Battle Rock the First Colonization on the Southern Oregon Coast

In July 1851, Captain William Tichenor decided to begin his project to colonize and claim the Port Orford area. He envisioned that the establishment of a town at Port Orford would be an entry point for gold miners into SW Oregon. Tichenor originally hired his band of men from Portland, O.T., promising them that the Indians in the region were peaceful. Tichenor convinced his men that they did not need much armament and that arms would only provoke the Natives. He said he had visited the area many times and the Indians were always welcoming. Still his engages choose to take arms with them in case something happened (Kirkpatrick, et al. 1978).[1]

It turns out that Tichenor is implicated in history as being very genocidal towards native peoples. See my other essays about the removal of the tribes from the Chetco region.

When the band arrived, on June 9, 1851, they set up camp on a mid-shore rock, a defensible location, what was to later be called Battle Rock and fortified their camp with a cannon from Tichenor’s ship. The rock is situated just off the beach and there is a narrow path to the top. The top of this long and narrow rock is wide enough to host a small encampment with a few trees growing there. On both sides of the rock is water and the walls are too steep to easily scale.  The rock afforded a defensible position for this small party (Kirkpatrick, et al. 1978).

These Native peoples, the Kwatami Tututni (Sixes band), at first were peaceful. After Tichenor’s ship left they became more confrontational and demanded the men leave. The demands became violent and an attack on the rock occurred. The cannon was fired down the path and some 11 Natives died in this first volley. The resulting battle caused upwards of 17 native deaths with a few casualties among the party.  After this skirmish, two other attempts were made by the Native people to take the rock and each time marksmen in the party shot and killed the leaders, causing the natives to stop their attacks. A parley between the party and the Natives occurred, where it was worked out that the party would be leaving in 14 days, and the Natives would leave them alone until then (Kirkpatrick, et al. 1978).

It is unlikely that the arms taken by the band of men provoked the Native people. Natives were used to people carrying weapons and owned firearms in the area. Instead, the large scale outbreak of violence and a war of extermination against Native peoples occurring up the Rogue River and in Northern California was the likely reason that the Natives at Port Orford responded with violence. Native people had well-developed trail systems and means of communication throughout their territory. When the war of extermination began on the Rogue River, prompted by the Rangers, runners would have been sent to the neighboring camps to pass on the news of the Americans killing men, women, and children (Beckham 1971; Schwartz 1997).

Port Orford area USGS map from OHS map library, Battle Rock is right

The tribes in the region were all interrelated by marriage. It was common and preferred that men and women marry into tribes further away. In addition, many tribes and bands were politically aligned with the more powerful chiefs. The chiefs at the upper Rogue were very powerful and in 1855-1856 worked to command many tribes and bands in what became the Rogue River war. Thereafter, in history the tribes in this area are called the Rogue River Tribes, when in reality this was a confederation of tribes and bands from the Takelma, Athapaskan and Shasta tribes that banded together to defend their tribes and territory. During the conflict at Port Orford in 1851, tribes from the Rogue River came down to support their brethren the Sixes tribe at Port Orford to oust the interlopers at Battle Rock (Kirkpatrick, et al. 1978).

larger tribes in the region

After 14 days, the Sixes chiefs, thinking that the party had lied about leaving on Tichenor’s ship, began the attack again. The party fended off another attack and began fortifying their camp further with tree logs cut from the trees growing on the rock. Due to this ruse, the last of the party was able to escape the rock in the dead of night to travel north in an attempt to reach American civilization.  (Kirkpatrick, et al. 1978).[2]


History after the battle: Escape to the North

The lookouts from the Natives confederation encamped to the south, saw the reinforcement of the position and were satisfied that the party was staying, and went to join their people. The ruse worked and the last of the party decided to leave the rock in haste, thinking they would not survive another attack, were running low on ammunition and without the return of Tichenor, there were no reinforcements. They left the rock in the dead of night and hastily went northward on trails. They immediately encountered a party of natives traveling south on the coast trail. These natives were presumed to be reinforcements to the large party of tribes on the beach at Port Orford, and from their direction of travel may have been Coquille or Flores Creek peoples.

Encounter at the Coquille River

The party of the remaining four men needed to cross the Coquille River the next day. When they arrived on the south bank of the estuary of the Coquille, the Coquille Tribe on the north side saw them and made gestures suggesting that the party was not welcome to cross and that they would be killed. They eventually lured a child in a canoe to the south bank and crossed to what they did not realize was an island in the middle. Trapped on the island, they made a raft and traveled north, disembarking above the Coquille village.

Tichenor arrives back at Battle Rock

Tichenor arrived one day after the party left, about the time that the party is trying to cross the Coquille, and saw that there had been a battle. He left to find more men to return and fortify his claim. He recruited some 70 men in San Francisco and returned to build a fortified fort to fend off the Natives. He also convinced the US Army to send a detachment of men to Port Orford to secure the area for his settlement (Kirkpatrick, et al. 1978).

Arrival of the Survivors to Civilization

The nine survivors walked north for 8 days and arrived at the most southern settlements, at Gardiner in the Umpqua valley in safety. Four if these men, including Kirkpatrick arrived in Portland Wednesday July 8th according to the Oregonian editor. Kirkpatrick was interviewed and described their journey.

Capt. K. states that his party occupied their position at Port Orford for several days, and had several fights with the Indians, but lacking sufficient ammunition to defend themselves longer had retired to increase their number for another attack. The party has several skirmishes on the way, and four of them were slightly wounded. They made their journey in eight days, four of which they were out of provisions.[3]

They were greeted with “loud and hearty cheers” from the crowd down by the docks. The whole colony of Americans in Oregon knew of the Tichenor expedition to open up a port on the southern coast to make the gold fields more accessible. The American settlers and businessmen looked on this enterprise with interest and followed its events through the newspapers. Tichenor interviewed regularly with the papers, keeping everyone updated and advertising that he was opening a settlement in the coast and that it would be lucrative once open.

Alternative Battle Rock Account

In 1851, After the severe fighting at Battle Rock near Port Orford between the garrison which consisted of the nine white men which were brought by Captain Tichenor from Portland in the Steamer “Sea Gull” and landed June 9th 1851 and the Indians, and which fighting commenced just as soon as the “Sea-Gull” had left – an interval of fifteen days, – and was well out at sea, the Indians began again, and the White men being short of ammunition had to take to the woods, and after scrambling through the brush, and men getting down getting on the coast, then back to the brush again; and again making their way to the Coast, they finally reached the mouth of the Coquille, and camped on the place now occupied by the town of Bandon, on or about July the first 1851. Those white men, and they were undoubtedly the first white men, that ever walked on the Bandon beach… were W.H. Kirkpatrick, J.H. Eagan, Joseph Hussey, Cyrus Hedden, McCune, Rideout, R.E Summers, best known as Jake Summers- Slater and P.D. Palmer. At this time there were about two hundred Indians living on the Bandon town site. Their dwellings in an irregular and straggling course, reached from Wash Creek at the bottom of Prospect hill to Ferry Creek. They expected to find the Indians friendly, but when they saw the kindling fires, and making preparation to fight, they again took to the woods, and proceeded about eight miles up the southern bank of the Coquille, where they halted, and constructed a rude raft upon which they crossed over to the northern side. They kept in the woods for about two days living principally on salmon berries, when they reached beach, where they spent four days and feasted themselves on mussels. When they reached Coos Bay which they thought was the Umpqua, they made their way up the southern side until they sighted Coos River. Here they met some friendly Indians, who in consideration of each man stripping himself of his shirt, and handing it to them, gave them a good meal, and ferried them across. They finally reached the settlements of the Umpqua, and at Gardiner, where they were well received (Bennett 1900).


