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.
Expansion of an October 2005 essay, written originally in preparation for a dissertation about termination.
“Denial of humanity” is a quote from Rennard Strickland in reference to the actions and in-actions of the US government with regards to termination and treaties, ie: the rights of Indians to maintain their culture and history and sovereignty.
Termination – what is it? – from the Federal POV they assume the right to manage sovereign tribes, they assume the right to stop managing tribes under their own terms. They assume the right to claim Indian lands through conquest, they make treaties with tribes (in a sovereign relationship) and then they assume they can simply stop abiding by the treaties. Their assumptions comes from the creation of ‘evidence’ that suggests that a tribe is no longer a tribe. Their evidence is based on religious and scientific definitions of what constitutes a tribe, whether they are a tribe without maintaining some of the visual and cultural trappings of the past traditions. Clearly the Senate has a right to abrogate treaties under its plenary powers. But they did not invoke that right, instead the BIA appears to have directed its agents to make it happen. And the agent for Oregon, E. Morgan Pryse, lied and manipulated the available information and the tribes to make termination occur. Congress was assured the tribes had agreed, but they had not. So even though Congress and President Eisenhower stipulated that the tribes had to agree, the Oregon tribes were still terminated without their agreement.
It is an identity issue. Some sub-issues are blood quantum, culture, acculturation/assimilation, and traditionality. Can a tribe be a tribe in the United States when they are acculturated/assimilated into American civilization. Can a sovereign group maintain sovereignty from within a sovereign nation? If this is possible, and it is supported in law, how can the federal government terminate the tribe? In an institutionalized bureaucracy, if the sovereign group exists within that environment, it is possible to arrange the termination of any supported program through the creation of an overwhelming assumption that the persons of that program no longer adhere to the policies and rules of the program and actually have acculturated into different programs. The assumption within the bureaucracy is that each individual group does not cross boundaries between groups and when they do they become a member of another group with no ties to the previous. Essentially their culture has changed.
But we know that people maintain multi-cultural identities. When does the preponderance of evidence suggest that people have acculturated into another culture? Who gets to draw that line. That is not science, its politics.
Yes, this was all made possible through politics. The people who wanted and needed termination to occur went to the media who wrote numerous stories about the benefits of termination. They sold this notion of freedom to the public and the politicians. They said that the tribes would be freed from further government oppression, which was creating the “Indian Problems” and would be free to become Americans. They would get their full benefits as US citizens and be first class citizens.
And what source of investigation and research does the government rely upon to manipulate the acculturation/assimilation line? Anthropology clearly has the major research agenda focused on Native peoples and anthropologists staff many departments in the federal government that manage Indian peoples. Much of the government management of Native peoples, in the 1940s and 50s, is therefore from a trained anthropological perspective and anthropological theory of native identity is actually practiced in policy.
Anthropology is part and parcel of the problem with the federal government choosing the most acceptable arguments to use again the tribes. The notion of the assimilated Indian is no longer an Indian, no longer culturally Indian, so no longer deserving of the rights of their tribe. But do anthropologists really have the right to decide who is assimilated? That was not even a question, in that time, they took that right without much ethical discussion. Its really with John Collier in the 1920s to 1940s where the morality of the situation becomes apparent. He did try to change the politics for the better. And other anthropologists did not really begin working on behalf of the tribes until the 1950s. This was perhaps too late.
Does assimilation really mean people are no longer deserving of their rights? The treaties do not make this distinction. There is nothing in treaties that address a notion that people must be culturally “Indian” as defined by anthropologists, to get the rights of the treaty. This idea was invented by American politicians.
Similarly, the treaties do not stipulate people have to be one half Indian blood or better to be Indians. That is a policy decision that is aimed at eliminating Indian people through statistics. A certain percentage of each generation of people will marry and have children with non-native people, in time that percentage will grow and there will at some point be no more people who fit conservative definitions of being Indian. Its a political tool by the federal government to eliminate all Indians. And yet today many tribes accept that as part of the definition of what is a tribal member. There is no part of a person’s blood that will provide a measure of a person’s culture or nationality. It is pseudo-science. It is a remnant of our colonization, a remnant that has been institutionalized. We are recolonizing ourselves if we do not address this problem. If tribes do not take control of their definitions of who they are, take that right from the United States, they will cease to exist.
