The Grand Ronde Acreage History

The original plan for the placement of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation may have come out of the effort to locate the Kalapuyan tribes on their own permanent reservations after the 1851 treaties. Anson Dart’s statements about the Yamhill Reservation as being remote and protected may be the key, and that Yamhill reserve location at Gopher Valley is actually fairly close by to Grand Ronde Valley. These treaties were never ratified but may have informed Joel Palmer of some well-protected valleys.

Section of Gibb- Starling map 1851, showing planned Yamhill Kalapuya reserve

In 1855 Palmer was finishing the treaties of western Oregon and when the Rogue River war erupted, began planning with the Army to relocate the tribes to another temporary reservation before moving the tribes to the Coast reservation. That temporary reserve, called alternately The Yamhill Reserve, the Yamhill river reserve or the Grand Ronde Indian reservation was planned in 1855 when the army and Plamer began buying out the DLCs of the settlers in the Grand Ronde Valley, a small valley connected to the Willamette Valley and at the foot of the Coast Range. This project successful, Palmer began making plans to move the tribes beginning in November 1855, and this is somewhat captured in the final 1855 treaty, that with the southern Molallans of the Umpqua Valley when he wrote the new temporary reservation into the treaty. In January 1856 Palmer brought the Kalapuyan chiefs to Grand Ronde to get their approval of the new reserve, so that they could return to their people and convince them to remove when the order came. In late January began moving the tribes from all temporary reservations in western Oregon to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, and sent orders to his sub-agents to this effect. Indians from the Table Rock, the Umpqua, and the temporary Willamette valley reserves were brought at various times to Grand Ronde arriving from March and well into the summer. Indian continues to arrive for several years as bands of stragglers were found and rounded up and forcibly removed.

At this same time, some of the coastal and southern Oregon tribes were removed to the Oregon coastline from Siletz estuary to the Salmon River. Tribes from the Coos Bay region removed to Yachats and the Alsea estuary area, a settlement which became the Alsea Reservation. The Umpqua Reservation remained open for another decade for Umpqua Indians and others.

The Coast Reservation had been established in 1855 by Presidential executive order, forming a reserve of 1.1 million acres that extended from Tillamook to the south of Florence. Yet in 1855, Palmer was looking as at a significant build-out of the reservation facilities meant to manage some 4,000 Indians. He was beginning with an intractable wilderness and so the plan had been to develop the facilities in the Siletz valley for a couple years and then remove the tribes, but with the war and conflicts in the region he could not wait any longer. Once the Grand Ronde reserve was formed, it already had good roads and routes to supplies built by the original settlers. In 1857 the new plan to have two reservations, one for peaceful Indians and one for those who had gone to war against the Americans,  was maintained. That year, the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation was created by Presidential executive order and it became an official permanent reservation.

The number of acres in the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation has been a moving target over the past century and a half. Normally the reservation is discussed as being 60,000 acres. In numerous federal reports the acreage mentioned can range from 59,000 to 69,000 acres.

The variation in acreage has confounded historians and so most have simply chosen an estimate of 60,000 acres. The acreage is important for the tribe today. The extent of the reservation and the location of the original boundaries can determine whether land can be put into trust and determine what status it will achieve, either in-trust reservation or non-reservation lands.

Hazen Planning Map for the G.R.I.R., O.T. 1856, Umpqua Encampment section outlined
Hazen Planning Map for the G.R.I.R., O.T. 1856, Umpqua Encampment section outlined

Then, the majority of the reservation lands were originally part of the coast range or mountainous peaks like Spirit Mountain. As such these lands could not be easily settled upon. So when allotment came in 1887 under the Dawes Allotment act, most of the allotments were on the valley floor or on the edge of the foothills. The location and extent of these allotments are important.

1857 Map of the Grand Ronde Reservation, 2 quadrangles
1857 Map of the Grand Ronde Reservation, 2 quadrangles

When the reservation was being put together, Joel Palmer and the Army were buying up donation land claims of the early settlers. Most settlers chose to take a cash payment for their lands and remove elsewhere, buy at least one family, Kuykendall, chose to remain. This homestead was engulfed by the reservation and the acreage should not have been included within the figure for total acres. None of the government stated acreage totals discuss this area of land.

Finally, the BIA (Office of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the 1850s) set aside several plots of land for the Indian agent, for schools, for mills, and for churches. This area became known as Old Grand Ronde. There was a section set aside in the early days for Fort Yamhill, and the buildings serving the garrison of soldiers. The fort was closed in the 1860s with the advent of the Civil War.

Section of 1856 Map of GRIR, OT showing narrow passage the people had to walk through to get out of the Grand Ronde Valley, with Fort Yamhill on the Hill watching the Pass
Section of 1856 Map of GRIR, OT showing narrow passage the people had to walk through to get out of the Grand Ronde Valley, with Fort Yamhill on the Hill watching the Pass


One section was not part of the reservation and it is unclear when it may have become part. The land in which the Casino stands today was a DLC a settler land claim that was never sold, which was encompassed inside the reservation from its earliest days.


In the 1870s, the Indians were given informal allotments, of which not much information have come to light. There was a survey of the reservation at this time, but again records are rare. It could be assumed that these informal allotments may have closely paralleled the allotments assign Native people in 1891. In fact, recent information from Grand Ronde has suggested that the allotments may have been clustered around their original tribal grouping when the tribes were first removed to the reservation. If so, the 1856 planning map may align well with the places many descendants of the original peoples settled and were allotted.

Portion of map showing location of the Umpqua encampments
Portion of map showing location of the Umpqua encampments- which also may align with 1891 allotments for the descendants

In the 1870-1890s, the state of Oregon was given the roadway footprints for highway 18 and 22, to Lincoln City and Tillamook. These roadways were built by the Indians at Grand Ronde to access fisheries on the coast. For a time the road to Lincoln city/Salmon River was a toll road. Each roadway represents a loss of reservation acreage.

1874 Federal reservation map
1874 Federal reservation map

The following is a series of descriptions of the reservation boundaries of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, in a chronological timeline.

1857  Indian Agent’s report

As far as I have official knowledge of the boundaries of this reservation, the whole of the arable land is now fenced in; we shall, however, need a great many more rails to subdivide the fields; the balance of the land is mountainous, and covered with dense and almost impenetrable forests, destitute of grass and game; indeed there is no game of any kind in this section of country… i have caused the arable portions of the reservation to be surveyed and set apart to the several tribes. This at some future time, will greatly facilitate the subdivision of the land among the different families under the treaty and will also have a beneficial effect among the Indian generally, and encourage them to stay upon and cultivate their own land. -John F. Miller Indian Agent for Willamette Tribes

Congressional edition, U.S. Congress/ Kappler Indian affairs: Laws and Treaties Volume 1

[Executive order signed by President Buchanan]

Oregon, Grand Ronde reserve, Department of the Interior, Washington, June 10, 1857

A report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office concurring in the recommendation that the lands embraced in townships 5 and 6 south, of range 8 west, and parts of townships 5 and 6, of range 7 west, Willamette district Oregon, as indicated in the accompanying plat, be withdrawn from sale and entry, and established as an Indian reservation be established, and have accordingly prepared a form of endorsement on the plat of the same for your signature in case the recommendation is approved. …

  1. Thompson, Secretary

The President.

Executive Office, Washington City, June 10, 1857.

Townships 5 and 6 south, of range 8 west, and parts of townships 5 and 6 south of range 7 west, as indicated hereon by red lines, are hereby withdrawn from sale and entry, and set apart as a reservation for Indian purposes till otherwise ordered.

James Buchanan

[Annual Indian Affairs Reports for Oregon & others]

1866, COIA Annual Report of Indian Affairs, Oregon Superintendency,

October 15, 1866

This reservation consists of two townships and two fractional townships of land adjoining the Coast Reservation, withheld from sale by an executive order, and upon it is located the oldest Indian agency in the superintendency.

1867, Report of the Secretary of the Interior (456)

Grand Ronde Agency, situated on the western edge of the Willamette valley, adjoins the Coast Reservation, and is the oldest agency in the superintendency, embracing a tract of 3,888 acres. …

1869, Report of the Secretary of the Interior  (456)

Grand Ronde agency, situated on the western edge of the Willamette Valley, adjoins the Coast Reservation, and is the oldest agency in the superintendency, embracing a tract of 3,888 acres.

1881, A century of dishonor: a sketch of the United States government’s dealings …By Helen Hunt Jackson, Henry Benjamin Whipple, Julius Hawley Seelye.

Grand Ronde agency.- the Indians of this agency comprise the Molalla, Clackama, Calapooia, Molel, Umpqua, Rogue River and other bands, seventeen in all, with a total population of 870. the reservation upon which these bands are located is in the northwestern part of the state. It contains 69,120 acres, and was set apart for their occupation by treaty of January 22d, 1855, with the Molallas, Clackamas, etc. and by Executive order of June 30th, 1857.

1888, Indian education and civilization: a report prepared in answer to Senate … By United States. Office of Education, Alice Cunningham Fletcher

(589) area and survey.- contains 61,440 acres of which 10,000 are classed tillable. Surveyed. Acres cultivated.- the Indians have under cultivation 1,430 acres.

(notes) report of the Indian Commissioner 1884, p. 314, Ibid 1886, p. 434

1887– Dawes Allotment act- Survey begins

1891– Allotment of 260 Indian Allotments

1907– unallotted Lands (about half of the reservation) are declared surplus and sold- most to logging companies

1907, Handbook of American Indians north of Mexico, Volume 1,  edited by Frederick Webb Hodge.

(645) Kalapooia Family – By treaty at Dayton  Oreg., Jan. 22, 1855, the Calapooya and confederated Bands of Willamette Valley ceded the entire drainage area of Willamette R., the Grand Ronde Res. Being set aside for them and other bands by Executive Order of June 30, 1857. By agreement of June 27, 1901, confirmed Apr. 21, 1904, the Indians of Grande Ronde res. Ceded all unallotted lands of said reservation. The Kalapooian bands at Grand Ronde numbered 351 in 1880, 164 in 1890, 130 in 1905. There are also a few representatives of the stock under the Siletz Agency.

1907 report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior,

Grande Ronde- (Under Grand Ronde School). Tribes: Kalapuya, Clackamas, Cow Creek, Lakmiut, Mary’s river, Molala, Nestucca, Rogue River, Santiam, Shasta, Tumwater, Umpqua, Wapato, Yamhill.

Treaties of Jan. 22, 1855, Vol.10 p.1143, and Dec. 21, 1855, vol. 12, p. 982; Executive Order June 30, 1857. 440 acres reserved for Government use and 33,148 acres allotted to 269 Indians, see letter book 210. p. 328) Act of Apr/ 28, 1904, p. 567, amending and ratifying agreement of June 27, 1901.

1914– Indian appropriations Bill hearings before a subcommittee of the Committee …

By United States. Congress. House Committee on Indian Affairs

The Grande Ronde Reservation was created by treaty and practically the entire reservation- 32,983 acres- was allotted  to 269 Indians, no surplus tribal land remaining.

1936- Rehabilitation program. Some acreage bought back and allotted. Homes and governance hall are built. Many Indian men and women at Grand Ronde and Siletz participate in the Indian CCC camps, building houses and developing agricultural fields.

1950- 597 acres remaining at termination.

1954– termination of the tribe under PL 588, setting up the sale of community property. the tribal business committee voted to sell all tribal allotments as community property and divide the proceeds. Those who had the money has first rights to buy their allotment.

1956– Final termination bill is passed. Most of the allotments sold. The remaining reservation acreage was the governance hall property and the cemetery. A trustee from Sheridan managed the property and the sales, and managed the minors trust accounts. By the audit of the property in the 1970s, only about 5-6 acres remained of the reservation, which was the cemetery. Soon after more acreage was purchased. Final per cap payment is $35 per tribal member.

1970s– According to the audit of the remaining reservation property in the 1970s, only about 5 acres remained of the reservation, which was the cemetery. Soon after, more acreage was purchased.

1983- restoration of the tribal government

1988– Reservation restoration, 9811 acres is restore. The original plan was for 15,000 acres but this number changed through government negotiations.
















