The Final Year in Our Homelands: Temporary Reservations and Encampments
Over the past few years, I have been writing articles about the temporary reservations in the Willamette Valley. From March 1855 to January 1856 these reservations/encampments existed in the valley and the Kalapuya and Molalla Indians lived within their boundaries. Additional encampments were created in October 1855 for the Chinook and Clatskanie peoples on the Columbia, at Milwaukie, and Oregon City. Further gathering locations were created at Spores Ferry and Corvallis in October 1855. These projects involved concentrating all of the southern Valley tribes at these locations to be removed to Corvallis before they were gathered on a steamboat bound for Dayton. The tribes resided at Dayton at Palmer’s allotment where he had the Indian office located. They remained in Dayton for a few days to several weeks before being walked or transported by wagon to Grand Ronde. The encampments in the valley were all emptied by April with all peoples on the reservation by April 6th. There they joined the Umpqua Reservation and Table Rock Reservation tribes who had marched overland to Grand Ronde. The Umpqua reservation tribes, Yoncalla, Southern Molalla, and upper Umpqua, as well as the Cow Creek Reservation tribes arrived in late February 1856. Table Rock Reservation tribes, Takelma, Shasta, and Athapaskan peoples (Chasta Costa) arrived in Late March 1856.
In the temporary encampments farmers took contracts to supervise the tribes. American settlers did not want to live next to Indians, and as soon as the treaties were written, it became illegal for Indians to walk across their homelands. I am not sure they understood this, but in time they came to understand the extent of what they gave away. The exchange of their lands occurred because otherwise, the Chiefs feared that their people would disappear forever. Conflicts with settlers- murders, genocides, rapes, and kidnappings of Native women and children, were all not investigated or were any white men held accountable. This was a common occurrence in Oregon at this time. There were not enough white American women and some illicit marriages and indentured servitude, or near-slavery, was common, as Indians were exploited for their labor and the services they could offer white men.
We have yet to find an account of what happened in 1855 to 1856, this near-year on the temporary reservations, but some farmers hinted that they wanted the Indians to work for their place on the farms. They likely built fences and plowed fields, plant crops, and harvested at least one crop before they moved to Grand Ronde in the winter of 1856. There are indications that some of the tribes lost their belongings and were not repaid for them. Some of the farmers and their neighbors stole their left-behind belongings, horses, cattle, houses and such. The tribes left the settlers in a better place after they left, having built portions of the farms and developed the fields. Afterward, farmers would ask for specific Indians to come labor for them for many seasons afterward.
This period had to be extremely stressful for the tribes who did not know what to expect when they got to the reservation. For many, they stated that they did not get what they were promised. The stories of broken promises of the federal government to the tribes derive directly from this time period when the tribes were promised much to induce them to move to the reservation. Many of these promises were not documented in the treaties or any other agreements, and are now passed through tribal oral history to the present. In one example, the northern Molalla accepted Joel Palmer’s promises, took them to heart, and when the houses, food, and money did not materialize. In less than 5 years half of the Molallas returned to their home territory near Molalla, many to never return to the reservation again.
This period was also the unveiling of a regional strategy for removing the tribes from conflict zones. The Army worked with Indian agents to remove tribes or place them on encampments, forcefully, with the intent to keep them from joining the Tribal combatants or supplying them. This had the effect of eliminating possible allies for the Rogue River tribes and supply lines, causing their eventual defeat in the summer of 1856.
The following are essays of many of the temporary reservations in the Willamette Valley and the Umpqua valley. There were a few other temporary reservations whose details have yet to come to light.
The temporary reservation essays are linked below.
Created March 1855
Created October 1855