Port Orford into the Present

Once Tichenor’s second party had established themselves and built a fort, the settlement of Port Orford was established. The United States army established Fort Orford there as well, to help secure the region for Americans.  The town became the principal entry for miners, settlers, ranchers and Indian agents into southwest Oregon.  In this manner the southern Coast was secured for the forces of colonization, illegally taking the region from the Sixes and other Tututni tribes. In 1855 a treaty was negotiated with these peoples, but it was never ratified. The peoples were forced to remove to the Coast Indian Reservation, in 1856 and later, and lived in estuaries on the 100 mile reservation. In about 1877 the tribes were released from the reservation, the treaty never being ratified. When many tried to return home, all of their former villages were taken over by white Americans now in the midst of colonizign the coast and establishing industrial economies in the estuaries and bays. In this manner the tribes were divested of their lands. Some of the descendants of these people are members of the five tribes of western Oregon, or living independently outside of any tribe. It can safely be said that the United States never lived up to their promises to their tribes in the treaties. In the 1950s many of these people were paid for their land through the Indian Claim lawsuit, but too late for the people who underwent so much loss in the illegal takeover of the coast. Even today many people remain uninformed of the great attrocities when occurred on the coast in the name of American expansion.

[1] Kirkpatrick offers the most complete account of the battle and follow up events. His accounts begin in 1851 with newspaper interviews and end with this book on the Heroes of Battle Rock, a book that has seen reprint many times. Scholars suggest that Kirkpatrick dramatized his account as some of the details do not match in various different accounts. Clearly the Heroes book, which was edited after his death, dramatizes the heroic nature of the Tichenor party in order to sell the book to tourists and Oregonians.

[2] The non-native Kirkpatrick account is recounted in newspapers and in small books sold to tourists of the Oregon Coast. The various accounts differ slightly, some accounts have greater detail than others. Most of the non-native accounts, do not include any of the perspectives of the native peoples of this region. Their voices have been silent and unexplored in nearly all published accounts. Because of this only about half of the story has been fully explored. This is the case for most histories of American colonization of Native American territories.


[3] Oregonian July 12,1851 p 2


Timeline of Treaties and Removals in Western Oregon

1850 June, the First treaty in the North West Coast and West Coast, a Treaty of Peace negotiated with General Joseph Lane and the Takelma- Rogue River Tribes lead by Chief Apserkahar (Chief Jo) at Table Rock.

1851 Anson Dart Treaties, Nineteen Treaties unratified

Champoeg Treaties- Willamette Valley Treaty Commission

The Willamette Treaty Commission, Governor John T. Gaines, Alonzo A. Skinner, and Beverly S. Allen, are assigned the duties of negotiating treaties with the tribes of Oregon on October 25, 1850. Anson Dart at this time is assigned the Duties of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, to manage whiskey trade, aid in the assimilation of the tribes, set up tribal jurisdictions, maintain the peace, and undermine Hudson’s Bay Company (a British company) among the tribes.

1) 1851, April 11 to April 16,  Treaty with the Santiam Band of Calapooia,. The first meeting to purchase lands of the tribes in the North West Coast and West Coast, at Champoeg between the Willamette Valley Treaty Commission and the Santiam band of Kalapuyans. They conclude on April 16th. Five days of meetings end with the agreement to the sale of their lands and a small Santiam Reservation between the north and south forks of the Santiam River.  [unratified]

Proposed Santiam Reservation 1851

2) 1851, April 17 to April 19, Treaty with the Twalaty Band of Calapooia. The Willamette Valley Treaty Commission negotiated the sale of the Tualatin lands and a permanent reservation around Wapato Lake. [Unratified]

A portion of the 1851 Gibbs Starling map showing the Twalaty (Tualatin) reservation superimposed over and around Wapato Lake

3) 1851 April 24 to May 2, Treaty with the Yam-Kill, The Yamhill band negotiates the sale of their lands and a permanent reservation in Gopher Valley east of the Cascade Range. This negotiation is extremely long as the Yamhill do not want to leave the graves of their relatives to be destroyed by the whites. They relent with promises of seven houses, that their graves would be bought by the federal government, that they can still leave the reservation to gather camas and wapatoo.  In 1852, they send word that they would also like help with getting agricultural tools and help with farming. [unratified]

Proposal 1851 Yamhill reservation at Gopher Valley, a section of Gibbs-Starling map


4) 1851 April 30 to May 2, Treaty with the Luckamiute. Negotiated the sale of their lands. they refuse to remove beyond the Cascades mountains emphatically. The place they choose for their reservation only had one white man and they agreed he can remain. [unratified]

1851 proposed Luckimiute Reservation, note location of Simpson’s Ferry, Section of Gibbs and Starling Map

5) 1851, May 3 to May 6, Treaty with the Molala. At Champoeg the negotiated sale of the northern Molala territory, and the establishment of a large permanent reservation.[unratified]

Section of the 1851 Gibbs- Starling map showing land bought of the northern Molalla Tribe and  large section set aside for a proposed reservation

6) 1851, May 3 to May 7, Treaty with the Santiam Band of Moolala Indians, At Champoeg the negotiated sale of the Molalla lands and establishment of a permanent reservation. This tribe is distinct from the Northern Molalla, south of them, and northeast of the Santiam Band of Calapooians. [unratified]

A very large section of the 1851 Gibbs-Starling Map showing the section of the Cascades bought from the Santiam Molalla tribe and their proposed Reservation

Tansey Point Treaties- Anson Dart, Superintendent – arrangements by Robert Shortess, sub-Indian agent

Anson Dart takes control of two roles in Indian Affairs after May of 1851. He argues that the Treaty commissioners are not official representatives of the Federal Government so their negotiations may be invalid with regards to the Kalapuyan and Molallan treaties just negotiated. Dart is successful and gets the duties of the treaty negotiations assigned to him as a representative of the Federal government in Oregon. This change alters the way the treaties are negotiated at Tansey Point and at Port Orford. There is not a map created at the negotiations, and Dart hereafter has two budgets to draw from. Robert Shortess made all the arrangements and could speak Chinook Jargon and so could translate. In October 1851 Shortess writes to Dart about how a white settler has claimed the land of a native person, saying the white man should be forced to leave his claim.  Dart fires him in next months mailing.

