20 Years of the Southwest Oregon Research Project


SWORP II Team at Potlatch 2001
SWORP II Team at Potlatch 2001, JoAllyn Archambault (SI-MNH, Project Advisor) speaking, from Left David Lewis, Denni Hockema, Patti Whereat, Admada Mitchell, Bryan Hudson (not on the team), Robert Kentta Mark Tveskov and baby Tveskov, Back row Coquille Tribal Council.

Southwest Oregon Research Projects &
The Archival Collection

In 1995, I attended an event that would impact me for many years. The event was a potlatch held by the Coquille tribe and the University of Oregon. There was given away copies of some 50,000 pages of information collected from the Smithsonian Institution to the Tribes of Oregon. It was amazing to see all of these national figures in anthropology and the university and local tribes attend and receive their gifts. I did not known much about the project then, nor did I view the collection. It wasn’t until 1997 when I became involved as a researcher in the second SWORP project, that I became intensely interested in the collection, the information it contained, and its potential to help the tribes in Oregon.

Denny, Patty & Karen
From left Denni Hockema, Patti Whereat, unknown, old UO Longhouse in background with Don Day, James Fox, Deborah Carver

The Southwest Oregon Research Project or SWORP began as a Project to help the Coquille Tribe collect the paper proof of their existence. They, along with some 60 tribes in Oregon had been terminated in 1954, and all of the tribes were fighting back for their people, and cultures, that had been degraded by over 100 years of colonization. After termination, the tribal people did not have any special rights to practice their cultures, and most of the languages and traditions were heavily impacted or disappeared. The promises of the treaties, to give permanent reservations to the tribes in exchange for all for the lands of Oregon, turned out to be a lie. When the politics changed, the tactics of the federal government changed several times during 100 years (1856-1956); from extermination, to treaty and removal (1853-1870s), to assimilation through religion and education (begin 1853), to individualism and the Dawes Act (1887), to self determination (1930s), and then to liquidation or termination (1954).

George Wasson and JoAllyn Archambault, Background is Knight Law, 201 Potlatch
George Wasson Jr. and JoAllyn Archambault, Background is Knight Law School, 2001 Potlatch

The tribes were heavily impacted, and they found themselves in the 1970s without a land-base, rights, or resources to keep their cultures alive. Tribes began organizing to become restored. Federal reports and state statistics showed everyone that the great experiment of termination had been a failure and Native people were the least apt to finish high school, go on to college, earn a living wage, survive past 45 years, and had horrible social problems (poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, lack of employment). In short the fears of the late 19th century that Indians would disappear, appeared to be happening at a rapid pace, due to government neglect, systemic racism, and complete disempowerment.

Smith River, Tolowa Feather Dancers, 2001 Potlatch
Smith River, Tolowa Feather Dancers, Teshu Bommelyn in the middle, 2001 Potlatch

To become restored, tribes had to prove to politicians and to Federal agencies that they continued to exist as an active government and had an intact culture. These happened to be the very things that the Federal government had been trying to eradicate in tribes for 120 years. One Oregon native George Wasson Jr. (Coquille) had some experience in Washington, D.C. and knew something about the ethnographic records in the Smithsonian Institution. In the 1990s, George began organizing with anthropologists at the University of Oregon to collect back the ethnographic records gathered from Oregon natives in the 19th and 20th centuries by a multitude of researchers.

Klamath Plat map, collected in 2006
Klamath Agency Plat map, collected in 2006

The project as envisioned would bring copies of original ethnographic documents back to Oregon and make them available to local Tribes and researchers. The original off-hand assessment from the SI was that there was not many records there from Oregon so the SI offered to pay for all copies. That first project netted some 50,000 pages from the tribe of Southwestern Oregon, including maps, microfilm and photographs. The collection was brought back to the University of Oregon and stored in Special Collections of the Knight Library.

The timeline for the projects was thus;

1995: George Wasson (Coquille/Anthropology-UO) initiates SWORP field research in Washington, D.C. at National Anthropological Archives and National Archives

1997: SWORP collection is given by Potlatch to five western Oregon Tribes; Grand Ronde, Siletz, Cow Creek, Coos Lower Umpqua Siuslaw, and Coquille; and two Northern California Tribes; Smith River and Elk Valley.

1998: Mark Tveskov (Anthropology-UO) and Jason Younker (Coquille/Anthropology-UO) coordinate SWORP II field research in Washington, D.C. at the National Anthropological Archives, National Archives and National Archives, College Park.

1999-2001: SWORP I & II collections reorganization is completed by David Lewis (Grand Ronde/Anthropology-UO) and Inventory to the SWORP Archival Collection is published.

June 9, 2001: Coquille Tribe and University of Oregon initiate the 2nd Potlatch, giving 17 greater Oregon Tribes copies of SWORP manuscripts and 44 Tribes copies of the Inventory.

2006: SWORP III Initiated by and a led by David Lewis.

2009: SWORP III organized and 2 copies made

2013: Oregon Tribal Archives Institute (not part of the project yet related)

Jason Younker Kneeling with SWORP gift, 2001
Jason Younker Kneeling with SWORP gift, Don Dumond in background, 2001

Supporters of the 3 projects were these organizations and institutions;

  • Coquille Indian Tribe
  • Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde
  • Special Collections, Knight Library, UO
  • Department of Anthropology, UO
  • Museum of Natural and Cultural History, UO
  • Graduate School, UO
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • National Anthropological Archives
  • National Archives Records Administration
Tribal representative accepting gift from Coquille Council Members
Tribal representative accepting gift of SWORP Finding Aid from Coquille Council,  Tom Younker foreground, 2001

Advisors to the Project have been,

  • Dr. Joallyn Archambault (SI, Natural History)
  • Dr. Jon Erlandson (Director of UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History)
  • Gina Rappaport (SI, National Anthropological Archives)
SWORP II team viewing Oregon Treaties 1997, from left, David Lewis, Mark Tveskov, Patti Whereat, Robert Kentta, Deni Hockema
SWORP II team viewing Oregon Treaties 1997, from left, David Lewis, Mark Tveskov, Patti Whereat, Robert Kentta, Denni Hockema

George Wasson had conceived of the project to create the paper proof of the tribe’s existence, but also to fill a notable void. He called this void the Cultural Black Hole.  The void was a large area of cultural information, languages, that are integral to all tribal cultures, that appeared to be missing. Oregon society and education did not address tribal cultures of western Oregon. Tribal histories were non-existent, and Tribal people were like “Invisible men and women” in Oregon. In the 1980s, it appeared that culturally many Oregon Tribes had ceased to exist. George’s hope was that when the project returned the volumes of ethnographic documents to Oregon that they would be used to help the tribes restore, revive, and preserve their cultural traditions. That is what the collection did.

Sample Inventory from SWORP 1 & 2 combined in M. Access
Sample Inventory from SWORP 1 & 2 combined in M. Access

The collection as given to at least 17 tribes in 2 potlatches. Many of the tribes did not have the resources to manage archival collections. So tribes began working in this direction. The model of SWORP resonated with many and it inspired the Umatilla tribe to begin a large archival project, now a part of their Tamaskiliskt Museum.  Grand Ronde got serious with its archival collections and started to scan their collection. Smith River Rancheria had a project at Humboldt State to scan their portion of the collection, and all their tribal government records. Then, UO Special Collections hosted a project to make the SWORP finding aid one of the first available on the Archives West website. Many of the researchers who had been part of SWORP went on to contribute greatly to their Tribes, especially in the cultural programs. In 2013, Oregon State University Library sponsored an Oregon Tribal Archives Institute to train archivists from all area tribes in archival procedures.

SWORP Finding Aid cover, Graphic Art-Deana Dartt
SWORP Finding Aid cover, Graphic Art-Deana Dartt

Archival Organization

In the summer of 1999, David Lewis began an inventory of the collection. That year the SWORP 2 collection was turned over to the UO. The collections (SWORP I & SWORP II) existed as separate collections and were difficult to access, to find documents, and basically unknown to researchers. After the Fall term spent inventorying the collection in some spare time, a report was handed over to Jon Erlandson the project advisor at UO. Erlandson began looking for money to fund an archival organization project.  From that effort, and subsequent efforts by Jon, with support from the Knight Library and the Graduate School, Lewis was able to gain funding for some seven years to organize the collection, make copies of it for the 2nd potlatch, and represent the collection. The whole of 2000 was spend organizing the collection, and creating a publishable finding aid. Special Collections at UO trained Lewis in archival techniques and the original two collections were married to become one concentric collection. The next year was spend making 17 copies of the collection to be given away at the 2001 potlatch. This project was not completed until 2002, organized and arranged by Lewis.

Don Day cooking the salmon for the feast, 2001.
Don Day cooking the salmon for the feast, 2001.


The third project changed tactics a bit. The project expanded the scope from only western Oregon to include all of eastern Oregon. The Klamath records were earmarked for copies as, they had undergone termination at the same time as the western Oregon tribes. In addition, there are spectacular Klamath collections at the UO libraries, that would parallel the ethnographic documents at the SI.

The SWORP II gift, 2001
The SWORP II gift, 2001, Gordon Bettles in background

As well, for the correspondence series at the National Archives Records Administration, the team noted that the original letter indexes, created by the National Archives missed many letters during the year. The strategy was altered to ignore the indexes and cull through the letters of one year individually. In this new method, the team found 7x the letters for Oregon than we found by using the microfilm index. The SWORP III collection is not at the UO and two physical copies exist, at Grand Ronde and at the Coquille Tribe.

The Project was also subsequently written about in the Journal of Western Archives, Special Issue on Tribal Archives. And was well reviewed in this article, Anthropology in and of Museums—Class Review Journal of Western Archives Special Issue on Native American Archives (2015).

The SWORP basics (as of 2013).

  • Three projects 1995, 1998, 2006
  • Two Potlatches 1997, 2001
  • 17 tribes received copies of documents
  • All Oregon tribes received full collections
  • ~150,000 pages of documents recovered
  • Main archive is at the University of Oregon
  • Members of 5 Oregon tribes were researchers
  • 49 acid free archival boxes, 32.25 linear feet, (some adds have been reported).
  • Records date from 1850s to 1950s.
  • The collection covers the Tribes of southwestern Washington, western Oregon, northern California, about 44 federally recognized Tribes.
  • Linguistic manuscripts contain information from 80+ Native languages from throughout the Americas.
  • The collection contains a unique combination of ethnographic and government manuscripts.
  • The Primary collection (most accessible) is at the University of Oregon Knight Library Special Collections and University Archives.
SWORP III team, David Lewis, Leslie Riggs, Sandin Riddle, Dennis Worden
SWORP III team, David Lewis (coordinator), Leslie Riggs, Sandin Riddle, Dennis Worden, 2006


The project has helped a number of tribes in the region restore parts of their culture. For example, canoe engineers have learned from the collection how the local Tribes hollowed out logs by burning them out. Other tribes have benefited by having the linguistic information readily available as they work to restore languages. Still others have nothing in common with the project, but have found that the model is something they can employ when searching for information about their particular tribe. Perhaps the greatest benefits is having this information locally available to inspire more research by scholars on tribal histories and cultures. The SWORP collection continues to be the most accessed collection in the Special Collections at UO, and has been since its reorganization.

