Head Quarters Dept. of the Pacific
San Francisco 29th March 1854
My Dear General;
I give you many thanks for your favor of the 18th ultimo.
I am gratified to learn that there is a prospect of an increase of the Army. Our Empire is very large, and a large proportion requires military protection and none more than California, Oregon, and Washington. For California, Oregon, Washington and Utah we have less than one thousand troops. Almost every mail brings us information of some outrage by either the Whites or the Indians. Generally the latter are quiet and peaceably inclined, but are frequently goaded to acts of cruelty by the conduct of the Whites, of whom many consider them no better than wolves, and apparently take as much pleasure in killing them as they would the latter. With almost innumerable tribes of Indians dispersed throughout the Pacific Department, embracing the country above mentioned, some of which are warlike & troublesome, with emigrants in large numbers daily encroaching upon them & dispossessing them of their lands, it is scarcely possible to preserve the peace of the country without a much larger military force than I have under my command at the present time.
…General John E. Wool to General Joseph Lane
Life in the Cube will be interesting as we work on developing the museum. I think I will get some cubist art and hang it about as I go through my blue cubist period. HAH!
Anyway research commences and advances at all phases of my work. I have taken up a gradual project to go through the paper of each of the early governors of “Oregon.” Frankly this is very rewarding as many were involved in Indian affairs, treaties, wars etc. I have encountered stories, place names, and information that connects many other accounts that we did not have previously. I am thinking that this is a problem in the practice of “history”. A substantial problem as I am encountering numerous unknown and unexplored information sources in areas that would be obvious for any previous researcher or otherwise scholar to find this information. I am surprised at the depth of the systematic lack of knowledge.
I have also instituted a new way to organize my information. As I take scans of the letters into PDF format I am saving them into a folder that is the repository of information from a specific archive. However, I am also taking these letters, re-labeling them by year-month-day and placing them in a folder by a specific author. Therefore, I am able to line up all of the letter in chronological order, and the computer file system does this for me. I can then follow thoughts and action over several years. So regardless of whether the letters are from Oregon, Connecticut or Washington,DC I have them all reorganized back together. It is so much easier to read them in order.
The Early Oregon Legislature, the Provisional Government, establish in 1843, began taking action and making pronouncements to secure their place in Oregon and provide for the public welfare. I have scanned through the Oregon Archives (from Google Books, Thanks again!) and found numerous references to the tribes and treatment of the tribes in these early laws and policies. The earliest pronouncements and acts sought to include the Indians as equal free citizens, along with the rest of the multi-national matrix of Oregon.
Seeking to assure all peoples in Oregon and to keep the peace, even native people of the country were included in the early bills. This was highly strategic on the part of the settlers. The fact was that the tribes were being subjects to be forced off their lands while under national law they maintained aboriginal title.And the US was in a conflict with the British about where to draw the national borders in the region. Employees of Hudsons Bay Company had to be reassured that they would be respected in their claims and rights. other statements were made to assure free use of waterways for all as well. However, equality was short lived, as once bounties were declared on predatory animals, Indians were allowed to collect only one half the bounty of a white man.
In 1843 the government also pronounced that the Indians would be respected in utmost good faith, always. This was a awesome and progressive statement for the time, and even for our time, as good faith is not how we would characterize the state of Indian federal or state relations in our history. The statement would have little legitimacy as time went on as following the Whitman Massacre, feeling changed dramatically toward the tribes.
In 1847, following the Whitman Massacre the first changes occurred for the government of Oregon. They established a militia following an event at Willamette Falls and expanded the functions of the militia and size of the force dramatically in response to the Whitman massacre.
After this time, a state of war was considered to exist between the settlers and the Indians, especially the Cayuse. The Militia grew, and legislation began to appear to administer the settlers rights to lands by elimination of Indian title.
This was not the purpose of the state governments, nor once they were brought under the United States would they be allowed to deal with the tribes in this manner. The provisional government, regardless, began giving men titles, and Joel Palmer became the first Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon.
And then, perhaps destined, the legislature began commenting and making public policy on a number of “other” peoples in Oregon. Apparently, some people did not like Indians, Blacks, Mulattoes or Lunatics, and so in rapid order they passed pronouncements to administer these peoples. Interesting that they are all included in successive statements.
But Oregon was early on an anti-slavery territory, and there were early pronouncements by the future first governor of California, Burnett, to prevent slavery in Oregon. Interestingly, in the 1850s while in California, Burnett supported slavery.
All for today, perhaps another chapter later.
In 1856, after a decade of pitched battles and skirmishes in southern Oregon and along the Columbia River, General Joel Palmer began removing the tribes of western Oregon to a permanent reservation called the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. That removal was the end of the world, and the beginning of another world for the tribes. This new world was full of enemy tribes, 27 or more in all, and everyone had to learn to share significantly less resources.
The tribes were from very different environments. SW Oregon is fairly high and arid in some areas. Very hot summers and more hunting and gathering than fishing. The Grand Ronde valley can be hot in the summer but its much more temperate and much closer to the coast and subject to coastal temperature changes. Then for the tribes they had left their resource areas, places they had know for many thousands of generations. They had developed technologies and knowledge of the landscape, they knew when certain plants were ready for harvesting by reading the land and following the seasons. This was their traditional ecological knowledge. This all changed.