7) 1851 August 4-August 5, Treaty with the Clatsop, Meeting with the Clatsop at Tansey Point with  Anson Dart and Henry H. Spalding Indian Agent, and Josiah L. Parrish. Robert Shortess arranges for the meetings with the tribes. Establishes a large reservation on the coast at Point Adams and to the south. The treaty is concluded on August 5th. [unratified]

8) 1851 August 6, Treaty with the Naalem Band of Tillamook Indians. The negotiated sale of their lands. [unratified]

9) 1851 August 7, Treaty with the Tillamook Tribe of Indians, the negotiated sale of their lands. [unratified]

10) 1851 August 7, Treaty with the Nuc-que-clah-we-muck Band of Chinook. There was one man remaining of this tribe, Wallooskee. [unratified]

11) 1851 August 8, Treaty with the Waukikum Tribe of Chinook, The negotiated sale of their land north of the Columbia. They maintain the right to live in their residences, fish, and hunt. [unratified]

12) 1851, August 8, Treaty with the Konnaack tribe of Chinook Indians,  Anson Dart negotiated the sale of their lands. This Tribe is also known as the Skilloot tribe and held land on both sides of the Columbia. They maintain the right to live in their residences and hunt.[unratified]

13) 1851, August 9, Treaty with the Lower Chinook Band, Anson Dart negotiate the sale of their lands. They maintain the right to fish, hunt and gather berries, and remain living in their houses. [unratified]

14) 1851, August 9, Treaty with the Kathlamet Tribe of Chinook, negotiate the sale of their lands. They maintain the right to hunt and live in the town called Old Kathlamet town. [unratified]

15) 1851, August 9, Treaty with the Wheelappa and Quillequequa tribes of Chinook Indians. This treaty is a bit more complex, they gain education and a blacksmith, have to retire back to their land cession, and will share their area with the Cheehales tribe. The Quillequequa tribe is added at the end of the treaty. [unratified]

16) 1851, August 9, Treaty with the Klatskania of Chinook Indians. They maintain the right to live in their places of residence and fish and hunt. The Americans appear to have mistakenly added “Chinook Indians” in the title when the tribe was not Chinook Indians but Athapaskan speaking natives. Note that based on the description in the treaty the Clatskanie did have a significant claim to a portion of the southern shoreline of the Columbia River, a fact that has been missed by all previous ethnographers who have drawn tribal maps. [unratified]

Port Orford Treaties- Anson Dart

17) 1851, September 19-September 20, Anson Dart Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Henry H. Spalding Indian Agent and Josiah L. Parrish Sub Indian Agent with the Chiefs and headmen of the You-quee-chae, Qua-tou-wah and To-to-tan (or Rogue River) bands of Indians. The meeting is held at Port Orford. The tribes are allowed to remain in their houses for the remainder of their lives. [unratified]

18) 1851, September 20, Treaty with the Ya-su-chah band of Indians at Port Orford, began and concluded in the same day. They may keep their houses and fishing rights. [unratifed]

Oregon City- Anson Dart

19) 1851, November 5 – November 6, Treaty with the Clackamas, The last treaty of 1851 in Oregon Territory, Meeting with the Clackamas Tribe and Anson Dart, negotiating the sale of their lands. They are allowed to stay in their houses for the remainder of their lives, and fish in their usual manner, unmolested on the Clackamas River. This negotiation was a continuation of several meetings in which the tribe refused to give up certain properties and then finally decided to cede their lands. This is the most populous area and the most valuable area of Oregon at this time.  [unratified]

1851 Treaties Conclusion

The nineteen 1851 Oregon treaties were taken to Washington, D.C. by Anson Dart. Dart never returns to Oregon and remains in the capital for a few years. In 1852, Dart consults extensively with Congressmen about the treaties. Dart supplies an argument for not ratifying them suggesting that the Willamette Valley treaties were illegitimate because the Willamette Valley Commissioners were not appropriately representative of the federal government and that they had allowed for reservations for the tribes in the valley when all of the lands were already claimed by American settlers. It would have then been too costly to buy the land back from the settlers. The treaties are introduced to Congress on August 3, 1852. Dart’s arguments, and complaints by settlers who heard that the reservations that would be established within their area, reach Congress, and the treaties are tabled forever by the Congressmen. Dart is forced to resign as Oregon Indian Superintendent having failed to get any treaties ratified and failed to remove the tribes from the Willamette Valley to East of the Cascade Range.

Joel Palmer’s Western Oregon Treaties 1853-1855, Seven ratified, Two unratified

Joel Palmer is appointed in 1853 as Superintendent and is already a seasoned Oregon Politician. Palmer had already garnered fame for helping establish the Barlow Road and to write a journal of his travels. He later served as a General in the Volunteer Militia, in charge of provisioning.  He maintained the title of General Palmer throughout his life. He took well to the role of Indian Superintendent of Oregon, established all of the reservations in western Oregon and those in middle Oregon, was involved with nine ratified treaties, seven from western Oregon and two from middle Oregon, which he worked on with Isaac Stevens. He also helped successfully end the Rogue River Indian War, as well as removed some 4000 Indians from western Oregon to the Grand Ronde and Coast reservations. He is fired in summer in 1856 because of settler criticism of him being sympathetic to the tribes and having removed them north to the reservations, relatively close to American settlements.

1853, September 8, Treaty of Peace with the Rogue River, a Cease Fire, between the Rogue River Bands of Chief Apserkahar (Chief Jo) and Chief Sam and General Joseph Lane.

Belden Map 1855, section of Table Rock Reservation, NARA

1853, September 10, Treaty with the Rogue River Tribes, negotiated with Joel Palmer, for the sale of their lands and removal to a permanent reservation, with Table Rock Reservation being temporary. Ratified April 12, 1854 (First ratification date for two treaties on the West coast, Rogue River and Cow Creek.)

1853, September 19, Treaty with the Cow Creek Umpqua tribe, Ratified April 12, 1854, A reservation is established within their territory separate from the Umpqua reservation (inland), the Cow Creek Umpqua Reservation. The Cow Creek people are removed to the Umpqua reservation in 1855 (unknown date) likely due to the Rogue River war. (First ratification date for two treaties on the West coast, Rogue River and Cow Creek.) The Cow Creek Umpqua reservation remains largely a mystery as to how long it existed, with rare records and no map yet found.

Graphic of approximate reservation of the Cow Creek band, based on treaty descriptions, drawn by David Lewis

1854, November 15, Treaty with the Rogue River, ratified March 3rd, 1855. This is the fourth treaty from this period for the tribe. This treaty allows other tribes, Chasta Costas to share the Table Rock Reservation and respecify that they agree to move to a permanent reservation later.

1854, November 18,  Treaty with the Chasta, ratified March 3rd, 1855, the Quil-si-eton and Na-hel-ta bands, of the Chasta tribe of Indians, the Cow-nan-ti-co, Sa-cher-i-ton, and Na-al-ye bands of Scotons, and the Grave Creek band of Umpquas. They move onto the Table Rock Reservation. [ratified]

1854, November 29,  Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya, the tribes of the upper Umpqua River (Umpqua) and Yoncalla Kalapuyans sell their lands and remove to the temporary Umpqua reservation (Inland) with an agreement to remove to a permanent reservation later. The treaty is ratified March 3, 1855.

1854, March 25, Treaty with the Tualatin. Joel Palmer negotiates this treaty without instructions to do so by the Indian office. The Tualatin approach Palmer first and they air their grievances against the settlers and their situation. Palmer takes the opportunity to write a treaty but the treaty has little chance of ratification. [unratified]

Willamette Valley Treaty (Kalapuya etc. 1855) [ratified]

1855 January 4, Joel Palmer at Dayton, meeting with the Tualatin, Cheluk-i-ma-uke, Yam Hill, Chep-en-a-pho, Chem-a-pho, Che-lam-e-la bands and signing of the Willamette Valley treaty.

1855, January 9,  Joel Palmer at Dayton, meeting with the Molalla band of Molallas, and of the Calapooia band of Calapooias, and signing of the Willamette Valley treaty.

Section of the Belden Map of 1855, the map shows all of the ceded territories of the tribes of Oregon

1855, January 10, Joel Palmer at Dayton, meeting with the Win-ne-felly, Mohawk, Chapen, and Te-co-pa bands of Calapooias, Wal-lal-lah band of Tum-waters, and the Clockamus tribe of Indians,  and signing of the Willamette Valley Treaty.

1855, January 19,  Joel Palmer at Linn City, meeting with thClow-we-wal-la, or Willamette Tum-water band of Indians, and signing of the Willamette Valley Treaty. 