There is much to be done in addressing tribal colonization. Termination and Indian management needs to be taken apart and reanalyzed. Treaties need to be reanalyzed along with tribal homelands. Tribal histories need to be rethought and rewritten, as its been proven that unless tribal people do this, Native Nations will be written out of history.
Tribes have fought too long and hard to exist, can tribes accept being “defined” out of existence?
Tribes have their own holidays. As sovereign nations the events and dates significant to the tribes are dates of their establishment, dates of their treaties and date of restoration and termination,and important people. Some events are not necessarily celebratory, like a termination date, or even a date of removal from our homelands to the reservation, but more relevant to the tribe to remember the pain and suffering that tribes have endured during colonization. Beginning in the 1990s, about the time of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus “happened upon” the Americas, tribal people began working on modifications to the national holidays that seen as huge negatives to Native peoples. Columbus Day was renamed Indigenous People’s Day at the University of Oregon by the native student organizations and celebrated that way with a day of speakers. This project of renaming these holidays is now being picked up by cities like Seattle and Portland.
There is one day that has interested me for years, Presidents’ Day. A collaboration of several president’s birthdays into one day of celebration. Tribes have renamed this day internally as Tribal Chiefs’ or Tribal Leaders’ Day. But in my experience there are few details ever noted about tribal chiefs and leaders. I know we had many of them over the last few centuries in Oregon, but who were they? For a population of Native people hungry for information about Tribal histories, I have composed a list of over 100 such leaders for the Grand Ronde Tribe.
The chiefs listed in the following table are only those who appear in treaties of the tribe or who are well known previous to the reservations with published accounts. The extent of this list is only 19th century. For those leaders of the tribe that deserve listing from the 1870s and into the 20th century we will have to expand the table. In the 1870s the Grand Ronde tribe adopted an elective government and elected representatives of the various tribes to sit on the council. All of the elected leaders from those early councils into the 20th century deserve mention. In 1935 the tribe adopted Indian Reorganization, and a constitution with an elected Business committee. The records from this time are incomplete and need to be assembled. And then there are the Council of the tribe from the 1970s to the present, the Restoration era.
My own family history has many relations to several chiefs and leaders of the Santiam tribe, Captain Santiam, and John B. Hudson. John B Hudson was a leader of the Grand Ronde in the 20th century, the last speaker of Kalapuya. In the 1970s, and probably earlier, Gertrude (Hudson) Mercier was a cultural leader and political leader at Grand Ronde in the restoration era. Several people, aunts, uncles, cousins, in my related families of the Hudson and Mercier lines were elected leaders, traditional chiefs, and cultural leaders in the 19th and 20th centuries.
I hope in the future to add further references to the table.
|Common Name||Name variants||Title||Tribe/band||Documents signed|
|Head Chief, first Chief
Principal Chief (1851)
|Tualatin (Qualichah), Wapato Lake, Chehalem Band
Tualatin band of Calapooias
|Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855
Twalaty Treaty April 19,1851
|2||Le Medecin, Doctor,
La Medicine (1851)
|Second Chief||Tualatin band of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855,
Twalaty Treaty April 19,1851
|3||Wapato Dave||Wapito Dave, Yat-Skaw, or Dave,Yats-kow||Third Chief||Tualatin band of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|4||Kno-tah||Subordinate Chief||Twalaty Treaty April 19,1851|
|5||Shap-h, or William||First Chief||Yamhill Band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|6||Yah-whos alias Thomas||Principal Chief||Yamhill||Treaty with Yamhill May 2 1851|
|7||Es to le alias Henry||Subordinate Chief||Yamhill||Treaty with Yamhill May 2 1851|
|8||Ai-tip alias Antoine||Subordinate Chief||Yamhill||Treaty with Yamhill May 2 1851|
|9||Peter Sulkey||Peter Sulkey (Shelkeah, David)||Second Chief||Yamhill Band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|10||Cha-ah, or Jesse||Third Chief||Yamhill Band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|11||Dabo, or Jim, Daboe (1851)||First Chief, Principal Chief||Cheluk-i-ma-uke band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855, Luckamiute Treaty May 2 1851|
|12||Sco-la-quit, or John, Scho-la-que (1851)||Second Chief
|Cheluk-i-ma-uke band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855, Luckamiute Treaty May 2 1851|
