After listening to the Think Out Loud radio interview this morning I had a few thoughts. The interviewee, a member of the militant militia that have taken over a wildlife refuge suggested that the federal government had not bought the land from the state so it has no rights to the land. The militant suggested that the federal government should give all such holdings back to the states and also suggested that the federal government had to reserve its land ownership to the District of Columbia only.
At no time in this interview was there any discussion about tribal treaties or tribal land rights. Nor was there an informed discussion about the history of the land. The militant suggested that the federal government had just taken the land from farmers and should give it back or they, the militia, were not leaving. I am not sure if they are aware that much of this land never belonged to the state at any time. The land was originally Native land and had been for over 10,000 years.
Previous to farmers owned the land, the land was owned by the various Northern Paiute tribes of the region. The Paiutes ceded the land to the Federal government under numerous treaties and agreements, including the Shoshone-Bannock treaty, but many went unratified. In the U.S. Constitution, Treaty making with foreign governments is specifically reserved as a federal government activity, states alone cannot undertake such an action. In 1871 the Malheur Reservation was created by executive order. This was a federal reservation for the Paiute people. Then in 1878-79 the Bannock War occurred causing the federal government to close the reservation in 1880. The war occurred because the Paiute people, were not at all happy with how they were being treated on the reservation as farmers were encroaching and claiming land on the reservation and there were more attacks on the people. They left the reservation and the War involved trying to capture them to return them to the reservation. After closure of the reservation, the Paiutes were scattered between several reservations (Warm Springs, Yakima) and a few remained in that area. Those who remained received off-reservation allotments under the 1887 Dawes act. The Burns Paiute tribe was not restored until 1972.
Several generations of the Kittredge family farmed and ranched out there and they leased about a million acres from the Federal government. The rich marshlands were turned into agricultural lands. Annually migrant farmworkers would stop there to help harvest the crops.
This all ended with William Kittredge’s generation when the land was turned back over to the federal government and work commenced to restored the natural marshes. The marshes are migrant waterfowl stopover sites for birds traveling annually north and south. It is important to keep the marshes healthy to preserve the waterfowl environment.
Farming as a profession may not be viable in the region. Farming has changed in the last 150 years and now unless a farmer owns tens of thousands of acres it is tough to make a living. Unless the militants really understand the history they will have a tough time making any changes, because the militia is not addressing the realities of that environment.
It is unclear how the farmers would make a living. Ranching may be the only viable option. Farming would require thousands of migrant farm laborers. Then a farmer must be willing to brave the tough environment in eastern Oregon to make a living. This is a very sensitive ecological environment and many millions of animal, plant and bird species depend on the high desert marshes to survive. The benefits to the environment overshadows the possible benefits of returning the land to farming.
An interesting parallel presents itself here. When tribal people within the American Indian Movement (AIM) took over federal lands and buildings in the 1970s, there was huge activism by federal law enforcement against them. The Wounded Knee II conflict (1973) resulted in several deaths on the Native side. Natives then were dealt with very harshly. This is a polar opposite of what is occurring today in eastern Oregon at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. White American Militants are not raising much excitement from federal law enforcement. At this time the sole action is to ask them to leave and turn off their power. The difference in treatment is huge and yet another example of how laws are applied differently to people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, with white male militants gaining a huge benefit from their privilege in society. Not that such an action needs to be dealt with harshly, but if natives or other peoples were to undertake the same action, the response from federal and state law enforcement would likely be different.
Finally, its interesting that a farming family is in jail for setting fire to the federal lands. I have not heard that any buildings were set fire and am unaware of the particulars. Tribes in the past would normally set fires annually to their lands. The result for tribes was increased growth in the next year as well as a host of other benefits (destruction of pests, clearance of bramble, preparation of weaving materials for harvesting). As well, federal agencies are now adopting policies in the West to allow fires to burn as a way to manage the forests. They now realize that such fires are natural occurrences, and they reduce the possibility of hugely destructive fires in the future by burning away the dead plants that accumulate near the ground. So the fire probably benefited the federal lands more than it destroyed them.