1855, January 22, Joel Palmer at Dayton, meeting with the Santiam Bands of Calapooias, and signing of the Willamette Valley Treaty. 

1855, January 23, Willamette Valley treaty is sent to Washington, D.C. to prepare for ratification. Palmer makes notes afterward that he leaves the treaty open for more tribes from the middle Columbia to join, those from west of Sauvie Island to Oak Point. The treaty also does not settle the Multnomah and Cascades claims on the north side of the Columbia

1855, March 3, ratification of the Willamette Valley treaty by Congress.

1855 March 4, removals begin of the tribes of the Willamette and Columbia to temporary reservations (See temporary reservation essays)

Estimated boundaries of the Spores DLC and location of the Chafin village and Temporary Reservation

Coast Treaty [unratified]

1855, August 11, First Meeting for the Coast Treaty, signed by the Nachesne ( Nechesne, Salmon River), Siletz band of Tillamooks, Alsea band of Tillamooks, Yaquona (Yaquina) band of Tillamooks, negotiated with Joel Palmer and W.W. Raymond.

1855 August 17, meeting with the Umpqua, Siuslaw and Coos Bay Indians, negotiated with E.P. Drew, R. Metcalf

1855 August 23, Meeting with the Na-so-mah or Coquille bands of Indians, negotiated with E.P. Drew

1855 August 30, Meeting with the Tututni and Chetco Bands of Indians, negotiated with E.P. Drew

1855 September 8, Meeting with other bands of the Coquille Indians, negotiated with J. Flett

[Geary notes in his letter of October 3, 1855 that the Upper Tillamooks [Nestucca, and Tillamook proper) and Clatsops had not been party to the treaty, and Geary also notes in 1857, inaccurately, that the treaty begins at the mid-point of the Columbia River]

Coast Treaty Conclusion

The Coast Treaty is never ratified. The treaty areas stretched from the California border to the Nestucca territory. The tribes faithfully honored their words and remove to reservations at Port Orford, Empire, Umpqua, and the Coast Reservation. Most of the southern Coastal tribes remain until 1877 at the coastal estuaries in sub-agencies managed by either Grand Ronde Agency, Siletz Agency, Alsea agency, or Umpqua Agency. After some 17 years of waiting for the Coast Treaty to be signed the tribes are released to return to their lands, only to find their former towns and houses taken over by Americans. Some natives choose to remain at Siletz or Grand Ronde reservations, others leave and integrate, in part, with the American communities. The tribes who lost land without payment sued the federal government in the 20th century and some win their Indian Claims cases and receive payments.

1855, December 21, Treaty with the Molalla. These are the southern Molalla of the Umpqua Valley, this is the last treaty Palmer negotiated which is successful. The Molallans agree to the provisions in the Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya (1854) as well.  There is an addendum to this treaty in which the Umpqua and Kalapuyans sign and agree to the new provisions in the Molalla Treaty, which states for the first time that they will be removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. The Molallans are then removed to the temporary Umpqua Reservation for less than one month. This treaty is not ratified until March 8, 1859. 

Removal Period

1853, September 19, Creation of the Cow Creek Umpqua Reservation which was likely occupied soon after their treaty was negotiated. This was common for tribes to remove to their designated reservation ahead of the final ratification. Ratified April 12, 1854, which then made funding available.

1855, October and November, Indian Agent Mcgruder working to remove tribes to the Umpqua Reservation (inland). (letter of November 7, 1855)

1855 November- Coos and other coastal tribes removed to two temporary reservations, Coos at Empire reservation, and others at Port Orford (inferred from a letter of E.P. Drew November 10, 1858)

1855 Coast Indian Reservation

1855, November 9, Creation of the Coast Indian Reservation by Presidential Executive Order of Franklin Pierce. 100 miles of the Oregon coast from Tillamook area to just south of Florence, 1.1 million acres.

1855-1856, winter, John Flett has a small encampment of Klickitats at his DLC, Chief Mckay had refused to go to the encampments at Fort Vancouver or Milton and had been living on Sauvie Island with six men and their women. (Oregon Indians are Removed, Tacoma Ledger Sept 11, 1892)

1856, January 8, Palmer requests the Chiefs of the tribes at temporary encampments at Molalla, Spores, Santiam, Corvallis & Tualatin to meet him at his house in Dayton and they will go with him to Grand Ronde valley to inspect the valley so they would agree to removal. Wapatoes will come in the Spring. (Palmer to Flett, 1/8/1855 Bieneke MSS 370)

1856, January 10th –First Trail of Tears-Tribes at the Umpqua reservation (inland) begin walking north to Grand Ronde Reservation. (Report of R.B. Metcalf,  31st March 1856)

1856, February 2, Tribes from the Umpqua reservation (Inland) arrive at the Grand Ronde reservation. (Report of R.B. Metcalf,  31st March 1856)

1856, N.D., Flett is ordered to the encampments at Luckiamuke, Spores, Abiqua to tell natives to remove to Grand Ronde or not get supplies (Palmer to Flett N.D 1856 Bieneke MSS 370)

1856 <Shortly after> February 2, Flett moves the Klickitats at his encampment to Grand Ronde. (Oregon Indians are Removed, Tacoma Ledger Sept 11, 1892)

Path of Rogue River Trail of Tears

1856, February 22 –Second Trail of Tears– Tribes at Table Rock Reservation under Chief Sam begin removal to Grand Ronde. (Letter of 1856 (no month or day) George Ambrose, to Joel Palmer, M2, reel 14)

1856, March 25th, Tribes from Table Rock Reservation arrive in Grand Ronde Reservation, (Letter of 1856 (no month or day) George Ambrose, to Joel Palmer, M2, reel 14)

1856 April 13, Joel Palmer ordered the Coos Bay Indians to go to the Umpqua River (coastal) (Palmer letter of April 13, 1856),1856, May 27- 28- battle of Big Bend, fighting for 3-4 days and surrender of 255 Indians.  (Palmer letter of 7 3 1856)

1856, May 24,  Palmer plans to meet some 600 friendly Indians to arrive at Dayton the next day, from Port Orford, refugees of the Rogue River War. They are en route to the Coast Reservation to be located at the Siletz River.  (letter of June 23, 1856, M234)

1856, June 13, begin marching to Port Orford from the Illinois River with 708 Indians for removal. (Palmer letter of 7 3 1856)

1856 June 21-  710 Indians sent by steamer to Grand Ronde (Schwartz, Palmer letter of 7 3 1856)

1856 July 2. Tecumtum surrenders at Fort Orford, marks the end of the Rogue River War (Schwartz marks the end with the removal of the tribes from the region, but this removal went on for another decade) (Schwartz).

1856 July 9, – Coastal Trail of Tears– march of Tecumtum followers, Chetco and Pistol Rivers up the coast to Coast reservation. They arrive about August 9th. (Palmer letter of 7 3 1856)

1856 September 24, Sub-agent Drew reported,  fifty-two (52) Coquille Indians arrived onto the Umpqua Reserve (coastal). (letter of 9/24/1856)

1857, June 30, Creation of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation by Executive Order of James Buchanan. It is located in the Grand Ronde valley, a western offshoot of the Willamette Valley at the edges of the Coast Range, and surrounding mountains and hills, two quadrangles of 60,000 acres.

1856-1860, continuous removals of small bands to the Coast Reservation by either U.S. Army troops or contracted Indian catchers.

