Media Reports of the Wacheno Murder on the Grand Ronde Reservation 1904

Oregonian caption

Capture of Red Slayer

Grand Ronde Indian Surrendered when he found Yamhill Officer Had Outwitted him

April 26, 1904, Oregonian

April 25th at 9 o’clock Sheriff F.W. Sitton returned from Grand Ronde  with Louis Savage, charged with the murder of Foster Wacheno both Grand Ronde Indians. The crime was committed at the home of John Wacheno brother to Foster, about 4 am Sunday.

The party of Indians had spent the night playing an Indian gambling game (cards or stick game?) and drinking. Louis had become quarrelsome and when confronted by Foster, wherein he pulled a revolver and shot him through the heart.

“The shooting occurred on the back porch and the murdered man, after being shot through the heart, ran around to the front of the house, where he grasped a pillar of the porch, reeling and fell dead without a word.

Word was sent to Dr. Andrew Kershaw, Indian superintendent for the reservation, to examine the body, which he found dead.

At the inquest on Monday it was determined that two shots had been fired, one striking the back of Foster’s hand and one passing through his body, fired by Louis Savage.

All day Sunday was spent looking for Louis who was hiding in the hills. Constable Fred Stewart and Budge Savage of Sheridan were leading the chase. Sherriff Sitton spoke to the Natives in Chinook wawa and was able to get additional information. Sitton sent word to Louis to give himself up. When the time came Louis tried to escape yet realized that he could not and went to the home of O. Wallen to give himself up when Sitton arrived. Louis was cheerful and jolly but would not talk about the incident and the gun was never recovered.

The funeral of Foster Wacheno was held at the Grand Ronde Cemetery on April 27, 1904.

Oregonian caption

November 15 1904, Oregonian

On Trial For Life

 Louis Savage, Indian Chief , Faces Murder

Faces the Evidence Coolly

Damaging Testimony given Against him by witnesses, but he acts unconcerned and does not seem to fear verdict

The story as told before the trial shows that a party of Indians had spent the night in drinking and playing games, Savage it is claimed, drank to excess and became ugly, quarreling with several companions.

During an altercation, Wacheno suddenly appeared, and it is alleged Savage turned upon him with a revolver and fired two shots, mortally wounding him. After a few days Savage was captured and brought to Portland where he was indicted by the last Federal grand jury, but pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder.

Morning Astorian

Owing to the position occupied by Savage in his tribe a determined effort is being made to free him from the charge under which he is being tried. He was called the “last of the Molallas” and the “last chief of the Molalla Indians” in several articles.  (At this same time, Chief Henry Yelkas lived in Dickie Prairie near Molalla, another chief of the tribe.)

Savage’s lawyer B.F. Jones of Toledo worked to get the case taken out of the hands of Federal authorities. His line of defense was that members of the Grand Ronde tribe are citizens of the United States, they are all entitled to vote, and as a citizen Savage cannot be tried before the United States Court on a charge of murder. He must be tried in the county in which the crime was committed like other US citizens. This argument was not likely to be sustained.

Dr. Andrew Kershaw, superintendent of the reservation, testified first that Wacheno had died as described.

Abraham Mitchell, also known as Joe Connor (Corner, Cornoyer?) was one of the men who had quarreled with Louis and was a strong witness for the prosecution, and substantiated the story as told.

Many Grand Ronde members testified, including William Simmons, who also testified for the prosecution. Louis had many friends who came to courthouse giving it an “air of the reservation” who chatted with Savage during the trial.