It is truly amazing that we live in such a time where regular folks have no idea what the history of the place where they are living. Its not like the history is hard to find. I found Kittredge’s books by accident in the 1990s and they informed be me greatly about a tribe I have little other relation to. Native history of the Oregon tribes is generally ignored in education and this may be a symptom of the 1960s and 1970s when much of Native history was not being well documented nor discussed in schools. This situation exists today as well as we enter the STEM national education program and students in our schools are not encouraged to learn social studies, in favor of math, science and engineering. I fear for the next generation as we produce more students ignorant of the history of the world around them.
Various sites and memes on Facebook are calling this an Oregon Militia. I can’t say for certain that no one from Oregon is involved, but, the majority of the militia are from Nevada and Idaho. Oregon residents are asking them to leave and the Burns Paiute tribe has told them in no uncertain words, to “get out”. The wildlife preserve is not meant for Rving nor is it appropriate to drive their ATVs all over Native archaeological sites.
For years now few new details about our allotments at the Grand Ronde tribe have come to light. Our allotment system, created for all tribes in the United States Under the Dawes Allotment in Severalty Act of 1887, rolled out over the course of two years. The tribal people at the reservation were already living on informal allotments given to them by the Indian agents in the 1870s. These informal allotments allowed the people to start farms and make some money and a little food off the poor soils of the Grand Ronde Valley, an outcropping of the Willamette Valley.
When the Allotment act was initiated the Government sent special Indian agents to survey the land. They created a grid system of allotments for the people across the valley floor and into the foothills of the Coast Range. The grid system did not treat all of the people equally, those with power and influence at the tribe, normally influential chiefs and their family got the best lands on the valley floor. Other people were given lands in the hills. The people were to possess the allotments for 20 years before they gained the fee-simple titles and were able to sell their property. Being on a reservation the lands were not subject to state taxes or laws, only to federal laws. Then, not all people at the reservation got allotments. People had to have 1/2 Indian blood quantum or better to get an allotment, a new policy decision by the government, one which was not part of our treaties at all. Men, women and children all got allotments, but the head of the household normally got more land. The men normally got between 200 and 300 acres, while women 80-200 acres and children 20-100 acres. Again this was a policy decision by the government even though all of these people were tribal members.
(note: recently it was suggested by S.D. Beckham (report of 2017), that at some tribes the blood quantum policy was not followed. It remains to be proven through research how well it was followed as a policy, if at all. For Grand Ronde, I will need to conduct a survey of all allottees to see what their blood quantum was at the time of their allotment to see if this policy held true. However, blood quantum was national policy and likely influenced tribal policy and federal policy in the 20th century, especially due to the number of tribes that use blood quantum to determine tribal enrollment status even today.)
A big problem with the allotments is the fact that it induced a farming system on the reservation. This is occurring at a time when American society was changing away from farming and people moved increasingly to cities to find work as they could not make a living farming. In addition, the Dawes Act was not created to help the tribes. It was created to reduce the overall acreage of the reservations across the US, by giving individual allotments to people, and declaring the remainder of the reservation lands surplus to be sold to the public. The frontier in America had officially ended, as most of the West was claimed by decades of pioneers moving westward. the last remaining lands were at the Reservations and as Indian populations were declining, the government decided that the tribes possessed too much land, they were wasting it, and the surplus lands need to be opened up to additional settlement by Americans.
So at Grand Ronde, after an examination of the Allotment Book (held by the Oregon Historical Society), there was an initial selection of lands for each eligible member of the tribe. This selection took place in 1888, between July and December. It is still unclear whether the Indian agents went to each house for the selection process, or there was a line -up of eligible tribal members. An examination of the records of 1888 might reveal how this occurred. Allotment occurred in 1889. The Allotment Book is arranged, generally, in alphabetical order by the surnames. There are several names out of place, several added to the end but this is the general order. The book also states the tribe for each person in most entries, the acreage they received, and the location of the allotment. There are additional notation about if the land was sold or traded later. The book has an index of names, and by the time of the last entry many people are noted to have died while the book was in use.