1863, June- Closure of the Umpqua Reservation (coastal) and removal of the tribes from the Reservation to estuaries on the Coast Reservation. The Coos go to Yachats.

Coast Indian reservation reductions

1865, December 21- the reduction of the Coast Reservation by opening out the Yaquina strip for settlement. This action happened because of Americans called for more land to be available for settlement and for access to Yaquina Bay Oysters. This opening divides the reservation into two parts, the northern area managed by the Siletz Agency, the southerm=n area managed by the Alsea Agency. (Executive Order of December 21, 1865)

1875, March 3 – The reduction of the Coast Reservation by the termination of the Alsea reservation and the territory above the Salmon River. The Reservation is reduced to the area of “Lincoln County” from the Coast to the Siletz Valley. The reservation is also renamed “Siletz Reservation.” (Act of March 3, 1875)

1877, December, Alseas and other tribes at the former Alsea reservation remove to the Salmon River Encampment. They are promised housing and food yet get neither. Coos peoples from Yachats are released to return home but all their lands are taken. They live with the Siuslaw for a few years until they are able to move back to Coos Bay.


There is much more to be included. The result as we can see is the sale or taking of the tribal lands and their disenfranchisement from their resources. The final phase of this was the termination of the tribes in 1954-1956.

Most references Intext

Federal Policy Embedded in Oregon Tribal Territory Maps

Maps of Oregon tribal regions have existed since 1805. Lewis and Clark published the first maps in 1810 and their hand-drawn maps date to 1805-1806. Their drawings show the Chinookan peoples to have many villages, mant settlements, and great diversity on the Columbia. Their journals emphasize the numbers of Chinookans from various tribes were found in villages far from their homes. Today, we now understand that what the expedition was documenting was the Columbia River Trade network, where thousands of villages and hundreds of tribes would send their traders to visit neighbors close and far to trade for unique wealth items and for other staples of their lifeways.  But the Lewis and Clark maps do not  note tribal nations, there appear to be no tribal borders on their maps, which is perhaps indicative of the brief time of their stay in the region, their unfamiliarity with the tribes, their lack of ability to communicate such things, and their orders from President Thomas Jefferson, to find a passage to the Pacific and to document the peoples and resources along their way.  It has been suggested by me, that the expedition was spying upon the tribes of the Columbia, collecting intelligence to help politicians in the United States make decisions about colonizing the Northwest Coast.  Their journey of intelligence gathering was hardly an innocuous “Corps of Discovery” as it has been framed by many historians.

“Portland Area” tribal villages on the Columbia River 1805-1806 , Lewis and Clark maps, Bieneke Digital collections
Map From a Skilloot Chief , from Capt. Clark 1806. The only map of its type from the Columbia, from a native perspective.

Similarly, United States Exploring Expedition, or the “Wilkes Expedition,” of 1841 came into the Columbia River and travelled the Oregon coast, surveying the coastline and documenting the river depth, and tribes, and natural resources which they encountered on their trip. The expedition  had numerous scientists, the Philologist and Ethnographer being Horatio Hale.  Hale collected vocabularies of tribal langauges from the Pacific, Oregon, and California, and descriptions of the tribes, in their characters and cultures.  Hale’s descriptions can only be termed as “highly biased” as he tended to run down the character of the tribes in “racialized” language. Hale does publish his own Philology volume from the Expedition (12?) and likely had input into the maps created by Wilkes and his cartographers, two of which have references to tribal territories. The 1845 Wilkes expeditionary maps have some tribal names in their locations and a few divisions, likely based on very little understandings by Hale of the diversity of tribes, from his very short-term experience in the region, and perhaps little or no direct communication with native peoples of the tribes they place on the maps. Much of their information may have actually come from Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders, at Fort Vancouver,  who had extensive interaction with the tribes, but may not have known exact territories and boundaries.

Wilkes expedition map 1845
Wilkes map as it appears in the Philology volume by Hale, 1846, notes some attention to culture areas within each tribe

The next two government produced maps are the Gibbs-Starling  and Belden maps of 1851  and 1855. These maps are based on tribal territories identified during the treaty making talks between the tribes and the federal Indian agents.  The 1851 Gibbs-Starling map was produced during the meetings which took place over 2 weeks in May 1851, at Champeg, Oregon, between the Willamette Valley tribes and the Willamette Valley Treaty Commission. The notes and transcript from the commission suggest that the tribes were able to stand over the map and point out their territories during the proceedings. George Gibbs and Edmund A. Starling were at the proceedings and were able to directly record their claims. Interesting enough, the Indian Superintendent of Oregon, Anson Dart, took over the treaty-making responsibilities after this time, and for his later meetings at Tansey Point, Port Orford, and Oregon city, there were not maps made of tribal land claims. These 1851 treaties, however, did  record their claims, a description of their lands, in narrative language. These 1851 treaties were never ratified by the U.S. Congress.  Very few ethnographers appear to have used these treaties when conducting research on the tribes, even though there is significant information in them about the tribes, where they lived and even native placenames. There do not appear to be any published maps created from the areas covered by the treaties besides those recorded on the Gibbs-Starling map. It may be because the treaties were originally lost in the NARA archives in Washington, D.C. for some 50 years. and many ethnographers either did not know about them or did not think them important enough to access for their studies. As well since they were never ratified, they have lesser value compared to the ratifed treaties that came later, in 1853 to 1855. However, the 1851 treaties do give us a snapshot into the tribal lands of 1851.

Gibbs-Starling Map 1851
Section of Gibbs-Starling map of 1851 showing location of the Kalapuya tribes of Chehalem, Chempoeg, Chemaway and Chemekitty.
Lewis 2019, map of treaty defined areas from Treaties of Tansey point, 1851, Tualaty is inserted for comparison, areas from north to south are Shoalwater bay, Wheelappa, Upper Chinook, Clatsop, Clatsop reservation, Naahelm Tillamook, Tillamook (Proper); south bank of Columbia- Nuc-que-clah-we-nuck, Kathlamet, Koonaak(south) (Skilloot), Klatskanie; North bank- Waukikum, Koonaak(north)

Similarly, the 1855 Belden Map is drawn to record all of the landclaims or ceded lands of all Oregon tribes up until 1855. The boundaries are again, drawn so that there is no overlap and no unclaimed territory.

Sketch map of Oregon, Belden Map 1855, NARA
Cascades area of Columbia, portion of the Sketch map 1855, NARA

It initially stuck me as strange that the Molalla tribes are noted to claim the whole of the Cascades Range in Oregon, while ethnographically, they actually lived within and had villages in the western foothills on the eastern side of the Willamette Valley. As well, tribes like the Wascos, Klamaths, Paiutes, Kalapuyans and Molallans all utilized the Cascades for the same purposes, picking berries, using trade trails, and hunting elk. So how can the Molallans be assigned, on nealry all tribal territorial maps, the whole of the Cascades as their traditional home when so many other tribes utilized the same range and no tribes appeared to live there? There may very well be an answer in the mission of the federal Indian agents, to purchase all of the Tribally-held lands for the United States. Within this mission there was no room for unclaimed lands or lands commonly used by several tribes. These federal agents likely did not perceive of such a thing, they would percieve of the tribes as sovereign nations (as is appropriate), and had to treaty them as such for treaty-making, and as any sovereign nation they could not have overlapping claims to the same lands. The model for American landclaims was very European, imbedded in a western civilization model, where shared lands or overlapping claims did not occur, and so it was not concievable from the “Euro-American” perspective that Tribal nations would have such a thing. If this reasoning holds, then some tribes may have been assigned larger and more expansive landclaims, into commonly used areas like the Cascades, so that the United States could buy all tribal claims, and own all the land, without any unpurchased lands. This constitutes a political and legal claim as established by the United States, and tribes today are bound to these legally defined claims because of their ratified treaties which guarantee some level of responsibility of the federal government to the tribes, and establishes (creates) a landbase for tribal rights. Even so, tribes could choose to adopt a more traditional model in their working relationships with one another, one which recognizes that some lands were commonly held shared areas for specific types of activities, otherwise they will continue operating under a vision of land ownership and landclaims completely defined by the United States.

