I was involved with the naming of the new Portland bridge this past year. I was invited onto the committee and it was a very interesting process. when we got down to the final names Tilicum was chosen over all others. This was a suggestion from many Portlanders and the suggestion of the tribe. But when we deliberated the spelling there was some variation. We could have spelled it Tilixem (with X being another character sounding like the clearing of your throat, and the “e” being actually upside down and a schwa symbol) as well as this is how it is spelled in the Grand Ronde dictionary of the Chinuk wawa language.
Spelling of most native languages is an invention of linguists. we happen to have a very good linguist working on behalf of the tribe, Henry Zenk. He has tried to spell the language in comprehensive ways for the tribe. But really the manner in which we spell the language is his invention. Its also the way in which linguistics as a science operates. Linguists look for rules in the way the languages operate. But human languages don’t always follow rules. English is a good example of this, and there are so many inconsistencies in the way we spell and conjugate different words, not based on their sounds but because of historic conventions and because the history of incorporation of different words into English.
So for native languages, what is being created for writing conventions are an abomination. languages have never before been analyzed by linguists and then spelled based on their sounds. That is a 20th century phenomenon. So how this relates to the proper spelling of Tilikum, is that there really is not a proper spelling. The tribe has adopted the linguistic spelling as its own, but we have the option of spelling the language in any way we want to. The current convention is to stick by the linguistic spelling, but most of the words have lots of alternate spellings.
So we chose one spelling for the word, one which was easily accessible to the greater American public. In another issue we encounter the strange notion that people would make a pejorative from the word. As in “till-I-cum”. This seemed like a high school way of thinking and yet we altered the last syllable to “Kum” to eliminate some of this. I think we made good choices in the word spelling, maintained some of the alternative spellings of the word, and everyone on the committee really appreciated the word for its tribal and historic character. I trust the people of Portland appreciate the tribes for their work on this and will be inspired to ask questions about the tribal histories and culture that have been here for so long.
For me, this is a return of one of our tribal names to our traditional lands, so that the words become part of our contemporary life ways. So much of what we were as native people was obscured by history and newcomers to our lands who do not care to understand or know the truth of native peoples. We are slowly reversing that paradigm.
The Molalla Treaty of December 1855 is the last western Oregon treaty ever negotiated, that was eventually ratified. It was late because Joel Palmer heard late in 1855 that there were these other Molalla people still in the Cascades in southern Oregon that had yet to be negotiated with. We see these peoples also mentioned extensively in the Yangolers by Jesse Applegate, a very interesting read with a rare history of a raid by the Molalla on the Yoncalla (Komemma) Kalapuyans.
The Molalla kidnapped some women from the Yoncalla, and the Yoncalla men chased them down and returned their women. Later is also described the attempt to remove Chief Halo and his family, and how the Applegate family stood up for the right of the tribe to remain there. But the treaty came at a key time for western Oregon tribes, just after Palmer had decided to remove the tribes temporarily to the Grand Ronde Agency. The Molalla treaty mentions the Yamhill Valley, a rare instance of this.
Most of the other six ratified treaties mention the Coast Reserve. The Coast reserve was not ready to receive over 2,000 people from western Oregon to resettle there, so the Yamhill valley was chosen as a temporary solution. The Treaty files from NARA include the original signed treaties, the transfer documents to the President and Congress, and a ratification document, signed by the President with a large seal and a ribbon. But the Molalla file also included a letter from Palmer. A rare latter that described how some things need to be organized in western Oregon relating to the reservations. The text of the letter is transcribed below.
Copy Supt. Palmer’s letter
of Jany 12, 56
Transmitting treaty with the
Molallas of Oregon of Dec 21, 55
Office Supt Ind Affairs
Dayton, OT. Jan 12th 1856
I have the honor herewith to transmit a treaty of purchase
made and concluded on the 21st ultimo with the mo-lal- la-
les or Molell tribe of Indians, claiming the country east of the
purchase made of the Umpquas and Calapooias on the 29th
of Nov 1854.