Looking at the raw information, I could not easily envision how the selection process took place. I then conceived of a small project to place some of the relevant information into a spreadsheet so I could manage the data, and reorganize as I needed. My first question was, how much acreage had been allotted, exactly? We had used the figure of 30,000 acres as a general estimate in the past, but with the information we had, we can get an exact number. It took about three days to log into an Excel spreadsheet the people’s names, their acreage, their allotment number, their selection number and tribal designation. Working in reverse order, from 270 to 1. During this process I conceived of a few other benefits of reorganizing the data by selection numbers. We could see family groups appear, we could see if the tribal names were the same throughout the family groups, and we could possible see more details as to who were allowed to choose their lands first. this could indicate their power and influence at the tribe. And later if we could access an accurate map of the houses of the people in the 19th century, we could perhaps see if the agents visited them or there was a line-up on the day of selection. Did they choose their lands based on the informal allotment system already in place? Or did they have to rebuild their houses in the new allotments. Perhaps these details would be revealed if we access other information.
After organizing the data, we do see that the selections were made in family groupings. This sometimes reveals who was living with or closely associated with a family.
We also see that some people in the same family had a different name for their tribe of origin. There may have been some assignment of tribal origin by the agent in charge.
The Allen family has a clear Molalla relative, and they appear to be be close friends with the Appersons and Kenoyers. This is important, as this close relationship is also noted in many histories of the families.
This association is very important, not necessarily revealed by the reordering as can be seen. But the fact that people in the same family were associating themselves as Iroquois and Clowewalla is a study in native identity. To identify as Iroquois at this time was likely a point of pride. This apparently did not eliminate them from getting an allotment at Grand Ronde. This is the result of a couple generations of French-Indian people (metis) marrying local natives, normally Chinook or Kalapuya, and those people electing or being forced to go to Grand Ronde to live.
And, in answer to the first question, how many acres were allotted, it turns out our estimates were not too far off the mark. There were 33225.35 acres allotted in 1889 at the Grand Ronde reservation. The original acreage of the reservation was somewhere between 59,000 and 69,000 acres, and so 27,000 acres were surplussed at the reservation. The estimated acreage the tribes ceded to the United States is about 14 million acres, which is all of Western Oregon from the peak of the Cascade Range. The other reservation in western Oregon, the Coast Reservation, was originally about 1.1 million acres, extending for 100 miles along the Oregon Coast.
The details of the sale of the surplussed lands are not clear at this time. There were advertisements in local newspapers for the sale of the lands, mainly timberlands. The majority of sales went to logging companies and Oregonian editorials suggested there may have been something wrong with the original arrangement to allow a new generation of settlers buy these lands for stakes of 160 acres. Research into the details of the bids and sales would reveal what occurred in this period. If it is proven that the logging companies colluded with the federal government to get possession of the lands, it would not at all be surprising.
In this period, logging, which had become a major industry in Oregon, was declining, as much of the old growth timber was already gone. The Indian reservations on the coast had the last remaining stands of untouched old growth timber and the timber companies coveted the land. Once they had possession of the lands, the timber companies began building railroad spur lines into the Coast range. By 1918, logging camps had been established all throughout the range and logging towns were established by the Timber companies. One such town was Valsetz, just south of Grand Ronde, established by William W. Mitchell Company (or Cobbs & Mitchell) in 1919, sold several times, and existed into the 1970s. Many Indian loggers at the Grand Ronde Reservation recalled living in the town. The logging of spruce from the Coast Range contributed to the growth of the US Airforce which needed spruce wood for building light aircraft for the airwar over Europe during WWI.