Travels, Campmeetings, and Off-Rez Settlements of the Western Oregon Tribes

In recent years, histories of the Indians of Oregon have come under scrutiny by a cadre of historians and anthropologists. Questioned now are events that took place in Oregon, how the events unfolded and some of the “facts” of native history that most people have come to assume are the only history of Native peoples in Oregon.

My investigation into possible mis-characterizations of Native history in Oregon has led to numerous new discoveries about native history in the historic era. These discoveries place much of the written Native history from 1850 to 1970 in doubt.  One of the most egregious problems is the manner in which there was an utter lack of writing by historians about off-reservation Indians in history after the removal of the Tribes to reservations (1856-1870s).the few accounts that do exist are in local newspapers and a few small press writings by local historians.

The common understanding for most people within Oregon is that tribes were removed to reservations. Once this claim is investigated in detail, it turns out that a good number of Tribal people did not go to reservations. As well many people did not remain on reservations after removal, but left, escaped, soon after their removal to return to their homelands. There is more than one hundred years of history of the tribal people who traveled about the countryside at various times of the year, and participated in various industries (mainly agriculture and logging)  in Oregon, while maintaining a home on a reservation.

One of the most common stories in the Willamette Valley are those of the last of the Kalapuya tribes. In many communities there are local tales of the last man or woman of their local band of Kalapuyans. Two of the most significant are the stories of Quinaby from Salem, and Indian Eliza of Brownsville.

Quinaby (Standing) and unknown man, OHS collections
Quinaby (Standing) and unknown man, OHS collections


Quinaby was a significant figure around Salem in its early days. Salem residents called him Chief Quinaby and he would take donations from people and do odd jobs around the city.

In the early years, Native people were not American citizens (until 1924 with passage of the American Indian Citizenship Act) and were not allowed to freely leave the reservations, so Quinaby of the Chemeketa tribe, and his wife Eliza (said to have been from the Chemaway tribe) often received travel passes to visit Salem, as is noted in the Grand Ronde Pass book from the 1870s.

While in Salem, Quinaby and Eliza lived in a dwelling he built in the brush near the Salem Railroad Depot, and he often played Stick Game, a Native gambling game, all night with other natives, likely other native people traveling in the valley.

Quinaby spoke Chinuk Wawa (Chinook Jargon) in a friendly manner to all he met and often asked for muck-a-muck (food). He did not work regularly, as working was avoided by chiefs who lived in their traditional lifestyles. Still, Quinaby was known to do odd jobs for money and food. He promoted his status around Salem as the “last” of his people, regardless of the Kalapuyans at Grand Ronde, which brought sympathy to him from settlers.

On July 4, 1875, Quinaby and his wife Eliza “dressed in the National emblem—the Stars and Stripes—which were entwined about ‘their’ shoulders” and paraded around town proudly. Many of the native people in this period wanted to become Americans, and even though they were generally treated as racial minorities, they chose to exhibit their super patriotism to be accepted by the town-folk.

Quinaby died in Salem during Christmas week 1883. Eliza continued to visit Salem into her eighties. Quinaby was buried on the old grounds of the old Bush Elementary School, before the school was built (1936), under the old oak tree. The site for the burial has never been found.  In about 1912, a small community north of Salem was named Quinaby in his honor.

Salem the Gathering Place

Salem was a hotbed of Indian activity.  Previous to American settlement, Salem was a location of many important vegetable resources. Salem, or actually the Chemeketa Plains, had large fields of camas which attracted tribes from the area. Then North of the Chemeketa Plains was Lake Labish which had enormous resources, likely wapato, waterfowl, fish and many other food plants and animals. The local Chemaway village was just north of this and they would have been regular gatherers at the lake. The Chemeketa Indians would have accessed the lake and dug camas in the fields.

GLO maps 6s 2w, 6s 1w, depicting lake labish and associated wetlands in relation to Miller DLC, 1852
GLO maps 6s 2w, 6s 1w, depicting lake labish, 1852

During settlement of the valley by French-Canadians and Americans, Salem was at a crossroads of agriculture for the valley and there are two reservations not too far away. Tribes must have come to Salem to find supplies and meet friends, when traveling to their seasonal jobs at local farms. Salem was the location to find American medicines for the many illnesses on the reservations. Such medicines were not accessible on the reservations which were underfunded and poorly managed by the Indian Department.

Numerous accounts of Indians in Salem suggest that Salem was a regular location to hold campmeetings. These meetings would happen alongside the railroad tracks. the railroad owned lots of land alongside the tracks and it was impossible for them to monitor who was staying on their property. Indians set up temporary living quarters on railroad property. In addition, the Oregon State Fair attracted Indian people. Many Indians, choosing to show their patriotism would attend the fairs each year and camp at the fairgrounds, alongside all of the other campers, and attend events in their regalia. The stories of Quinaby suggest he did this every year.

The other major story is about the ceremony that was held in 1874 among the tribes, witnessed by John Minto.

Worship in the Ancient Form, John Minto November 6, 1874, Willamette Farmer

By the merest accident I was riding past the railroad depot at Salem in the evening of Oct. 11th and noticed many Indians coming from their camping grounds east of the depot.At first I thought it might be that one of their numbers had died, but observation soon dispelled that idea and my curiosity was aroused to learn what was going on. Men, women and children were coming from various directions; falling into line they took a course from the city, at a slow pace and in perfect silence. Riding up to the rear of the procession I asked an Indian man of my acquaintance what was going on? He said in a low voice that he did not quite understand; strange people had come among them. I pressed forward and asked another who was carrying a bucket of water, who said he did not know but “may-be it would be like a campmeeting.” Reaching the head of the column, composed of the older men, I put the same question to another Indian to receive another indefinite answer, all speaking in the same subdued tone. Being assured that there was no objections to my seeing what they would do, I accompanied them by a narrow path, into a thicket, where the concourse entered single file. The path led past two tents, into an open circular space that had been cleared for the occasion. The men and boys ranging themselves around the South side, the women on the North, seating themselves, and the men and boys reverently uncovering their heads, excepting three or four young hoodlums who kept outside and occasionally made jeering remarks in an undertone, because as I afterwards learned, they did not believe in the rites about to be practiced. I became satisfied that I was about to witness devotional exercises in the Old Indian form of worship. I questioned George, the last man of the Chemeketas, who once owned the site of Salem, and he assured me that my presence was not offensive. The inner circle was complete and a second had formed outside of it, when a middle aged man of robust form and strongly marked features passed out of a tent nearby, bearing blankets that he spread down on the west side of the circle, inside, returning to come again with another man and two women. These women were painted with white marks down each cheek, edged with stripes of red. The man first mentioned had some red on his face, but, but the second had no paint, and his countenance, strong in its outlines, was sedate even to melancholy. Moving deliberately and without a word spoken, he shook hands with every adult person in the circle before seating himself on the blankets.
He was evidently the priest, preacher or teacher. He asked Jo Hutchins, head man of the North Santiams, to take a seat inside the circle. Joe’s wife, of the chieftain line of the Molallas, and the last of that line, was seated on the left of her husband and the strangers, at the head of the female portion of the assemblage. The exercises commenced by the strangers lighting the calumet and passing it amongst the men. Then the priest commenced a series of questions in the Klamath language which were answered by Mrs. Jo. Hutchins in the Chinook Jargon. My knowledge of the Chinook wa-wa has grown rusty by disuse, but I have since learned that I was right in my idea of the questions and answers. One question was: “Do you remember when all this country belonged to your people?” The answer was in the affirmative. “Do you remember when your people were many in numbers; when you had many young men and many old men?” Do you remember when many of your people died? Did your heart sorrow for the death of your people? These questions evidently had allusion to the terrible “cold sick” that swept such numbers of the Indian off. In former conversations George has told me that when a boy he was at the falls of the Willamette during the prevalence of the cold sickness; that the sick were so numerous that many would jump from the sweat houses into the river, die in the water and float away down stream, no attempt being made to take them out for burial. It scarcely needed my knowledge of Chinook to understand the nature of the reply so full of pathos was tone of the answer. She spoke in particular of the death of a little boy as making her heart very sad. Being asked some questions about the sale of their lands by her people, she expressed an enduring love for her native land and an abiding sorrow that it had been parted with, by expressed herself free from malice or hate on that account. She was submissive but sorrowful. These questions seemed intended to revive the love of country, people and former condition in the hearts of the audience, and so make the coming form of worship more effective and impressive. The stranger then commenced a recital of traditional history, which was interpreted by the woman to her own people in her language (not the Chinook) and for nearly two hours he talked to them in that manner, then the pipe was again lit and passed around.
The other stranger now took the lead commencing a song in which the Indians all joined, the two stranger women placing themselves behind the two men. Eight pieces were thus sung, each in a different measure. Time was kept by striking hands; some of the women swayed the body in unison with the music. Then a stranger delivered a short exhortation and was followed by Jo Hutchin’s in a similar strain and at greater length. The company up to this time had been seated, except one whose duty it was to feed the fire in the circle. They now arose to their feet, the drum was struck at intervals of about a minute, the people uttering a low sound after each stroke. After some time so spent, some of the Salem Indians commenced to sing, the women beat time, and the circle joined hands and swayed first to the right and then to the left, first partially and then entirely around the circle and back again. When the dance commenced many of the women adorned themselves with head dresses of painted features and some of the eldest entered into the spirit of the exercises with great enthusiasm, as if animated by recollection of other days. They preserved through all a solemnity of demeanor equaling that of Christians at their devotions. About one hundred persons participated and the exercises continued for about five hours, all was conducted “decently and in order” without indecorous act or sign of impatience.This was the first of a series of seven meetings held here by those people during the week of the State Fair, during which time these two men of the Klamath tribe, propagandists if the ancient Indian form of worship (as I have since learned from Jo. Hutchins, they were) did their best. I have no doubt to convince their bearers that God’s revelations to man were not all made through books, as the white man believes, but that in times past the Great Spirit made himself manifest to Old men of their race by natural objects and by dreams, when they saw “Tawanamas,” which I understand to mean spirits or angels. John Minto

This piece speaks for itself. The ceremony may very well have been annual occurrence. The Klamath people were known for regularly coming into the Willamette valley and hunting the valley and camping with their friends in the tribes. Their history remembrance was a way to heal from the stress of losing everything to colonization.

Eliza Young
Eliza Young

Eliza Young, Indian Eliza (c. 1820-1923)

Eliza Young was born in the Mohawk Valley, the Land of her father of either the Pee-yu or Calapooia Kalapuya Indians. Her mother was from the McKenzie River, the homelands of the Winfelly Kalapuya. In the 1830s, her parents died, like the many Kalapuya of this period,  likely of introduced diseases in the valley which caused the deaths of some 97% of the tribes in the Willamette Valley. Jacob Spores, an early settler to the area, took Eliza in and raised her in the Coburg area.

Later Eliza moved to the town of Calapooia, now renamed Brownsville, and became the 3rd wife of a Pe-u (Mohawk) Kalapuya Indian. They were removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in 1856 with some 27 other tribes. Eliza left her husband many times because of his brutal treatment of her and met Indian Jim (Jim Young). Indian Jim purchased Eliza from her husband for 15 ponies, a rifle and 15 dollars. They moved to the Calapooia River near Brownsville, built a house and had two children, both of whom died at an early age. Indian Jim  treated Eliza badly when he drank and eventually ended up in prison. They continued to be attached to each other for many years despite Jim’s drinking.