The tract includes the western slope of the
Cascade mountains, and is drained by the waters of the
North and South forks of the Umpqua river, Calapooias
Creek, and the North fork of Rogue River. It is very
Mountainous, but contains it is said, good tracts of table
land, and an occasional open prairie on the margin of
The intrinsic value of this tract is by no means
great, so far as known. It borders however a country
destined to contain a dense population, and must ultimately
be the source from which timber will be obtained for use
of the settlement. So long as the title of the country
should remain unextinguished and these Indians reside there,
collisions between them and our citizens could scarcely fail
to occur. And this consideration seemed to render
the consummation of a treaty importune imperative.
The confederation of as many as possible of the bands,
and their location upon one reservation, in accordance
with the instructions from your office, have been regarded
by me as of great importance, not only as regards economy,
but in regard to the ultimate beneficial results to the
Indians, who would thus become a more homogenous people,
and be more strongly bound together by social sympathies,
than could be reasonably expected were they placed in
small numbers on remote reservations.
In consideration that it may ultimately become the
policy of the government to establish an Indian Territory,
provision has been made in the treaties by which this
object might be achieved without any violation of faith
on the part of the government. Judicious and proper
training such as is contemplated in the treaties, of the
greatest number possible of Indians up the same reser-
vation, when the energies and resources of the government
can be efficiently exerted for their civilization, and to
habituate them to submission to authority, would
I believe, at an early period, prepare them for any
change in their location which may be deemed desira-
ble by the government.
The reasons assigned in the 3rd article of this treaty
For the immediate removal of the Indians from the
disturbed district, were believed sufficient to justify such a
provision; besides which demonstrations of a design on the
part of lawless whites, to excite the volunteer forces in
the immediate vicinity as well as the settlers adjacent,
to an attack upon their camp, under the pretense that
they were keeping up a cor[r]espondence with the hostile bands,
endangered the safety of the Indians.
At one time matters had gone so far, that a part
of one of the volunteer companies stationed in the neigh-
borhood, were marching when this defenseless and un-
armed camp, with the avowed design of cutting them
off. But the scheme was frustrated by Nicholas Day
one of the settlers, who was well acquainted with their
peacable intentions and entire distribution of fire arms, who
prevailed upon the officer in command of the force to
first accompany him to the camp, where the condition
of the Indians afforded [a clear?] demonstration of the
absence of the ability or intention of the Indians
to injure the settlers.
The movement was occasioned by a representa-
tion of some one that in passing near the In-
dian encampment, three shots had been fired
at him by concealed Indians. This man afterwards
acknowledged that it was a ruse or hoax on his
part. It came well nigh accomplishing what in-
terested parties earnestly desired, the extermination of
those bands. Reports of a similar character were
almost daily circulated, keeping the Indian camp
and the entire neighborhood in constant excitem-
ent and alarm.
Several of the Indians belonging to the
Umpqua and Calapooias bands embraced in the treaty
of Nov 29th 1854, have made considerable progress in far-
ming and were unwilling to abandon their fields
and houses unless some guarantees should be given
them, that land suited to agricultural purposes
could be secured them, and as they had heard that
the Coast reservation contained but a small extent
of country suited to the growing of wheat, they were
reluctant to go there on that account. The
provisions of the 6th article of the treaty submitted
removed that objection.
The farms purchased & to be purchased for this
object were on the extreme limits of the Grand Round
Valley which extends into a recess of the Coast range
of mountains and is walled on the North by an
elevated and extremely broken Ridge, and on the south
by a lofty and almost precipitous Spur entirely
preventing ingress in that direction. The only practice-
able route for a road from the Willamette Valley in
to this Grand Round, is [is] by a narrow opening
between the hills through which flows the south
fork of the Yam Hill River. This valley is nearly
equally divided by a partially timbered ridge ex-
tending from the Ridge on the north in a South-
westerly direction and terminating in an abrupt
precipice on the bank of the Yam Hill River, The
farms purchased and to be purchased lie west of
this ridge and extend into the opening of the Coast
Range, by which the ocean is reached, by following
the course of the Nechesne or Salmon River.
This is the only and nearest point approach-
able from the coast, adapted to the production of wheat
in sufficient quantities to supply the Indians to be
located on the Northern portion of the Reservation.
Situated as I have stated at the extreme verge
of the settlement, remote from populated portions of
the Willamette Valley, its occupancy for the objects
designed, will in the least possible degree interfere
with the white settlements.
