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 Edmund A. 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.


The Temporary Cow Creek Umpqua Reservation

The Cow Creek Umpquas were a Takelman speaking tribe of native peoples related to the Takelma peoples of the Rogue river valley. The Cow Creek peoples resided in the Cow Creek watershed and parts of the southeastern Umpqua Valley.

In 1853, Joel Palmer wrote the first treaty of all Oregon tribal treaties to be eventually ratified by the United States Congress. Palmer, in 1853 was still attempting to get all of the western tribes to move to the Umatilla region of Eastern Oregon. However, the tribes were not accepting of such a drastic move and declined, forcing Palmer to arrange for temporary reservations throughout western Oregon to contain the tribes until he could arrange for a permanent reservation in an acceptable location.

As such, in 1853 there was yet to be chosen an acceptable location for the permanent reservation.  In 1854 there was chosen a location on the central coast of Oregon, which became the Coast Reservation. The plan was to remove all tribes to this location within 5 years (5 years is inferred due to the agreements Plamer makes with farmers in the Willamette Valley for their services as special agents to watch over the tribes). The Coast Reservation was created by executive order in 1855, yet was not fully open or intentionally occupied with removed Natives until  summer of 1856.

Stipulations of a treaty made and entered into on Cow Creek Umpqua Valley in the Territory of Oregon this 19th day of September A.D. 1853

Since the Cow Creek treaty was not ratified by Congress until 1855, its a question of whether the Cow Creeks were actually moved to the temporary reservation before February of 1855.  There are numerous cases of tribes removing to reservations, before their treaties are ratified, generally as a gesture of peace and goodwill on their part. It may also be that the temporary reservation was centered n their original villages and so they did not need to remove at all. Many tribes removed and lost out on the value of their lands for generations, some tribes for over 150 years, before they were paid for their lands in a series of Indian Claims cases. However, in the earliest days of treaty-making in Oregon tribes generally trusted the words of Indian Agents and Joel Palmer seemed to be a gifted negotiator in this regard. But even Palmer’s promises of goodwill, payments, housing, peace and safety did not last past his firing in mid- 1856, well before such verbal agreements could be honored, and so many tribes lost everything due to their miss-placed trust.

The temporary Cow Creek Reservation was fully within the boundary of their ceded lands, or lands that the tribe sold, as suggested in article 2 of the treaty. Its likely that the sudden change from maintaining the Cow Creek Reservation, to removal of all tribes to the Umpqua reservation was prompted by the outbreak of the Rogue River Indian war in 1855, just south of these localities. There were natural affinities between the Cow Creeks and the Rogue River tribes, and kinship relationships. In addition, the constant harassment of the Cow Creeks and other tribes in the Umpqua valley, with murders, attacks, rapes of women by roaming settler militias, like what caused the Rogue Rivers to leave Table Rock Reservation, was likely to eventually end up in a war. So all of the tribes had to removed quickly to the Umpqua Reservation to manage any further violence. But, this would not be enough, as written about in other essays.

Drawing of Cow Creek reservation drawn by David Lewis from treaty description in article 2. there is some question where Canon Mountain, at the end of Council Creek, was/is today as its been renamed.

Article 2 of the Cow Creek treaty suggests the boundaries of the Reservation.

Article 2: It is agreed on the part of the United States that the aforesaid Tribe shall be allowed to occupy temporarily that portion of the above described tract of territory bounded as follows, to wit; commencing on the south side of Cow Creek at the mouth of Council Creek opposite Wm H. Riddle’s land claim thence up said creek to the summit of Canon Mountain thence northerly to Cow Creek at a point on the same one mile above the falls; thence down said creek to place of beginning. It being understood that this last described tract of land shall be deemed and considered an Indian reserve until a suitable selection shall be made by the direction of the President of the United States, for their permanent residence; and buildings erected thereon and other improvements made of equal value of those upon the above reserve at the time of removal. (Sept. 19, 1853 Treaty with the Umpqua Tribe: Cow Creek Band, Ratified April 12, 1854)

estimated location of the temporary Cow Creek reservation, overlay graphics by David Lewis over original Belden treaty map, 1855

There remain a few questions about the temporary reservation boundary which may be cleared up by those more familiar with Cow Creek area. I am still unsure where Canon Mountain is for the southeast corner, and where the falls on Cow Creek are to determine the northwest corner. In an inspection of Cow Creek on Google Earth I did find a falls-like rapids nearly directly north of the southwestern corner.

Falls or rapids, on Cow Creek, Google Earth image

The Riddle land claim was very easy to find, to define the northeast corner. There is today a town named Riddle just downriver, east of the Riddle land claim. This image below of the land claim is from the General Land Office survey map of 1855. I looked to see if there was the temporary Indian reservation noted, and there is no such notation on the map, but there may be more in the survey notes.