Contrasting Colonization in Grand Ronde and Belgium: Reverend Croquet and Cardinal Mercier

The story of the tribes of the United States is one of colonization and disenfranchisement. For hundreds of years, the tribes were subject to pressures from newcomers to their lands. Explorers, missionaries, traders, settlers, all manner of other people seeking to claim land, and take resources from the tribes. This story is well written in hundreds of volumes. The story of the missionaries to the tribes is part of that story of colonization. Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Calvinists, Jesuits, and Black Robes, to name a few, all came to the tribes and worked in many ways to save them from themselves, by destroying their cultures.

The American Catholic church was in competition with the Protestants for converts from the tribes. In the Northwest, the Catholics counted the converted and their success by how many they baptized. At the same time, reports suggested that the Christian religions were not taking hold and Natives continued their cultures. In the late 1850s, the United States began its policy of removing tribes to reservations. Part of their plan was then to subject the tribes to assimilation. Adult men and women were expected to take up recognized trades, farmers, ranchers, housekeepers, and cooks. While the children were taken into reservation schools, all operated by priests in the various faiths. The United States assigned each reservation one of the principal churches for their missionaries to operate the school and attend to the populations. Grand Ronde, Oregon received the Catholic missionaries, while Siletz was assigned the Methodist missionaries. Normally the priests would have an order of sisters to do the actual teaching.


Rev. Adrien Crocket
Rev. Adrien Crocket, missionary to the Grand Ronde Reservation 1859


In Oregon in 1860, at the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation came a Catholic missionary, Reverend Adrian Croquet. Reverend “Crockett” as he became known, was trained at the American university at the University of Louvain (Universite Catholique de Louvain, UCL) , as one of the first missionaries to be trained to be sent out into the world and save Native peoples. His mission was to save the souls of the Indian people at the reservation and attend to the spiritual needs of a wide region of all manner of peoples. His church, St. Michael’s, built with native labor in 1860 has now stood in Grand Ronde for over 150 years, even after burned down twice. His territory ranged to the coast, from Coos Bay to the Tillamook region, and into the Willamette valley to attend to the Catholic people. For over 40 years he lived at the Grand Ronde Reservation and experienced poverty and hardship along with the Indians.

The American College was created to train a cadre of missionaries to go out into the world and save the Indigenous peoples of the world. Graduates went into every continent and many went on to great fame. The college was supported by funding from various American archdioceses, including the Archdiocese of Oregon City, with the express purpose of producing more missionaries to help in the grand project of saving the indigenous peoples.  Many of these missionaries were very interested in native languages and would become proficient in the languages and write dictionaries.

In the 1870s Croquet was experiencing some hardship. Reports suggest he lived a spare existence and even gave away his food and money to help the Indians.  He needed help and asked of his family in Belgium to send someone to help him. They sent Francis Mercier, a nephew, to attend to his needs as he traveled about the land. Francis is now a figure of some fame at the reservation as he married into the tribe, to Marie Petit, the daughter of a Chinook woman and a French Canadian fur trader.  In the 1890s, Croquet retired from his work and returned to Belgium to live out his days with his sister.

St. Michael's Church in Grand Ronde, OR
St. Michael’s Church in Grand Ronde, OR, Douglas County HS Archives image

Reverend Croquet, by all accounts, was a good man, a good human being and did what he could to help the Indians. His efforts and life’s work did contribute greatly to the policy of assimilating the Indian tribes through eliminating their tribal cultures. Each successive generation at the tribe would become less traditional, as their children were forced into reservations schools first, and then later, boarding schools. The tribal culture was forced out of the people and people began accepting their new lives within the United States. In 1907 many of the tribal members became Americans after accepting a fee simple title to their allotment lands. In 1924 all Natives became Americans under the American Indian Citizenship act. Tribal culture did not die, as some individuals practiced their traditions into the termination era (1954) and continue them today. Yet assimilation at boarding schools continued in Oregon at Chemawa Indian School and at dozens of other boarding schools across the nation, even though the people were Americans.  The impact of assimilation is felt in the lack of a diversity of Native languages at the tribe- reduction from 27 native languages to 1 remaining- in the lack of knowledge of tribal culture by a good number of people, and by the loss of a working knowledge of our immediate histories.

The next generation of the Mercier family of Belgium begins another history of assimilation which stands in stark irony to Rev. Croquet’s work among Native American tribes.

Cardinal Mercier
Cardinal Mercier

Another nephew of Rev. Croquet, Desire Felicien-Francois Joseph Mercier, followed in the footsteps of his uncle and attended the University of Louvain in Belgium. There Joseph Mercier did not attend the American College as his uncle had, but instead went into mathematics and philosophy. He taught mathematics and philosophy and even wrote extensively and excelled. Joseph Mercier became a professor at the Malines Seminary and later he was able to secure a new chair of Thomist philosophy at the University of Louvain with the aid of the Pope in 1888. (Kellogg, 1920 , p. 29) Joseph Mercier rose quickly in the ranks of the Catholic Church in Belgium. In 1906 he became the Cardinal of Malines. His full titles were Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Archbishop of Mechlin, Primate of Belgium.

School of Mathematics, University of Louvain
School of Mathematics, University of Louvain

In 1914 the German military occupied Belgium and established a governor there. During this time the Belgians revolted in many ways, frustrating the German military. The Germans retaliated and destroyed libraries and starved the people. Cardinal Mercier went on the offensive and began pleading for the rights of his Belgian people for food. He carried on a campaign of letters with the German governor for the rights of his people, and he wrote all manner of critiques of the colonization and imperialism of Belgium. Cardinal Mercier even wrote one of the first 20th century treatises on human rights “Patriotism and Endurance.”  For his actions, Cardinal Mercier became the hero to the Belgian people, a hero of WWI. He was very outspoken against the slavery imposed on the Belgian people, when by 1916, the Germans were deporting them to work in camps.  “Cardinal Mercier led the bishops in a stark condemnation of “European slavery.” He concluded one appeal, “May human conscience triumph over all sophisms and remain steadfastly faithful to the great precept of St. Ambrose: Honor above everything!” Smuggled out of the country in 1916, Mercier’s appeals became famous worldwide, and inspired sympathetic mass rallies and demonstrations, including a single visit to New York to influence the then-neutral United States.”

It is an undeniable tragedy that Belgium was devastated by Germany during WWI. The colonization and destruction of the cultural icons of Belgium was a travesty and It was absolutely the right of all Belgians to stand up and be very critical and take action to protect their sovereignty and lifeways. This is undeniable.

Elderly Cardinal Mercier
Elderly Cardinal Mercier


Most interesting is the ironic situation of the role of Reverend Croquet at the Grand Ronde Reservation in comparison with the role of Cardinal Mercier in Europe.

Chemawa Indian Boarding School, Salem Oregon, still in Operation today
Chemawa Indian Boarding School, Salem Oregon, still in Operation today

The role of the missionaries to Indian country was to save the Natives from their heathen culture, to assimilate them and their offspring to Catholic or Christian ways. The United States Government borrowed the early models of the missionaries, of industrial schools and of the missionary’s role of saving and civilizing the natives, into the mission and purpose of the boarding schools. The boarding schools were established to assimilate Indian children from Native culture to American culture. Just before assimilation, the tribes were removed from their lands, placed on reservations and forced to adapt to American cultural traditions of agriculture and wage labor. The tribes were imprisoned on these reservations for many decades and not allowed to leave without passes,  they being considered violent and not Americans. Tribal sovereignty and agency were taken away and all parts of their lives were administered by the federal government.

Willamette Mission, Methodist Homestead and Indian Mission School, built with Indian labor, Indian students labored on the farm 1836-1840s
Willamette Mission, Methodist Homestead and Indian Mission School, built with Indian labor, Indian students labored on the farm 1836-1840s, First school for Indians in the Willamette Valley

The missionaries to Indian country were a part of this colonization effort on behalf of American colonization of the Oregon Territory. While a few decades later a distinguished member of the same family working for the Catholic Church was decrying the colonization of Belgium by Germany. The situation was then reversed, as he had to fight for the rights of his people.

In the world, there are lines and borders around what constitutes oppression and colonization. The wars with the Indian tribes, however subtle, worked to destroy them in favor of American colonization. These wars are seen historically as a righteous action on the part of the United States, as it was their Manifest Destiny of Americans to take the whole of America.  While when a similar situation happened in Europe, then it is immoral, unethical, and an illegal act of war and seen by the world thereafter as a great wrong. In Europe, Cardinal Mercier is forever cast in a glorious light of civilization and reason, while many of the Tribal chiefs, who fought against genocide and oppression of their people, were jailed because of their role in fighting against American colonization of their lands.


It is a distinct pleasure for me personally to have this distinguished ancestor in my genealogy. I am a direct descendant of Francis Mercier, a cousin to Cardinal Mercier. In my immediate family history, my father directly benefited from his relations with the cardinal. During the Vietnam War, my father was stationed for a time in Germany. There he had occasion to travel across Europe and through Belgium. One story he passed down was when he entered a tavern in Belgium and mentioned he was related to Cardinal Mercier, and after that everyone bought him drinks.

This story to me is more closely genealogy. The work is so much easier when there is a famous relative that dozens of scholars have written about extensively. There are about a dozen books about Cardinal Mercier, a few others about Reverend Croquet. As such the genealogy of the Mercier family for me is extended back to the 11th century in France.

Final note: the Mercier family must have very powerful genes as there are dozens of people at the Grand Ronde Reservation descendants of Francis Mercier who resemble Cardinal Mercier in many ways.


Indian Fishing Rights on the Grand Ronde-Siletz Indian Agency

Over the course of the years  one question about the tribes of western Oregon has never been fully answered, Do the Tribal Members of the Grand Ronde and Siletz Reservations possess fishing rights? This essay offers a few case studies and a short analysis of the issue that in many ways still exists today. In addition I show how most people in the region do not understand tribal histories and have little or no knowledge of what occurred at the reservations because they were separated and segregated from the Americanized communities of Oregon. This situation contributed greatly to the lack of understanding of Indian rights to fishing and hunting in the region.


The Tribes of the region, some 60 tribes in western Oregon, were avid fishermen. Tribes at areas like Willamette falls, the Cascades and the Dalles  had preferential access to fish, especially the anadramous salmon species, steelhead, lamprey, sturgeon, and smelt. The tribal villages of the Clackamas, Wasco, Wishram, Cascades (Watlala) and other Chinookans benefited greatly by being at the base of such river features.  Other tribes on interior valley waterways, like the Willamette valley watershed also fished extensively but they balanced this food source with gathering and hunting. The Kalapuyans were well known for trading with the Clackamas at Willamette falls for dried salmon.

Then Coastal tribes, like the southern Oregon athapaskans, Tututnis, Coos, Coquille, and north coast Tillamooks, had access to all coastal environments, including river systems, estuaries, off shore resources, and trade with interior tribes. As such all tribes in Oregon accessed fish and waterways for resources. Other resources in waterways include wapato (Indian potato) reeds and sedges for basketry weaving, aquatic mammals (whales, otters, beaver), amphibians (frogs etc) crayfish (crawdads) shellfish and waterfowl. As such the waterways of Oregon features the main population centers for all Tribal peoples, and the main source of food for many.  Access to waterways was a way of life, part of their primary cultures, which included associated activities like trade, and efficient travel and commerce using canoes. Also associated, is the political economy of all regional tribes, their systems of kinship and systems of war and dominance. Wealth in the region was very much regulated by which tribes had access to the best waterways and aquatic resources.

Many tribes lived on the edge of the aquatic environment and the inland forest, giving them access to two lush resource areas. Those tribes who lived the best, appear to have had a balanced relationship between the aquatic and the inland areas, allow for better annual resource supplies and a more sustainable lifeways. All tribes lived in a seasonal calendar, called Seasonal Round, where they would live through the harsh winters in permanent villages. In the spring summer and fall, most tribes would travel about their traditional homelands to noted resource areas and harvest, fish and hunt for resources. Many of these resources would be processed in overwhelming quantities, preserved and stored for winter food. At times an abundance of stored and preserved food would allow them to trade with other tribes for resources and wealth items that they did not have. This pattern of living was a fact of life for at least 8,000 years in western Oregon. The lifeway was a permanent part of the cultures of these tribal peoples and belies the simplistic definition of American Indian tribes,  in anthropology, as being Hunters and Gatherers. There is something much more complex, and permanent, than the aforementioned term implies.