|13||Yah-kow or Kompetine, Yoh-kow (1851)||Third Chief
|Cheluk-i-ma-uke band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855, Luckamiute Treaty May 2 1851|
|14||Ah-mo, or George||First Chief||Chep-en-a-pho or Marysville band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|15||Himpher, or Hubbard||Second Chief||Chep-en-a-pho or Marysville band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|16||Oh-no, or Tim||Third Chief||Chep-en-a-pho or Marysville band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|17||Ma-mah-mo, or Charley Peter||First Chief||Chem-a-pho or Maddy band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|18||Quineflat, or Ben||Third Chief||Chem-a-pho or Maddy band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|19||Cha-che-clue, or Tom||Second Chief||Chem-a-pho or Maddy band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|20||Luck-a-ma-foo, or Antoine,||First Chief||Che-lam-e-la or Long Tom band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|21||Hoo-til, or Charley||Second Chief||Che-lam-e-la or Long Tom band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|22||Qui-a-qua-ty, Quia-quaty, Quai-eck-e-te (1851)||First Chief
|Mo-lal-la band of Mo-lal-las||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855, Treaty with Mollalle May 6, 1851|
|23||Chief Yelkas||Yalkus||Second Chief||Mo-lal-la band of Mo-lal-las||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855, Treaty with Mollalle May 6, 1851|
|24||Kow-ka-ma, or Long Hair, Kaw-ka-ma||Third Chief||Mo-lal-la band of Mo-lal-las||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|25||Crooked Finger||Subordinate Chief||Mollalle Tribe||Treaty with Mollalle May 6, 1851|
|26||Kiles, or Jim||First Chief||Calapooia band of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|27||Kow-ah-tough, or John||Second Chief||Calapooia band of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|28||Anta-, An-ta||First Chief||Winnefelly and Mohawk bands||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|29||Quil-al-la, or John||Second Chief||Winnefelly and Mohawk bands||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|30||Mequah or Dick||Winnefelly and Mohawk bands||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|31||Yack-a-tee, or Sam, ,||First Chief||Tekopa band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|32||To-phor, or Jim Brown||Second Chief||Tekopa band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|33||Hal-la-be, or Doctor, Hal-la-le||Tekopa band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|34||Pulk-tah||Second Chief||Chafan band||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|35||Chief Tumulth||Tum-walth||First Chief||Wah-lal-la band of Tum-waters
|Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|36||Obanahah||O-ban-a-hah||Second Chief||Wah-lal-la band of Tum-waters
|Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|37||Chief John Wachino||Watch-a-no, Chief John Wachino||First Chief||Clack-a-mas tribe||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|38||Te-ap-i-nick||Second Chief||Clack-a-mas tribe||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|39||Wal-lah-pi-coto, Wal-lah-pi-cate||Third Chief||Clack-a-mas tribe||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|40||Oregon City John||Lallak, Lal-bick or John, Oregon City John||Clow-we-wal-la or Willamette Tum-water band;||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|41||Cuck-a-man-na or David||Clow-we-wal-la or Willamette Tum-water band;||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|42||Tiacan||Tow-ye-col-la, or Louis||First Chief||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855, Santiam Treaty of April 16, 1851|
|43||Joseph Hutchins||Yelk-ma, or Jo, Alquema, Joseph Hutchins, Joseph Hudson||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855, Santiam Treaty of April 16, 1851|
|44||La-ham, or Tom,||Third Chief||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|45||Joseph Sangretta||Joseph Sanegertta, Joseph Sangretta, Senegertta||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|46||Pullican, Pul-i-can||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|47||Te-na, or Kiles,||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|48||Pul-kup-li-ma, or John, Pul-kup-ti-ma||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|49||Sallaf, or Silas||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|50||Hoip-ke-nek, or Jack||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|51||Yepta, Yeptah||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|52||Sat-invose or James,||Santiam bands of Calapooias||Treaty with the Kalapuya Etc. 1855|
|53||So-pham||Santiam||Santiam Treaty of April 16, 1851|
|54||Chief Coastno||Coast-nah (1851)||Principal Chief||Santiam Band of Moolalle||Santiam Moolalle Treaty of May 7 1851|
|55||Chasta Tom||Shasta or Chasta Costa|
