Recede the Indians to where?

In the course of my research, I came upon this nice little statement from the Congress in 1841, by Congressman Linn. The very same Linn that lent Linn county in Oregon its name. The proposal is to fund an effort to give Americans access to the Oregon Territory. I really must quibble with one section of this statement, that of compelling the roving Indians to recede.  Recession in this comment is in reference to removal of the tribes westward, into the frontier, a frontier as yet unsettled by the Americans. Unfortunately for the tribes of Oregon, we did not have too much further to recede. And in fact there were cases in California where the tribes were placed on schooners and literally dropped into the Pacific Ocean, perhaps the furthest west we can imagine. But in Oregon that did not occur, the original plan was to move all of the tribes to the Umatilla area, but all refused.  The tribal leaders of the Santiam Kalapuyas literally stated they would rather be shot than remove eastward. The western Oregon tribes were moved into the Coast and Grand Ronde reservations, within the Coast range and for 100 miles along the Oregon coast, perhaps as far as practical.  A few tribes were removed eastward, the Nez Perce to Leavenworth Prison, and the Modoc to Oklahoma.

I would not have been a bit surprised if the previous statement had been “Exterminated the Indians”, rather than “Beasts of Prey”, as that is what truly happened for all tribes that got in the path of the Gold miners and settlers organized into bands of volunteer militia bent on extermination of the of the “savages”.  This statement is one of the calls to action for the American people to move to Oregon to seek their opportunities, regardless of the tribes previous occupation on the land for more than 15,000 years.

Finally, I would critique the notion of recession again, as the statement is in reference to the Hunting Grounds. This is a clear reference to the notion of the Happy Hunting Grounds, of which I do not really know where it originates, but is clearly a reference to death, or a native afterlife. Essentially in today’s vernacular Senator Linn is saying that they need to encourage the Americans to move to Oregon, kill all of the large animals, Indians, and extract all of the resources for white men.  For this he gets a county named after him.


Are Kalapuyas strictly gatherers or perhaps agriculturalists?

Perhaps 15 years ago, in the midst of classes at UO, we studied the hunter-gatherers of the Northwest Coast, also called Complex Hunter-gatherers. Some of the theories did not sit well with me. many of the theories are loosely structured around the notion that these peoples, really tribes of different peoples, did not possess much structure, were not agriculturalists, and sort of wandered about the landscape in a seemly haphazard fashion. Well, since I did not accept these theories, I confront them whenever possible, whenever I encounter something which tells me that things were not as simple as the theories intimated.

This is why when hearing that David Douglas in the 1830s collected tobacco seeds from plantations at Willamette Falls, I immediately took notice. Tonight OHS in Portland is showing a new film, Finding David Douglas, and I will be heading that direction shortly. But more importantly, “tobacco plantations!” that implies much more organization and sophistication than anthropology has previously allowed. In fact in his journals, Douglas describes how the native people propagate the plant,by planting the seeds in a burned out tree, near their plankhouses. This means to me that it is very apparent that they know that Tobacco would do better in a burned out tree, and knew that transporting seed and replanting them would create a new plant. This sounds like agriculture to me. For those interested, there are well recorded cultural practices in Northern California of tobacco plantations, and so the practice was known in the region.

The trouble today is we are having a difficult time finding the plant in the wild, the exact variety of nicotiana for the Willamette Valley. In numerous conversations over the past few years I have yet to come up with anyone knowing where the native plant still exists. Douglas collected seeds, illegally, during his visit. and there are reports of some seeds from the Royal Horticultural Society making it to perhaps Canada and Berkeley, but we have yet to find a source for the seeds. There are regional varieties that would work, rustica and its cousins, but not the multivaris variety.  So we are thinking that the multivaris from the Willamette Valley may have been somewhat domesticated. If this is the case, it would throw theories of when agriculture came into the region into a tailspin. Work needs to proceed on camas, wapato, huckleberries and tobacco to determine how dependent they are on humans so that we understand better the native cultures of the peoples of the region.

Northwest History Conference

Had a very nice time in Tacoma this past weekend. There were  few sessions, the conference was only about a days worth of sessions. But two of the sessions had significant papers on Oregon history. They were all very good. Overall, there were no other native people at the conference that I saw. I became the de facto native scholar there, and was called on in that role. An interesting situation as I have arrived so late to this role. This is a problem that there are not yet enough native scholars that we have enough people in the fields to begin impacting the scholarship. How will tribal versions of the histories be ever heard if this does not occur? I will not accept that status and will continue to work toward greater visibility for tribal histories. If this does not occur, our histories will continue to be trivialized and we will continue to see history taught that does not reflect the reality of our experiences. Those histories are ‘retarded’ in the strict definition of the word.  For a significant period of the early settlement and colonization of the region, the tribes had at least half of the experiences, the other half, the side which is rarely represented, that of the colonized, the repressed, the remainders, the survivors of genocide. We are the descendants of that rarefied body of people.

Gibbs-Starling Map Update

Found so much information on the map since last. I now have some great digital images of the map that were given to me by OSU Library. They have copies there and at The Oregon Historical Society Library.  The new digital image has revealed another reservation that we could not see on our poor images before. the Yamhill Reservation, situation north of Grand Ronde, in another small valley, perhaps Gopher valley. Also reading closely through the narrative on the map I noticed finally Gibbs and Starling consulted with a Leonard White for the river survey between Salem and Canemah in Salem. I began researching Leonard White and found a lot. he was a riverboat captain, we was very adventuresome and would tackle rivers than had not been floated before by sternwheelers. he was the first to make it by sternwheeler to Eugene and many points up the Willamette above Salem. He also advertised in 1851 of having made it to Salem and that he would be making regular routes from the falls to Salem and above. so Gibbs and Starling probably traveled with him or saw the ad in the newspaper and consulted White for his river navigation charts. This is what they based that section of the map upon. I have since written an entry to the OE for Captain White.

new film Growing Native

A few months ago I was filmed in the Cascades by the Growing Native crew. I was helped by the folks at the Sweet Home Ranger District office, who helped with navigation and coordination for the filming. Tony Farque their archaeologist was filmed with me as well as tribal members Greg Archuleta and Julie Brown. We were there to dig camas and talk about its significance and importance to the tribes. We were lucky in choosing our film locations as the camas in the valley are done flowering by the end of May, and so we dug at Camas meadow for the bulbs at the right time. Then we went into the Cascades to Gordon Meadows and were able to find some field of flowering camas. The location is at 4000 ft and so camas flowers there later. So the two locations are amazingly close together such that people can dig camas in the mid summer in the valley locations, then about a month later go up into the mountains and dig camas again. We were able then to see two different phases in the Camas cycle on the same day, amazing! The teaser for the film is at I am not sure yet when the full film will air on PBS or be available to purchase.

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