Riddle Land claim, 1855

The Cow Creeks did not have to travel far in October-November 1855, only over one range, past Lookingglass creek and valley and into the Umpqua plains to get to the reservation.

Note Umpquas reservation and Cow Creek ceded territory, redrawn Belden map 1894


Umpqua Reservation within the Umpqua Plains, graphic overlay by David Lewis, on the original Belden map 1855

The early Cow Creek Temporary Reservation appears to have existed from just after September 19, 1853 (assuming that the tribes began to remove voluntarily), to about early November 1855. The correspondence of Macgruder of November 7th, 1855, suggests that the tribes are already newly moved onto the new temporary Umpqua reservation at the date of his writing. As well the Cow Creeks men are enumerated in the 1855 Umpqua census roll which Macgruder collected about November 15th, 1855.

This is likely what they saw in this hilly canon area.

South Umpqua River, Emmons 1841, Wilkes expedition, thanks to Ginny Mapes for finding this image

The 1855 Umpqua Reservation Census

Some recent census research revealed a census I had not yet analyzed. Luckily, a brief search of my records found that I had previously collected the census, enabling some efficient analysis.

I was looking initially at a “1960” Census of Calapooia and Umpqua Indians on the Grand Ronde reservation.

One page of this 1960 census or roll

It still unclear what this 1960 census is yet. I think it is a Indian Claims roll for descendants of these two tribes who may be eligible for payments. The Grand Ronde tribe was terminated in 1954-1956 and so in 1960 all members were terminated Indians, but there was at least one payout from one of the Indian Claims lawsuits in about 1959 or so.  Cursory searches for a 1960 decision of Indian Claims and payment has not revealed any payments for this year. I will have to consult a Law database to find more direct Indian claims decisions. There may also be evidence in Congressional bills of this period, which would have to be passed appropriate the funds to pay the Indian claims. But one bit of evidence caught my eye.

This individual was a descendant of Chief Halo, a Yoncalla Kalapuya, who is on a “1855 Umpqua Reserve Census.” My search revealed the census.

Umpqua Census Page 1
Umpqua Census page 2 (MacGruder 11/24/1855)
Umpqua Census page 3, Mr Halo is listed third from bottom
Umpqua Census Page 4

This census appears to be one of the earliest censuses on a reservation for Oregon. The Census was taken on November 15th, 1855. The section above, page 1, with the Klamath Band appears to not be fully Klamath Indians, but in part Molalla Indians. Steencoggy for one was the Head chief of the Southern Molalla Tribe, as shown in his signature on the December 21,1859 Molalla Treaty, below.

Indian Agents Macgruder and Ambrose, who described the gathering up of the tribes and removal to the Umpqua reservation also lend some additional context to the numbers of Indians on the reservation. Macgruder added some additional numbers and context to his 11/15 census,

They are nearly all on the reserve that belongs to this district all with the exception of some three or five men and eight or ten squaws which the Indians report to have been run off in the various attacks made upon them in this valley. Those on the reserve are comfortable [fisced?) as they have constructed huts after their own mode of building which affords ample protection from the inclemencies of the weather, though there is causes of complaint. There has been much sickness with them mostly the flus with two children have died, together with the desertions of one Umpqua and one Klamath reducing their numbers four. (Macgruder 11/24/1855)

The conditions were quite harsh and many Indians would escape from reservations. However while they are said to “escape,” there is really no legal standing for why they had to be on a reservation or for the United States government keeping them there.

...have collected as many of the Umpquas as I can get. The number of which is two hundred and eighteen of all sizes and thirty five Molallas or Klamaths… (Macgruder 11/7/1855)

The names of all adult males and boys over twelve years of age have been enrolled/ Special sub Agent Macgruder calls the roll daily and issued to them rations of beef and flour… There are now on the Umpqua reservation two hundred and sixty six persons including all ages, thirty of whom are Klamaths or Indians from the Vicinity of Klamath Lake… (Ambrose 11/30 1855)

The census of this camp gave 89 men, 133 women, 40 boys and 37 girls [299]… among the number assembled were the head chief and twenty eight of the Molallalas or Mollel tribe of Indians (Palmer 1/9/1856)

Between early November and December 21 1855, there is a steady growth in population at the Umpqua reservations, from surrenders, captures, and those who may have willingly gone there for safety from the vengeful white militia.


This line graph shows a gradual rise in population. The counts in May 1856 are on the Grand Ronde reservation map, and that of November 1856 is shown in the first detailed Grand Ronde census below.

Umpqua Census of the three tribes from November 25th 1856

Interesting is the fact that the Federal government was using this Census to prove lineage for Calapooia and Umpqua descendants in 1960. The significance of the 1960 census or roll still needs to be determined. This 1855 census may be the earliest for Oregon as I have not seen a similar census for the Table Rock Reservation as yet.

references as cited, in the M234 and M2 microfilm collections, Oregon Indian Affairs Correspondence

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