Three examples of the assignment of the whole of the Oregon Cascades to the Molalla peoples in linguistic and ethnographic maps

Ethnographically drawn maps begin with the Wilkes maps of 1845 and continue with those from George Gibbs in 1877, and a great many more such maps created in the 20th century. Most maps follow that of Wilkes, or adopt the base descriptions of ethnographers from periods 1841-1900. Even linguists’ maps tend to follow suit and base their tribal cultural  boundaries on the original federal maps. Few maps try to designate the political boundaries of tribes based on ethnographic descriptions, and none access Native peoples’ perspectives about their own lands. It does seem interesting that on the Gibbs-Starling map, there are no spaces between tribal landclaims, and there is no overlap in their claims, because, when we compare the map to ethnographic evidence of what areas the tribes living in, travelled to, or utilized for hunting, gathering, fishing or even trading, we find that there is significant evidence that the tribes had overlapping landclaims.

Gibbs map of Chinookan territories 1877
Section of Powell’s Linguistic map 1890

Today, tribal territories are significant issues in conflicts over tribal casino siting, tribal fishing rights, and tribal land management rights. Tribes are working on or have established maps of their ceded lands, based on lands ceded to the U.S. by treaties. These maps also incorporate Usual and Accustomed places (U & A) which are cultural use areas documented in tribal narratives. These maps as almost completely tribally produced, but again much of their ceded lands boundaries are heavily informed by the federal treaty making goal to buy all the land. The larger contemporary U & A landclaims are analogous to the original traditional ethnographic claims of the tribes. These U & A maps do not always show it, but when comparing them to the footprints of maps of neighboring tribes, there is significant overlap in the landclaims.

Warm Springs Ceded Lands 2016,
Grand Ronde Ceded lands, file:///C:/Users/dglco/Downloads/thpo-land-culture-dept-confederated-tribes-grand-ronde.pdf

The overlapping claims are now a significant place of contention between tribes, when there are cultural resources management needs. In Oregon, resources like Willamette Falls has significant salmon and lamprey runs. There are now at least five tribes with claims to Willamette Falls, Grand Ronde, Siletz, Warm Springs, Cowlitz and Yakima. Grand Ronde has the most significant claim, because the original Clackamas people who lived at the falls for as long as 10,000 years, and who signed the Willamette Valley Treaty, removed to Grand Ronde. Siletz claims this same treaty and has individuals in the tribe who relate to the Clackamas through intermarriage and resettlement. Similarly, Warm Springs, Yakima, and Cowlitz have various levels of claims to the falls through U & A claims, mainly from stories of their peoples using the falls for trade or fishing. There is also a significant history of Warm Springs peoples coming to the falls in the last 50+ years just before or after their traditional fishing areas on the Columbia and at Celilo were inundated by dams. There is as well a history of intermarriage in the region that predates treaties and reservations, which makes all of the tribal peoples in the region one larger tribe of interrelated families, some of whom may have had familial rights to fish at the falls previous to treaties and removal.

It seems reasonable to expect that the tribes need to understand their collective history better, to collectively agree to relieve themselves of the colonial layers of land claims and boundaries, and find a way to work together for mutual benefits. Understandings of why federal authorities created maps, for that purpose, really need to be looked at to understand better their influence over descendant maps concerning the tribes. Efforts need to be made to take corrective action concerning tribal ethnographic territories and cultures so that information known about the tribes, their resources, lifeways, and traditional homelands,  is as close to the traditional culture as possible.



Beginnings of the Umpqua District, Agency, and Reservation

The Umpqua Reservation was located on the central Oregon Coast and was established as a reservation in May of 1856. Previously, there had been another Umpqua Reservation located in the Umpqua Valley, created to hold the Upper Umpqua, Yoncalla Kalapuya and southern Molalla peoples  of the valley, who had begun signing treaties selling their lands to the United States in 1854. In late January 1856, the Umpqua Reservation was the first temporary reservation vacated, and the tribes removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation by late February. A few bands of tribes yet remained in the Umpqua Valley, and they were also brought to Grand Ronde in subsequent months.

In the region and down the Umpqua River were additional tribes, those at Scottsburg, and those on the Lower Umpqua who had not been party to the 1854 treaties which were ratified. These tribes, along with their neighbors, the Siuslaw, Coos Bay, and Alseas were party to a different Treaty, the Coast Indian Treaty of 1855. The Coast Treaty was negotiated by Joel Palmer during the summer months of 1855, beginning with the Chetco Tribe at the south and ending at the Umpqua River at the northern where Palmer had several meetings with the coastal peoples who all agreed to sell their lands in exchange for a permanent reservation. The treaty included all coastal tribes from the California-Oregon border to the Nechesne (Salmon River). (It has been assumed by most scholars that the treaty was with the whole Oregon Coast but this is not the case at all.) In preparation for the Congressional ratification of the treaty the tribes from the coast to convinced to remove to the north, to the already approved Coast Indian Reservation (1855).

A good many tribes were delayed in their removal because of the Rogue River Indian war. This war erupting in the summer of 1855 carried on into the summer of 1856 and much of the attention of the Indian Office and the Military were focused on ending the war. Removals from the already organized temporary reservations commenced in January 1856 with the (interior) Umpqua Reservation, then in February 1856 the Table Rock Reservation was vacated. At the same time, Palmer worked to remove the tribes from the small temporary reservations in the Willamette Valley and on the Columbia River; such that by May 1856 the majority of tribal people in Western Oregon were resettled on the Grand Ronde Reservation, and along the central Oregon Coast between the Nechesne and the Siletz river, about 4000 people from some 27 to 45 tribes.

The Southern Coastal peoples then began being removed to the north toward the Coast Indian Reservation. This project proceeded slowly because there was not yet enough funds allocated for removal or civilization of the tribes due to their Coast Treaty not yet being ratified. In order to aid the removal, Joel Palmer started with the relatively easy task of removal of the Coos Bay, Scottsburg, and Lower Umpqua to the Umpqua River, in close proximity to the Umpqua District agency Office. This District was created in 1854, by Palmer, and manned by E.P. Drew as a sub-Indian Agent in charge of the tribes from Port Orford to the Siuslaw River. According to the Agent Drew’s letters, his Umpqua District was turned into another Reservation in May of 1856 to accommodate all of the tribes from his district.

May of 1856 was on the cusp of the last battles of the Rogue River Indian War. In this period, Joel Palmer, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon, was working closely with the U.S. Army to end the war and get the Rogue River Confederacy tribes to surrender and come peacefully onto the Coast Reservation. Palmer actually took several trips to the Rogue River and began a process of parlaying with the confederacy and was able to gain the agreement of several bands in the Confederacy to surrender at Port Orford, and be removed to the reservation under U.S. Army protection. These assurances were necessary because for the extreme racist actions of the Volunteer Militia toward the tribes. They were known to take revenge on tribes for any slight, and had made numerous attempts to exterminate the Southwestern Oregon tribes forever.