In the 1850s, American settlers and their government sought to removal of the tribes from their original traditional lands. By 1853 tribes were being removed to reservations where they could no longer freely access their traditional resources. the seasonal rounds, where interrupted by the fact that many of their traditional resources, like camas, wapato, and acorns, were being plowed under or logged by settler farmers seeking to build their farms and create vast agricultural fields. Waves of Oregon pioneers took all of the lands in the Willamette Valley leaving none for the tribes. Seeking to remove the tribe permanently, the federal government negotiated treaties with the Oregon tribes in 1853 to 1855 in the areas with the best identified resources.

The treaties set aside a “permanent reservation” for the tribes to hold in perpetuity. The western Oregon reservations were established in the Coast range and in the Grand Ronde valley, a medium sized valley at the eastern side of the Coast range. The tribes began to be removed to the Grand Ronde and Coast reservations in 1856, propelled by conflicts between the tribes and the settlers, ranchers, and gold miners.  Volunteer ranger militia hired by the Oregon Territorial government and the State of California began attacking tribes in an attempt at ethnic cleansing of the whole west coast of the scourge of the tribes. The United States Army and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs worked to honor the treaties and moved to preserve them on reservations, where the tribes would be protected from attempts at genocide by the militia. Yet even living on the reservations did not halt the attacks, as the militia were entering the Table Rock Reservation to continue the attacks. The federal government then removed the tribes to the planned reservations to permanently halt the conflict.

Over the winter of 1856 the tribes were removed to the reservations. Once removed the some 4000 people were completely dependent on the federal government for all food, medicines, and resources. They were not allowed to have weapons, so that could not hunt, they were not allowed to leave, or be subject to recapture and imprisonment. They therefore could not access their traditional resources. The Indian agents, charged with fully supporting some 4000 Indians were overwhelmed, and could not effectively feed all of these people. Housing for the first few years was in canvas tents, and food was beef, pork, and flour, provided by the agents. For the first few years, most shipments of food and supplies came from the east coast, as the federal government bought resources from the suppliers in New York and Boston and shipped them to the west coast. In time, the agents began petitioning to be able to buy locally, so to get better prices and a more stable supply line.

But still for at least a decade, funding to the reservations was inconsistent. Appropriations for the annual reservation budgets had to wait for Congress to approve them, and as such there were times when months would go by without cash in the bank. Therefore much of the purchasing happened on credit and the agents were constantly working to pay their outstanding accounts.

Sometime in the early 1860s, with resource and funding problems continuing, the federal government ordered the agents to allow the tribes to gather their food from their traditional sources. Attempts to even get agriculture going at the reservations were failing, and Indian leaders complained they did not have plows, seed or teams of oxen to do the work of feeding their families. In addition, some lands were nutrient poor for regular planting. The Grand Ronde valley consists of heavy clay soils, and cannot sustain a consistent annual food harvest.

The Agent at Grand Ronde worked to develop a fishery for the tribes on the reservation, at the Salmon river. A road was built by the tribe to the Salmon river and regular trips began to fish the river. The area on the Salmon river was already a reservation encampment, reserved for the Tillamookan tribes, and later Alseas, Siuslaws, and Coos people came there. These peoples would visit the Grand Ronde Reservation to access services and get medical attention. Until 1886 the Salmon river encampment and the northern area of the Coast Reservation was attended to by the agents at Grand Ronde simply because there was not efficient transportation -no roads- to the north coast from the Siletz valley.

The Salmon River fishery continued as a regular part of the Grand Ronde seasonal culture well into the 20th century. Tribal members of Grand Ronde and the Siletz reservations, many of them, had land allotments along the road and along the river at Otis and Rose Lodge. The fishery continued to be accessed  by the tribes after the road became state property. In the 20th century, the State of Oregon began passing laws regarding sport fishing and took an interest in the Indians who fished with gill nets.

Once Grand Ronde was restored the tribe negotiated the right to issue state fishing licenses to its membership though the Natural Resources office. Members get a specific right to fish under those licenses on the Salmon River. Still later, in about 2009, the tribe worked with the State to gain ceremonial hunting rights in a area north of the current reservation. This is a special license which the tribe enjoys nearly year round, to provide deer, elk, and bear  meat to the tribal members for ceremonial events. In addition, the Natural Resources Department of the tribe manages over 12,000 acres of timberland and studies and supports fish and animal species.

Case Studies (summaries)

In the 1930s this issue of Indians fishing in state waters came to the fore, and the state of Oregon began a discussion as to how the Indians were to be treated for their rights as United States citizens under state laws.

Quotes from letter of Earl Woolbridge, Supt. Grand Ronde-Siletz Indian Agency, November 8, 1938.

“The question of whether the state of Oregon has jurisdiction over Indian fishing or hunting upon Indian lands for which no fee patents have been issued is presented in Supt. Jackson’s Letter. It may be stated that until the United States issued fee patents it does not relinquish title and consequently retains jurisdiction over those Indians to whom it has not issued fee patents, in other words, the jurisdiction of the United States continues over them so long as they remain in trust patent status.

If a tribal Indian residing on the reservation commits a crime on land to which the United States has not relinquished title, the jurisdiction of the Federal Government is exclusive.

However, if a defendant, while still a ward of the Government, commits an act in violation of a State statute upon lands off the reservation, he is amenable to State law. In such case the State Jurisdiction is concurrent with the Federal jurisdiction.

In the Case of United States V. Winans, (198 U.S. 371) the court announced the doctrine that where the right to fish is necessary to the Indian’s subsistence, such right remained to them unless granted away, and the reservation to fish in treaties entered into by the United States with the Indians is not necessary to preserve the right on lands reserved or retained in Indian country.”

However, the Attorney General in 1930-1932 had a different opinion the right of Indians to fish on the Siletz River.

It is my opinion that the rights of Indians who have severed their tribal relations and who are still wards of the United States to take fish within the Siletz Indian Reservation are controlled by Federal laws and that the state has no jurisdiction over such Indians over such matters. (Carl C. Donaugh US Dist. Attor. Brief 295, Corresp. of Paul T. Jackson, Superintendent)

In his correspondence Jackson also wrote, the act of Congress of October 14, 1848 (Oregon Act of 1848)… stated,

“From and after the passage of this act all that part of the territory of the United States which lies west of north latitude, known as the Territory of Oregon, shall be organized into and constitute a temporary government, by the name of the Territory of Oregon; provided, that nothing in this act contained shall be  construed to impair the rights of person or property now pertaining to the Indians in  said territory, so long as such rights remain unextinguished by treaty between the United States and such Indians, or to affect the authority of the Government of the United States, to make any regulations respecting such Indians, their lands, property, or other rights, by treaty, law or otherwise, which it would have been competent to the Government to make if this act had never passed; and provided also, that the title of the land, not exceeding six hundred and forty acres…”

In 1938 I.H. Van Winkle (Attorney General) stated the problem,

“In the vicinity of Siletz there is a diminished reservation with some land retained by the tribe and some sold to the public. This would create a checkerboard reservation of Indian and whites living side-by-side. Yet, “It further appears that Indians in this area are taking salmon and other fishes by means of spears, gaffs, gillnets, setnets, chickenwire traps, willow and wand weirs or any other manner in which they may see fit, in a portion of the Siletz river many miles above the commercial deadline established by statute for the regulation of salmon fishing in that area, and where the taking of salmon or other fishes commercially by citizens and residents is prohibited by statute.”

At this point the state had a problem to decide whether the Indians, who are citizens of the state in 1938 (all Indians were made US citizens in 1924 by Congressional act), possess any right to continue fishing the state rivers, rights not held by Americans. Up to 1932, the tribes were allowed to fish in their unusual and accustomed areas even in the west side of the state because no treaties had stripped those rights. The seven ratified treaties of western Oregon do not mention hunting or fishing rights at all, so under US law, if the tribes did not lose their rights through treaty, they retained the rights. This is not the case for the eastern Oregon tribes along the Columbia River, their treaties state specifically that their rights to fish, hunt and gather are guaranteed in their usual and accustomed places. However, once Indians became citizens, the state then questioned whether their citizenship meant that they had to abide by all state laws.

Van Winkle goes on to reference the state laws and origin of the Coast Reservation, which is stated as contained within the Unratified treaty of August 11, 1855, which they could find no record of. (This is a supposition that I would argue with, as the reservation appears to have been created by executive order independent of the Coast Treaty, which was never ratified)

Van Winkle continued to the general opinion that Indians who were still wards of the federal government and enrolled with their tribe, are not subject to state laws, which Indians who had left the reservation and who were no long wards of the federal government would be subject to state laws.

Van Winkle’s discussion applied specifically to the Siletz River, but can be broadly applied to all rivers in the vicinity, including the fishery at Salmon river.

Back in 1931, Paul Lafferty wrote the government to know what his rights were,

Dear Sir, I am writing to you in regards to our rights on hunting and fishing & also trapping. Some of the boys asked me to write you and find out if we haven’t still an old treaty right that the older Indians reserved. The[y] Hunt and Fish on the Salmon and Siletz rivers and don’t seem to be bothered. We are the same as we still have land under trust of the U.S. Government and under same ruling and agent as Siletz Indian Reservation the Salmon River Indians or Otis Ore. are same as we are the hunt & fish.  So we want to know if we can have our privilege of hunting and fishing as we the Indian of Grand Ronde Ore are not killing deer or fishing Salmon & Trout to sell or peddle like the white people. We are lucky to kill what we want to eat and get for our familys [sic]. We halfto [sic] do something to live as there are no work and most of the boys cant buy license. So they have asked to know of you about this matter. So kindly let us know by return mail please give us full detail on this matter according to our right and law of the U.S. We will be very thankful to you for you to help us out on this matter. I can come down to Chemawa and bring 1 or two of the older Indians to see you in person on this matter if you write me and let me know so. So I hope to hear by return mail. Your and oblige, Paul Lafferty, Grand Ronde, Oregon

The answer to Paul Lafferty was from Jas. T. Ryan, Acting Superintendent,

Considerable times has been devoted to the search of treaties…we have been unable to find any mention in any treaties affecting either the Grand Ronde of Siletz Indians….There is no doubt , according to statements of older Indians, that they believed that this question of freedom of hunting and fishing at all times was a part of the treaty that they entered into, but it is evident that the makers of the treaties failed to incorporate this guarantee in the various treaties.

It may be that the older Indians knew that some of the eastern Oregon treaties granted fishing rights. It may be also that there was intermarriage between members of the eastern and western Oregon tribes and it then is true that they enjoyed treaty rights to fish. Finally, it is the case that until the 20th century, Indian rights were fully controlled by the Indian agents and they developed and allowed fishing on the reservations. This changed when reservations lost land due to congressional acts, and many of the original fishing areas became subject to state laws.

In another letter sequence, members of the Logan family at Otis, Oregon, just west of Grand Ronde, had fishing rights.

“The allotment of Louisa Logan is trust lands and under the provisions of this circular (2/3/1932) you are permitted to hunt and fish within the boundaries of the allotment.” (Chas. E. Larsen, Clerk, July 11, 1932)

Then in 1950 Mrs. Agnes Logan Flanary, daughter of James Logan requests the right to allot direct descendants a fishing license on the Salmon River under her allotment right. The government granted this right the next day. (Agnes Flanery, Oct 24, 1950, Box 222, Otis Oregon)

In another situation, Henry Petite was arrested for hunting and killing deer on the Grand Ronde Reservation. John Wischeno (Wacheno) Chief of the Clackamas Indians writes about this case to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to seek an answer to whether the Indians have rights to hunt on the reservations. the answer from the federal government confirms that Indians on the reservation have to right to hunt outside of state laws on the reservations.  (John Wischeno November 13th 1931, Grand Ronde, OR)

Finally, it was the case that many tribal members at Grand Ronde and Siletz would visit their former lands under a pass granted by the Indian agents (see the Grand Ronde Passbook at OHS). They would travel off the reservation for up to several months while they visited old fishing or hunting areas. In the 1870s there was a recorded longhouse at Willamette Falls, likely built by Oregon City John and his family, probably so they would have a place to stay while they fished for salmon and dried it.


