the excess lands, and few individuals received lands. But by 1907 all of the surplus lands were gone, sold mainly to timber companies. These logging companies then spent a good 13 years planning their entry into the Coast range, laying small gauge tracks to efficiently haul logs out of the range. There they developed the many logging towns which we known today.

The Grand Ronde reservation changed significantly in the 20 years after the allotments were assigned. Most people developed farms and while the farms produced little food, they did what they could to produce hay, run some cattle, horses, and most had hogs and chickens, just enough to feed themselves and their families with few profits. The soils in most of the Grand Ronde valley were not good enough to sustain commercial food grain crops annually so hay was the most common crop. Most families would plant their hay in the spring, then travel into the Willamette Valley to harvest crops from various American farmers. Grand Ronde people normally traveled to Independence, Salem, Wheatland for much of their migrant agricultural work. In the later summer, most families would return to their allotments to harvest the hay.

However, once their children of the Grand Ronde people grew up, especially those who had missed the allotment period, there was no land for them to acquire as an allotment. They could not even inherit the allotted land, should their parents die, because the federal government decided to sell the land of people who had died without proving up on it in the 20 years period, and simply divvy up the money among the descendants. They either had the choice of marrying an allotted member, remaining on their family’s farm, or leave the reservation to find work elsewhere. These children on the Reservation were shown to have attended and graduated from the Grand Ronde Industrial and Vocational School and many left the school with skills and education that they could not use on the reservation. Therefore, many chose to instead integrate into the cities of the Willamette Valley, normally marrying outside of the tribe and remaining outside fo the reservation their whole lives. They may return to the family homestead for events, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Fourth of July, or birthdays, but lived in Salem or Portland.

Many of these people who left the reservation lost all association with their families and were not included on tribal membership lists. The annual Federal Indian reservation censuses became the de-facto tribal membership lists until the tribe to control of the rolls in 1936 under Reorganization. In about 1909, Indian agents began taking people off the annual census, as I have detailed in a previous essay. By 1916 the census was restored to counting all tribal people, even if their fee-simple (former allotment) lands were technically not reservation lands and so they technically no longer lived on the reservation.  In the intervening years, many people who were not detailed on the census were lost from the tribe.

Jasper Luce (Siletz) and Mary Petit Mercier Luce on the Siletz river. When Mary Left Francis she had an Indian marriage with Jasper

The story now turns to the life of Caroline Mercier. She was born on the Grand Ronde Reservation in 1893, just two years after the people at Grand Ronde were allotted land. She was born to Francis Mercier and Mary Petit Mercier. Francis was a Belgian man who came to Grand Ronde to become an assistant to his uncle, Reverend Adrien Croquet. Croquet returned to Belgium in the 1880s and Francis stayed on, married to a  Clackamas and Chinookan native woman of a prominent family. Francis and Mary remained on the reservation for a few years, previous to the allotment, then left the reservation, reportedly moving to Sheridan, Oregon. As a non-native, Francis could legally move his family in this fashion. The family reappears again on the reservation when Mary and her previously born children gain Indian allotments.  Caroline is born two years later.

Federal Indian Census records and Federal census records show that Caroline lived in the family household until she was at least sixteen.

Mercier household in 1893, Caroline is 1 year old. Francis is not noted because he is not a native.
Mercier household in 1906, they have had two other children, Eloise and Francis, two daughters, Caroline is 13.
Transcription of the Federal Census of 1910, detailing Francis and Mary Mercier Family, Caroline is 16, her older brothers have moved out and have their own families now (
1916 Federal Indian Census, Mary and Francis Mercier are now empty nesters, all their children survived and moved out, there is no record of Caroline on the reservation at this time

There is now some mystery of what happened to Caroline. She does notappear on the 1916 census of people on the reservation. She is never again listed on a federal Indian census. I was recently contacted by a family genealogist who was searching her DOWNER family ancestry. She asked,