One of the strategies pursued by the Indian Superintendents of both Oregon and California was the forced removal and even imprisonment of tribes that bordered on the Rogue River conflict area. The Tolowa Deeni peoples (from Smith River to Crescent City CA), some 150-300 of them were imprisoned at Battery Point in Crescent City until the succession of the war. The Coos Bay peoples were sequestered at first at a temporary reservation at Empire. The Coquelle Peoples were removed to Port Orford, and the Indian Agents from these districts kept close watch on all the tribes to make sure they were not influenced by the leaders of the Rogue River Confederacy to join the Confederacy, which would have made extreme problems for the American settlers, and the U.S. Army tasked with keeping the peace and ending the war.

The removal of the tribes from Coos Bay in May 1856, to the Umpqua District, was likely part of this same strategy, to keep the Coos Bay people from joining the Confederacy. Nearly at the same time, the Coquelle people were removed from Port Orford to the Coast Reservation to be resettled on the Alsea River, which was even further away from the battlefields than other tribes were removed. The Coquelles were deemed a bigger threat as they had actually attempted to join into several battles, like the Battlerock event (1851),  and had committed several acts against Indian Agents and their employees from 1851 to 1855, in part causing the establishment of the U.S. Army detachment at Fort Orford. For their actions, the Coquelles were punished several times by the U.S. Army, and were a tribe to be closely watched. This tactic of removal and sequesting of tribes in the vicinity, to create a relatively deserted area of potential support, was largely successful, because if Chief John. the leader of the Confederacy, had been able to gain fresh troops from other tribes, many just as angry and disgusted with the Americans as he, the war would have dragged on for quite a while.

Section of 1909 map of the Oregon and Western Colonization Company, showing Old Fort Umpqua.

The following series of letters, from Microfilm set 234, rolls 609 to 611 give a fairly good history of the early Umpqua Reservation from the time when it was created as an Indian district to becoming a full-fledged temporary reservation with upwards of 700 tribal peoples as semi-permanent residents. The Umpqua Reservation was not created by any executive order, or by treaty, but served as a barrier to tribal people wishing to escape the Coast Reservation  and moving south on the Coast, and a receiving station for tribes being removed north to the Coast Reservation. In about the same location as the Umpqua Agency Office, was Fort Umpqua (the first U.S. Military fort named thus) with a detachement of U.S. Army troops. In scholarship it has been stated that the Fort was in charge of the reservation, but this is not the case as numerous requests for help by the Umpqua Agents were nearly always met with denial from the Army headquarters at Fort Vancouver, as the command was always concerned that their men were too thinly placed on the coast and could not afford to send troops to remove Indians, unless there was direct threat to an American citizen.

[E.P. Drew] On November A.D. 1854 I was assigned to duty on this Umpqua District bounded as follows- The Coast from the mouth of the Coquille River north ward so far as to include the Siuslaw Band of Indians, thence eastward to the summit of the Coast Range of Mountains, thence southward so as to include all the bands of Indians below Umpqua Valley proper thence to the head waters of the Coquille river thence to the Coast, the place of beginning so as to include all the Bands of Indians residing along the waters of the Coquille. In the month of September following I was officially informed that hereafter the Coquelle Indians would be attached to the Port Orford District and placed under charge of Spec. Agt. Wright that this (Umpqua) District would be extended northward- how far I have not been informed. (RG75 M234 R 610 July 14, 1857 Drew to Nesmith)

By April 13, 1856, Joel Palmer was ordering the Coos Bay Indians to go to the “Umpqua River,” or “Umpqua.” The Coos Bay Indians arrived at the newly established Umpqua Reserve at the Umpqua estuary in late May 1856, a total of 285 people, and it was reported that 56 people still remained in Coos Bay (letter of June 14, 1856).

E.P. Drew- May 12, 1856: We the chiefs and head of families of the Kol-la-wot-sett tribe of Indians now encamped near the Umpqua sub-agency acknowledge the receipt of Four hundred and  twenty-nine dollars from Sub Indian Agent E. P. Drew in the sums and articles appended to our names in part payment of annuities according to provisions of the treaty of August A.D. 1855- with the Confederated Bands of Coast Indians in Oregon.

Partial recreation of original table of the report of this date.

[E.P. Drew, July 14, 1857] The Indians immediately under my charge at present are all of the Kal-la-wot-sett Tribe, divided into several Bands (vis) The Siuslaw and Alsea Bands located on the Siuslaw River numbering about two hundred and forty (240).  The Scottburg, Lower Umpquas, and Kows Bay Bands [Coos bay] located on the Umpqua river near this Agency numbering about four hundred and fifty, making an aggregate of six hundred and ninety (690).

They are at present and have been so far as my knowledge always friendly towards the whites many of them manifest a disposition and drive to cultivate the soil. Those located on the Siuslaw River have several rows of potatoes and some have vegetables now under cultivation. With slight encouragement from the Federal Government I assume that they would all apply themselves quite readily in agricultural pursuits. Yet they would rely for subsistence to great extent upon fish and abundant supply of which is easily obtained from the waters of the Siuslaw, Umpqua and Smith’s Rivers.

As buildings have yet been erected for them- many now reside in low cabins which they have constructed of lumber furnished them in part by the Department. It will be absolutely necessary to erect a few houses for them before the rainy season, and a small supply of clothing and blankets would be very desirable. (RG75 M234 R 610 July 14, 1857 Drew to Nesmith)

[E.P. Drew November 10, 1858] In the encampment at this point we have about five hundred Indians Constantly residing, where fifty or sixty only were accustomed to reside, and these during the winter months alone. Two hundred more located at the Siuslaw River – making a aggregate of seven hundred now under the immediate supervision of this office; comprising all of the Kal-la-wat-set Tribe of Coast Indians (lower Umpqua). Since the negotiation of the treaty in 1855, there has been an increase of about two hundred in this tribe, arising in part from Indians of the other bands, south, voluntarily joining this band, and in part from actual purchase. [RG 75 M234 R611]


[Full text of 1857 Letter, The original from microfilm is quite tough to read. The letter was found in the Montana Memory project digital collections.]

July 1, 1857, Office Umpqua Sub Ind. Agency

On November A.D. 1854 I was assigned to duty on this Umpqua District bounded as follows- The Coast from the mouth of the Coquille River north ward so far as to include the Siuslaw Band of Indians, thence eastward to the summit of the Coast Range of Mountains, thence southward so as to include all the bands of Indians below Umpqua Valley proper thence to the head waters of the Coquille river thence to the Coast, the place of beginning so as to include all the Bands of Indians residing along the waters of the Coquille.

In the month of September following I was officially informed that hereafter the Coquelle Indians would be attached to the Port Orford District and placed under charge of Spec. Agt. Wright that this (Umpqua) District would be extended northward- how far I have not been informed.

The Indians immediately under my charge at present are all of the Kal-la-wot-sett Tribe, divided into several Bands (vis) The Siuslaw and Alsea Bands located on the Siuslaw River numbering about two hundred and forty (240).  The Scottburg, Lower Umpquas, and Kows Bay Bands [Coos bay] located on the Umpqua river near this Agency numbering about four hundred and fifty, making an aggregate of six hundred and ninety (690).

They are at present and have been so far as my knowledge always friendly towards the whites many of them manifest a disposition and drive to cultivate the soil. Those located on the Siuslaw River have several rows of potatoes and some have vegetables now under cultivation. With slight encouragement from the Federal Government I assume that they would all apply themselves quite readily in agricultural pursuits. Yet they would rely for subsistence to great extent upon fish and abundant supply of which is easily obtained from the waters of the Siuslaw, Umpqua and Smith's Rivers.