The reservation was a bounded 60,000 acres next to the coast range. There was a flat valley floor and many tribal people began working in agriculture and ranching, but the valley proved to have thin clay soils and was not good for subsistence agriculture. So many people went hungry subsisting on the few allocations of beef and flour they could get from the government and what they could forage from the forest. They were not allowed to have weapons and so could not hunt. Many people grew hungry and ill from their dietary changes and forced living situations. They could not escape into the valley during the winter like they usually did and had to learn to live through the harsh winter in a coastal range climate.
There was extreme poverty, hunger, and over half of the population died of illnesses and trauma by 1900. From the original 1200 people at the reservation in 1857 there were about 400 remaining in 1900.
In 1887, the Federal government hatched a plan to give every tribal individual a piece of property and sell the rest to white settlers. This was the Dawes Act which inculcated the notion of blood quantum into our societies. In this one act the collective tribes of the United States lost millions of acres of land, about 29,000 at Grand Ronde alone. In addition, there was instituted a “virus” of blood quantum philosophy which continues to work its way through tribal societies eliminating tribal descendants. This combined with the notion that we had to have individual land ownership and were not part of a collective sharing of the land, further caused degradation of our tribal society. As a collective with community rights, tribes have a better ability to withstand the various pressures to sell parts of the reservations, but after 20 years of having allotments, when the individuals got their fee-simple titles to their allotments, they began selling off their properties piecemeal. By 1935 we had about 400 acres remaining of the original 60,000 acre reservation.
The government stepped in and instituted a series of rehabilitation programs, and these programs included Indian Conservation Corps, Cannery development, buying back land for allotments, building houses, building the governance hall, 4H programs to help children learn to raise animals, and some other assistance in agriculture for land owners. There is a film about the program Rebuilding Indian Country. Pay close attention to the sections on canneries and fishing in the Columbia, and cattle ranching, those are the Oregon Tribal industries that were instituted.
One hundred years after the reservation was formed, the federal government terminated the western Oregon tribes in 1954. The tribes at Grand Ronde lost all federal services and were forced to sell their allotments and the majority had to move away to Salem or Portland where they could find work. They received $35.00 each, for their share of the remaining portion of the lands and resources of the reservation.
That was another end to the world and the beginning of another world; the final act in the agenda of the United States to colonize all Indian lands in western Oregon. The new world the tribes endured was fraught with poverty, abuses and illness, as most people could not afford to live anywhere but the poorest areas of town. Indians in the 1950s and ’60s were subject to racism and discrimination just like other ethnic minorities.
In 1983, after a decade of hard work the tribe was restored and we underwent a rebirth. The tribe continues to work to restore itself in many ways, this too could be considered the end of one world and the beginning of another world. This began the reversal of the attempt of the government to eliminate the tribes forever and a new beginning of self-governance for the tribe.
This cycle is an agenda of colonization, and gradual takeover of the rights and resources of the worlds’ indigenous peoples. Every half century or so another event happens to take resources from the people and give it to the colonizers. The next event like this for indigenous peoples will likely be sometime around 2020. At that time we will be seen as not needing further federal aid and efforts will begin to eliminate that aid, and our protected status. They will come after our “special” rights to land, to fishing and hunting, to take away the protection of dependent sovereignty within the United States.
Indigenous people are used to their worlds’ ending, and beginning anew, this is why we were not surprised nor shocked when the recent economic decline occurred in 2008, and much of the wealth of the country was taken over by banks. The tribes are survivors and adapters. through our very long history on this land, a history that predates that of Europe, and most of western civilization, we have lived and adapted to all manner of changes. Still the ability to adapt does not make the situation any better, nor excuse those who work to eliminate us.
History just keeps getting better and repeating itself. Apparently the notion of the richest citizens and foreign investors having a controlling interest in the politics of the country is not a new concept. This statement from Senator Crittenden in 1841 really hits the nail on the head.
” Their (foreign investors) object is to increase their own fortune by the spoils of our land, to suck our young life blood for the purpose of strengthening and invigorating the decaying institutions of other countries. They seek to acquire political influence over us, that they may turn it to their own advantage and our destruction.”
And then the author confesses jealousy that he cannot be doing the same thing. Well it has now been happening for some time, from reinvestment into Europe and Asia following two World Wars, to the expansion of the global markets where American Banks and the American dollar is a major player.
Perhaps today’s American could really learn from this statement as this is what has occurred but now its being perpetrated by the richest Americans. They are so wealthy that they do not feel beholden to the American society or country for their ability to become wealthy, but only to their bottom line. They do not feel they have to follow laws and any sort of common morality and ethics, as long as they get paid. And they have worked for many decades to create a business climate where they make greater riches. That work involves modifications to our very political system, so that they get all of the breaks and none of the burden of paying for their footprints. And they park their money offshore so their wealth does nothing to enrich America. The author then sums up this situation very well by stating “we shall most probably forfeit not only our liberty but our independence.”
Who are the savages now?