“Through, I discovered (her husband’s) great-grandfather Joseph L. Downer married Carrie Mercier (b. abt 1893, in Grande Ronde). Carrie was the daughter of Francis (Frank) Mercier and Mary Petit. 
 According to US Census and the 1913 marriage certificates, they were living in Portland, Oregon, but married in Clarke County, Washington. The 1920 Census, they were living in Portland with Carrie’s sister, Francis Mercier. After 1920, absolutely nothing is pulling up. I’ve contacted the State of Washington, Oregon, genealogical societies, libraries, Clark County Courthouse, and the Grande Ronde Tribal Council. Sadly nothing has turned up. I have no idea what happened to Carrie. I do know that Joe remarried, twice. But as far as divorce records or death certificates, nothing is coming up. 
Do you have any insight on the mystery of Carrie Mercier-Downer?” (Personal Communication)
A few weeks later, I did have a few minutes and began searching for her.  I found that she did not appear in any censuses from Grand Ronde, and even though these censuses sometimes list off-reservation members, like Francis Mercier the daughter, who lived in Portland. So the mystery did deepen, and Ancestry did not have the information as the researcher had hit a wall for the past 6 years of searching. I decided to try a different genealogy site, a newer free site, and after a few minutes found what happened to Caroline.
This record came up
Name: Caroline C. Mercier Brautlacht
Maiden Name: Mercier
Event Type: Burial
Event Date: 1923
Event Place: Portland, Multnomah, Oregon, United States of America
Photograph Included: N
Death Date: 08 May 1923
Affiliate Record Identifier: 150693510
Cemetery: Lincoln Memorial Park

She died on May 8th, 1923. The record from her husband at the time, Richard Brautlacht shows he died the same day. I thought then that this is suspicious and something happened, like a car crash, or a capsized boat, but the truth is more tragic than that.

Caroline, in a fit of jealousy, shot Richard twice at the breakfast table, then shot herself.  Our researcher was able to find the Oregonian newspaper article about the tragedy.

Wife Slays Mate Then Ends Life
Murder enacted because of Jealousy

… Describes Agony

Breakfast table chosen to snuff… careers made stormy… throughout two years

with a pistol lifted from the folds of her house dress, Mrs. Robert C. Brautlacht, 25 shot and killed her … husband yesterday morning just before 8 o’clock, and then .. a bullet into her own body to … the death that came five minutes later. Over the breakfast table … home at 784 Sandy Boulevard.. did it, when a resolve that had been in her brain for six months … in a head and was not put … by the smiling eyes of her husband across the table over his …..

… jealousy, and one found to …  led to the deed, po-…, when they read a … and painfully-written note… prepared the night before in which Mrs. Brautlacht set the reasons for what she was … do. She said that rather than give up her pleasure-loving … whom she characterized as … neither “heart, conscience, … self-respect, or anything… goes to make a man.” and …. very sure that her heart .. “last to be broken.” she … resort to murder and suicide. … and friends, shocked by … in which the couple, whom… considered so happy, had … insisted that all her statements came from an overwrought ….

… Fern, druggist, living but … away, heard the shots and found Mrs. Brautlacht unconscious … a wound in her head, heaped … lifeless body of her husband. … seemed to embrace him. … died before aid was had. … had risen from the … appeared , and staggered to … room. there the bodies….

…(read the rest as you can)

Caroline settled their affairs and simply said Goodbye. The rest of the article is like an obituary, listing their surviving family and that her parents who reside in Grand Ronde, and that the family is said to be relatives of Cardinal Mercier of Belgium. Cardinal Mercier in this period was a heroic figure in the world, the Cardinal of the Belgian archdiocese who had publically spoken out about the imperial practices of Germany in Belgium during the recently ended WWI.

Caroline’s previous husband, Joseph Downer, had grown up in Oklahoma, and there is little information about their marriage. Our researcher said that family members who knew him thought Joseph was something of a womanizer. It may very well have been the reason Caroline and Joesph split up, and perhaps what caused her jealousy in her second marriage as well. They apparently divorced sometime around 1920. Joseph dies in 1980, having lived a very long life.

Here then comes to rest the story of one of the disposessed of Grand Ronde. Caroline apparently had no children with either husband. It remains to be seen if any of the Mercier family have additional stories of Caroline. There is no explanation of why she never appears to have returned to the reservation. Her parents, Francis and Mary, reportedly had a stormy relationship and in the 1920s Mary finally divorced Francis, the divorce papers (Oregon State Archives) suggest that she was abused by him as they included evidentiary sheets of abuse. The household may very well have been stressful to remain in, and Caroline may have had enough and left forever as many children will do.

Such a dysfunctional and abusive household on reservations in this time would have not been uncommon. Many tribal people had gone through an extremely stressful life on the reservation and during the time of this story, there were deepening losses to the reservation and community in the form of land loss and cultural changes. With the lack of ability of the newest generation of tribal kids to gain land on the reservation and the fact that they were still not American citizens, they had few opportunities. Many people engaged in any activity which would somehow benefit them, women married outside the tribe for American status. These actions were prompted by the actions of the Federal government, whose politicians, each generation, passed new laws regarding Native peoples, most of which tended to lead the tribes to the eventual termination of their status. When tribal children could not inherit lands or gain allotments they would be apt to leave and find opportunity, therefore causing the disintegration of the community center which in turn affected the culture and viability of the tribe. In this manner, very many of our relatives may be forever lost to the tribe.