Its very clear that the question of whether Indians at Grand Ronde and Siletz had the right to hunt and fish on the reservation was affirmed. The Indians had to be tribal members and their lands they hunted and fished on had to be Federal trust lands. Their rights were recognized by the federal government and the states up to the 1950s. Instances where there were arrests or fines  for hunting and fishing were either made off the reservation, or allotment lands, or were made erroneously. State officials did not know the federal laws regarding the tribes very well and even federal officials did not know the answers without a significant amount of research.  Few people were directly aware where the reservation and allotted lands ended and the state lands began at the area was checker boarded with Indian and white owned lands.

In 1954 the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations were terminated. The termination bill (PL 588) did not address hunting or fishing rights. In the 1960s until the 1980s a series of legal conflicts over Tribal fishing rights erupted in Oregon and Washington, collectively called the Fishing Wars. The tribes believed they still possessed fishing rights, because even if they were terminated tribes, the termination acts did not address hunting or fishing rights. The Boldt (1974) and Belloni (1969) decisions gave the tribes the right to take fish in their usual and accustomed ways and to take half the catch in Washington State.

Yet in western Oregon, when the tribes began activating for restoration in the 1970s, the sport fishing lobby objected stating that the restoration of Siletz would “destroy fishing”. Both Grand Ronde (1983) and Siletz (1977) were restored but both tribes had to give up hunting and fishing rights specifically before the politicians would introduce their bills for restoration to Congress.  Ironically treaties and the loss of the reservations did not eliminate fishing or hunting, only restoration did. Today we can look back and clearly see that the tribes have not destroyed fishing or hunting even after they have gotten agreements with the state to undertake ceremonial hunts nearly year-round. The most egregious impacts on fishing have come from damming rivers and commercial over-fishing of ocean environments. While there are likely more deer today than anytime in the past due to underhunting and the fact that that deer have few natural predators, besides humans, the rest, wolves, cougars have been hunted to extinction.

Its also clear that from the beginnings of the reservation system in Oregon that hunting and fishing was a necessity to feed the people. The federal government did not feed the Indians or supply them appropriately and as such they created an environment and a culture where these federal wards had to fend for themselves and feed themselves off their traditional talents for hunting and fishing, and gathering in the Coast ranges and in rivers on the coast. The state of Oregon did not have most of these Indians under their jurisdiction until the 1950s, after termination, and as such did not know the history of the tribes on the reservations. In fact most people in the state  today have little to no knowledge of tribal histories of the 19th or 20th centuries. This lack of knowledge likely contributed to situations where many Indians were held to rigid state laws when in reality they had no choice, other than starvation.



Kalapuyans: Seasonal Lifeways, TEK, Anthropocene

Kalapuyan History (summary)

From original 25,000 Kalapuyan people (estimated) in 19 tribes and bands, they were reduced to about 800 by 1850 through diseases like malaria. The loss of population caused cultural collapse and the confederation of many different villages to a very few. This left the land open to settlement from other tribes and American settlers. Americans encountered a park-like setting, a vast flat clear prairie with a mild climate and plenty of water, perfect for agriculture. The collapse of Native culture caused the collapse of most maintenance of the environment.

Section of Western Oregon map showing Kalapuyan territories
Section of Western Oregon map showing Kalapuyan territories

The Tribes were removed to the Reservations in 1856, after signing treaties, the tribes of Western Oregon signed away 19 million acres for 1.16 million acres for reservations for collectively .02 an acre.

Labeled as Hunter-Gatherers by Anthropologists; under examination, the Kalapuyans appear to be more complex than that simple definition.

Kalapuyan Seasonal Round

All tribes in Oregon had the practice of the seasonal round. This is a complex annual system of family groups or whole villages moving to where resources are ready for harvest, hunting or fishing. Many resources, processed in the field, would be returned to winter villages for storage. Families owned specific gathering locations, traded at trading centers in a cultural pattern existed for an estimated 8,000-10,000 years.


The Kalapuya calendar, gathered in 1877 by Albert Gatschet at the Grand Ronde Reservation, emphasizes the seasonal round of the Tualatin Kalapuyans. They followed the annual cycles of the wapato and camas food plants. There is one mention of hunting on the calendar and numerous months mentioning the plants, suggest that they followed the plant cycles, more than the cycles of hunting or fishing. This suggests that they ate a plant-based diet and augmented their diet with meat and fish when they could, but their mainstay was the starchy bulbs of the wapato and camas. Acorns would have also been a staple as they are plentiful in the valley.


Tualatin Kalapuya Calendar, Albert Gatschet 1877
Tualatin Kalapuya Calendar, Albert Gatschet 1877

It was/is common around the world for indigenous peoples to depend mainly on a plant-based diet and ingest few meats. Americans, and contemporary culture may be biased towards thinking that meat-based diets are the best for human consumption.  The majority of cultures in the world, through time, only had meat occasionally, not as the main course.


The Camas cycle, emphasized in the Kalapuya Calendar above, is here revealed in the ways that ther Kalapuyans traveled about their lands in the annual cycle. Many of us follow these cycles today in Oregon. We have grown up learning the seasonal cycles of the berry plants and agriculture in our valley. We grew up knowing that strawberries are ready at the end of May, after them, cherries, blackberries, blueberries. Many people still follow this cycle and access u-pick opportunities, and many have grown up canning all manner of fruits and vegetables. So we already understand the fundamentals of the plant cycles, and can understand  and empathize with the camas cycle below.


Camas Cycle

April-May: Camas flowers

June: Camas goes to seed

Late June: seed pods are dried

July: Travel to Root Digging Camps

July-August: Dig Camas

July-August: dig cooking pits and cook camas

August: Return to Main village, store processed camas

September-Fall- Travel to Trading villages at Willamette Falls and trade Camas for dried Salmon or other products, resources, wealth items

Annually: Repeat

Graphic of a Camas oven, dug in the ground, layered with hot rocks, blanches, leaves, and camas layers, sections could be subdivided for families, , oven would be covers with earth and hot rock replaced ever day for abotu 3 days to create an oven. the Camas would cook and be carmelized, the starches transformed to useable proteins for human consumption
Graphic of a Camas oven, dug in the ground, layered with hot rocks, blanches, leaves, and camas layers, sections could be subdivided for families, oven would be covered with earth and hot rock replaced ever day for about 3 days to create an oven. the Camas would cook and be carmelized, the starches transformed to useable proteins for human consumption.

Various different plants would be harvested at any of the camps. Staples would have been the most important and drawn the people annually to a camp site, but at the gathering camps many other plants would be available and known. Similar for fishing and hunting camps; the days to weeks spent in these camps would be filled with a variety of activities for the various family members. 3-horticulture 4berries 5-weaving

From the rushes would be woven baskets and clothing and tools for the Kalapuyan households. Tule and cattails would be made into mats for a variety of uses. Cedar is the wonder plant, the bark could be woven into all manner of products, including waterproof clothing and hats, the wood was used for making plankhouses. Bark and wood could be harvested from living trees. Large fallen trees would be made into canoes. Dogbane was twisted into cordage, rope.


Summers collection Kalapuyans baskets at the British Museum
Summers collection Kalapuyans baskets at the British Museum

11-trade 1-tech

Many tribes had unique products they traded into the extensive regional trade network. The Chinookans had master canoe carvers, some tribes were living next to waterfalls and had lots of salmon, sturgeon, eel, and developed unique dip nets for fishing. Different tribes had different basketry styles.

Regional Trade Economy

The Kalapuyans participated in the Columbia Trade network. Their major products were camas and wapato. After the bulbs were processed and packed, they would travel to Willamette Falls and trade for dried salmon or all manner of wealth trade goods. Ocean products (shells, whale products) and prairie products (buffalo hides) would converge in the Columbian trade network. In turn, the Kalapuyans would trade with more southern tribes for what they had. Some reports of the Umpqua valley Kalapuyans, the Yoncalla, suggest they traded buffalo hides with the Coos Bay Indians for shells (Harrington).

11-trade 11-canoes

The rivers were literal highways of trade throughout a wide region. Native traders did not have to remain in their small region, and could travel with canoes widely on the Columbia to find what they wanted. Evidence of the extensive intertribal trade network is first recorded in the Lewis and Clark journals (1805-06). Their maps, suggest a great number of villages and peoples in the lower Columbia, and they encountered many traders in other villages.

Unique arrangement  (D. Lewis 2014) of the Original  Lewis and Clark maps, from the Digital collections at the Beineke Library, Yale U.

The inter-tribal networks were inter-connected by inter-marriage in the region. Intermarriage created good trade relations between chiefs and headmen, and peace in the region.




The Willamette had its own trade network, and a series of Kalapuyan villages which were accessed in the fur trade era.


The Salem area had extensive trade and travel from the Kalapuyans. Salem was known as a camas gathering site. The Chemeketa Plains had the Chemeketa Kalapuyans, aligned with the Santiam, and Lake Labish likely was a huge resource gathering area. Some of the original features of the Chemeketa plains may be preserved at the State fairgrounds and Bush Park, who both feature extensive camas fields and oak savannah. Lake Labish was drained in the early 20th century for more agricultural lands, so that environment was severely impacted.


The Kalapuyans, like all other regional tribes heard of the coming changes to their lands well before the first white men came exploring. Stories of changes would have passed and been told at each trade gathering. Below is a story of a prophesy of change that was told at the Grand Ronde reservation by Mose Hudson (pictured).

Translated and transcribed story, with Kalapuyan below. Kalapuya Texts, Melville Jacobs 1945.



  • Human cultural effects on the land
  • Anthropogenic fires are set by many tribes
  • Annual harvesting of specific plants | berries, acorns, roots, bulbs, weaving plants causes these plants to produce more, causes choosing of these plants for preferential treatment, perhaps spreading of them, replanting, planting of seeds, bulbs, etc.
  • Horticultural practices of allowing plants to grow to a specific size before harvesting and not taking all of the fruit of a plant.
  • Practices maintain the land, create collective knowledge of the landscape or Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), normally created by and obtained from the previous generations and passed on through the culture.
Oak Savanahs were/are fire resistant
Oak Savanahs were/are fire resistant

Oak Savannah

Settlers in the mid-19th century encountered a park-like setting where the valley, which appeared to be cleared and ready for their farms. Settlers and later industrialists and business men sought to exploit the environment for their own uses, to save and preserve the naturally occurring timber for industry, and Oregon became one of the largest producers of wood in the world.

Anthropogenic Fires- effects and benefits of the Kalapuyan cultural practices

  • Long term anthropogenic fire
  • Chooses specific plant for survival and for destruction likely causing evolutionary change in plant and animal communities
  • Constantly putting nutrients into the land, increasing the rich nutrient content of the soils of the valley
  • Keeps fire fuels at a nominal level, eliminating the possibility of catastrophic fires
  • Creates and allows for diversity to exist on the landscape for thousands of years by preservign an environment that a diversity of plants survive and eliminating catastrophic fires which would destroy vulnerable communities.
  • Controls, cleans excess diseases, insects, other pests by keeping down populations.
  • Creates important new growth for the plant and animal communities
  • Clears the land of excess vegetation for human travel, human harvest, animal forage, sight lines and vistas.

Fires were recorded in the History of Oregon

It was a custom of these Indians, late in the autumn, after the wild wheat was fairly ripe, to burn off the whole country. The grass would burn away and leave the pods well dried and bursting. Then the squaws, both young and old, would go with their baskets and bats and gather the grain. It is probably we did not yet know that the Indians were wont to baptize the entire country with fire at the close of every summer; but very soon the fire was started somewhere on the south Yamhill, and came sweeping up through the Salt Creek gap.  Jesse Applegate ( remembering 1844)

An anthropogenic pulse is occurring

The removal of Kalapuyan Management of the land, loss of fire management, is a catastrophic environmental event –  equating colonization and removal of Native people to an anthropogenic event. This pulse is happening now, we are in the midst of it, as Americans struggle to understand the deeper lessons of environmental management.