Eliza harvested traditional berries and materials for weaving throughout her life. She would sell the berries and woven baskets to the people in Brownsville to make a living. Eliza would also take on odd jobs and housework from the neighboring settlers. Local stories of Eliza state that she was neat and clean and was extremely intelligent. Later in her life she went blind and yet continued to harvest weaving materials and making baskets on the porch of her house (shown). Her specialty was purses. A local Brownsville family hosted her on their farm and she lived to be over 100 years old.

At her death in 1923 in Brownsville, the local papers stated that she was the “Last of the Calapooyas.” This was of course incorrect as most of the Kalapuya Indians removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation and their descendants remain members there today. Eliza was one of the last of the Kalapuyans to live off of the reservation in her original homeland during the time when it was illegal for Indians to be off of a reservation. Eliza’s baskets are now collected in museums and private collections throughout western Oregon.

Chief Halo
Chief Halo

Chief Halo

Chief Halo (Halo Tish) commonly shortened to Chief Halo (meaning “having little” or “needing little”), was leader of the Yoncalla Kalapuya Tribe and was married to Du-Ni-Wi, one of several wives. He remained on the Applegate family donation land claim in the Umpqua Valley after removal of other tribes to reservations. Halo and his family were prominent Native people in the community of Yoncalla and for generations were friends with the Applegate family.

The Yoncalla chiefs signed the Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya with the U.S. government on November 29, 1854, and the tribes removed to the temporary Umpqua Reservation, west of Roseburg. In January 1856, Superintendent of Indian Affairs Joel Palmer began removal proceedings to the permanent Grand Ronde Reservation. Jesse Applegate wrote that Halo refused to go to the reservation, saying

“I will not go to a strange land.” This was not reported to the agent. When the tribe arrived on the reservation without the chief the agent was troubled, and came to our house to get father to go with him to visit the chief. We boys went with them. When Halo saw us coming he came out of his house and stood with his back against a large oak tree which grew near the door. We approached in our usual friendly fashion, but the chief was sullen and silent. He had lost faith in the white man. The agent said, “Tell the old Indian he must go to the reservation with the other people, that I have come for him.” The chief understood and answered defiantly, “Wake Nika Klatawa,” that is ,” I will not go.” The agent drew his revolver and pointed it at the Indian when the chief bared his breast, crying in his own tongue as he did so, “Shoot! It is good I die here and am buried here. Halo is not a coward, I will not go.” “Shall I shoot him?” said the agent. “No!” cried father, his voice hoarse with indignation. The chief standing with his back against the giant oak, had defied the United States. We returned home leaving the brave man in peace. Father and my uncles protected the old chieftain and his family and they were allowed to remain in their old home. (Applegate Recollections of a Boyhood)

Halo and his family remained in Yoncalla, where the Applegates built a house for them.

Halo had a Native name, Cam-a-phee-ma, which in Yoncalla Kalapuya means “fern,” which became the Fearn surname for the family.  Chief Halo and his sons, Mack, Jake, and Sam (Be-el)— finally decided to live for a short time on the Grand Ronde Reservation. By 1891 they had returned to the Umpqua Valley, where they received off-reservation allotments

In the 1860s, Chief Halo went into business with a local settler, John Walker, who would found the town of Walker. They built a fish trap on the Row River, four miles east of Cottage Grove, where they alternated days to clear the trap of salmon, trout, and eels. Chief Halo remained active until his death in 1892. He is estimated have been at least seventy years years old.

“While living on Row River, he went into business with Halo Tish. They constructed a crude trap on Row River. Mr. Walker took the catch one day, Halo Tish the next. If Mr. Walker was too busy to go to the trap on his day, Halo Tish brought his fish to him.” (Alice M. Fox, Community of Walker)

Indian Mary Fisherman
Indian Mary Fisherman

Cottage Grove Kalapuyans

“Several hundred Calapooya Indians lived within the area of present day Cottage Grove. Many small villages were located along the banks of the Coast Fork of the Willamette River  and its tributaries. In addition to the Calapooyas, the Klamath Indians from Eastern Oregon often crossed the mountains to fish the Row River. They made their camp in the area of present Wildwood Park. The Klamath fished with spears and dip-nets to catch the fish that collected in the pool at the base of the falls. The fish were then dried and put into large baskets to be taken back over the mountains.” (Gene Savage, Looking Back, Dec. 18 1991) 

Cottage Grove was a known gathering location. In the summers, the local tribes would leave the reservations to travel about the Willamette Valley and take jobs harvesting the crops. The Indians who gain special travel letters and get signed out in the Passbook to allow them to travel off-reservation. Indian without the travel permission would be subject to being detained by law enforcement. The Indian agent would then get a note asking them to come get the Indians from the jail.

During these outings the tribes would have gatherings in specific locations. These places were called council grounds, or meeting grounds, or council trees. There was normally a large field where the tribes had been using the location for a long time. Pleasant Hill had such a location and Polk Scott, one of the last Native shaman at the Grand Ronde reservation, was the leader of the group there. Another gathering location was at the Cottage Grove fair grounds. the city has a heritage fair there every here even today. The Salem Fairgrounds site mentioned above was also probably a traditional gathering location. Most large tribal areas had sites to hold meetings, sometimes called campmeetings.

“The Calapooya Indians adapted to the White Man’s ways very quickly. They soon were wearing the same clothing as the settlers. They learned and spoke the language of the whites. Indian and white children often played together and attended the same schools. Inevitably, the ever increasing numbers of white settlers caused the Indians to lose their lands. In Curry County, the Calapooya were removed to reservations.” (Gene Savage, Looking Back, Dec. 18 1991) 

Western Oregon Exposition Fairgrounds Cottage Grove and Oregon Kalapuya Village site
Western Oregon Exposition Fairgrounds Cottage Grove and Original Kalapuya Village site

“a favorite local living place of the Calapooya was in the area of the Western Exposition Fairgrounds. The ground in the area had a hollow sound and the Indians believed that the Great Spirit spoke to them from the ground. Indian and white children alike enjoyed the sound of the ground as they raced their horses across the area.” (Gene Savage, Looking Back, Dec. 18 1991)

“As late as 1871 there were small isolated tribes of Indians living near Oakridge and Cottage Grove. The two groups were related and often visited back and forth. During these visits, the Indians near Oakridge took all their ponies and dogs to the settlement near Cottage Grove. The Cottage Grove Indian returned the visit, and at these times the population of the Indians settlements would swell to almost 100. It was unlawful for the Indians to homestead land. a man by the name of Black changed the names of the Indians and after considerable difficulty two Indians, Charley Tufti and James Chuck Chuck, succeeded in homesteading and securing title to two parcels of land containing 80 acres each. This was the maximum acreage permitted under the Homestead law at the time.” (Fred Macfarland)

“As late as 1910 there was a well established campground used by the Indians. The Indians of 1910 traveled by wagons and saddle stock… They hunted in the Calapooya Mountains.” (Fred Macfarland)

“The Indians came in large numbers to Lowell to pick hops in the hop yards there. they would return across the summit with salmon, dried fruits, and some green fruits and clothing; pick huckleberries and hunt in the vicinity of Rigdon and cross the Willamette Pass just prior to the snow storms in the early fall.” (Fred Macfarland)

jake fearn 1973

Pleasant Hill Kalapuyans

Chief Fisherman Bristow was the grandfather of Indian Sam Fisherman, and father of Jack Fisherman,  Kalapuya Indians of the Pleasant Hill area. This is the area of the Winfelly Kalapuyan Indians who were likely related to the Yoncalla Indians, according to this story.

“Chief Fisherman Bristow was a treacherous troublesome character here during the fifties and early sixties (1850s-1860s). This surely old chief was given the name of Bristow, after that grand old Pioneer Elijah Bristow, who settled Pleasant Hill, in 1846, and who exerted a powerful influence over this wily old brave who was chief of the Pleasant Hill tribe of Calapooias.” … in 1878, there was quite a flourishing Indian Village just back of the McFarland Hill north of Town, among the most noted Indians being Jack, Polk Scott, Jerry and Bob, Indian Sam (Fisherman)… Enoch (Fearn) the sole survivor of the tribe. (Leader May 8 1903)

Grand Ronde Passbook, Oregon Historical Society
Grand Ronde Passbook, Oregon Historical Society

The Passbook

The Grand Ronde Passbook documents the coming and going of many tribal members over about 20 years(1860s-1880s). Native people, not being US citizens were not free to leave the reservation until 1924, without a pass from the Indian agent. In 1924 the United States made all Native Americans citizens by congressional act.

Much of the travel was for resources, money and food. After traveling the Willamette valley and earning some money, the people would also visit their traditional homelands to hunt, fish or gather in their traditional manner. Fishing locations like Willamette Falls was a prime area for this activity.

A few groups left the reservation to return to their homelands. At Grand Ronde and Siletz groups like the Rogue Rivers, Tolowas and Molallas left these reservations soon after they were removed. Much of their problem was that they were promised a number of things by the Indian Agents to induce them to move peacefully yet when agents like Joel Palmer resigned soon after, all of the verbal promises were forgotten.

Other evidence of off-reservation Indians continues to surface. In most communities there are known gathering sites and Council Trees. The trees are normally old growth and with them comes stories of gatherings of native peoples around or at the base of the tree.


Thanks to Cottage Grove Historical Society for their articles about the Kalapuyans

Various newspaper accounts

Melville Jacobs Kalapuya notebooks

American Complicity in Genocide In Oregon

Over the years, I have made innumerable presentations about the history of the Oregon Tribes. My history is developed from my own research into the tribal histories and I have addressed many topics which have been important to understanding the history of the tribes, and why tribes live the way they live today.  I have delved into topics which have not been well covered by past or current scholarship. Much of the information is not taught or known about by many Oregonians.

I have used this statement many times to catch the attention of people who admittedly never learned the history of the tribes of Oregon.  “The settlers tried to exterminate the Indians.” I have used the words extermination, and genocide, and even holocaust in numerous occasions across the state. I might have turned  a few people off by stating this as I think many do not want to address these deeper topics as it perhaps addresses their own family history in Oregon.  Some folks might have assumed that I was being inflammatory and that extermination did not occur at all.  Many may have assumed that I was simply a history revisionist.

I am absolutely a revisionist. I feel that much of the history of what occurred to the tribes is not at all represented in our history books. That hints of racism were eliminated because it was just not American to think in this way.  Its not possible that Americans perpetuated extermination, because that’s not an American thing, never do we see images of histories where Americans are participating in extermination. and when the statement is made, then that person obviously has an agenda. Yes, I absolutely have an agenda, to tell the truth about what occurred to Native peoples, a truth that somehow has avoided attention in so many history books for over 150 years. I am also not a historian, I am an anthropologist who delves into history, more of an ethnohistorian.

The fact is that Americans participated in a war of extermination in Oregon and California for several generations. In fact some newspaper accounts casually state that the activity of participating in Indian extermination is a reason for moving to the west. Apparently, that were people who simply wanted to join the effort, to rid the west of all those pesky Indians. Similar arguments were made to exterminate wolves, and that effort succeeded in many areas.