The references to the above article are intext. This story was interesting as this is directly my family line at the reservation. Julius Mercier, Caroline’s older brother is my Great Grandfather. Caroline is then a Great Great aunt.


Nachicolcho or Siletz: a Place on the Oregon Coast

The Siletz placename is something of a mystery. Leo J. Frachtenberg, the ethnologist assigned to collect native languages on the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations in about 1913,  in about 1914 thought the word “Siletz” to be of Athapaskan origin and suggested that the origin is in the word “Si’is/Silet” meaning Black Bear. I have looked at Frachtenberg’s paper on the word numerous times over the years and normally have stated that the word was probably not Athabaskan but instead Salish as the Siletz Indians were said to be Salish/Tillamookans. They were perhaps the most southern of the Tillamookan tribes on the Oregon Coast. So in my thinking then, that as a native word, it could not be Athapaskan in origin as most of the Athapaskan tribes were from southwestern Oregon. Only recently when teaching about this, another notion occurred to me, mainly because I have now done a lot of work to understand the forced movements of the southern Oregon peoples northward, to the area of the Coast Reservation, beginning in 1856 (see other essays this blog).

About a year ago, I encountered a U.S. Coast Geodetic Coast Survey map of the Siletz area of the coast, and on the map are listed two different names for the Siletz River. The appearance of the many unique Tillamookan-Salish names on this draft map suggests that the survey gathered information from a Tillamookan informant, perhaps even taking a Tillamookan informant onto the schooner to help name the places on the coast as they slowly traveled northward.

Section of U.S Geodetic survey map noting Siletz Bay, Siletz River with secondary placename os Nachicolcho, these maps are in the OHS Map Library

The first name, Siletz, is clearly more well known and is the present official name for the river. The second name, Nachicocho, not known at all, yet appears to align with the place names we have seen for the Tillamookan territories, names like Nachesna, and Nehalem, where the prefix Ne- or Na- is a placename identifier.  The name is actually listed in two places on the map, as the place name at the Bay, and as the river name Nachicolcho R.

Siletz Bay and Nachicolcho placenames, US Geodetic survey, OHS map library

If it is the case that the original name for the river is “Nachicolcho“, then the notion that the original name for the river is Siletz is inaccurate. How could this have occurred? Frachtenberg in his paper does not mention the historic removal of the southern Athabaskans to the Coast Reservation. In fact, this history in around 1914, when he is working at the Siletz reservation in Oregon, is not well known or remembered. The tribes in 1914, had just re-discovered their Coast treaty, in about 1908 (perhaps inspired by Frachtenberg- a subject for another story), and the tribes were working on a plan for filing a lawsuit against the U. S. Government for non-payment for their lands. The Coast Treaty was never ratified and so for some 80 to 150 years the tribes who came from the Southern Coast, in fact, tribes from the whole of the Oregon coast where never paid for their lands in their lifetimes. The Indian Claims lawsuits were not fully paid until about 1959, for most tribes.

Leo J. Frachtenberg manuscript 1731, an NAA document now copied into the SWORP collection

Since, in 1914, and after, the history of the removal of the tribes, the details of what happened in the removals was not well known or remembered by elderly tribal peoples. Narratives and scholarly books did not really begin to appear until the 1970s. Even these sources do not necessarily follow the progress of individual tribes to their ultimate removal but instead followed the program of wars with few details of removal of individual tribes up the Coast, and instead drew broad brushes strokes of the history of removal.

In my research, there were found to be Athabaskan tribes removed to the Coast Reservation at the same time as the removal of such tribes to Grand Ronde. The tactic followed by Indian agents appears to be to spread out the tribes over a larger area so they could feed all 3000+ tribal peoples removed in 1856. A good number of “Rogue River” peoples and coastal Athapaskans were then removed to the region of the coast between the Nachesna and the Siletz River, and some to the south. These Athapascan people could have easily renamed the river because they were the overwhelming majority of peoples for a few years living in that area. In fact, the “Siletz” peoples, those Tillamookans we have always thought were names “Siletz” were a very small group, they appear to disappear altogether in a few years, and likely married into other tribes and disappeared as a separate culture. These Siletz people may have been called  “Nachicolcho” people instead, similar to the Tillamookan placenames of their northern brethren, maybe there was even a “Nachicolcho” village. 