As buildings have yet been erected for them- many now reside in low cabins which they have constructed of lumber furnished them in part by the Department. It will be absolutely necessary to erect a few houses for them before the rainy season, and a small supply of clothing and blankets would be very desirable.

For a few months a school was in operation, but from the uncertainty of receiving funds applicable to that purpose  (it having been established without special order) it was deemed expedient to suspend the same for the present. During the few months it was operating there was a constant average attendance of from forty-five to fifty scholars, they all seemed anxious to improve and did so much more rapidly than could have been anticipated under the circumstances. Should the school again be established much good would result from it.

No treaty having yet been ratified with this tribe (to my knowledge) I would most respectfully suggest that immediate steps be taken (if possible) to locate them permanently and I know of no country so well adapted to their wants and desires as the Country south of Cape Perpetua, extending southward so far as to include the extensive fisheries on the Siuslaw, Umpqua and Smiths Rivers. The country between Umpqua and Siuslaw is generally level and lightly timbered and would offer sufficient agricultural lands- while the lakes of which there are several abound in fish and wild fowl in the fall and winter months, while the surrounding mountains furnish an abundance of their, deer, elk  and other small game.

Should the Southern boundary of this reserve as originally designed be brought south some eight (8) miles making Umpqua and Smiths Rivers the southern boundary the object desired is obtained and sufficient country is embraced for these Indians who have ever been friendly towards the Whites (south of Cape Perpetua.) separated by said cape from those Indians who have from time to time become hostile.

After they shall have been thus located and the General Giovernment have rendered them proper assistance toward engaging in agricultural pursuits etc, they will be enabled to a great extent to provide for themselves. Until this shall be accomplished they must have aid from the General Government - or be permitted to return to their former homes and pursue their original mode of life- hunting the forest for game, and following the rivers to their source in the summer months for fish, and returning to the Coast again during the winter.

Appended to this you will please find an estimate of funds necessary for the present year, as required by your order.

I am Sir, very respectfully your Obt. Servt

E.P. Drew, sub. Ind. Agt.

To Gen. J. W. Nesmith

Supt. Ind. Affrs.



(RG75 M234 R 610 July 14, 1857 Drew to Nesmith)

David Douglas and Sir Edward Sabine: A Discovery

In recent research, (May 2018- ) I found an interesting relationship between David Douglas and Edward Sabine. They shared many similarities, both were explorers, both were interested in botany, and both were members of the Linnaean Society of Great Britain.

Macnee’s 1829 portrait of David Douglas. Linnean Society, London

Sabine was a UK naval officer and specialized in developing magnetic dip measurements and equipment. In his travels around the world, he perfected magnetic dip measurements and taught many other explorers how to take such measurements. So throughout the 19th century, the initiated would take measurements and send their results to Sabine who would gather them all up and publish them in a series of journals. They were very scientific and would use several different magnetic needles to get different reading and by doing this they can eliminate as much as possible errors in their readings, as each needle would give slightly different readings.

Sir Edward Sabine

An archive of Sabine manuscripts is on the Adam Matthews Digital site, and this collection led me to discover how Sabine helped David Douglas to collect magnetic dip readings.

David Douglas shared lodgings with Sabine during his stay in London, and in 1828 began assisting him in his geomagnetic measurements. When the naturalist secured approval for a second collecting trip to the Northwest, he reached out to Sabine for some practical advice. “While preparing for his departure in the summer of 1829, I heard [Douglas] frequently express his regret that his limited education prevented his being able to render those services to the geographical and physical sciences,” Sabine later wrote. “He spoke with particular regret of his inability to fix geographical positions.” (

Fisher Collection Dip Circle NAV0699

Sabine also appears to have served as a mentor and advisor to Douglas and helped Douglas publish articles about the plants he discovered in the Linnaean Society journals, Curtis’ Botanical Magazine. These magazines were common in this period as scientists were very interested in collecting and documenting as many new species in the far parts of the world as possible as part of the era’s naturalist conservationist traditions.

Sabines collection on Adam Matthews contains some Douglas documents. I wondered how these documents got to be included in the Sabine collection. I first thought they had been left at Fort Vancouver because Douglas used the fort as a base of operations when in Oregon during two different expeditions. I acquired further letters from Sabine from the National Archives in the UK and they revealed that Sabine and Douglas maintained their communications while Douglas was in the field. I then thought maybe Douglas left papers with Sabine in 1828 when working to understand Magnetic dip. Then, I stumbled upon a copy of some UK collections which had been sent to Canada and were in publication, a copy of which is on Google books.

The Report of Canadian Archives,  where a copy of a British correspondence collection was sent, has revealed a timeline for the transfer of the collection. (Google Books-

  • March 23, 1834 – report of the death of D. Douglas, who fell into a pit for capturing wild bullocks.
  • June 11, 1834 – Three cases containing objects left by D. Douglas have arrived, John Douglas, his brother, is to attend and open the cases.
  • June 21, 1834 – Edward Sabine – He shall be happy to receive Douglas’s papers.
  • June 30, 1834 – Edward Sabine – Box received containing books and papers of the late David Douglas

This timeline definitively proves that the collection came from Douglas’ last camp in Hawaii here he had died by falling in a bullock pit. Later I discovered in Jack Nesbitt’s books about Douglas, that there was a list of the documents sent to Great Britain and collected by John Douglas. Sabine detailed in letters that among the papers sent to him were 1 volume of field sketches, 3 papers of magnetic dip observations, and 7 papers of meteorological observations. I believe that the collection included in Adam Matthew Digital’s Age of Exploration are the field sketches and meteorological observations from Douglas.

I began searching for whether Sabine published the collection, and did find a record in his books of Magnetic dip that he did indeed publish Douglas’ readings of some locations.  in additional reports from the National Archives of the UK Sabine reorganized Douglas’ fieldnotes of magnetic dip measurements and published some of the coordinates in his book, Contributions in Terrestrial Magnetism.

However before my finding of the longtime hidden archive of Douglas documents in the Sabine collection no other researcher appears to have found this collection and attributed it to Douglas. The collection dates from Douglas’ first trip to the Northwest Coast, 1825-1826, and from his second trip to the Pacific 1830-1833. The first set of documents are hand-drawn maps determined to be drawn by Douglas in 1826 as he traveled from Fort Vancouver upriver on the Columbia. They are some 43 maps in this part of the collection. The remaining pages, up to about page 199. are some letters and notes and the bulk is his magnetic dip calculations and readings in the Willamette Valley on the Columbia, in British Columbia and in California. These measurements may lead to the finding of Tribal villages where Douglas stopped throughout his journeys.

In the next year, I will be developing this collection further, first with a series of essays and journal articles, then working to align the maps and measurements to journal entries for a larger project.

This is the second essay, the first is now hosted on the Adam Matthews site.  I will continue collaborating with them to develop the collection further, they have already been very helpful and are extremely excited about this find. I participated in the Adam Matthews’  booth at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Gathering in Seattle, WA, January 26, 2019, where I gave three presentations to the crowd about this find. That presentation is the foundation for this essay.

The Adam Matthews’ article will be published in two parts, the first is here:

The Columbia River Maps and Meteorological Calculations of David Douglas: An Archival Discovery

The second part of the article is now posted

Part 2: The Columbia River Maps and Meteorological Calculations of David Douglas: An Archival Discovery

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