In recent years we have had massive catasrophic fires that have destroyed tens of thousands of acres of woodlands. These fires really began in the late 19th, early 20th centuries with fire suppression as the main way to manage the forests and save the wood for timber production. Now we have over 100 years of fuel build up in our forests. This combined with warmer temperatures overall and we have the makings of catastrophic events, caused by removing anthropologenic fires from our management of the forests and by suppression natural fires.

We are in this midst of an anthropologenic pulse, a change in our world, a change brought about by American actions, by suppression of native cultural practices and native peoples. We are seeing the results of the colonization of the western United States.



TEK- Traditional Ecological Knowledge

  • Knowledge of when specific plants will be ready to harvest
  • Knowledge of herbal and medicinal plants for preparing recipes and healing
  • Interlinked with knowledge of when fish are running, when animals are moving about the land, when birds migrate.
  • Practitioners can “read” the land and when camas is ready to harvest, afterwards its time to travel into the mountains to begin harvesting huckleberries, based on when specific plants flower, or fruit.
  • Salmon runs, Lamprey runs, steelhead runs can be predicted by when specific plants are ready to harvest or flower, a direct association is drawn
  • Similar for Ooligan (Smelt runs) on the coast or on the Sandy river.
  • Harvest (Root & Berry), hunting and fishing camps, are there for one primary resources, but there is knowledge of associated opportunities. (Strawberries at Smelt camp)

This knowledge is a valuable library of information about how to live a long time in harmony with our environment. Native people have been in this region for over 14,000 years. Through working with Native peoples, TEK practitioners, and archived knowledge sources was can find valuable information to return to many of these cultural practices as a society.


Five Directions | For Further Research | History and culture of the W. Oregon Tribes| Straub Environmental Center

Keeping It Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America By Douglas Deur  | Willamette Heritage Center- Methodist Parsonage- Kalapuya Exhibit| connect with Oregon’s tribes


This presentation was originally presented on 11/3/2016 at the Straub Environmental Center, Willamette Heritage Center, Salem, OR. Many elements were added to make it understandable in this format. Elements were borrowed from previous presentations and graphically altered by myself.

Umpqua Journal of Removal To the Grand Ronde Encampment, 1856

The following is the raw transcription of the journal of the removal of three tribes  (Cow Creek Umpqua, Yoncalla Kalapuya, Southern Molalla) from the Umpqua Reservation west of Roseburg to the Grand Ronde Encampment (later Grand Ronde Reservation) at the western edge of the Willamette Valley. I have made some notes of clarification or questions regarding the legibility of the original handwritten journal of Robert Metcalf, Sub Indian Agent. The copy of the original journal was collected by me in the Winter of 2016 at Western Oregon University. The journal is in the correspondence series of RG 75 M2 Oregon Superintendency Reel 14, 1856 collection. I have now worked sporadically over the past year to fully digitize the most significant correspondence from all reels of the series.

I have not yet parsed out the route, and when that can be done I will add images to each segment of the route. Parts of the route clearly follow the Applegate Trail, but portions appear to deviate to avoid conflicts with settlers. These other sections need to be researched closely.

The journey begins on January 10th 1856 due to delays from snow, and continues to February 2nd, 23 days journey in the dead of winter. The journal suggests that five people died on the route, 3 women, a baby and a man, who was murdered by perhaps another Indian, a possible Klickitat Indian as specified below.

Grand Round 31st March 1856

Dear Sir,

I have the honor to submit the following report of my official acts during the quarter ending March 31st 1856.

Agreeably to instructions received from your office I left Dayton on November to visit the Rogue River and Umpqua Districts there to act in conjunction with Agent George H. Ambrose in removing the Rogue River and Umpqua Indians to the Coast reservation or Grand Round Encampment; I arrived at the Rogue R- Agency on 2nd December & found most of the houses on the road from the Cannon [Canyon?] to the agency (distance about sixty miles burned to the ground and a large number of horses cattle and hogs killed on the way by the present hostile band of Indians on that district; after consulting with Agent Ambrose and Capt. Smith of Fort Lane we determined that it would be bad policy if not impracticable to remove those Indians during that inclement season and I then concluded to return to the Umpqua to ascertain the condition of the Indians in that district; where I writ you on the 24th December and then receiving additional instruction from you for the immediate removal of the Umpqua Indians, I commenced making the necessary preparations to accomplish that object purchasing wagons & trains and providing clothing for the journey; but a snow storm which commenced falling on the 25th December covered the ground to the depth of eighteen inches and followed by intense cold weather up to the first of Jan 1856 rendered it impossible for me to move camp until the 10th Jan at which time the weather had moderated and the snow began to disappear, I moved camp from the reserve on the 10th Jan & brought the Indians up one and a half (1 1/2) miles to Mr. Cadwaller’s house; but was unable to continue my march owing to not having received all of my teams at the appointed time; then there were many objections urged to leaving the land of their nativity where the bodies of their forefathers rest  and many of them expressed a desire to die in their own country- and I found it necessary to move with what teams I had to quiet them so I decamped on 11th Jan after much trouble having several families in camp moved about four (4) miles to Calapooyah bridge.

Saturday 12th

Remained encamped awaited the arrival of the remainder of my teams and sent for two wagons back for the families left on the 11th

Sunday 13th

Decamped and moved up to Bakers Mill about seven (7) miles; it was necessary to move on Sunday to get supplies and to prevent the Indians from scattering; Here “Lewis” the Head Chief of the Umpquas came to us from his farm and reported others would join us in the morning which made it necessary to purchase & hire other teams;

Monday 14th

Lewis “chief” here expressed a desire to remain in the Umpqua as he had a large amount of property which he could not take with him; and would have to sacrifice too much if he left then. This created a general dissatisfaction in camp and it was with the utmost difficulty I got them to leave camp; though by travelling until dark we made ten (10) miles to Mr. Wilson’s through a country entirely destitute of vegetation of any description having been destroyed through the summer by the grasshoppers and I had to purchase dry wheat straw at thirty dollars per ton for our starving teams.

Tuesday 15th

During the night seven Indians deserted, and when I arrived at Mr. Linsy [Lindsey] Applegate’s [Yoncalla] I called to get some Calapooya Indians (15) who were encamped there; they positively refused to come. Mr. Applegate appeared to sustain them and encourage them in their determination; finding the whites and Indians both against me I sent a request to Col. Martin for 15 or 20 men from the army to inforce their removal; and moved to Elk Creek where we were detained by high water, but as my stock was in a starving condition I determined to cross at all hazards had the wagons unloaded and the baggage packed over on a foot log; then swam the teams with the empty wagons, reloaded and moved on making four (4) miles during the day and found the same scarcity of forage only having about one thousand pounds wheat straw to feed one hundred and twenty five animals night and morning;

Wednesday 16th

During the night an Indian woman died (chronic disease) after she was buried we resumed our march over very bad roads made six (6) miles to Mr. Estes’s at the foot of Cal [Calapooia] Mts. & encamped;

Thursday 17th

After seeing the train under way I left Mr. Walker in charge and returned to meet the detachment of troops which I had requested of Col. Martin to meet me at Mr. Applegate’s; but he refused, without assigning and reason to render any assistance, so I was compelled to have the Indians encamped at Mr. Applegate’s house and return; the train traveled ten (10 1/2) miles

Friday 18th

I overtook the train which had traveled thee and a half (3 ½) miles & encamped

Saturday 19th

There being a great many old people complained so much of having leg weary I thought it advisable – to remain in camp where an Indian has died;

Sunday 20th

There being much complaint by the whites of the Indians cutting their timber for firewood I thought it best to remove to avoid trouble & traveled eight (8) miles.

Monday 21st

Nothing of interest traveled about ten (10) miles

Tuesday 22nd

Roads very muddy traveled eight (8) miles

Wednesday 23rd

rained through the day road very bad moved four (4) miles met an express from Supt [Superintendant’s] Office with funds

Tuesday [Thursday]24th

an Indian child died during the march and a woman of the Umpqua band died after we arrived in camp moved eight (8) miles

Friday 25th

I found it necessary to hire another wagon and team as our marches were getting much shorter and many of the old and infirm were very late getting into camp. Moved about six (6) miles encamped near Corvallis

Saturday 26th

decamped & moved to Reed’s[?]­ about seven (7) miles during the day we had several fights in the road caused by liquor sold them in the night by some reckless whites

Sunday 27th 

remained in Camp and went back for some Indians who were drunk and did not get in until Sunday noon.

Monday 28th

decamped & moved to the Luckamute Creek distance ten (10) miles

Tuesday 29th

There was an Indian man missing in the morning and could not be accounted for by any person in camp; after searching some two hours we found his blood were he had been murdered and thrown into the Creek; no trace of the murderer suspicion rested upon a Klickitat Indian (Joe) Rained through the day road very bad traveled about five (5) miles.

Wednesday 30th

Decamped raining moved about eleven (11) miles several oxen and horses gave out through the day and were left on the road

Thursday 31st

Decamped moved seven (7) miles

Friday Feb 1st 1856

Decamped & moved to the Yam Hill River distance six (6) miles

Saturday 2nd Feb

Decamped & moved five (5) miles to the Grand Ronde Encampment discharged most of the hired hands and took charge of that Sub Agency by your order and there remained until 28th Feb/56 when I received an order from you to proceed to the Rogue River Agency to carry funds and aid in the removal of the Rogue River Indians to the Coast Reservation leaving Sub Agent Raymond in charge of Grand Round until my return; I met Agent George H Ambrose at the Cannon [Canyon?]with the Indians and returned with him rendering such assistance as was in my power to facilitate the march; and arrived at the Grand Round Sub Agency on 25th March A.D. 1856.

Very Respectfully

Yr Obt Servent

R B Metcalfe

Sub Ind Agent

Joel Palmer Supt Ind Office

Dayton O.T.

Report of his official acts in the Quarter ending 31st March 1856

31st March 1856

Once the Caravan arrived at Grand Ronde they would be issued canvas Sibley tents. The original planning map of the reservation shows that there were 289 Umpquas and that their encampment was in the western part of the Grand Ronde Valley along the South Yamhill River.  Their campsites are noted on the map legend as K,L,M,N & O.

Map Legend
Portion of map showing location of the Umpqua encampments
Portion of map showing location of the Umpqua encampments
Hazen Planning Map for the G.R.I.R., O.T. 1856, Umpqua Encampment section outlined
Hazen Planning Map for the G.R.I.R., O.T. 1856, Umpqua Encampment section outlined

The various tribes in the removal were the Cow Creek Umpqua, Yoncalla Kalapuya and some Molallas. Its likely that all of these tribes were lumped together as “Umpquas” in the population counts based on their origin in the Umpqua basin. We can assume that these tribes were already well known to one another, from living in the same valley, as well as being gathered at the Umpqua Reservation for as long as 2 years. The southern Molallas had arrived relatively recently at the Umpqua Reservation, likely in December of 1855 or after, as their Treaty was not negotiated until November of 1855.  The five different encampments of the “Umpquas” are likely based on tribal divisions.

By November 25th of 1856 the Umpqua tribes had grown a small number of people, according to a comparison of the population counts on the Hazen map (above) and the first Grand Ronde census.

Umpqua Census of the three tribes from November 25th 1856
Umpqua Census of the three tribes from November 25th 1856, data columns are tribe, adult males, adult females, boys, girls, totals, and chief.

On the Census section above, the Chief Louis is likely the same as Umpqua Chief Lewis noted in the journal (14th). These  tribes were the Cow Creek Umpquas of 220 people, the Yoncalla Calapooias are 30 people, and the Southern Molalla are 36 people. The total of 294 people in comparison to the 289 noted in the Hazen map  from March 1856 suggests that either more people joined them from the south and/or several babies were born. There were many additional removals of smaller groups to the reservations following the initial removal of the large groups.

Some family groups sought to escape removal and hide in the forests, some were traveling to hunt, fish or visit friends, and a few who refused removal, removed later. Chief Halo of the Yoncalla is one such refusal. In the Jessie Applegate story (The Yangolers), Robert Applegate (Jessie’s father) stood up for the Halo family against the Indian agents, causing them to back down. There are indications that Halo did go to Grand Ronde later, only to leave to return forever to his home on the Applegate homestead.