Genocide is not minor insignificant act. In Oregon and California and in many other locations in the United States, whole villages of people were killed, men, women, and children. These are sometimes called massacres, but they are attempts to eliminate a whole tribe, which is genocidal extermination. Holocausts were also a reality. Those who know world history know that there is The Holocaust, which referred to the extermination of over six million Jews and other ethnic minorities by the Third Reich of Germany during WWII. There, millions died in concentration camps in gas chambers, through mass shootings and even immolation (burned alive). In the literal dictionary definition of holocaust it means to burn. On the northern  California coast, the Tolowa Deeni peoples experienced a literal holocaust when people were burned alive in their dance houses by fires set by settler volunteer militia, several times. That is a holocaust.

It is this history that is normally thought too terrible to make it into our history books. Its thought by many teachers and administrators that children cannot handle this truth. To me that is a theory that has not been tested yet. Students in my college classes have been telling me for years that this is absolutely what should be taught in schools. It is the lack of this level of deep historical information that students crave, they want the truth, and I have a feeling that students know they are being lied to. They know that they are being fed is a history full of lies of omission. Many of these students are survivors of the historic war of extermination and deserve the truth.

The following is a verbatim transcription of some of the most egregious historic media and correspondence entries about extermination. The area in question is roughly southwestern Oregon, but some of these account address more broadly the policy in Oregon or presidential policies in the United States.


Item Number ba018668 OrHi 1703
General Joseph Lane, Item Number ba018668 OrHi 1703

Oregonian, 1851

During the night of the 24th, Gen. Lane, with a small party of citizens also joined us, and we had now quite a formidable party. From the time we have been searching about in the mountains, destroying villages, killing all the males we could find, and capturing women and children. -R.S.W.

Head Quarters Dept. of the Pacific, San Francisco 29th March 1854. To Joe Lane

Almost every mail brings us information of some outrage by either the Whites or the Indians. Generally the latter are quiet and peaceably inclined, but are frequently goaded to acts of cruelty by the conduct of the Whites, of whom many consider them no better than wolves, and apparently take as much pleasure in killing them as they would the latter. -Gen. John E. Wool


From General John E. Wool (Department of the Pacific) to Governor Stevens (Washington Territory), Feb. 12, 1856.

Whilest I was in Oregon, it was reported to me, that many citizens, with due proportion of volunteers, and two newspapers, advocated the extermination of the Indians- This principle has been acted on in several instances without discriminating between enemies and friends, which has been the cause, in Southern Oregon, of sacrificing many innocent and worthy citizens, as in the case of Maj. Lupton and his party (volunteers) who killed 25 Indians, eighteen of whom were women and children. These were friendly Indians on their way to their reservation, where they expected protection from the whites. This barbarous act is the cause of the present war in the Rogue River country, – Gen. John E. Wool

The Oregon Argus (Oregon City) December 22, 1855, page 1

General orders no 10. Headquarters, Territory of Oregon, Portland, OCT 26th 1855.  Information having been received that armed parties have taken the field in Southern Oregon with the avowed purpose of waging a war of extermination against the Indians in that section of the territory, and have slaughtered without respect to age or sex, a band of friendly Indians upon their reservation, in spite of the authority of the Indian agent and the commanding officers of the United States troops stationed there, and contrary to the peace of the Territory. … E.M. Barnum Adj. General, Governor

General John E Wool

The Oregon Argus May 24 1856 Page 3 (The Trail of Tears, removal of the tribes from table Rock to the Grand Ronde Agency)

General: The existence of a war of extermination by our citizens against all Indian in Southern Oregon, who by recent acts appear to evince a determination to carry it out, in violation of all treaty stipulations and the common usage of civilized nations, has induced me to take steps to remove the friendly band of Indians… I have received intelligence that meetings of the Citizens of Willamette Valley residing along the route to be traveled by these Indians in reaching the designated encampments , as well as those in the vicinity of the latter, have resolved upon resisting such removal, and avowing a determination to kill all who may be brought among them as well as those who sought to effect that object.  Horace Greely (formerly published int he New York Tribune)

Shoshone People
Shoshone People

The Daily Mountaineer (The Dalles, Or) November 7, 1965 page 2

With the assistance of the Veteran regular troops which have arrived, or will arrive, in this department, the volunteer forces now in the field, would, during the coming winter, pretty well exterminate the Snake Indians now at war with the whites in south-eastern Oregon, and the south-western districts of Idaho. It is a measure of common justice that the savages should be put down in some way or another…. Co-operative parties of citizens from Boise, Owyhee and Powder river, might be raised, and thus the Indians would be effectively surrounded. There are hundreds among the miners who would gladly participate in such an enterprise, from the double motive of a fondness for adventure and a desire to see the country. … The interests of the State require the development of resources of the eastern section and without the subjugation of extermination of the Snakes, this cannot be done. 

Oregon Sentinel, (Jacksonville, OR) November 2, 1872, page 1

President Ulysses S. Grant
President Ulysses S. Grant

Grant’s Policy of Peace

There has been much sentimentality wasted in the Indian, and yet it is also true that great injustice has been done him. By some he is considered little better than a wild beast, the lawful prey of the hunter, with no rights to be respected, with no wrongs worthy of redress, others hold him as a fir subject of plunder, and use him as a go-between in swindling the government. They assume the shape of traders, agents, and sometimes go in the garb of the Church, to rob him of the bounty which the Government bestows. …

There are two ways to dispose of the Indian. One is to exterminate him; the other, to civilize him, or at least to control his savage nature by the influences of civilization. The first has been partially tried, and has proven a failure. To say nothing of its inhumanity, it has been too expensive. Single wars waged against the Indians on this principle of extermination have cost the Government ten, twenty, thirty and even at high as forty millions of dollars each.

It is estimated, on good authority, that every Indian warrior killed in the Florida War, the Sioux of 1852 and in 1854, and the Cheyenne war of 1864 cost the Government a million dollars and the lives of twenty whites. and these wars settled nothing…. if we continue the policy of extermination the people must face the cost. It is costs the Government in the past a million of dollars and twenty lives to kill one Indians warrior its easy to figure  the cost of killing off the 293,000 that still remain. It would bankrupt the country and depopulate the land. The policy, if for no higher consideration than its expensiveness, must be abandoned.

This a a scattering of media and other perspectives that address extermination of Indians. Generally, Indians were in the way of white Americans taking their rightful lands, in the way of manifest destiny. The US Military in Oregon did not pursue extermination, initially, it was the Rangers, the volunteer militia that pursued extermination. In both Oregon and California there were laws that allows for American to recoup they losses for fighting and exterminating Indians. Literally American could get paid for exterminating Indians.

ShootIng Indians
ShootIng Indians

The American citizenry, many seemed alright with this policy for many years. Killing Indians was seen as fair because Indians were resisting the invasion of their country and stole the property of the Americans. Many saw Indian as a vermin to be extinguished.  For the theft of a horse, Indians could be killed.  It remains to be proven if this same feeling is active today in the racism we see against native peoples on reservations and on the periphery of native communities. The editorial about President Grant lays out the reasoning for ending extermination as a policy, it was too costly.

Indians were thought of as savages, they were not Christians and therefore somehow less than human. They then did not deserve to have rights. They could not be left to live in their own cultures, because those cultures were in the way of progress, of American expansionism. Federal policies changes by who was president and who were the generals on charge of the area.

In Oregon, during the Rogue River war (1855-1856), the conflict was actually fairly mild. There was one big battle and few minor skirmishes. The General of the US forces at the time was General John E. Wool. Wool had just left the Mexican-American war, and was assigned to the Pacific. His men in Oregon discovered that it was not the Indian who were being violent, but it was the Whites of southern Oregon who were causing the problems. Wool worked with Joel Palmer to save the Indians. The battles were  necessary to quell the efforts of Chief John to get rid of all whites because they had attacked his people many times while he was living peacefully on the Table Rock reservation.

Chief John, likely Shasta Chief
Chief John, Rogue River

Our present generation of people are the descendants of the  survivors of these attempts to exterminate the tribes. Those people that fought back against extermination deserve o be honored for their actions. They are why many of us are here today. They constitute the national heroes of the tribes and deserve monuments and holidays and days of remembrance among the tribes. They stood against the final end of their peoples and may have lost the battles but won the war for the hearts of the people.


Support this project to research and write histories of the tribes through purchasing my t-shirts on teespring.com (ask for the link)

Naturalists In Oregon: Robert and Lucia Summers

Reverend Robert Summers, the Episcopalian Minister of McMinnville (1873-1881) had a varied history in Oregon. Robert went from being a settler, to becoming an Episcopalian minister, while hecollected Indian artifacts from various reservations in the region while his wife Lucia engaged in botanical  collecting.

In 1853 the young Robert Summers, who was born in Kentucky, took up a land claim in Eola Hills, northern Polk County, west of Salem. Summers was a distant relative of the Applegate family. The Applegates famously  settled in Oregon in 1844, at Salt Creek and was one of the first families in the area, becoming important politicians, surveyors and Indian Agents in the state. Its likely that Summers had heard of the opportunities in Oregon through these family connections and came to Oregon to seek his own fortune. But in 1855 Summers sold his claim and moved back to the United States (GLO maps were researched and no apparent drawing exists of the claim) .

In the next decade Summers gets married to Lucia (Susan Ann Noyes), they toured Europe and settled for a time in Kentucky where Summers is ordained a minister. In about 1871, the couple move to Seattle where Rev. Robert Summers becomes the minister of the Seattle Episcopal Church.

In Seattle, the Summers’ interactions with the public reveal their character. They appear very refined, highly educated, dignified,  and Lucia presents herself as a fine musician and linguist, as well as becoming something of a naturalist. Lucia begins collecting plant species, insects, and lizards, and spending quite a bit of time in the woods.

Lucia Summers listed as
Lucia Summers listed as a Naturalist with skills in Paleo., Archaeo., Mollusks, and Radiates.


In this time period, many people were amateur collectors, called naturalists. These practitioners collected all manner of “curiosities” or “curios”. They would conduct research and present their collections in journal articles. Many of their collections went to museums. Some of the most common types of collections were birds eggs and nests, insects, plants, Indian curios (baskets, artifacts, bowls, arrowheads) as well as Indian remains. Native skulls were very valuable and in many of the journals, all of these curios were subject to sale. In Oregon there was a four volume magazine called the Oregon Naturalist (downloadable on Google Books). The impetus of these curio hunters was to put their name on some new species of animal, insect or bird, and immortalize themselves. Many were inspired by the early travels and collections of Lewis and Clark   (1805-1806) who collected numerous animal and plant species as well as information about Native peoples, and made maps, all of which were published by 1810.  Scottish botanist David Douglass, who came through Oregon in the 1830s and  also collected and named numerous plant species (ie; Douglas Fir). These early explorers were extremely popular and later amateurs, naturalists, sought to capture a piece of that fame.

Lucia Summers appears to have begin as a curio hunter, and because of her education, and her husband’s interest in Indian artifacts, she traveled extensively and became an important botanist/naturalist. Her specimens were sent to Yale University Herbarium , the New York Botanical Gardens, Gray Herbarium at Harvard University,  and after her death the bulk of her collection was bought by Phoebe Hearst and is at the University of California. Unfortunately, none of the species she discovered were ever named after her.

Church in McMinnville
St. James Episcopal Church in McMinnville, 1880s.