I regard this tract as the best location
for the residence of an agent, and admirably adapted
to the establishment of a manual labour school,
and the erection of a flouring mill to manufac-
ture the wheat produced on these farms, which by
the labor to be performed by pupils attending the
school and the employment of a few Indians, would
be ample to bread the Indian bands confederated
by this treaty.
In the treaty with the Umpquas and Calapooias
of the 29th Nov 1854 no provision was made for
the erection of mills, or for the purchase of materials
to be used in a smith and tin shop, nor for
the establishment of a manual labor school, these
provisions being deemed requisite and the limited annuity
provided by said treaty being insufficient to jus-
tify it’s application for such objects; the terms
of the purchase now effected are arranged to
supply the defect.
No specific provisions for similar objects
were incorporated in the treaty of the 10th January
1855 with the Indians of the Willamette Valley.
as it has been contemplated locating in the
neighbourhood of the improvements referred to,
some of the more trustworthy and civilized of those
bands; and others of a similar character at the nearest
suitable point on the western slope, this school
would afford facilities in common, for the chil-
dren of all those bands.
In former communications, I have given my
my views of the fitness of the tract selected as the
Coast reservation, and am well convinced that no
other district west of the Blue Mountains can be
found of sufficient capacity possessing so few
advantages for white settlements.
It has been represented that the reser-
vation includes the valley of Tillamook where a con-
siderable settlement has been made. This is wholly
incorrect. No fort part of that settlement is within
its limits and unless there be a few white families
on the head water of Alcea, which is yet unde-
termined, as the surveys are not yet extended so
far, no settlers reside within the limits of the Reservation.
Should the coast treaty be ratified, the purch-
ase of the farms previously indicated, (the purchase
price of which has been estimated for) I regard
as of the utmost importance to the successful carrying
out of the policy of the government with those tribes,
a failure to accomplish which would nearly render
negatory? the entire labor of the two last years, and
destroy the confidence of the Indians in the
agents of the government.
I am not unadvised of the action of
the present legislative assembly of this territory, in
asking that the superintendent may be restrained
from locating the Indians in the midst of the
white settlements and declaring me “visionary and foolish”
in attempting to carry out the policy of the
I need not say that I have never con-
template locating Indians in the settlements.
The policy I have pursued I have regarded as being
within the line of my instructions, and such as
will tend to advance and civilize those Indians,
secure peace with them, economize the expenditure
of the general government.
At least our one section of land should
be secured in the neighborhood of the Grand Round
for the tribes included in each of the following
Treaty of Jany 10th 1855 with Calapooias, Mollales,
clackamas, Treaty of Nov 29th 1854 Umpquas and Calapoois
(now confederated with Molallales, the northern coast tribe,
and friendly bands of Rogue River valley embraced in
the Treaty of 10 Sept 1853 and 19 Nov 1854. Also an
additional section for the use of a manual labor
school for the benefit of all the above named tribes.
The tract adjacent to those sections may be
occupied by numbers of the bands now residing in
this valley, who have made considerable progress in
agricultural knowledge, and would be useful as a
link between the main settlement of Indians upon
the reservation and the white settlers.
I may be permitted to reiterate here, what
I have stated in other communications, that I feel
well satisfied that there can be no hope of carry-
ing out the policy of the government among those
tribes or enforcing the Intercourse laws upon tracts
situated in or near the mining district, nor in
the heart of the white settlements, and the expen-
diture of public funds in the erection of buildings
and other improvements upon those temporary
reservations, would be attended with no correspond-
ding advantages to the Indians, nor further the
objects of the government.
Upon ascertaining the location of the prairies
on the head waters of Seletz and Alcea Rivers by
actual surveys, if they are found to be within the
limits of the coast Reservation, they may be made useful
as wheat farms for the tribes to be located upon
the southern half of the Reservation.
With these remarks I submit this treaty
to the President and his constitutional advisers,
suggesting that, an early action and decision upon
this and the Coast Treaty would put at rest many
questions hanging as an incubus, and tending to
hazzard all efforts on the part of agents of the
government to maintain guarantees solemnly pledged
I am sir your
Supt Ind Affairs
Hon Geo W Manypenny
Commissioner Ind Affairs
Signed: Dec. 21, 1855. (12 Stat., 981)
Ratified Mar. 8, 1859.