|57||James Selquia (Selqia)||Sub-chief||Wapato Band|
|60||Chief Kiesno||Chief Keosnose
Kiesno, Cassino, Ciasno,
|Principal Chief||Columbia River
Multnomah, Sauvie Island
|Numerous accounts 1805-1848|
|61||Polk Scott||Polk Scott||Yoncalla||Shaman, Organizer of Numerous Camp meetings in the Willamette Valley, including Pleasant Hill, and Cottage Grove|
|62||Chief Jo||Chief Jo, Aps-er-ka-har, Jo-aps-er-ka-har, Aps-so-ka-hah, Horse-rider, or Jo||Head Chief principal chief||Takelma||Agreement with Rogue River 1853, Rogue River 1853, Amendment 1853, Rogue river treaty 1854|
|63||Sam||To-qua-he-ar, Sam To-qua-he-ar, Ko-ko-ha-wah, Wealthy, or Sam,||Subordinate Chief
|Takelma||Agreement with Rogue River 1853, Rogue River 1853, Rogue river treaty 1854, Itchkadowa, Applegate Band of Rogue River Indians (applegate Rpt)|
|64||Chief John||Te-cum-tom, Elk Killer, or John, Ana-chah-a-rah, John
|Rogue River 1853
Rogue River 1854
Principal Chief of the battle of Big Bend
|65||Chol-cul-tah, Joquah Trader, or George||Takelma||Rogue river 1853, Rogue river treaty 1854|
|66||Jim Ana-cha-a-rah||Subordinate Chief||Takelma||Agreement with Rogue River 1853, Rogue River 1853, Rogue river treaty 1854|
|67||Lympe||Takelma||Rogue River 1853|
|68||Sambo||Third Chief||Takelma||Rogue river treaty 1854|
|69||Te-wah-hait, or Elijah||Takelma||Rogue river treaty 1854|
|70||Telum-whah, or Bill||Takelma||Rogue river treaty 1854|
|71||Hart-tish, or Applegate John||Takelma||Rogue river treaty 1854|
|72||Qua-chis, or Jake||Takelma||Rogue river treaty 1854|
|73||Tom||Takelma||Rogue river treaty 1854|
|74||Henry||Takelma||Rogue river treaty 1854|
|75||Louis Nepisank||Napesa, or Louis, Na-pe-se, Louis Nepissank, Louis la Pe Cinque||Head Chief||Umpqua Tribe||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854, Treaty with the Molala 1855|
|76||Peter, or Injice , Peter McCoy (McKay?)||Second Chief||Umpqua tribe||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854, Treaty with the Molala 1855|
|77||Chief George, Cheen-len-ten or George||Head Chief||Umpqua Tribes||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854,
Treaty with the Molala 1855
|78||Tas-yah, or General Jackson||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854|
|79||Nessick||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854,
Treaty with the Molala 1855
|80||Et-na-ma or William, Billy (Molala?)||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854,
Treaty with the Molala 1855
|81||Nas-yah or John||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854|
|82||Absaquil or Chenook||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854|
|83||Jo||Yoncalla||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854|
|84||Tom||Chief||Yoncalla||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854|
|85||Chief Halo||Halo, Halito
|86||Chief Bogus||Chief Bogus||Umpqua||Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya 1854, Treaty with the Molala 1855|
|87||Quin-ti-oo-san, or Bighead||principal chief||Cow Creek band of Umpqua Indians||Treaty with the Umpqua- Cow Creek Band, 1853|
|88||My-n-e-letta, or Jackson||Subordinate Chief||Cow Creek band of Umpqua Indians||Treaty with the Umpqua- Cow Creek Band, 1853|
|89||Tom, son of Quin-ti-oo-san,||Subordinate Chief||Cow Creek band of Umpqua Indians||Treaty with the Umpqua- Cow Creek Band, 1853|
|90||Tom, Tal-sa-pe-er||Cow Creek band of Umpqua Indians||Treaty with the Umpqua- Cow Creek Band, 1853|
|91||Steencoggy||Molala||Treaty with the Molala 1855|
|Lattchie||Molala||Treaty with the Molala 1855|
|93||Dugings||Molala||Treaty with the Molala 1855|
|94||Counisnase||Molala||Treaty with the Molala 1855|
|95||Cars||Calapooia or Umpqua?||Treaty with the Molala 1855|
|96||Jes-tul-tut, or Little Chief||Quil-si-eton band, of the Chasta tribe of Indians,||Treaty with the Chasta etc. 1854|
|97||Ko-ne-che-quot, or Bill||Na-hel-ta band of the Chasta tribe of Indians,||Treaty with the Chasta etc. 1854|
|98||Se-sel-che-tel, or Salmon Fisher, Se-sel-chetl||Cow-nan-ti-co, bands of Scotons,||Treaty with the Chasta etc. 1854|
|99||Kul-ki-am-i-na, or Bush-head, Kul-ke-am-ina, Bushland||Sa-cher-i-ton, band of Scotons||Treaty with the Chasta etc. 1854|
|100||Te-po-kon-ta, or Sam||Na-al-ye band of Scotons||Treaty with the Chasta etc. 1854|
|101||Jo||Chief||Grave Creek band of Umpquas||Treaty with the Chasta etc. 1854|
|102||Bas-ta-shin||Sa-cher-i-ton, band of Scotons||Treaty with the Chasta etc. 1854|
|103||Chief Tomaquin||Tomaquin||Principal Chief||Cascades||Came from the Clatsop|
|104||Capt. Santiam||Santiam, Capt. Santiam,||Principal Chief||Santiam Kalapuya||Albany area, allotments at Grand Ronde.|
This past week the University of Oregon announced their new uniforms, based on the discovery and colonization of Oregon by Americans. UO athletics released their “Lewis and Clark” uniforms, as a collaborative project between NIKE, their manufacturer, and the UO Athletics Department.