This transcription is my own from a PDF copy of the original correspondence. All errors are my own. I am aware that historian and author Stephen Dow Beckham is working on a series of articles about this journal which are to be published in the Umpqua Trapper, published by the Douglas County Historical Society.

This Morning’s Research: October 25, 2016

An visitor suggested that I check out the digital collections at the University of Wisconsin. There, I found the full range of Indian Affairs reports all fully downloadable. As I had some spaces in my collection, I began downloading those most relevant. The 1852 and 1855 Indian Affairs reports were first. I then began working on the 1879 and later reports. Interesting that the data is much more detailed for these later years.

1879-reservation-information-oregonThe above Oregon population reports show the church missions assigned to each reservation, tribes assigned, acreage of the reservations and the federal acts and treaties associated. The treaties assigned are imperfect lists. There should somewhere be mention of the Chasta treaty of 1854, the Molalla treaty of 1855, the Cow Creek Umpqua treaty of 1853 and the Rogue River treaties of 1853 and 1854, and the Kalapuya and Umpqua treaty of 1854.

1879-population-numbers-oregon-reservationsThe above population statistics relate directly to the “improvement” of the tribes towards “civilization.” We see population counts and how well they are doing in their improvements. As well there are detailed lists of the tribes associated with each reservation. The last line is interesting, “Indians residing on the Columbia River,” as it is unclear who these people are. I am thinking that these are the people at Celilo, perhaps some Cascades, and perhaps some other lower Chinookan tribes that were not removed to a reservation.

1879-population-statistics-washingtonThere are similar sheets for the Washington territory reservations with very detailed information. Each year of the reports thereafter seem to have a variety of tables for population, health and agriculture.

1881 NW map
1881 NW map

In 1880 and 1881 there are good maps showing the reservations of the United States. The above is the Oregon and Washington Terr. section with reservations appropriately placed. Note the short-lived Malheur Reservation (1880-1885) and the odd shape of the Warm Springs reservation. We also see the much reduced Coast reservation, the last reduction happening in 1875 and its now renamed Siletz Reservation. Some points on the map are oddly placed, look at the placing of Vancouver, which seems out of place, and perhaps should be a bit more eastern.

Sickness Issues from the Trumpet: Health Conditions at the Early Western Oregon Reservations

“The Doctress said she distinctly saw the sickness that afflicted the tribes issue from the Trumpet which I sounded to announce the hour of school, and settle like a mist upon the camp; and should I sound it, in a few days all the Indians would be in their graves- The camp desolate! I was not such a monster as to sound it again, so the Indians “still live”. “John Ostrander

When the western Oregon tribes were removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in 1856 they were already greatly reduced in population. Anthropologist’s have estimated that from 90 to 95% of the native people in the region died by diseases, most likely Malaria from 1829  and into the 1840’s. Thus, many tribes were only a few dozen people when forced removal occurred. The tribes assumed that they would be trading a worse situation for a better situation. The reservation promised safety and security, education for the people and services like health care. But in the next few years, a good percentage of the population died while on the reservation, and it was not until about 1862 that the population stabilized. The follow essay addresses health care of the reservation and reasons for the population decline.

Coast Reservation
Coast Reservation


The tribes began arriving at the Grand Ronde reservation in February 1856 from the Willamette Valley. By March the Rogue River tribes arrived, and in April the Umpqua tribes arrived. Most of the Native people walked the journey overland. The tribes removed through Port Orford, most came by steamer to Portland, then down the Willamette River portaged the falls to Canemah, then went by steamer down the Yamhill River to Dayton. From Dayton, Palmer hired wagons to take many of the people to the Reservation. the journey was treacherous from many of the tribes and several people died. The Trail of Tears from Table Rock Reserve to Grand Ronde had 7 people die. During the Coastal Trail of Tears from Port Orford, that involved the last group of Native people walking up the coast to Newport-Depot Bay, there were numerous attacks by settlers and several Native people were murdered. The Umpqua removal also included several deaths and a few lost Native people.

Original plan for the Grand ROnde Reservation
Original plan for the Grand Ronde Reservation

The reservations were to be a permanent home for all of these tribes. They had signed seven treaties that were ratified, signed away over 19 million acres in exchange for the safety of the reservation, and a place to call their own forever where the whites would not longer bother and kill them. But once on the reservation, there was a huge died-off of hundreds of Native peoples. Of the estimated 4000 (3939 according to Nesmith)  Native people removed to Grand Ronde and the Coast reservations, at least 200-300 died in the first year while on the “safe” reservation lands.  It is likely that at least another 300 died in the next few years and the death did not end until the reservation economy stabilized. Most of the deaths likely went unreported, yet the agents did make a few reports of health situation at Grand Ronde.



The final factor, not to be overlooked is the fact that the tribes were exposed to the elements for the first few years at the reservation. In 1856 they arrived in the middle of the winter at Grand Ronde and were given canvas tents to live in (Sibley tents). This exposure to the wet Oregon climate must have heavily contributed to the incidence of sicknesses.Indeed the reports from the fall, winter and Spring of 1857 bear out the link of exposure of the tribes to the weather as being a factor in their sicknesses with 400-500 sick at Grand Ronde nearly every month of during the fall and winter of 1856 (see table above). In a population of 1885 people at Grand Ronde, one quarter or 2.5/10 people were sick in the camp these months

Sibley Tent

Agents’ reports of total populations are spotty. There were at least seven population centers for the western Oregon tribes, Grand Ronde, Siletz, Alsea, Yaquina, Umpqua, Salmon River and the remainder population at Tillamook (Astoria Agency). From 1856 to 1886 these populations moved around quite a bit. The tribal people at Yaquina and Alsea were removed to Siletz and Salmon River and some returned to Coos Bay. The Tillamooks were removed to Salmon River and later to Siletz proper, with a few of the tribe coming to Grand Ronde. Umpqua Reservation tribes remained for many years and then the reservation was terminated in the 1870’s and the tribes integrated with the Coos Tribes on Coos bay, and came to Siletz or Grand Ronde. Siletz was reduced from 1.1 million acres down to the Lincoln county size reservation.  In the early 20th century the reservation was reduced to just the lands around the Siletz valley. With all of these changes and movements it was difficult to pin down definitive population counts. There was as well much intermarriage between the tribes.

Agency Population counts
Various Agency Population counts Western Oregon

The situation in the early years is described by various Indian Agents at Grand Ronde and Siletz. Doctors, hired and funded by the Indian agents using treaty funds offered care, but it was tough to get many tribal people to visit the white doctor, as much cultural superstition about doctors ruled their societies. But the reports of patients treated, do show that if the tribal people visited the doctor they were more likely to survive.

GR and Siletz Population counts
Total agency Population counts, The population growth is likely attributed to the fact that tribes were still being removed to reservation fro a good ten years or longer.

The health state of the reservation can be attributed to a variety of factors, some of which are described below. The environment of northern Oregon was much more moist and humid than southern Oregon. The food they lived on was very different than they were used to in the past. The new foods of the reservation economy including flour, dairy, beef, were ranch raised and farm grown foods. In this era was born many of the unhealthy “reservation” foods like fry bread, because flour, oil, and water was about the only thing the tribes had to eat consistently. Then support from the federal government was inconsistent at best, with no farm implements or seed available for the people to grow their own food, even as they were expected to (addressed here). Then as well, they were not allowed to have weapons of any kind due to fears they would attack the whites, so they could not hunt the coastal forests for food. The agent at Grand Ronde did establish a  fishery at Salmon river, and there was an allowance for the tribal people to travel to their original resource areas and fish and gather foods as they could.

The following is gathered from a series of Indian Agent reservation reports to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for years noted.

1857- Report of John F. Miller Indian Agent at Grand Ronde Indian Reservation

July 20 1857

The confederated bands of the Rogue River and Shasta Indians… numbering in all 909 persons… They are a warlike race, proud and haughty, but treacherous and very degraded in their moral nature, and the diseases which they have contracted from the whites, with whom they have more or less intercourse for some years past, have contaminated the greater portion of them, and even the children , and many of them suffering from the vices of their parents. The large number of sick, from this and other causes, formed one of the greatest difficulties I have had to encounter. Nearly every case of sickness among them being attributed to some ill-disposed person, who sought their death, and who they believe , has ample power to destroy their victim, either instantly of by a lingering disease; indeed so thoroughly are they imbued with this belief that  upon the death of any of their number, the relatives of the deceased will immediately wreak vengeance upon some “doctor” either of their own or another tribes, against whom they have an ill will, which has been the cause of frequent serious quarrels, and has nearly resulted in open warfare between them and other tribes in the reservation, particularly with the Umpquas: and all my endeavors to put a stop to this horrible and superstitious practice has been in vain. (361)

The confederated bands of the Umpquas and Calapooias census 262… when first removed here, these Indians suffered a great deal from sickness, and a number of them died, they are now however enjoying good health…(363)

The Willamette Tribes number 666… the Calapooias… are remnants of what were once powerful tribes, who in time past almost filled the whole country; they have now dwindled down to mere bands almost without a name. this may be attributed to many causes-sickness, particularly the smallpox and measles; on being attacked by these fearful scourges , they would first go into a sweat-house, and while in a state of profuse perspiration plunge into the cold streams, which carried them off by the hundreds. This is frequently alluded to by them, and attributed to the whites coming among them, instead of to their mode of treatment.

At the time I entered upon the duties at this agency I found the hospital in operation under the charge of the resident physician, who had received his appointment from the late superintendent of Indian affairs. The expenses of this department were enormous, the Indians being most of them sick, and the hospital was crowded. Of the actual number of sick, either in the hospital or in camp at that time, I have no official information, as the physician was directed to make his monthly and quarterly reports to the office of the superintendent. I believe, however a great deal of deception was practiced upon the hospital, by the Indians coming there and reporting their friends sick in camp, and asking for medicine as an excuse, and then begging for rice, sugar, dried fruit, etc.

Not having received any specific instruction in reference to their matter, I continued the practice of my predecessor, which was to issue such supplies as called for by the physician, on his certifying to me that they were actually necessary for the use of the sick. … February 18 (the superintendent) directed the physician to make his reports in the future to me… shortly after this the then physician left the service. on the appointment of his successor the expenses were greatly curtailed, and the Indians are now enjoying comparatively good health (364-365)

July 21 1857

About this time there was some sickness among the tribes which the doctress was not able to cure. She must therefore  assign good reasons for her failure, or forfeit her life. The Indians believe that life and death are at the volition of the doctress. On my way to school one morning I met a chief, who told me he did not wish school any longer. The Doctress said she distinctly saw the sickness that afflicted the tribes issue from the Trumpet which I sounded to announce the hour of school, and settle like a mist upon the camp; and should I sound it, in a few days all the Indians would be in their graves- The camp desolate! I was not such a monster as to sound it again, so the Indians “still live”. John Ostrander (teacher)(Indian Affairs report of 1857: 369)

1858 Annual report for Siletz- J.W. Nesmith

(at Siletz) The health of this agency has been good, except that of the upper Rogue River Indians, who are diminishing very rapidly. according to the census taken of these people twelve months ago, they numbered 590. Out of this number 205 have died; thirty five have returned to Grand Ronde, and three hundred and fifty remain, many whom are sick. Almost daily we hear of the death of some of these people; they die with disease of the lungs contracted by exposure during the war. a few more years will put an end to the most fierce and warlike race of people west of the Rocky mountains. The Coast tribes are healthy, and many of them are increasing in numbers. R.B. Metcalfe Indian Agent

(at Grand Ronde) there is comparatively but little sickness among the Indians at the present time, with the exception of the Rogue Rivers, who are still suffering from sickness mostly brought upon themselves by their own vicious habits. John F. Miller Indian Agent

1859 annual report

(Grand Ronde) The Rogue Rivers and Cow Creeks… many of them have died, and the few who are left are diseased, and will not long be an expense to the government

1861 Annual report of the Physician

(Grand Ronde) I have been astonished to find these Indians so generally affected with that curse, the syphilis. The effects have become visible in the emaciated form and premature decrepitude that mark the victim. It is not confined to the present generation, but its impress is seen upon those who have been born with the baleful entailment that follows this disease… in addition… I find rheumatism, diseases affecting the mucus membrane of the air passages, of the skin, and of the eyes of frequent occurrence…. the extreme humidity of the atmosphere in this locality in the winter season makes properly enclosed buildings necessary for health , of which I find many destitute.