In 1873 Rev. Summers takes a new assignment to the Parrish at McMinnville, Oregon, perhaps something of a homecoming based on his earlier settlement. Summers is the minister at the St. James Episcopal Church which has since been renamed St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. From 1873 to 1881, Rev. Summers spends time on the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation making friends with the Indians there and begins collecting artifacts. He collects some 600 artifacts at Grand Ronde. His collection activities perhaps are influenced by his wife, as all of the artifacts collected are logged into a collection log, with detailed descriptions of what they are, what they are constructed out of, who owned them, how much he purchased them for. His collections are of artifacts, baskets, tools, pipes, bags, carvings many of which were likely made before the reservation was formed, and brought to the reservation by the first generation of Indians.

Example of artifacts in the Summers Collection that can be typed by Tribe, with associated notes.
Examples of artifacts in the Summers Collection that can be typed by Tribe, with associated notes. Some 27 to 48 tribes originally came to the reservation.

During his time in Oregon, Summers, and his wife, travel extensively to many other reservations. He collects artifacts from the Siletz Reservation, from the Klamath Reservation and from areas of eastern Oregon where they collect from burial mounds. He visits Southern to Central California and collects additional specimens from the Indians there. His wife travels with him in 1876, camping with him on their excursions overland and through mountain ranges, and collects botanical species parallel with Robert’s material and ethnographic collections.

At Klamath, Robert was so set on getting a necklace, that Lucia literally traded the dress she was wearing to get the artifact. Their collection grows to such an extent that for the Grand Ronde Indians, Summers has the only known mortar and pestle they can grind their medicine on. On April 30, 1876, the Summers are visited by a group of Grand Ronde Indians who seek to grind seeds of a Media  (Native hemp) to make a medicine to cure an ailing friend.

Summer continue their Work in California
Summers’ continue their work in California, collecting from Indian grave sites.

The Summers leave McMinnville in 1881 and settle in San Luis Obispo, where Robert is the reverend of another church. Robert dies in 1898 and Lucia six month later that same year.

The Summers Collection of Indian Artifacts is over 600 specimens, mainly from the tribes of western Oregon. The bulk is from the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. The collect passes into the ownership of Reverend Freer who gives the collection to the British Museum in 1900. In 1999, the Grand Ronde Tribe began working to get the collection returned and has had one research trip to the museum (2000), and numerous consultations in successive years with curators at the museum. Such collections in the British Museum have historically been difficult to repatriate. The Museum has a long history of collecting and buying important artifacts from all over the world. The collections of the British Museum are considered treasures of the nation and it takes an act of their parliament to return artifacts to the home country.


The Summers collection represents a rare early collection of artifacts which dated from before the reservation was created. Accompanying each artifact is detailed contextual  information about it, including the person who sold the artifact to Summers. Ironically, the collection itself is important, and that from Grand Ronde was validly purchased with contextual notations that are very progressive for the time period, while much of the Summers’  other Naturalist activities amounted to grave-robbing, now noted by many scholars as among the worst practices in the history of research on Native peoples.


Alverson, Edward R. Lucia Summers (1835-1898) First Resident Botanist In the Pacific Northwest, Kalmiopsis, Volume 18, The Nature Conservancy, 2011.

Cawley M. Ed.  Indian Journal of Rev. R.W. Summers, Lafayette (OR),: Guadalupe Translations, 1995.

My memory

Native Education Campaign: Heroes of the Tribes of Oregon

Over the years, I have worked deliberately on the tribal histories of many tribes in Oregon. During this time, I have produced over 130 histories of the tribes, free to the public. Some of these are being now rewritten and turned into history books suitable for publication.

This Campaign “Heroes of the Tribes of Oregon” is about getting the tribal histories out to where they will matter. In all regions of Oregon students are not learning about the tribes of Oregon. There are few curriculum sources available and few other sources that they can base the students’ studies on. I am producing many stories that I hope help teachers and students. I know there is great interest out there.

All of this research and writing takes time. I spend upwards of  6 hours a day in research and writing. I currently have no support for this work. As a Native Scholar with a PhD in anthropology, I am uniquely positioned to take advantage of my experiences and interest in Tribal history and culture and write these histories. Many of the histories never made it into any history book anywhere, or have never been effectively researched before. They constitute a huge body of invisible history that is a huge part of our collective history in Oregon. These histories, are not always positive, but they reveal what really occurred for the people in many tribes, and how they interacted with the contested settlement of their lands and interacted with the pioneers who settled here.

How You Can Help

To help fund my research and writing, I am releasing a series of Native heritage t-shirts that derive from the history of Oregon’s Native people. By purchasing these shirts I will be able to continue my work to research and write tribal history that will benefit all of is in the future. Please help me get to my goal of 102 shirts in 19 days on this first offering. Thank you for supporting me, and here is the amazing story of Tecumtum the subject of my first shirt. (If you have suggestions of who else I should feature, Please let me know)


black shirt Please click on this link to access where you can buy the shirt and support my work.

The Last to Surrender: Tecumtum

(Rogue River John, Tyee John, Elk Killer)

Tecumtum whose name meant “Elk Killer” (Te-cum-tom, Chief John, Old John, and Tyee John, John Chamberlin), was the Principle Chief of the Etch-ka-taw-wah band of Athabaskan Indians, during the Rogue River War in the mid-1850s. Tecumtum signed three treaties with the United States as a chief of his tribe, The Treaty with the Rogue River of 1851[1]; the Treaty with the Rogue River of 1853[2] and the Treaty with the Rogue River of 1854[3] as the fourth chief. Indian Agents stated that Tecumtum lived on Deer creek in the Illinois Valley, near present day Selma, and had kinship relations with the Shasta tribes.[4] His military acumen and long-term refusal to submit to conquest place him at the forefront of Tribal leaders in Pacific Northwest history, yet his exploits are barely remembered in regional history. Tecumtum’s legend remains strong among the tribes in Oregon as a powerful leader who fought for the sovereign rights of the southwestern Oregon tribes.

Table Rock Reservation 1856
Table Rock Reservation 1856

He and his people formed part of a confederation of tribes that fought against the American miners, settlers, and militia from 1853 to 1856. Oregon Indian Superintendent Joel Palmer noted that Chief John and his confederation of tribes, namely George’s, Limpey’s, Sam’s and Tipsey’s bands, collectively held controlling influence over a broad cross section of tribes in the region, principally the Shasta, Chasta Costa, Dakubetede, and Takelma tribes.[5]

After Tecumtum surrendered in summer of 1856, he was removed to the coast reservation. he was later taken to prison at the Presidio in San Francisco for continuing to foment violence at the reservation, and working to get the people to return to their homelands. When he was released some years later he lives in Grand Ronde with his daughter. There he is revered as  Chief John for the remainder of his days.

The full essay about this great tribal Chief is at the Oregon Encyclopedia, Tecumtum.

  1. Signed July 14 1851 with John P Gaines treaty commissioner, Te-cum-tom is signed as fifth tribal signature.

2. TREATY WITH THE ROGUE RIVER, 1853. Sept. 10, 1853. | 10 Stats., 1018. Ratified Apr. 12, 1854. | Proclaimed Feb. 5, 1855.

3. TREATY WITH THE ROGUE RIVER, 1854.Nov. 15, 1854. | 10 Stats., 1119. | Ratified Mar. 3, 1855. | Proclaimed Apr. 7, 1855.

4. Douthit, Uncertain Encounters, 137. Based on Hoxie Simmons Oral history.

5. Palmer, Joel, letter, September 11, 1854, Treaties of Certain Indian Tribes of Oregon, Letter from the Secretary of the Interior, 53D, 1st Sess., S.Ex. Doc. No. 25. P 25-26. Congressional Serial Set.

white shirtPlease click on this link to access where you can buy the shirt and support my work.

A Startling History of the Cascades Indians, 1855-1862

On March 26, 1856, a year after the Willamette Valley treaty is negotiated (Jan. 22, 1855) there is an uprising on the Columbia near the Cascades. There are numerous versions of the story,  but it is associated  as an extension of the Yakima Indian Wars, where  Klickitat and Yakima and perhaps some Cascades Indians were upset with the Americans and killed some of them in a series of attacks on settlements and outposts on the Columbia River. The Yakima leader Kamiakin was upset about the invasion of his country and wanted to drive the Americans from the Columbia. The Klickitats were upset because they had not gotten a treaty for their lands, and many of the Klickitats felt that their recent occupation of the Columbia and apparent conquest of the the Willamette Valley meant they deserved a treaty.

Fort Rains, North Cascades, University of Washington Libraries
Fort Rains, North Cascades, University of Washington Libraries

This situation was created after epidemics wiped out a good portion of the Indian in the region. From 1829 to the mid-1840s numerous epidemics, mainly malaria, served to depopulate many areas, leaving room for other tribes and settlers to move in and begin claiming village sites for their own. The Chinook tribes though, maintained at the treaty negotiations that they owned the whole of the Columbia, and they were agreed with by the Americans. Sometime later, Klickitats tried to sue for land rights in Oregon, but their lawsuit failed and the Indian agents forced them back into Washington Territory.

The most dramatic event was the capture and hanging of the Cascade leaders at the Cascades, the first such in the region.  After the Cascades attack and their repulsion by the army, the Klickitats and Yakima Indians went back north and some of the Yakimas even went into British Columbia to escape the Americans. The Cascades were left to take the fall for the actions of many, and some say that they were not involved at all. The trial of the Cascade leaders consisted of checking to see if the guns had been fired recently. Lieutenant Philip Sheridan was responsible for bringing the Cascades to their trial, and later became the commander in charge of the Grand Ronde Agency Blockhouse.

The Cascades were imprisoned on an island in the Columbia and the army held a trial. The leaders of the Cascades were hung, shot, and one of them imprisoned. The elimination of the Cascade leaders took all of the leadership from the tribe, including the treaty signers, who had just signed the treaty the previous year. After the hangings, all previous plans for removal of the Cascades to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation were changed. The conflict at the Cascades caused some Americans to react in anger murdering a family of Cascade Indians sometime later.

Some histories suggest that the Cascades were removed to the temporary White Salmon Reservation, upriver.  Then when White Salmon was closed, the Cascades were removed again, this time to Yakima.  a mass removal, of the whole tribe did not happen.

The history of removal to White Salmon and Yakima is  incorrect for most of the tribe. What occurred instead is an anomaly in Indian history. Most of the Cascades were left where they lived as they were determined to be peaceful. Their leadership removed, the federal government went about changing the boundaries of the various areas of Indian administration. Isaac Stevens was appointed the Indian superintendent of eastern Washington. There were also superintendents for western Oregon and for the area east of the Cascades. The dividing lines were the crest of the Cascades and the Columbia River. Those Cascades at Dog River, now called Hood river, were a separate  tribe and many of them eventually removed to Warm Springs. The Chief at the time did not like the Wasco people and did not want to move to Warm Springs, but many eventually did. The Cascades on the north bank were in Washington Territory and Isaac Stevens and the Army ordered them to remain as they were peaceful.