Tuesday, 10/6/2015, when the news about the uniforms was released, the Native alumni of UO began communicating about the issues in the uniforms through the state. The UO had released a history of colonization, images of the uniforms and descriptions of what each element on the uniform meant. Nowhere in their history of Lewis and Clark explorations into Oregon was there any mention of the Native people they encountered. The mention of Jeffersonian peace medals only mentioned the explorers encountered “individuals”. Then other elements on the uniform symbolized the Oregon Trail, handshakes of peace and friendship, and the founding of the State of Oregon.
There were a number of issues present in the uniforms that cried out for a response from the Native community. Native people were present during all of the historic eras represented and felt the affects of the benevolent colonization of Oregon. The colonization of Oregon was not beneficial to the tribes, who lost millions of acres and ten of thousands of people. Then the tribes were placed on reservations where our cultures were further eroded for the next 150 years. The message in the uniforms as the creation of Oregon being a positive history, was clearly only appreciated by people not affected by loss of land, family and culture. Further discussion online suggested that this was only a PC issue and that we should leave the issues alone. We were clearly not going to be swayed by this.
After the first day of communications over Facebook, the Native alumni decided to write an editorial and present the letter to University administration through their advisory committee relationships. My contribution to the letter was to write the foundation of the historic critique based on what I knew of the time period. The Letter was completed by the morning of Wednesday and presented later that day.
Besides the native critique we questioned how it is that a university with academic departments of history, anthropology and native studies could have produced such a complete reversal of history. University academic departments have been broadening their perspectives over the years and including native and other perspectives in histories. Both positive and negative histories are normal parts of most histories produced today. Its common now for discussions of Native genocide to appear in Native studies and history classes, along with the settlement histories. So the history represented on the “lewis and Clark” uniforms was surprising for its lack of accessing multiple perspectives.
The University responded a day later through the advisory committee and we heard that there would be an appropriate response, that UO Athletics appeared to have not communicated with UO Administration about the history themed uniforms.
On Saturday, game day against Washington State University when the uniforms were to be worn, the UO announced the placement of an outline of Oregon, with nine stars for the 9 tribes on the back of the helmet. The decal was sandwiched between the commemoration of the UCC school shooting the previous week, and a 33 star US flag, representing the fact the the state of Oregon is the 33rd state in the Union. This same morning a newspaper editorial appeared in Indian Country Today Newspaper online. The article was written by myself and was based on the letter I had helped write to the administration.
It was a grateful surprise that the UO responded so quickly. The native community though is still deeply upset in Online posts. Many wanted them to not wear the uniform at all for what it represented. For many that history of colonization is like that of the Holocaust, because for many tribes that period was a literal holocaust complete with the genocidal destruction of many villages, and the burning of plank houses and dance houses with hundreds of people killed. For a time the settlers to Oregon did try to exterminate all Indians. That is the history that is so close to so many Native people in the West.
The effort did have results, and for that the Native community are appreciative. It would have been much better for the university to consult with some experts in the field, and the tribes, before this issue occurred. We all trust we all have learned something from this.