In the 1880s, there had been several attempts by a local real estate firm in Dallas, to get the tribes to agree to sell their reservation. One such attempt was in the form of a false petition that appeared to have been signed by the majority of men at the reservation. The petition suggested that all the people at the reservation “wished to sell their land, and become white men.” This petition was followed a month later by another letter from the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, signed by many of these same men, stating that the previous petition was fraudulent.
By 1950 when liquidation of the reservation was being considered, there remained only about 600 acres (597). After 20 years of allotment, beginning about 1907, the original alottees, many of them had passed and the BIA initiated a series of heirship studies. After 1911 and until about 1918 these studies were decided and the majority of the allotments were sold, with the proceeds given to the descendants of those passed. Very little land was passed on to inheritors, which accounted for thousands of acres being sold from the reservation.
By the 1930s, very little land remained in trust at the reservation, and the BIA, the new John Collier administration, proposed self determination policies to address many of the “Indian problems” on reservations (poverty, lack of infrastructure, alcoholism, lack of education, lack of services). One such program, Rehabilitation, began in 1935 and in part allowed from additional allotments to occur, with some of the original lands of the reservation being purchased back, and allotted again.
There is more to be learned in this short project but for now that’s all.
The Allotment book is at the Oregon Historical Society Library in Portland, OR.
In 1856, most of the tribes of western Oregon had been removed to the Grand Ronde and Coast Reservations. There were a number of tribes on the northern Oregon coast, the Tillamooks that did not remove until the 1880’s but the majority of tribes had removed. Most were first located at the Grand Ronde Indian reservation, first established as temporary until the Coast reservation was built.
Investigating this time in history is tough owing to the scarcity of resources. There are a few letter collections, and reports but really we do not know what happened to the people when they removed to the reservation. A supplemental report published in 1858 gives a lot of detail to what was happening at the reservation, on the administrative side. The details below are extraordinary in their depth of this period.
There were about 3939 Natives at both reservations and by 1857 at Grand Ronde about 500 Indians died. The Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon and Washington, J.W. Nesmith was struggling with getting the funds to support the reservations. Budgets were submitted to Congress for payment of the treaties, for care and upkeep of the reservations, yet funds were slow to arrive in Salem, Oregon, where Nesmith located his office.
The picture Nesmith paints is very bleak or the tribes. The Rogue River Tribes suffered the worst, as the Grand Ronde Climate was so different from that of southern Oregon, that the majority of the 500 deaths were of these people. The Rogue River Indians referred to here were actually a confederation of people from the Athapascan, Takelma and Shasta tribes- with the true original Rogue River tribe being the Takelma Indians. Nesmith sought to save them by sending them to the Siletz Agency. If the number of deaths is accurate, then the original population may have been closer to 4439 that were originally removed to the reservations. In other letters and reports, conditions in the Coast Range at Grand Ronde were much wetter than the southern Oregon Rogue River Indians were used to, resulting in many more sicknesses, or influenza and pneumonia.
Nesmith also wrote that same year that conditions at Siletz were extreme, with little game to be hunted, a poor salmon run that year, and a lack of flour deliveries to the reservation from the contracted supplier, Fuller. The situation was so dire at Siletz that many people died of starvation over the harsh winter.
Nesmith, terribly embarrassed that funds were not being sent to feed the Indians in a timely manner, and not able to pay the various creditors in Oregon for expenses incurred under the previous Indian agent kept requesting funds throughout 1857, be paid over to feed the people.
Nesmith continued with his letter campaign and even threatened to release the Indians from the reservation if funding was not forwarded by Commissioner Mix.
Nesmith warned against a “war of economy” where the tribes would eventually go to war again, because the US could not pay for their food and upkeep as the treaties had promised.
Nesmith’s predecessors (Palmer, Hedges) had begun the process of assimilating the tribes to becoming farmers so they would grow their own food. This is perhaps the origins of the federal sustainability program for the tribes in Oregon. In Oregon the tribes learned that they would not get much support at the reservations so the survivors adopted methods of making money by becoming migrant farm-workers in the spring-summer-fall and living off the Coast Range forest for most of the time they were at the reservation. Agriculture was not sustainable at Grand Ronde as the soils are poor. Siletz valley had better soils for agriculture.