The Cascades at the rapids, now Cascade Locks have their own unique history. Those Cascades where on the southern eastern bank of the Columbia, and were in the western Oregon superintendency. Between January and March 1856 Palmer was ordering the tribes to remove to Grand Ronde. The order for the Cascades to remove came a few days after the battle took place. There is as yet no record of that journey. It is possible the some of the Cascades remained living on the Columbia and Some removed to Grand Ronde. Palmer’s journal entries for March 1856 suggest he was operating between the Dalles and Vancouver and was ordering the tribes to remove then. One entry states “ordered the local tribes to the reservation”.   One family has now been found to have come to Grand Ronde in the early period. That family lost a son at Willamette Falls, he drowned fishing. His father comes from Grand Ronde and asks for help to bury his son from the chief at the Cascades. It is unclear in the record who this man was at this time and its likely the families of the Cascades were censused under the Clackamas tribes. The Tribal census for 1872 lists Susan Tamolcha and family at Grand Ronde. Members of the Cascades tribe have said this is the wife of Chief Tumulth. In the Grand Ronde Passbook Oregon City John travels off the reservation with a “Susan” who is an older woman,  several times.


The Army at this time was more concerned with fighting the eastern Washington and eastern Oregon tribes and did not have the manpower to move the tribes. A few Cascades were able to gain allotments at Yakima and some of them married with the upriver tribes and integrated with the Wasco and Wishram peoples. But it appears that the Cascades remained in their original territory unless they married into a tribe on a reservation. The census records of the reservation at this time do not always list names or tribal designation (at least 27-48 tribes moved to Grand Ronde) so it difficult to find people of some tribes on the reservation.

Most of tribal nations were much like city states.  Villages and bands had their own sovereignty, and some groups of villages or bands were part of a larger tribe. And due to marriage laws in the tribes, people of high rank were forced to marry outside of their tribe and family. So there were many interrelations between all of the tribes in the region. Chief Concomly himself married his daughters and sisters to many other tribal chiefs and fur traders in the area helping him create good relations among all of the tribes and thus making him very rich. One of his daughters was married to Chief Keasno of the Multnomah. After Concomly, Keasno was probably the most powerful chief on the Columbia from the Pacific to the Cascades. He died in 1848 and a surviving wife, Mary Ann Keasno, was brought to the Grand Ronde Reservation with several of her attendants (slaves) in 1856. We know that Chief Keasno had relatives in among the Cascades. Alexander Henry’s  journal reveals Keasno’s deep relations in 1812, when Keasno participated in a negotiation for peace at the Cascades.  Afterward, he has a gathering with his family, who were  the Cascades, on the north bank.

The Cascades were well positioned to capture the trade between the upper river tribes and the lower river tribes. Lewis and Clark’s journals reveal that there were many traders from other tribes in the villages they stopped at. So relationships and political kinships were extremely important to the Chinookan tribes. This helped to keep all of the Chinook tribes in possession of the Columbia River. They fought off those tribes that coveted their great wealth until they were overwhelmed by American settlements. many assimilated into the Columbia river community and others went to reservations.

The events of the battle of the Cascades in March of 1856 precluded the government from removing them. It is unclear if they were ever paid for their lands, or that they ever got the services and support promised to them by the government when they ceded their lands  by signing the treaty of January 22, 1855, which was ratified March 3, 1856.

Off-Reservation Histories: Native Peoples of Western Oregon

Once the tribes were placed at the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation the Indian agents worked to keep everyone there. It was thought that the reservations would keep the Indians and Whites separate and thus avoid conflicts. The reservations were intended to keep the Indians away from White settlements, and keep the White volunteers from coming on the reservations and exterminating them.  The forts, Yamhill, Hoskins and Umpqua, were built to protect the military detachments assigned to them, in case the tribes attacked, which never occurred. But from their vantage points, the army could watch over who was traveling the access routes to the reservations. The narrow access routes were easily circumvented at night or if people braved travel through the forests.

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 (proposed in red)  the people had to walk through to get out of the Grand Ronde Valley, with Fort Yamhill (flag) on the Hill watching the Pass

In the earliest days it was policy that the tribes remain on the reservations and if people left without permission, the army would hunt them down and return them. Into the 1860s, people in many communities in Oregon would write the Indian agents asking them to collect one Indian or a group of Indians from one of the towns in the valley. Indians would get in trouble for drinking and causing disturbances, which was the most common complaint. When the civil war erupted, the abilities of the army to pursue Indians was eroded as the army called troops to the east coast.

Over wise, there were farmers who had come to know particular Indians and would request their labor on their land claim. It was a common occurrence for Indian men to live for several months to a full season at a farmers establishment and be paid for their labor for the farm, planting, tending, harvesting, and other farm work. Some farmers even allowed Indians that traveled extensively to store their property in their barns, and pick it up a year or so later. People were a lot more honorable then.

Indian agricultural pickers, 19th century
Indian agricultural pickers, 19th century

Later, traveling off reservation to wark in the farms, became what was essentially a migrant indigenous labor force of Indian families who would travel from their reservations in the summer, into the Willamette Valley and live at a farm for several weeks harvesting crops. Areas like Independence, Wheatland, and Eugene were places were many Indians went to harvest hops, beans and berries. other crops may have included Black walnuts and cherries. The farmers would set up areas of their farm for families to live and segregate people from different races from one another. The Willamette Valley attracted native migrant farmer labor from tribes in Arizona,  and from Klamath, Warm Springs, as well as Grand Ronde and Siletz.

The beginning of this regular, cultural activity by Indian families became so common that the Indian Agents had to adopt a new way to manage and control who was on and who was off the reservation. The military proposed a system that became the Passbook. Under this system, Indian groups would be  logged in and out of a ledger book, and they would receive a “pass,” a short handwritten note that stated their destination and was signed by the agent giving permission for the Indians to travel off the reservation. Generally if an Indian was found to not have a pass, this would be reported and the military would go collect them and return them, or local law enforcement would detain them and ask the agent to come collect them.

Passbook page 1, OHS collections
Passbook page 1, OHS collections

This was all necessary because Indians were not American citizens. They were considered foreigners, members of dependent sovereign nations that lived on federal trust lands called reservations. The reservations were federally managed and thus not technically part of the state lands. The federal government took complete administrative control of the tribes, and state laws did not apply on the reservations. There were occasionally Indians who had joined or served in the US military and thus earned US citizenship, but until 1924 all Indians were not Americans. In 1924 Congress passed the American Indian Citizenship act making all Indians within the US citizens.

There were some significant happenings in this early period which are a different historical narrative from that which states that all Indians were on reservations. There were some tribes  and individuals who came for a time to the reservation, then left to never return. There are other tribes that never went to a reservation in the first place. There are some tribes where a few individuals came to Grand Ronde, and there are some people who married people on other reservations and went to live elsewhere.

Chief Henry Yelkas and Molalla Kate
Chief Henry Yelkas and Molalla Kate

The Molalla

The northern Molalla signed the Willamette Valley treaty in 1855.  They were removed to the temporary Crooked Finger reservation just south of the area of Molalla, a small valley that had yet to be settled. In April of 1856 Joel Palmer set about collecting the Molalla onto the Grand Ronde reservation. They refused to come and so Palmer had to go convince them. He gathered some help from the military and went to visit the Molalla. The Molalla carry a story of that meeting,

Palmer said, I will take you westwards. The chiefs said, “Why will you take us?“ The treaty chief told them, “I’m assembling all the other people in the same way.“ “I’ll give you food, all kinds of food.“ “You’ll eat lots of meat.“ “I’ll give you all blankets, and I’ll give shoes to the men, and likewise to the women.“ “I’ll give you horses.“ “I’ll give you cattle.“ “Now answer me, and I’ll take you along tomorrow.“ All the Molalla didn’t want to go. They said, “We will never leave.“ “We don’t want to give up our country.“ General Palmer brought lots of soldiers. Then now he told them, “Get ready. “The Molalla said, “We will never get ready.“ “I’ll kill you all if you don’t get ready.“ “The Molalla are ready for war now.“ They fought all evening, only half a day. Then the treaty chief sent word. “Now I’ll buy the land from you.“ Then he told them, “I’ll give you this much money.” (The sum was $46,000.) Then the Molalla agreed. Then it was all right now. Then finally now the Molalla began to get ready.

The Molalla moved onto the Grand Ronde reservation and are enumerated with the other tribes in September 1856. In  about 1860 Chief Yelkus of the Molalla decided to move his people back to their home at Dickie Prairie. All of the promises from Palmer had not occurred and about half of the Molalla left the reservation in the night. They were well accepted back at Molalla as they already had friends there. Most of the people later moved to Oregon City to find work. Chief Yelkus stayed in the area and become a well known symbol of his people and died there in 1914.

Chief Halo
Chief Halo

The Halo Band of Yoncallas

The Halos or Fearn family lived before removal time in the Umpqua valley. They had become friends with the powerful Applegate family, a family of settlers who moved into the area in about 1850. The most well known Applegate, Jesse Applegate wrote extensively about his experiences with the tribes. When it came time to remove the tribes to Grand Ronde the Halo’s under Chief Halo refused to move. He was confronted at gunpoint by the Indian Agent and the army and Robert Applegate stepped in the middle of the parties and offered to keep the Halo’s on his property. For many years the Halo’s remained living on the Applegate DLC and worked at the farm. The descendants of these families remain friends today.

Chief Halo said, “I will not go to a strange land.” This was not reported to the agent. When the tribe arrived on the reservation without the chief the agent was troubled, and came to our house to get father to go with him to visit the chief. …The agent said, “Tell the old Indian he must go to the reservation with the other people, that I have come for him.” The chief understood and answered defiantly, “Wake Nika Klatawa,” that is ,” I will not go.” The agent drew his revolver and pointed it at the Indian when the chief bared his breast, crying in his own tongue as he did so, “Shoot! It is good I die here and am buried here. Halo is not a coward, I will not go.” “Shall I shoot him?” said the agent. “No!” cried father, his voice hoarse with indignation. The chief standing with his back against the giant oak, had defied the United States. We returned home leaving the brave man in peace. Father and my uncles protected the old chieftain and his family and they were allowed to remain in their old home. (Jesse Applegate, Recollections of my Boyhood)

Some of the children of Chief Halo did come to Grand Ronde for a time. Jake Fearn testified (Applegate Report) that he did come to Grand Ronde but later returned to the Yoncalla valley.

We first went to the temporary reservation on the Umpqua River and remained there about a year.  Then my mother, my brother Beel and his family and other relatives came with our Yoncalla band to this reservation.  My father did not come at the time but came in a year or two later…. No allotments yet being made on the reservation there was no encouragement to improve the lands, and so I returned to the native place in the Umpqua country and located a homestead of eighty acres, became a citizen and resided on my land and proved up.   I then located eighty acres more to make up my 160 acres, lived on it seven years and proved up on it also.  Since then I have visited the reservation and my people here occasionally but have never made my home here.

Quinaby (Standing) and unknown man, OHS collections
Quinaby (Standing) and unknown man, OHS collections

Quinaby, Chemeketa Kalapuya

One the Tsimikiti (Chemeketa) Kalapuya Indians, Quinaby (Quimby, Quiniby) originally live on the Chemeketa Plains, which became Salem Oregon. Known as Chief Quinaby to settlers in Salem, he reportedly carried himself in a regal manner and was considered an honest person who worked to keep the peace between Indians and whites. To many Americans in Salem he represented the “last” of the Kalapuya people and they hosted him as a celebrity around town until his death.