It is actually very common for tribes to be renamed by white people based on the renamed rivers of their regions. It is also common for tribal names to have originated with what they were called by other tribes. It’s quite possible that the first resettled Athapaskans called the “Nachicolcho” peoples by the name meaning “Black bear” in the Athapaskan language, and this name was also applied to the river, and later applied to the Agency and Reservation and Tribe. In Oregon, there are several names of tribes who are renamed by white settlers, names like Mohawk, or Nez Perce, and are not names that originate from this region or language.

Southern Tilamookan Names, Based on the names on the U.S. Coast Geodetic Survey maps, OHS Map Library Nastucco- Cascade Head, Nachesne/Nachesna- Salmon River, Na-ahso- Devils Lake, Nachicolcho- Siletz River and Bay. Is Neotsu an altered version of Na-ahso, this seems likely.

Update 4/13/2019

The amazing Coos researcher Patricia Whereat-Phillips, from her retreat in the foreign land of Sonoma- California wrote back about this placename issue.

“both Siletz and Nachicolcho are correct names for the river. They have different meanings in Tillamook, no surprise.

Reel 20 frame 615a – Louis Fuller – he gives nshlæch’ (with a short vowel a written above the line to indicate a short vowel between the sh and l; well it is the ‘alpha fish’ as I call it which sounds more like “uh”). The name means ‘coiled’, and in earlier frame 614 explains the river is like a rope gathered up, because it is so crooked. On that frame he also gives the name nshlæts. Then “Siletz River Indian” is nshlæts’ stiwat.

Then he also gives the name for Siletz River as nach’ikáltzu. Louis says it is another name for Siletz River, and refers to it being a quiet river, ‘as quiet as a pond’. Then he also calls the Siletz Indians nach’ikáltzustiwat, quiet river Indians.” (Whereat-Phillips)

This is indeed good news. This suggests that Frachtenberg’s assertion that Siletz relates to the Athapaskan word for Black bear is wrong.  Frachtenberg likely did not know much about the Tillamook Indians and was very focused on Athapaskan, and this may have biased his vision with respect to this name.

The Frachtenberg microfilm records are freely available online. The problem with the online version is the NAA did not preserve the page numbers. So, I have to conduct a complicated calculation to find page 615. There are 12 images per grouping, and so if you divide 615 by 12 you get 51.25, So the page is in group 51. See for your self at John Peabody Harrington papers: Tillamook, 1942-1943, Reel 20.

Acknowledgement is Long Past Due for Attempts to Exterminate the Tribes of Oregon

Presently, there is an apology bill being considered in the Oregon State Senate for the Modoc Indian War of 1872-1873.  This apology is long past due to the Modoc people who were forcibly removed to Oklahoma Indian County after the battlefield trials of their leaders. Numerous leaders of the Modocs, including Captain Jack were hung in what amounted to a battlefield-hanging immediately after they were captured in a ruse of a peace negotiation.  Modoc people today rightly point out that,

“They were tried by the very same people that they fought in the war against,” Tupper said. “And so when you have Modoc people dying after a war and no officers in the Army dying for the same things and same transgressions against the Modoc people, then that’s blatantly unfair.”

The bill would formally apologize to the Modoc for their treatment by noting that “Senate Concurrent Resolution 12 states “that we, the members of the Eightieth Legislative Assembly, commemorate the Modoc War of 1872-1873, and we recognize and honor all those who lost their lives in that costly conflict; and be it further resolved, that we express our regret over the execution of Kintpuash, Schonchin John, Black Jim and Boston Charley in October 1873 and for the expulsion of the Modoc tribe from their ancestral lands in Oregon.””

This apology is a cull-out of a larger issue which the State of Oregon has yet to confront in any manner. The fact that the state perpetrated genocide against native peoples since the formation of its Volunteer Militia, also known as Rangers in about 1843 with the ratification of the Organic Acts. One of the first acts was to form a militia to protect the White Americans from encroachments from “Indians.” In the 1850s, when settlement had advanced to the point that all good farm land was claimed in the state, the tribes were forced to the brink of survival. They were starving because their traditional territories were overrun by White American settlers, and who saw Indians as vermin to be exterminated. Numerous editorials and letters to the area newspapers, notably the Oregon Statesman in Salem, called for the “extermination” of all Indians.