1862 Annual report of the Physician

(Siletz) 384 cases were registered: of which 38 died, 239 were discharged cured of much relieved- total 277; leaving 107 patients now under treatment. During the last winter and early spring the two principal causes of disease among the Indian were the violent cold we have experienced  and the poor quality and inadequate quantity of the food the Indians had to subsist on. The few hard frozen potatoes issued at irregular intervals offered no nourishment to [people] already broken by scrofula and syphilis in their worst forms, and I have wondered why so few patients died, considering the circumstances under which they are placed. the food the Indian live on naturally brought on severe diseases of the bowels…


I have surmised elsewhere that the Rogue River Tribes were newly exposed to many diseases once removed from their protective upper elevation homelands. They were exposed to measles and smallpox, and perhaps even Malaria for the first time. Malaria is already thought by Bob Boyd (The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence, 1999), to have been the main factor in the north in the decline of the Chinookan and Kalapuyan peoples. Should this bear out, malaria likely did not affect the Rogue River tribes until they got the reservation and this accounts for the focus the agents and doctors had on their decline at the reservations. The mosquito which carries malaria (Anopheles) likely could not survive the upper elevation environments of the Siskiyous.

The safety and security at the reservation that the tribes sought did not happen for many. The tribes were heavily disillusioned and many sought to leave. In fact about half of the Molallas left to return to Dickie Prairie with Chief Yelkas. Under Chief John, many people at Siletz began planning to leave. His lead role in this conspiracy to escape caused the government to arrest him and send him to The Presidio (San Francisco) to live in jail for nearly ten years. In the early 1860s a band of Rogue Rivers did escape and went down to the Rogue Valley. After citizenry complained, the Indian agents sent men to collect them and bring them back. Bands of Kalapuyans left the reservation and gathered near Corvallis, causing the agents to send the army to bring them back. Escapement was common and people sought to escape the extreme conditions and sure death at the reservations. It is likely that the benefits of the reservation were not fully realized until the next generation was born.

Removal and Decline of the Rogue River Tribes at Reservations

In 1856, all of the tribes from the interior of western Oregon removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. This was a plan created by Oregon Indian Superintendent Joel Palmer after the outbreak of new hostilities in southern Oregon in 1855. Faced with the prospect of a huge war in southern Oregon, and the probable extermination of many tribes, Palmer worked with the US Army to find another temporary valley, away from American settlers, where he could temporarily settle over 2000 Indians until the planned Coast Indian reservation was developed and built-up enough to house the tribes. The Rogue River tribes, and several others, went to Grand Ronde in 1856, and then many  of these people were removed again to Siletz Agency in 1857. The Rogue River tribes were then split between Grand Ronde and Siletz, thereafter.

From 1853 to 1855 nine treaties were negotiated with the tribes of western Oregon and seven of them were ratified by Congress. These treaties transferred the ownership of over 19 million acres of lands from Indian tribes to the United States. In all of these treaties was the promise of a permanent reservation they can call home, away from the Americans, where they would get annual annuities and services from the federal government.

Coast Reservation
Coast Reservation

Palmer’s Plan was to remove all tribes to the Coast Indian Reservation, a 100 mile long strip of land on the Oregon Coast, from the Nehalem River to just south of Florence, Oregon, and 20 miles inland. The character of this area was of an intractable wilderness, the coast range was only lightly explored and inaccessible in many areas. Some tribes refused to enter the Coast range as they feared monsters and demons lurking there. As well the Coast of Oregon did not have many deep water ports or much in the way of raw resources and so there was not a lot of settlement by Americans there. So obviously, it was the best place to remove some 60 tribes to. Palmer set his plan into motion and got the area of the Coast Indian Reservation created by Presidential Executive Order in 1855. However, war broke out in southwestern Oregon, forcing Palmer to alter his plans.

In the Summer of 1855 Palmer walked up the Oregon Coast, ending in Coos Bay negotiating the Coast Treaty. This treaty was never ratified, but sometime previous to this he worked with the army to purchase the Donation land claims of a number of American settlers in the Grand Ronde Valley at the foot of the Coast range, a small offshoot of the Willamette Valley. There he began planning for the removal, temporarily, of the western Oregon tribes to this new reservation. The only treaty to specifically mention the Yamhill Valley  reservation ( Grand Ronde) was the Molalla Treaty negotiated at the end of 1855.

Original plan for the Grand ROnde Reservation
Original plan for the Grand ROnde Reservation

In January of 1856, Palmer brought the Kalapuya chiefs to Grand Ronde to have them approve of the reservation so they could urge their people to come willingly to the reserve. The area was the original homelands of the Yamel Kalapuya tribes, a tribe related to the Tualatin to the north. In late January, Palmer began ordering Indian agents and Special Indian agents to make plans for travel to Grand Ronde. The Rogue Rivers and other tribes were at Table Rock Reservation in southwestern Oregon.

Rogue AKA Table Rock reserve, Belden Map portion 1855
Rogue AKA Table Rock reserve, Belden Map portion 1855

The Table Rock reservation was in the midst of the Rogue River Valley. The Reservation engulfed a huge expanse within included most of the land around the two buttes, Upper and Lower Table rocks, and the valley between, Sam’s Valley, and the buttes and hills to the north.

The Rogue River Tribes, (their common name) were actually tribes and bands of three tribes. The northern Shasta, the Athapaskan speaking tribes around Illinois River and, and the Takelmans, the original Rogue Rivers, who lived in and around the valley of the Rogue. As well, a few of the upper Umpqua peoples were part of this admixture. The various tribes banded together and formed very effective defense forces for their tribal homelands. They first had removed to Table Rock Reserve because they signed treaty’s in 1853 and 1854 after many battles with settlers ranchers and gold miners. Then when they remained at Table Rock, they became a target of continued acts of genocide by settlers in the region.

Not happy that they were vulnerable on the reserve, some of the Rogue Rivers chose to unite under Chief John, and leave. They attacked settlements and raided many in their path, and then fought a series of battles against the US Army, and ended up being removed in the summer of 1856.  The Rogue River tribes that did not leave Table Rock Reservation and attack Americans, were moved northward by Joel Palmer in February of 1856. They marched overland along the Applegate Trail to Grand Ronde. The journey took 33 days and 7 people died. (There is a journal of this removal, yet to be transcribed by me).

Grand Ronde received over 2000 people during 1856. In April of 1857, the order was given to begin making plans for a number of the Rogue River Tribes to remove to the Siletz Agency. By April 21st, the tribes had not yet moved, but a health report from Grand Ronde from March 1856 shows that hundreds of Indians had left the reservation (there was perhaps a delay in the reports). In October 1856 the censused population at Grand Ronde is 1885 people, and in April of 1857 it is 1155 people, a reduction of 730. For Siletz  Agency in March 1857 their census shows 1431 people, but in June their population is 2049, a growth of 618 people. The original population at the Coast Reservation was the result of those removed up the coast as part of the last removals from Port Orford, and the original inhabitants of the watersheds of that territory (Yaquina, Alsea, Siletz, Tillamookans). In addition, there is hinted in some reports that some of the people who went to Grand Ronde were actually taken over to the Coast to live at Salmon river, an encampment just eats of present day Lincoln City.

Table: Found Population counts for multiple years, Grand Ronde and Siletz and other agencies

date Grand Ronde Siletz-


both Astoria Agency Umpqua Yaquina Alsea Salmon River source
August 1856 1940 GR Health report
September 1856 1950 GR Health report
October 1856 1900 GR Health report
November 1856 GR Health Report
1856 1885 1399 Annual Report
March 1857 1431 S Health report
April 1857 1155 GR Health report
May 1857 1275 GR Health report
June 1857 1195 GR Health report
June 1857 2049 S Health Report
August 1857 1239 GR Health report
Sept 1857 2042 S Health Report
1857 1895 2049 3939 Nesmith 251 690 Annual reports


1195 2049 251 690
1858 1200 2000 Annual Report
1859 960 Annual Report
1860 460 Annual Report
1861 2025 Annual Report
1862 1174 GR Health


1863 (1861 #s) 2025 528 300 Annual Report
1864 530 Annual Report
1865 1322 2312 530 Annual Report
1866 About Equal deaths with births 533 Annual Report
1867 1407 2188 525 300 (inc in GR #s) Annual Report
1868 500 311 Annual Report
1870 369 Annual Report
1875 2000 Annual Report

The difference in population, was not accounted for in the reports. The  apparent 112 missing people (if the count was accurate at all), can be explained several ways. First, there was a good number of deaths each month recorded for each reservation. The highest death count (for months that we have records) is 33 people at Grand Ronde in December of 1856. This count appears to be an anomaly, perhaps a symptom of living in canvas tents, as in most reports it was about 5 deaths on average each month.

Table: Sick and Death counts for Grand Ronde and Siletz

Sick in hospital Sick in camp Death in hospital Death in Camp births
August 1 1856 37 172 1 12
September 1 1856 46 567 1 8
October 1856 59 474 3 10
November 1856 55 501 0 14
December 1856 75 407 1 32
1856 totals 272 2121 6 76
January 1857 23 434 1 23

GR Physician Fired

April 1857 41 233 2 12
May 1857 31 124 1 3
June 1857 39 89 0 0
July 1857 11 34 0 0
August 1857 30 168 1 5
November 1857 15 61 1 3
December 1857 17 72 0 2
1857 totals 184 781 5 25
January 1858 13 61 0 4
February 1858 14 71 1 6
March 1858 60 5
1858 totals 27 192 1 15
June 1863 261 8
March 1865 423 6
June 1865 335 4 8
February to August 1870 700 11 22+

The deaths alone will not account for the discrepancy in the populations counts from Grand Ronde and Siletz. We know from a number of Indian agent letters and reports that many tribes were working to escape the reservation and return to their homelands. The Rogue River tribes and the Coquille tribes in particular are noted as making plans to return. Some percentage of the bands of these tribes did escape and slip around the soldiers and forts and made it back to their homelands. Additionally, there were a good many Indians settled along the coast and its unclear how much access the Indian Agent at Siletz Agency had to the coastline, and as such could not effectively prevent the Indians from leaving. Siletz did not have a road to Salmon River encampment until well into the 1880’s.  So the inaccuracies are likely attributed to a variety of reasons.

The reasons for removal of the tribes are very simple. The Siletz agency is in a very remote valley and it was thought that the  agents could control the Indians who were more aggressive and who had taken part in fighting if they were at Siletz. (In fact there are lists of tribal people who took part in the fighting, likely gathered to determine if that would get annuities or not.) While in Grand Ronde, the more peaceful Indians remained. Many of the northern tribes were looked on as being more peaceful, tribes like the Kalapuyans had never attacked the American settlers or settlements. In addition, agent reports suggested that the tribes at Siletz were concentrated there because the Indian Superintendent thought they had not embraced the treaties. This suggests that when some of the Rogue River tribes attacked the Americans and the settlements, that they were reneging on their treaty.

The suggestion that the Rogue River Tribes had lost their treaty rights, was carried  for years  in federal policy. In the following years’ treaty annuities, the annual payments promised to the tribes for 20 years, were sent to Grand Ronde, and every year the Siletz Indian Agents had to beg for money to manage the Coast Indian reservations, because Siletz had gotten most of the “war participants.”

A 1950 report from the BIA even suggested that Siletz had no claims to any treaties,  an example of how the Rogue Tribes and others were blamed for the Rogue River Indian War some one hundred years later. In addition, the vast majority of the non-treaty tribes were on the Oregon Coast, and most of them went to Siletz, and so they also would not have annual annuity payments.

A good argument could be made that the tribes in Rogue River  were defending themselves from American aggression and it was actually the Americans who had reneged on the treaty, by attacking the Table Rock Reservation Indian settlements. Regardless, it is unclear is this issue has been addressed historically, politically, or legally.