Capital Journal Caption

Mrs. Veronica Smith testified that she had seen Louis was getting belligerent around 2 am and he drew the gun then, but she knocked his hand down. She said that they had been a previous fight last February between Foster and Louis which was broken up by bystanders. Stanford Ferne corroborated the events as told by Smith. (Polk Co. Observer 11/18/1904)

Laura Tom was also there and tried to act as a peacemaker. She said Louis and John Won were originally quarreling. Late John Won left to go home with a lantern prompting several Indians to go outside. Louis apparently wanted to shoot John Won, the half-breed but was confronted by Foster and William Simmons. Louis shouted “you two always double-team on me” and shot into the darkness striking Foster. When Laura Tom asked Louis why he shot Foster, Louis ran for the barn with Tom chasing him. Louis escaped on a horse with a friend, Setton, seated double with him. (ODJ 11/15/1904)

John Wacheno testified that there was already ill will between Foster and Louis and that Foster had pulled a gun on Louis before (February). (ODJ 11/15/1904)

Revival of Sheridan’s statement about Indians, The only good Indian, is a Dead Indian” Capital Journal (Salem) Caption

Louis Savage was cool and composed during the whole trial, even when the most damaging evidence was introduced by Mitchell. In the trial he said “I don’t know whether I will get free or not.”

Drawings of Louis Savage, William Simmons, Abraham Mitchell, B.F. Jones and Andrew Kershaw in the court, Oregonian 1904.

During the trial many of the tribal members grew impatient and in spite of rigid laws against Indians possessing alcohol, they were still able to get “firewater.”John Logsden, a supporter of Louis, found a source of whisky and attacked the entire United States Marshal’s Office ending up in county jail for the evening of the trial. The Court directed that steps be taken to learn who supplied the alcohol and to make sure they did not continue to do so during the trial.

The District Attorney had to explain to the court that some of the eyewitnesses were unable to testify on account of being “disabled”. (Oregonian 11/16/1904) The story does not suggest how they were disabled and we can assume that they could not speak English or were nervous speaking before the tribal members, many of whom were friends to Louis Savage.

The jury returned at 2:45 November 16th and Louis Savage was found guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was taken to Salem on November 19th. Thereafter he was sent to Leavenworth Kansas.

In 1907 Louis successfully challenged the federal court ruling on the earlier defense argument, that as a US citizen Louis could not be tried in federal court but only in county court. This is an argument that the federal court had declined to rule on. The 1907 appeal to reopen the case, was challenged by the US attorney who said the move of jurisdiction would cause the prisoner to go free and that the attempt to reopen the case should have been made before the original judge, Bellinger, died. (Oregonian 10/3/1907)

Payment for services

On September 28, 1908 Louis Savage secured his allotment fee-simple title from the federal government. He promptly transferred his property to his attorney B.F. Jones in payment for his services.

It is unclear in the newspaper records whether Louis Savage was freed or served out his sentence in federal prison.

Numerous newspaper articles stated that Louis Savage was a known “bad Indian.” Louis had previously served a term in the state penitentiary for robbing Ellis Bros store at Grand Ronde and jail time for carrying a concealed weapon. Newspaper stated that he was belligerent and an irritant to his neighbors on the reservation and they were glad to get rid of him. From the facts of the case its unclear whether he intentionally shot Foster or not, and seemed to suggest that he was firing in the dark at John Won instead and accidentally shot Foster. The argument his attorney made, that the members of the tribe are US citizens had merit. Upon receiving citizenship, likely under the allotment act, they would be US citizens. The reservation allotments at this time were likely still under federal jurisdiction. Still the judge should have ruled on that point and not left it open.

Oregonian drawing 1904

The case is interesting in the attention paid it by the media, because normally the tribes were ignored as they lived separate from Americans on the reservation. The headlines of the Oregonian and Capital Journal are very entertaining, and clearly with a racial bias, calling the Native people all manner of racist names. The media narratives are full of bias against the Indians and their “savage” nature. Even the above drawing of Louis depicts a brooding, dark complexion and empty soul-less eyes., suggesting his bad character. The people of the tribe did not do themselves any favors to disprove the stereotypes by having a drunken brawl in Portland during the trial. Up until 1952 it was illegal for Indians to possess or be sold alcohol in the state of Oregon, by both Federal policy and state law.

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