Conflicts between Natives and whites began in the 1840s and continued getting worse in the 1850s. Tribal peoples, were forced to steal foods from the settlers when the settlers refused to share their newfound wealth. Settlers destroyed native food resources by plowing prairies and running pigs and cattle on their farms. Then settlers hunted out the game with their firearms. So most of the principal food staples of the tribes were heavily impacted or destroyed by changes to the land brought by settlers. Along with this, when settlers claimed all of the land, they took over tribal lands without the approval of tribes, and without the federal government purchasing the land appropriately.

For at least 11 years, 1844 to 1855, settlers took lands that the tribes still legally owned. Tribal communities lost land and food and when there were conflicts, they worked to settle the conflicts by taking back what was being stolen. Settlers called this theft, and the federal government called it depredations. This is what the volunteer militia was supposed to control.

The militia began to take action against tribal communities whenever that was a perceived “crimes” committed by tribal peoples. The word “Crime” really only applies if the tribal peoples are Americans, they were not, and all of the land was legally still theirs until 1855, for much of western Oregon. Under tribal law, if other people take from you, hunt your land, steal your land, they have the right to exact retribution and make war upon you. So, in actuality it was the settlers who were committing the crimes, taking, stealing land and resources from the tribes.

How did this happen? The federal government simply assumed that the land was theirs, as there was not a previous agreement between the tribes and the United States before treaties.

Back to the Militias and genocide- When cattle were taken by tribal people, the militia exacted retribution by attacking Indian villages. When settler wagon trains or supply routes were attacked by tribes, the militias would attack native encampments, killing all men, women, and children, usually killing all of the people they could find or who ran away, sometimes capturing a few women and children. They took these actions of attacking native encampments without warning, they did not try to negotiate, or bring anyone up on trial, or ask for the perpetrators of the previous attack. There were no legal proceedings and the Militia attacks amounted to battlefield executions of foreign peoples, without knowing if anyone was even guilty, without ever declaring war.

The Militia were funding wholly by the Oregon Territorial government, and after 1859, the State of Oregon. The militia was halted for a time in their genocidal action when in 1855 General John E. Wool took command in the region and employed regular army troops to defeat the Rogue River Confederacy. Incidentally, the whole Rogue River War was caused by volunteer militia of Oregon and California attacking Indian settlement on the Table Rock Reservation without provocation. General Wool investigated the problems in southern Oregon and published his opinion in the state’s newspapers, essentially, that the whole conflict was the fault of the volunteer militia. This was an unpopular political position in the territory, and a sympathy also held by Oregon Indian Superintendent Joel Palmer, who worked with the Army to save the tribes from further extermination by placing them on Indian reservations, with Army Blockhouses erected to protect the Indians from further attacks by white American militias. Palmer’s actions to save the tribes got him fired because of political pressure from white American settlers.

The tribal people had no rights under U.S. rule to take white people to court, they were not allowed in a U.S. court of law, and could not testify if they saw murder on their people. The tribes could not recover lost lands, lost resources, lost houses, horses, or any other property, and there was no process for trying white people for murdering Indians. Joel Palmer noted this when the Chetco villages were attacked and the villages and people destroyed but the U.S. court would not hold or try the perpetrators for the crimes because Indians could not be eyewitnesses in court. This was the rule across the west. White American had the right to take all of the land they wanted could kill Indians to the point of extermination by burning them alive in their houses and no U.S. court would hold them accountable for all of these illegal actions. This all occurred over and over again in many regions of the west, shattering Native communities. The tribes were eventually forced to remove to Indian reservations, but even their experience on reservations was destructive, with starvation, malnutrition, exposure, and poverty rampant for nearly 20 years.

The State of Oregon and the United States have never apologized for the attempted to exterminate the tribes, for taking all of their lands without payment for years, for administration of reservations which was criminal, and for pressing the tribes into permanent poverty for the past 150 years, without the resources to help their people. And besides this treatment, American historians ignored these issues for over 150 years in books on regional and U.S. history. Few histories have shown the depths of the evil which was visited upon tribal nations by murderous and greedy white Americans. Instead, the histories were usually cast as a righteous spiritual mission by American heroes to save the tribes from their savagery. There many never be an apology that can make any of this better, but many people believe that simply acknowledgment that this occurred would be a big step forward for tribes. Tribal peoples today are American, with the same citizen rights of any other Americans, and we deserved to have our histories told as well.

If you doubt anything here, read the stories in my blog.



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