The arrangement we see here is one reservation, Grand Ronde, well funded from at least six treaties, because the majority of the people were deemed peaceful. While the other reservation Siletz were impoverished because of an apparent internal administrative decision not to fund the reservation annual needs through the treaties.  As such, as written about previously, there are some 5-10 years of starvation, malnutrition and neglect on the part of the Federal Government at Siletz.

Interestingly, these same problems existed at Grand Ronde. So the amount of funding may not have been the actual problem.

In these early years the agents at Siletz note that the Rogue Rivers constantly are working to leave the reservation move back to the Rogue river, and they are dying at such a rate that the agents fear they will cease to exist soon, thereby eliminating any problems they exhibited. They did not have funding to remove other tribes to Siletz, and many promises of houses and services did not come true.

The agents at the  reservation complained that the Rogue River tribes were lazy and would not work. There may be a cultural explanation of this problem. Many of the tribal chiefs lived in a political system where chiefs did not work in their tribes. The average people worked for them. It would have taken a generation or so for this to change.

In this early era of the reservations, we see that the Rogue River tribes declined. The major factor is likely environmental as the Siletz and Grand Ronde valleys are wetter environment than they were used to in around the Rogue Valley. Neglect by the agents are also a factor as we discussed above. In addition, many of the Rogue Rivers were successful escaping and returning to their homes, to be returned by the army a few years later. But a major factor that has yet to be fully investigated is the access of the tribes to effective medical care. There are indications for multiple years that the tribal people would not go to see the American doctor and there was a huge effort on the part of several agents to convince them to use the medical doctors. This is a major problem of the time as the tribes had no effective cures for the introduced diseases.

One question that has occurred to me is whether the Rogue River tribes were somewhat protected from the new introduced diseases in their original environments. If this is true then they may have fully encountered diseases like malaria only when they entered the reservations in the north. In the north the tribes had already gone through their epidemics in the 1830’s and 40’s and saw losses of about 95% of their populations. This and the fact that many of the northern tribal people were already integrated with the settler populations, meant they already had some immunity.

This research continues.

Press Release: Obama Administration Exceeds Ambitious Goal to Restore 500,000 Acres of Tribal Homelands

Turtle Talk

Date: October 12, 2016 Contact:
(AS-IA) Nedra Darling 202-219-4152

Administration makes good on promise to place at least one half million acres of land into trust for tribal nations, working to make tribal communities whole again

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Lawrence S. “Larry” Roberts today announced that the Obama Administration has exceeded its goal of placing half a million acres of tribal homelands into trust for federally recognized tribes.

“Restoring tribal homelands has been a pillar of President Obama’s commitment to support tribal self-determination and self-governance, empowering tribal leaders to build stronger, more resilient communities,” Secretary Jewell said. “The Administration broke the logjam on trust land applications in 2009 and has worked steadily, collaboratively and effectively to restore Native lands that will help strengthen tribal economies and make their nations whole again.”

The 500,000 acre goal…

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Temporary Reservation for the Clatskanie and Ne-Pe-Chuck

In 1855-56 Oregon Indian Superintendent Joel Palmer established a number of temporary reservations to hold Indians in Oregon. Many tribes had negotiated treaties and were awaiting the ratification of the treaties in Congress. The majority of treaties  were ratified by April of 1855.  With unrest on the Columbia in the final battles of the Yakima Indian War and with new unrest in southern Oregon in the Rogue River region, Palmer acted to remove the peaceful tribes, many of whom did not have treaties. He moved them to preserve them from settler wrath, and to prepare for their movement to the permanent reserve at Grand Ronde.

Some of these peaceful tribes were on the Columbia and they had signed treaties in 1851 which were never ratified. They had been severely reduced in population by a wave of epidemics in the 1830’s and 1840’s which caused at least a 90% decline in population. As such, they were a remnant of their former grandeur. American settlers and other aggressive tribes like the Cowlitz noted the weakness of the Chinookans and moved to claim their villages and lands, the Cowlitz apparently moving into their villages and taking charge.

In December of 1855, Palmer moved the adjoining tribes of the Ne-Pe-Chuck and Clatskanie (Klatskania) into a temporary reservation at Milton, Oregon (as suggested by the letter of Smith 1/8/1856, stating that the tribes had been there a month). Milton at the time was a booming timber town with successful mills on Milton Creek. There were good roads serving the area, and the Willamette Slough offered a ready way to transport the limber to San Francisco by steamer. Milton lumber was fetching as much as $150 per 1000 board feet, an unheard of price at the time.  Thomas H. Smith owned the major land claim at Milton and he was appointed the Special Indian Agent over the Clatskanie and Ne-Pe-Chuck Indians.

1854 Oregon Cadestral Survey 4n1w, depicting mills on Milton Creek
1854 Oregon Cadestral Survey 4n1w, depicting Sawmills on Milton Creek and roads

On January 8th 1856, Smith wrote to Palmer of the situation at the temporary reserve. He sends to Palmer a census list of the inhabitants of the encampment and describes some of their challenges. In January the some of the Klatskanie had returned to the encampment with their provisions. Some of them refused to return. The funding allowed to Smith, $1000, had almost run out and the food provided had run out and now the Indians were subsisting on dried salmon. Some of the tribe had gone to the Cascades and had not returned yet, likely due to the frozen river. Perhaps these Ne-pe-chuck were visiting relatives at the Cascades (I found this letter in the midst of my own research, it has been analyzed previously by others. Its mentioned in the Handbook of North American Indians Volume 7, 184, and is analyzed in The Hudson’s Bay Company 1839 Fort Vancouver Censuses of Indian Population by Daniel L. Boxberger, 2012 ).

The situation with food at the reserve was the same throughout the reservation system in Oregon. The federal government and the agents grossly underestimated the money and food needs of the tribes. The tribes were not allowed to fish, hunt or gather in their traditional manner and were forced to remain at the reserves. They could not have guns or other weapons that could be used in war. As such they could not gather the food necessary to support themselves and their families. The actions of the government cause the death of hundreds of Indians because of this environmental change imposed on the tribes. Hunger and malnutrition continued well into 1860s at the permanent reservations

Smith reports in his letter that the Indians are desiring a treaty and to be paid for their lands. This is suggesting that they had not been treated with since 1851, and they knew this may be their chance. Since we know that the government did not treat with these tribes after 1851, they likely never were paid for their lands. The lands in question are technically covered under the Willamette Valley treaty, but if the tribe was never paid, then there may be some question whether the federal government legitimately acquired the land. (this may or may not have been addressed in the Indian Claims cases)

1866 OR Cadestral Survey 4n1w showing area of Smith Land claim, see below
1866 OR Cadestral Survey 4n1w showing area of Smith Land claim, see below
1866 inset, detailing Smith Landclaim, the likely location of the Milton Encampment, the Temporary reservation of the Clatskanie and Ne-Pe-Chuck
1866 inset, detailing Smith Landclaim, the likely location of the Milton Encampment, the Temporary reservation of the Clatskanie and Ne-Pe-Chuck

Ethnographers in history have not looked very closely at the Clatskanie or Ne-Pe-Chuck. Smith’s census reveal about 47 people for both tribes. The Clatskanie in particular do not have extensive records (J.P. Harrington’s Tlatskanie Notes is the exception). They were an athapaskan speaking tribes, an isolate group in Northwestern Oregon. They apparently lived mostly away from the Columbia in the hilly and mountainous area between St. Helens and the Tillamook region. They are noted as not likely having villages on the Columbia. The Ne-Pe-Chuck are much better described generally, as they are one of the Lower Chinookan tribes who are covered in numerous ethnographic studies.

Smith describes these tribes a bit in his letter.

The section of country claimed by these two bands extends from Cathlamett on the Columbia River to the head of Sauvie’s Island and back as far as the sumit of the mountains dividing the river bottoms from the Falatuie [Tualatin] plains. In addition to the above the Ne-pe-chuck Indians claim a strip of country on the north side of the Columbia River. They live principally by hunting and fishing but some few of the number cultivate small patches of vegetables. They have quite a number of large Chinook Canoes, and are very expert in navigating them. They have all been more or less instructed in the doctrines of the Christian religion and many of their number believe in the existence of a Supreme being and afutione state of reward and punishment. They have a practice of bathing in the river two or three times a week and keep it up during the most severe cold weather, are harmless and inoffensive  and extremely fond of whiskey. Thomas H. Smith, Local Agent

Native land claims of the two tribes (rough area)
Native land claims of the two tribes (rough area) Location pin is Milton, Google map

Smith letter includes an extensive census of the tribes listing 25 headmen and their families. This census is an anomaly as normally Indian censuses in the time period do not list people’s names.

Census of 1/8/1856 Thomas A Smith, RG75 M2 Oregon
Census of 1/8/1856 Thomas A Smith, RG75 M2 Oregon

The Ne-pe-chuck tribe in 1856 may have been a confederation of several tribes in the region. The original tribal territories of the lower Chinookans included the Skilloot who lived from above Oak Point to south of the Cowlitz river. The next tribe west was the Wakanasisi, essentially the Multnomah on Sauvie Island and up the Willamette a ways, and on the north side of the Columbia. Smith’s description in his letter suggests an overlap of the two territories. In addition, Chona-Chona who is the first chief of the Ne-pe-chuck in the 1856 census, above, appears in the 1839 Fort Vancouver Census of the Cathlacanasese, generally accepted as being the Wakanasisi according to later documents (see Boxberger 2012).

1839 Fort Vancouver census, Boxberger 2012
1839 Fort Vancouver census, Boxberger 2012

Kiesno was the Chief of all of the lower Chinooks until his death in 1848, and it may be that Chona-Chona took over the mantle. Smith’s discussion of the movements of Chona-chona suggest they maintained a close relationship with the Cascades. “Chona-Chona of the Ne-pe-chuck tribe left here on the 17th ult (December) to got to the Cascades, and he has not yet returned.” It is unclear by this account if Chona-Chona was visiting the Cascades at the rapids, the Cascades at Dog River, or the tribe at their winter village opposite Fort Vancouver on Hayden Island.   In 1812, Kiesno visits the Cascades with an Astorian party and visits with his relatives in the Cascades tribe in a private meeting. Therefore, it may be that Chona-Chona maintained their relationships with the Cascades.

Dave Ellis, Scappoose section
Dave Ellis, Scappoose/Milton section, Table S 2.1. Lower Columbia Chinookan Villages

Thomas Smith’s land claim appears to have been right on top of the Wakanasisi village at Milton Creek called Scappoose. Chona-chona was likely the principal chief here. Previously Kiesno was the chief at Scappoose  as it was noted as being his home always in Gibbs 1855-56 (Boxberger 2012).  Dave Ellis notes that St. Helens was Kiesno’s home (Chinookan Tribes of the Lower Columbia, Table S 2.1. Lower Columbia Chinookan Villages). Kiesno was the chief over a broad area of the Columbia and his main “home” was the villages of the Willamette Slough and Sauvie Island where he occupied several different villages. Later in his life he even occupied Fort Vancouver as a guest of Chief Factor John McLoughlin.

Dave Ellis St Helens village section
Dave Ellis St Helens village section, Table S 2.1. Lower Columbia Chinookan Villages

These tribes were to be moved with some 24 other tribes to the Grand Ronde reservation in the late winter and Spring of 1856. By January 21, Palmer begins ordering the movement of the tribes from the temporary reservations to Grand Ronde. Most tribes would be transported by steamer to Oregon City, they would traverse the falls and then load onto another steamer to Dayton. From Dayton they would walk overland to the Grand Ronde valley. The tribes would have to leave most of their belongings behind, and these they would lose. Many of the American settlers would take whatever was left behind.

1854 WA Cadestral Survey showing sawmill and Milton 4n1w
Former Location of the town of Milton, area of Thomas Smith Landclaim and likely location of the encampment/reserve Google map
Former Location of the town of Milton, area of Thomas Smith Landclaim and likely location of the encampment/reserve Google map

The town of Milton, an early timber boom town, has passed from existence. Once the county seat, the title has since passed to St. Helens to the north. The Thomas Smith land claim remained in existence well into the 20th century and much of it appears intact and undeveloped on the contemporary map.

Thanks to David Heath for helpful comments to push this narrative along.

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