Later in 1857, Nesmith began to hear rumors that the tribes were very upset. With food a major problem and not having been paid for their treaty stipulations, the tribes began talking about going home, back to the valleys of western Oregon where they knew how to find food. But with the whole region inundated by gold miners and settlers bent on the extermination of the tribes, this was not an option for Nesmith. But the tribes had surrendered, Chief John’s coalition had- in 1856, under promises by Palmer that they would be cared for. What the tribes were seeing was that what the tribes had left Table Rock and gone to war against -the overt threats of extermination and genocide- were instead being carried out at the reservation through neglect and “economy”. This constituted a number of “broken promises” a problem that continued into the 20th century.
Nesmith warned again against allowing the tribes to leave the reservation as it would cause a war of “termination” between the minors and settlers and the tribes.
Even the tribes at Grand Ronde desired to go South to return to their homes, a notion which Nesmith dismissed suggesting that they will eventually abandon the idea.
Commissioner of Indian Affairs Charles Mix, in 1858 orders Nesmith to be careful with his funds in support of the Indians, but he also suggests that after careful investigations Nesmith is to pay the other liabilities. These other liabilities are the expenses invoiced by settlers and gold miners where they are claiming the tribes committed depredations on their property through raids, and thefts of cattle and horses. These expenses were incurred during the Rogue River war where the tribes sought to escape from the Table River Reservation, and ultimate genocide, and chose a paths of retribution by attacking settlements on the way to the Coast Range. The Americans appeared to deserve their money over feeding the Indians.
The past expenses, in part are the costs of removing the tribes to Grand Ronde Reservation. It is likely that with a good accounting of these past expenses we could uncover some mistakes as the government has never been good at accounting.
While payments were forthcoming in 1858, but not enough to pay all bills of the past, and the present.
Nesmith’s embarrassment was very apparent in his reports as he decried the “dribbling sums” allocated.
Nesmith’s “feed them or fight them” reasoning appears to have struck a nerve with Commissioner Mix. He reasoned that it was cheaper to feed them than fight them.
But this may not have been the case, as with hundreds of Indians dying of disease and starvation, the cost of their upkeep was gradually (or quickly) disappearing. If they died off, they would not be able to mount an army to fight. And Nesmith provided the accounting of the issue of feeding so many Indians. providing food for this many people for years may have been a cost that government was reluctant to pay. Could this have been a deliberate act on the part of the federal government? Could they have delayed payments hoping to lessen their overall burden on the budget
Nesmith discusses the amount allocated as being roughly 1/7th the funding allocated as was needed to provide food for the tribes on two reservations. This issue deserves further investigation. The idea that tribes had of broken promises, that carried into the latter part of the 20th century has a lot of credence here. By delaying payments of treaty and other funds the government caused the loss of as many as one eighth of the Indians at the reservation within the first year. The tribes would continue to decline over the next half century to a low at Grand Ronde of 400 Indians at 1900. There are indications that the reservations did not receive food regularly throughout this period, nor adequate health care or medicines. Later tribal members discuss how they were pretty much left on their own in the 20th century. Much of the decline of the tribes relates to the lack of adequate resources that were to be allocated under the treaties. Interestingly, in the ethnographic studies of the 19th and early 20th centuries, there is little mention of these issues in relation to these tribes. And in fact aspects of social Darwinism crept into discussion about why the tribes were dying off. Many scientists thought it was a evolutionary competition issue, when in fact the federal government was causing the decline of the tribes in many ways.
References- letters of Nesmith- letter of May 5 1857, letter of October 19 1857, Letter of December 24 1857, within Supplemental Estimates for Indian Service, 35th Congress, 1st session, Doc. 93, 1858.