Quinaby and the Tsimikiti who had survived, were likely part of 300 Santiams at Grand Ronde, and were removed from their lands in 1856 when the Willamette Valley tribes were marched to the Grand Ronde Reservation. Despite treaty annuities supporting the tribes at the reservation, those at Grand Ronde were treated poorly by the government and had to fish and hunt for their food in the Coast Range while waiting for rare food shipments. There were few opportunities for wage labor at the reservation and many tribal people temporarily left the reservation and visited nearby towns to work, earn money, so they could have resources for survival. Quinaby and Eliza often received travel passes to visit Salem, as is noted in the Grand Ronde Pass book from the 1870s.

While in Salem, Quinaby and Eliza lived in a dwelling he built in the brush near the Salem Railroad Depot, and he often played Stick Game, a Native gambling game, all night with other natives, likely other native people traveling in the valley. When Daniel Waldo confronted him about the loud noise they made during the games, Quinaby responded by saying, he was the last of his people and this was his peoples’ land long before whites came. Waldo then left him alone. 

Quinaby was known to saw and buck firewood for money and food and to perform menial jobs for households in Salem. He promoted his status around Salem as the “last” of his people (even though several hundred Kalapuya lived on the Grand Ronde Reservation) which brought sympathy and goodwill to him from settlers.

On July 4, 1875, Quinaby and his wife Eliza “dressed in the National emblem—the Stars and Stripes and paraded around town proudly. Quinaby would attend the parades, fairs and national holiday events dressed in the best of his regalia.

Quinaby therefore maintained a habitation on the reservation, but also spent quite a bit of time in Salem. Quinaby served the role of the last of the Kalapuyans for the people of Salem.

Indian Eliza Young of Brownsville
Indian Eliza Young of Brownsville

Indian Eliza, Brownsville

Indian Lize, Eliza Young (c. 1820-1923)

Eliza Young was born in the Mohawk Valley, the Land of her father of either the Pe-u or Calapooia Kalapuya Indians. Her mother was from the McKenzie River, the homelands of the Winfelly Kalapuya. After her parents died, Jacob Spores, an early settler to the area, took Eliza in and raised her in the Coburg area.

Later Eliza moved to the town of Calapooia, now renamed Brownsville, and became the 3rd wife of a Pe-u (Mohawk) Kalapuya Indian. They were removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in 1856 with some 27 other tribes. Eliza left her husband many times because of his brutal treatment of her and met Indian Jim (Jim Young). Indian Jim purchased Eliza from her husband for 15 ponies, a rifle and 15 dollars. They moved to the Calapooia River near Brownsville, built a house and had two children, both of whom died at an early age.

Eliza harvested traditional berries and materials for weaving throughout her life. She would sell the berries and woven baskets to the people in Brownsville to make a living. Eliza would also take on odd jobs and housework from the neighboring settlers. Local stories of Eliza state that she was neat and clean and was extremely intelligent. Later in her life she went blind and yet continued to harvest weaving materials and making baskets on the porch of her house (shown). Her specialty was purses. A local Brownsville family hosted her on their farm and she lived to be over 100 years old.

At her death in 1923 in Brownsville, the local papers stated that she was the “Last of the Calapooyas.” This was of course incorrect as most of the Kalapuyan Indians removed to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation and their descendants remain members there today. Eliza was one of the last of the Kalapuyans to live off of the reservation in her original homeland during the time when it was illegal for Indians to be off of a reservation. Eliza’s baskets are now collected in museums and private collections throughout western Oregon.


There are many cases of Indians living off the reservation. The examples presented are just a few of the more well known cases. Indians did not stay on the reservations, completely separated from American society. It was common for Indians to leave to find work, to visit friends, to fish, hunt and gather native foods, and to work on American farms. Many Indians continued in their lifestyles from the late 19th into the mid 20th centuries. This became a new cultural lifestyle for generations of natives.

In 1924, the US Congress passed the American Indian Citizenship act making all Tribal people American citizens. It is at this time that the people could then freely travel from the reservations. The restriction on such travel began breaking down much earlier, and the tribes of western Oregon were left on their own from the beginnings of the 20th century. Still, some policies, like forcing children to go to boarding schools, continued to limit the free actions of Native peoples for some time.


Round-up and Removal of Indians in 2013: Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, USA

In an apparent repeat of history, at least 31 Native people from Wolf Point, Montana, were rounded-up, arrested and removed to the town of Poplar, the apparent contemporary town site of the original Indian Agency of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The police action, which rounded up Native people, vagrants, drunks and undesirables, on July 12, 2013, was accomplished by the town police, and ordered by the city council. The people rounded up were stuffed into vehicles, to the point that one person passed out, and suffered a ride to the detention facility in Poplar. There they were not housed indoors and had to suffer the elements for 24 hours before they were released with no charges proffered.

Fort Peck Agency
Fort Peck Agency c1880

The round-up and removal of these “undesirables” was not precipitated by any actions by the people rounded-up, and there were no charges, nor any other court documents ordering the arrest of anyone. Those rounded up were placed in a 24 hour hold, which is apparently a legal procedure that police anywhere can use. Those rounded up were taken to the town of Poplar and retained in a locked outdoor holding facility which did not have facilities for overnight stays or shelter from the weather. people have stated that the guard struggled to erect shelter for them in the night.

A Montana detention facility
A Montana detention facility

The day after the people were removed, was the Wild Horse Stampede, one of the largest events in Montana. The event attracts  hundreds of  cowboys come to compete, and thousands of tourists come to watch the rodeo and eat a “Catholic Burger”. The conclusion to be drawn here is that the city council did not want the undesirables to ruin the appearance of the town for thousands of tourists. Police suggest that they simply received a call, and the caller said that all of the town authorities were on board with the action, and so they were just complying with their orders. This appears to have been acts taken against the Human and Citizen rights of these people, and is now under several  investigations and there has been a lawsuit filed. The federal government has been informed but there is no indication of what they are going to do about it.

Wild Horse Stampede, Rodeo at Wolf Point
Wild Horse Stampede, Rodeo at Wolf Point

I heard of this event recently, and immediately began investigating. The reports online at this time all impart the same information. Few of the people interviewed have any hope that the cases will result in finding anyone at fault. A broader search for more information on racism in the town reveals additional problems in the town school system which was being acted on in 2009. Apparently, about one quarter to one third of the students come from outside the town district. These apparent Indian students are at least 200 of the 1000 students in the town. There were no figures for the number of Native students who live in the town but some figures suggest that at least 40% of the town  of over 2,600 are  Native people. The media reports about the school suggest that Native students are more apt to be labelled as troublesome and violent and be subject to suspensions, than other students. Non-partisan observers have suggested that the reports from the school authorities about Native students are not accurate.

period map of the reservation
period map of the reservation

There appears to be a big problem with racism in this town. As a border town, near the edge of the reservation, and at the cross-roads of white American and Native worlds, there are likely to be many points of contention. The number of students bused into town may be a point of contention for the people in town, even if the school get BIA funds and tribal funds to help fund the school. Then there is a healthy Catholic and Lutheran presence in the town. In times past, missionaries from these religious organizations were very negative toward native peoples.

There is a 19th century history of war and conflict in the region, some of that may be transferred to the natives. Many people in town will view the native people as inherently violent and perhaps hold long-term grudges against Natives. This is a problem across the west in places like Redmond, and Madras, OR, Jacksonville, OR, northern California, and in many areas where there was a serious conflict or war between the tribes and the settlers. In many of these locations the tribes sought to defend their lands from invading and encroaching settlers, resulting in conflicts between area Ranger volunteer militia, and later war with the US Army Dragoons.

c1900 Native people at Fort Peck IR
c1900 Native people at Fort Peck IR

The Fort Peck Indian Reservation contains representations from the Sioux divisions of Sisseton/Wahpetons,  Yanktonais, Teton Hunkpapa, and the Assiniboine bands of Canoe Paddler and Red Bottom. The population on the reservation is an estimated 10,000 people. The reservation began in  1871, and the reservation was allotted to Indians in 1908. Wolf Point had been a reservation sub-agency in the early days, where it is noted many Indian people starved to death and died. This situation is common enough with the federal government unable or unwilling to write timely checks for food, regardless of the treaties or their obligations, so they insisted that the people feed themselves, but the lands they were allowed to have were poor for farming and many tribal people were not allowed to possess guns or other hunting weapons, so they just starved. In 1913, the remaining un-allotted lands were opened to white settlement. Americans  could prove up on their claim in 5 years, but soon after the original opening, the prove up time was reduced to 3 years, facilitating quick settlement and development of the area.

Indian picking Oats FPIR
Indian harvesting Oats FPIR

The early history of western reservations is very similar across the West. The tribes had a series of wars, they lost, and were removed to reservations after signing treaties. Missionaries come among the people and worked to begin assimilation. Indian schools, boarding schools, and the like, were established to fully assimilate the children to imprint Christianity and American culture on the children. The next generations were then Christians, and had a trade, and would work very hard for their families, many people working in agriculture in support of the settlers. Tribal people were never ever able to get through the glass ceiling of acceptance, have always been the other, and were subject to termination. Those tribes not terminated learned to accept the American way, and accept an elective government.  White American communities who had moved onto the former reservation lands resented what the tribes had, resented their “welfare”, and the fact they did not have to pay taxes, and their apparent free education. The tribes were forced to live on poor lands, surrounded by a racist society, and with no opportunity. As well in the previous generation, their people had sold, or been forced to sell, millions of acres of land in exchange for a reservation and services. And now the Americans resent what they still have (remaining). So racism becomes rampant as the Americans never really choose to get to know their Native neighbors,  and its likely that few of the non-Natives in the community even know the history, culture or lifeways of the tribe.  This is a common pattern across the west.

Heritage sign
Heritage sign

Now, in the present, the Native community works to live in the area, as they always have. The town of Wolf Point began in 1914 and since then their most successful event is the Wild Horse Stampede, ranked first among all similar rodeo events in the nation.  The town wants to provide a good tourist experience and get rid of the “town trash”.  Native People are now discouraged from attending, regardless of their long history of support and attendance at the rodeo.

Wild Horse Stampede
Wild Horse Stampede, just because…

Interestingly, the cowboy tradition began with the Spanish Gauchos of Columbia. In its heyday, late 19th and early 20th centuries cowboys and the rodeo had Black and Native and Latino participants in good numbers. The most famous Native rodeo rider was Jackson Sundown of Oregon, arguably the best of all time, anywhere. The Rodeo then, has always been a multi-ethnic event, regardless of what people believe today.

Bison on the FPIR
Bison on the FPIR

I do not know the community of Wolf Point, nor much of the Fort Peck Reservation. I have no friends among the communities there, that I am aware of. However, the 2013 round-up of Indians and undesirables in the town, on the eve of the rodeo, is so eerily similar to the 19th century round-up of Natives peoples and their removal to reservations. Then the objective was to remove the tribes from the best lands, to the worst lands to preserve the best for white Americans to settle and prosper. The 2013 round-up is apparently for similar reasons, to remove the undesirable elements from the town, and to make the experience better for rodeo attendees. The town managers did not want the base reality of tribal peoples to disturb their stereotypical and racist vision of what they want their town to look like for the rodeo.

The preferred image of Native people in Wolf Point.