Proclaimed Apr. 27, 1859
Years ago my research on the records on the tribes revealed to me that George Gibbs was a significant part of the history of the tribes at the time of the treaties. An early ethnographer and Chinuk Wawa speaker and a translator for both the Oregon and California treaty commissions, he was highly influential in his time. At one point in my research I encountered some language texts he collected in Northern California. They were full of Chinuk wawa (Chinook Jargon) even though they were labeled Athapaskan. I wonder if he did not use Chinuk Wawa when speaking with the Northern California Tribes in the treaty negotiations. He had learned Chinuk Wawa earlier when employed as a surveyor for the U.S. military and stationed at Astoria. If so this expands the area in which the language was spoken much further south than previously theorized.
There is a linguistic discussion about the formation of Chinuk wawa. Some linguists feel that it was developed because of the fur trade. Others believe it developed well before the fur trade. I fall on the latter side as the tribes of the Columbia had to communicate with other hundreds of tribes who had unintelligible languages, so there was already a need well before the fur trade. But I also believe the fur trade helped spread the language and it became the most widely spoken language from San Francisco to Alaska for a few decades. Everyone spoke it, whites, Russians, Spanish, Hawaiians, Indians, everyone.
Some years ago (2000), I had a discussion with Dell Hymes and another linguist on the linguist listserves. I suggested that Chinuk wawa was used in a wider region than previously known or thought before. I suggested that specific words of the language, or part of the language could have been used quite widely for inter-tribal trade, without everyone having to be fluent in the language. Hymes agreed with this notion.
In California, I really think that Gibbs used Chinuk Wawa when speaking to Tribes in Northern California, especially that area north of the Klamath River. This includes the Tolowa, Yurok, Karok, and others. I just today found a report that says nearly the same thing.
This is from the 1851 Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, page 499 (Google Books). The confirmation here means that we need to rethink the language and its broader use throughout the region.
Early in my studies, I did work with the various Christian efforts to colonize Oregon. Some of that appears in my dissertation. Lately I have begun to think that the United States policy of treaty making is part and parcel following the same pattern as that devised by Christian Missionaries to the tribes. This all begins with the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christianity(approximate title). They send hundreds of missionaries to the world, and especially to the New World, and utilize tribal languages in their efforts. Lathrop is presenting below some of their problems and presents their “scorched earth” policy to civilize the tribes. It may not be at all a fact that the North practiced the world’s first scorched earth campaign on the South, but the colonizing and missionization of the tribes was its own scorched earth campaign. The treaties propose a very similar policy, promotion of agriculture and education as a normal part of what they were about.
John Lathrop, A Discourse Before the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians
(17)- Although the Society has given all the aid in its power, towards the support of Missionaries among the Indians, it cannot say, that much good hath resulted from that part of its labours. Experience hath taught this Society, and others of a similar nature, that attempts to propagate the Gospel among the native of the wilderness, in their wild and savage state, will be to little purpose. The forests must be cleared away, and the ground must be prepared, before the feed is to be sowed, or a harvest is to be expected. This doctrine, which every husbandman understands, is equally true in spiritual things as in temporal. The parable, which our Lord delivered to “the multitude, gathered together unto him,” as we read in the 13th chapter of Matthew, may be applied, with great propriety, to the subject, which we are considering…
(18) Some of the most promising children were taken from distant tribes, and at great expense prepared to give useful instruction to their brethren. But when they had finished their education, and were sent back to their native tribes, the knowledge which that has acquired, and the manners which they brought back with them, were subjects of contempt and ridicule. Either from inclination, or a desire to live peaceably with their Pagan connections, the greatest part of them, soon abandoned what work on which they were sent, and became Indians again.
(18-19) The first thing attempted by those missionaries (to Paraguay), was to convince the Indians, to whom they were sent, that comforts of a temporal nature, are to be found in the state of civilization, far more numerous and certain, than can be found in a savage condition. This conviction they gave by cultivating the land. In this way, the natives had the opportunity to see, what labour will produce.
This is exactly the policy followed by the federal government, the Dawes act did exactly this. What is interesting is that the tribes were alright without a material based society. It was not necessary to value possessions, over the community. Yet this is exactly what Christianity and later the United States assimilated to tribes to philosophically and literally.