Recently the Internet has exploded with statements from American politicians about how the Syrian immigrants should be treated should the come to the United States. These politicians have proposed refusing their requests for sanctuary in over 30 states of the union. Other politicians are proposing holding the refugees in camps while they are being fully vetted and processed for entry into the United States. This is an appalling development in US politics.
George Takei has likened the statements as similar to how Japanese Americans were interned in WWII. These were American citizens, who happened to have Japanese ancestry whose lives were ruined because of this action. And Takei has compared the fact that no Japanese Americans were ever convicted of a crime against the nation, with the fact that 1800 Syrians that have already immigrated and have not committed any crime against the nation.
This is a startling development and indefensible in US history. As Native peoples of this land, we too were imprisoned in military reservations for many years. Even though we were the original people of this land, we were forcibly removed or our leaders chose to remove to save our peoples from the invading colonizers. We were placed on reservations and not allowed to leave without passes. we were not considered citizens of the country until 1924, yet the US kept paternalistic administration over all of the tribes. We were no longer considered to be the people of this land for more than a century, and the Americans took over all of our lands, and resources. Many of our lands were renamed, and for the past two centuries our forests, lakes, rivers, and prairies have been systematically destroyed by pollution, mono-cropping, and over exploitation of the resources of the land.
Our people were subjected to more than a century of various tactics of assimilation. Our children forced to attend American and religious schools. Our people forced to adopt agriculture and give up their traditional ways of living. Even our right to pass on our possessions to our children was removed because our children who did not match the correct “blood quantum” were not allow to own land on the reservation, or inherit the lands of their parents. Those who did not have 1/2 blood quantum had no choice but to leave their tribes and assimilate to American culture in their cities. Our populations, our cultures and our languages declined. At the same time the amount of land on the reservation declined as more and more was given away to Americans. Many Native people were fully dispossessed of their land, culture and tribe.
Ironically, many of the Japanese-American Internment camps of WWII were located next to Indian reservations. As well they could get day passes to work, and children did attend government schools. After their release, most had lost everything they had before their removal
Then when it appeared that our people were fully assimilated, many of the tribes were terminated. The treaties and associated rights terminated, and the reservation lands liquidated. Many tribes ceased to exist and became invisible in American society. Many of these tribes have been restored, and in the past 30 years more and more aspects of their cultures and societies have returned.
It is an extreme vision of what could be, but an appropriate comparison to the internment camps being presently proposed. In the past decades there have been actions of the US government to apologize for the illegal Hawai’ian Nation takeover, for Japanese Internment, and for many other injustices of the US government. I do not recall if there was ever an apology for the treatment of Native peoples on the reservations, nor for their kidnapping of Native children to Boarding schools and their forced assimilation.
All Native Americans are citizens of the United States and have this as their history. I for one cannot hear about the proposition of internment of another people without recalling the history of the imprisonment of Native and other peoples in the world by the United States. This cannot happen again, there cannot be more mistakes like this in the future of the US. The Native nations are still in the process of dealing with the colonization and subjugation and imprisonment of our peoples by the US, and will be for some time. Will the Tribes stand by and let this happen to other peoples?
This past year I have spent a fair amount of time researching subjects at Willamette University and Willamette Heritage Center. At the university their collections are very good for the local area and politics. Their Chemawa records are beyond most other archives in the area, especially their yearbook collection and photographs. I have contributed to the collection in a significant way and the availability of the collection to researchers is invaluable.
Then, the Marion County Historical Society archives, a part of the Willamette Heritage Center, along with the Mission Mill, has good collections as well. Their mostly volunteer staff is excellent. One volunteer, Susan Masse is truly excellent. I have gone to her on several occasions and found volumes of information with her guidance. Then, she would follow up with more information should she encounter anything on her own. The archives are in need of more digitization and are seeking movement in that direction at this time. But their services, and access to research aids are extremely good. I recommend stopping in if you are seeking information about people or subjects from Marion County.