Ironically, the town uses images of Native people to sell the Wild Horse Stampede to tourists and cowboys in all manner of promotional materials. The above and following are their preferred characterizations of Native people that they want to see and they believe tourists want to see.


Furthermore, one article implied that people on the Fort Peck tribal council may have been aware of and approved the action of July 2013. I have a hard time believing this, but I am also aware of the realities of how money works. If this is the case, then there are some serious issues at the reservation that the general council will need to handle. Today’s casino political culture has certainly spawned a number of acts of internal discrimination and perhaps even racism against people that are members of tribes.  I have not seen any comments from the Fort Peck tribal council against the events of 2013, and if they exist, I hope someone reposts them here or elsewhere. Indian Country is watching what happens in Montana.


newspaper media reports of the 2013 event -all available online, wolf point city website, Wolf Point images from their heritage site, Wikipedia, Fort Peck Indian Reservation website, Pechanga website.

First Newcomers: Soto on the Columbia

In an apparent twist of history, it was not the Americans who were first among the group of civilized Christian nations that settled in Oregon. In about 1725 a Spanish trading ship, perhaps a galleon, wrecked on the coast, in the vicinity of the Columbia River Estuary.

Spanish ships had been exploring the region for much of the 18th century, yet records of their travels were not well kept. There were likely several wrecks on the coast. The Spanish had begun a vigorous trade with the Asian mainland, and it was a Spanish wreck that likely deposited beeswax from China in the Tillamook area, on the Nehalem spit in either 1693 or 1705. Scattered legends of the 1725 wreck and its survivors have been passed down through the tribes of the region.

Nehalem Beeswax with shipping seal
Nehalem Beeswax with shipping seal, in the Pioneer Museum of Tillamook, found on the nearby beach in 1952.

One such story:

The First Ship Comes to Clatsop County
The Son of an old woman had died. She wailed for him for a whole year and then she stopped. Now one day she went to Seaside. There she used to stop, and she returned. She returned walking along the beach. She nearly reached Clatsop, now she saw something. She thought it was a whale.
When she came near it she saw two spruce trees standing upright on it. She thought, “Behold! This is no whale. It is a monster!” She reached the thing that lay there. Now she saw that its outer side was all covered with copper. Ropes were tied to those spruce trees, and it was full of iron. Then a bear came out of it. He stood on the thing that lay there. He looked just like a bear, but his face was that of a human being. Then she went home. She thought of her son, and cried, saying, “Oh my son is dead and the thing about which we have heard in tales is on the shore.”When she (had) nearly reached the town she continued to cry. (The people said), “Oh, a person comes crying. Perhaps somebody struck her.” The people made themselves ready. They took their arrows. An old man said, “Listen!” Then the old woman said again and again, “Oh my son is dead and the thing about which we have heard in tales is on the shore.” The people said, “What can it be?” They went running to meet her. They said, ‘what is it?” “Ah, something lies there and it is thus. There are two bears on it, or maybe they are people.”Then the people ran. They reached the thing that lay there. Now the bears, or whatever they might be, held two copper kettles in their hands. The people were arriving. Now the two persons took their hands to their mouths and gave the people the kettles. They had lids. The men pointed inland and asked for water. Then (the) two people ran inland. They hid themselves behind a log. They returned again and ran down to the beach.One man [of the people of the town] climbed up and entered the thing. He went down into the ship. He looked about in the interior; it was full of boxes.He found brass buttons in strings half a fathom long. He went out again to call his relatives, but they had already set fire to the ship. He jumped down. Those two persons had also gone down. It burned just like fat. Then the Clatsop gathered the iron, the copper, and the brass. Then all the people learned about it. The two persons were taken to the chief of the Clatsop. Then the chief of the one town said, ” I want to keep one of those men with me!” the people almost began to fight. Now one of them (sailors) was returned to one town, and the chief there was satisfied. Now the Quinault, the Chehalis, and the Willapa came.The people of all the towns came there. The Cascades, the Cowlitz, and the Klickitat came down to Clatsop. The Quinault, the Chehalis and the Willapa went. The people of all the towns went there. The Cascades, the Cowlitz and the Klickitat came down river…Strips of copper two fingers wide and going around the arms were exchanged for one slave each. A piece of iron as long as one-half the forearm was exchanged for one slave. A piece of brass two fingers wide was exchanged for one slave. A nail was sold for a good curried deerskin. Several nails were given for long dentalia. They bought all this and the Clatsop became rich.Then iron and brass were seen for the first time. Now they kept those two persons. One was kept by each [Clatsop] chief, one was at the Clatsop town at the cape.

(Annanberg Foundation, 2016 and Jarold Ramsey, comp. Coyote Was Going There: Indian Literature of the Old Oregon Country, 4th ed. (Seattle: Univ. Washington Press, 1980), 174-175.)

Spanish rigged ships and Galleon
Spanish rigged ships and Galleon


The 1725 wreck accounts mention at least four men surviving. The rest of the crew were killed and all of the metal of the ship would have been incredibly valuable to the tribes. The metals, brass and copper, was used in jewelry or to make knives or other tools. Elsewhere, studies of native coppers on the Columbia River, have revealed that all of their origins are not native to the region. Spiritually significant  copper ornaments were used by the tribes for ceremonial and wealth display purposes, and all of them came from off shipwrecks and from coastal trade.

Columbia River Copper rolled Beads
Columbia River rolled  Copper  Beads

If the men from the 1725 wreck were divvied up among the tribes, they would have at first been enslaved as curiosities, as people having unique knowledge and information. From them may have originated the knowledge of how to work with the metal, how to warm or cold forge copper and other metals and how to shape and sharpen knives. There is no record of the tribes practicing mining or metal forging of any sort in Oregon or Washington.

These four men would have eventually earned the respect of the tribes and earned their places in the tribes. Their off-spring would also have been unique and possess unique knowledge that they were something different. The name of one of these first Spaniards was even passed down to a son, Soto. Soto and De Soto, are common enough Spanish surnames.

Shoto village on Lewis and Clark Map, 1805-1806, Section of digital maps available at the Beineke Library, Yale U.
Shoto village on Lewis and Clark Map, 1805-1806, Section of digital maps available at the Beineke Library, Yale U.

The following are accounts from the Lewis and Clark Journals of the recordation of the name Soto likely as “Shoto” in 1805.

Lewis and Clark 1805-

On coming opposite to the Clahnaquah village, we were shown another village about two miles from the river on the north east side, and behind a pond running parallel with it. Here they said a tribe called Shotos resided. (Hosmer 225)

Lower down the inlet towards the Columbia, is a tribe called Cathlacumup, in the sluice which connects the inlet with the Multnomah are the tribes Cathlanahquiah and Cathlanahquiah, and Cathlacomatup; and on Wappatoo island, the tribes Clannahminamun and Clahnaquah. Immediately opposite near the Towahnahiooks ate the Quathlapotles, and higher up on the side of the Columbia the Shotos. All these tribes, as well as the Cathlahaws, who live somewhat lower on the river and have an old village on Deer Island, may be considered as parts of the great Multnomah nation, which has its principal residence on Wappato Island near the mouth of the large river to which they give their name.  (239)

Shoto tribe reside on the north side of the Columbia, back of a pond, and nearly opposite the mouth of the Multnomah River, 8 houses, 460 souls. (503)

The Lewis and Clark journals place the Shoto’s as a significant village of 460 people, just about where Vancouver is today. By 1805, the Son of the Spaniard Soto may have become a chief in his own right and began a village of people separate and upriver from the site of the Spanish wreck. This band would have been politically aligned, like other autonomous villages with one of the main tribes of Chinookans, and the likely alignment would be with the Multnomah. Soto would be the Chief of his village and would be advanced in age, at least 50 years or more.

Larger section of Lewis and Clark Map, 1805-1806, showing location on North side of River near present day Vancouver WA. Digital collections, Beineke Library, Yale U.
Larger section of Lewis and Clark Map, 1805-1806, showing location on North side of River near present day Vancouver WA. Digital collections, Beineke Library, Yale U.

In 1812 Gabriel Franchere visits the Soto village and is told the story that connects Chief Soto with the Spanish wreck in 1725. Franchere gives the location of this Soto village as further upriver, opposite of Strawberry Island, at the edge of the main Cascade (Watlala) settlements.

Franchere- May 7th 1812 …passed Point Vancouver… the 8th, we did not proceed far before we encountered a very rapid current. Soon after, we saw a hut of Indians engaged in fishing, where we stopped to breakfast. We found here an old blind man, who gave us a cordial reception. Our guide said that he was a white man, and that his name was Soto. We learned from the mouth of the old man himself, that he was the son of a Spaniard who had been wrecked at the mouth of the river; that a part of the crew on this occasion got safe ashore, but were all massacred by the Clatsops, with the exception of four, who were spared and who married native women; that these four Spaniards of whom his father was one, disgusted with the savage life, attempted to reach a settlement of their own nation toward the south, but had never been heard of since; and that when his father with his companions left the country, he himself was quite young. These good people having regaled us with fresh salmon, we left them, and arrived very soon at a rapid, opposite an Island, named Strawberry Island by Captains Lewis and Clark in 1806. (112-113).

In 1813, Alexander Henry visited the Soto village. This was a safe haven for the trappers, from the Cascades peoples further upriver, which are at this time very hostile and defensive toward the fur traders. Henry and his party are travelling with Chief Kiesno, a Chinook diplomat, at this time. The village location here is also further upriver from the Lewis and Clark account. It was not uncommon for villages to move periodically for various resource gathering activities (fishing camps, root digging camps, hunting camps), for seasonal living (winter village, summer village), and for access to better resources. The Cascades tribe, just above the Soto village mentioned by Henry and Franchere, would annually move to a village on an island across from Fort Vancouver, likely Hayden Island, as their winter village.

Alexander Henry- Jan 14th 1813- at ten we came abreast of the Soto village, where we saw the natives running into a low point of wood at the upper end of their village. They seemed to be in a great hurry and confusion, and we soon perceived they all wore large white war garments. Directly opposite the village we crossed over to a stony beach about 150 yards from the woods, in which some natives were posted behind trees in a posture if defense, armed with bows and arrows, clubs and axes- bows bent and arrows across them, ready to let fly; all was still as death. … a long parlay was held… While here we saw two horsemen set off at full speed for the village above, as we presumed to carry news of our arrival…. after a long parlay we crossed the river to Strawberry Island.

Jan. 15th- At 2p.m. we went up to the Cathlayackty village by land

Jan 21st- We therefore dropped down to the Soto village with the prisoner, accompanied by a canoe… nobody was stirring; smoke came from only two houses, the others being abandoned and barricaded with logs. (799-809)

Soto in 1813 must have been at very least in his 60s, a very old and respected chief. Further accounts of Soto are as yet unknown.

The Soto village, like that of many Chinookan villages, went through the malaria epidemics of the mid-19th century, (1829-1840’s). The remainder of the Soto people were likely taken in by the larger Cascades and Clackamas tribes in the vicinity.

…Pending is the addition of information about the Shoto clays and their relation to this history.



Public Art at Mt. Hood CC

Recently I took a walk around Mt. Hood CC, in Gresham,  and found a vigorous art program. Here are a few of the pieces I saw. They have a village of art cottages behind their main facility and all of the cottages are covered with fairly recent pieces. Many different styles and some huge pieces. I will add photos as I acquire more.


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