Cascade Watlala Removal in April 1856

My previous article about the Cascades addressed the general history and culture of the Cascades Tribe. I am now over a year into additional research on these tribal histories. I have nearly completed a full review of the M2 microfilm series (Oregon Superintendency) and found numerous additional details. The most startling yet found is a letter from Joel Palmer, preserved in his letter-books (M2, Reel 6), that address directly the Cascades and when they were removed.

Previously I have stated:

“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”. “

The letter of removal, from March 1856, did not have many details suggesting that the Cascades were in fact removed. The Cascades attack happened in late March, and I had assumed that the order for removal was countermanded by the military, under Lieutenant Phil Sheridan, who were questioning the tribes and finding Indian men who were party to the Cascades attack. This they likely did, but quickly set about blaming the leaders of the tribe. What followed was a backwoods-styled-field-execution of most of the Native men identified, seven of the leaders of the Cascade tribe at Cascade rapids. This execution by hanging occurred despite many protests that the Cascades were a peaceful people and that it was actually the Yakima and Klickitat who were culpable. Yet, it was these other tribes who escaped from the military and never were held fully accountable.

Palmer’s letter of March 11, 1856;

Sir, I sent up yesterday Five Teams with Indians, and their effects. They are the Mollalas, and a part of the Wallalah, Band sometimes called the Wascoes. I would suggest that they be allowed to go into the building, originally built for the Umpquas, or upon that side of the River. The enumeration of this band and those here awaiting transportation stand: Men 132; Women 180; Boys 68; Girls 60; total 440. All of whom have been paid their goods. The teams transporting the bands sent up yesterday, and as many others as can be spared from the Reservation; will be required to transport those remaining here, as they have a large amount of baggage; I desire you will send them back immediately. Several of those teams  have not been branded; it will be well to have that attended to. I had anticipated sending a few to the Dalles, but the outbreak at the Cascades, and consequent stoppage of the communication unless by Walter; and the countermanding the order for a Company of United States Troops, to accompany the Indians and employees  to the Warm Springs Reservation will prevent any movement in that quarter for a time….

The letter was sent from Joel Palmer, likely from his property at Dayton, where he would encamp tribes before taking them onto the reservation. He addresses his orders to Robert Metcalf, who is the first Sub. Indian Agent at the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation. The letter clearly states Palmer has Watlala people in his encampment and is sending them to Grand Ronde. The numbers of Watlala are not stated, they are included among the 440 enumerated.

The number is repeated in an additional letter of the same day, 4/11, to Commissioner of Indian Affairs George W. Manypenny in Washington, DC, where Palmer reports on the consequences of the Cascades attack by hostile Indians,

…created a state of feeling among our citizens, almost uncontrollable. Active operation were on foot to gather in, the scattering  bands upon the Grand Ronde and Coast reservations. but this unexpected outbreak of popular phrenzy came well nigh to unsettling and defeating the whole project…I have taken steps to collect all scattering bands in this valley, And in addition to the one thousand now upon the tract recently purchased, there is at Dayton, waiting means of transportation to the Reservation; four hundred and forty Indians; one hundred of whom starts today. I have been compelled, in hurrying from their houses, many who had not expected to be called upon so soon to remove, and often in a destitute condition; to distribute a much larger supply of merchandise, than had been anticipated. We have among these friendly bands, quite a number from remote parts of the territory;… the upper Klamaths one hundred and forty one souls, who have for several years past been in the habit of residing in this valley, during the winter season. We have a number of Spokans, Klickitats, and others from Washington Territory, and a few from California… With the exception of a few families scattered along the Columbia River below the Mouth of the Willamette River all the Bands of this valley are now here and upon the Grand Ronde purchase…

Palmer states that the project to remove the tribes continued despite the Cascades attack and details the numerous different tribes at his place in Dayton awaiting transport to Grand Ronde. The variety of tribes suggests that there was significant movement of tribes between villages in the region and that they were all gathered up for their protection from possible retribution by Americans following the Cascades attack. The Klamaths are later enumerated at the Grand Ronde Reservation on the first map (Hazen 1856) mainly because of their numbers.

Then on April 13, an unnamed assistant of Palmer, perhaps his son, and/or the person helping write his letters, completes a letter began by Palmer, as Palmer has to leave his house at Dayton on 4/12 and go immediately to Portland to manage a number of bank drafts just received from Washington, DC. The letter states that the last couple of weeks there has been an “extraordinary state of excitement”  from the duties associated with “removal to the reservation of the scattering bands of the Willamette Valley and Columbia River.”  The letter continues, directing Sub Indian Agent Drew to proceed with removal of the Indians of Lower Umpqua and Coos Bay and gathering them at an encampment on the Siuslaw. The letter confirms that Palmer had completed the removal of the Watlala as one of the Columbia River Tribes.

These Cascades were from the villages at the Cascades Rapids. There were two other populations of Cascades; a concentration at Dog River (now known as Hood River) and those on the north bank of the Columbia (Skamania). The North bank Cascades were temporarily removed to Fort Vancouver and then joined the Klickitats in the White Salmon Reservation until 1859. When the White Salmon reservation was closed in 1859 many of these people went to Yakima or remained on the river.

The Dog River Cascades, today are renamed Hood River Wascoes and they eventually remove to the Warm Springs Reservation, likely in the 1860s.

There remained on the Columbia River small pockets of Cascades Indians, some had intermarried with the settlers, some took up jobs which were essential for the settlements (mail carrier, steamboat navigator), and some likely left the reservations (escaped) to return to their homelands. A certain number of Cascades married into the Celilo village peoples and remained on the Columbia,  like they had done for many hundreds of years previously

These accounts by Palmer make it clear that at least one band of the Cascades came to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in its earliest period and joined the 29 to 35 tribes on the reservation. There are likely enumerated with the Wapatoo Island or Clackamas Chinook populations in the censuses.

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