This Place is as My Heart: The 1855 Wasco-Deschutes Treaty

In 1855, Joel Palmer met with the Wasco and Deschutes tribes to convince them to sign the treaty and remove to the proposed Warm Springs Reservation. The chief of the tribes spoke powerfully about their love of their land, calling their fish, gathering and hunting places  like the parts of their heart. The tribes knew they had to move and get out of the way of the gathering horde of Americans. Palmer told then that the Americans had the privilege of claiming any lands except for the reservation. The Tribal chiefs assembled did not know much of the reservation lands but knew that the soils were poorer and that there was not a lot of timber. Palmer knew this as well. Despite this the tribes  (except the Dog Rivers)  signed the treaty and agreed to remove.

Celilo Falls section of the Lewis and Clark Maps, Beineke Digital collections, Yale University

Stocketty- I like a piece of my land as my Heart. I have already given a piece of my land. The others have already given a part of their country. I also think it is good for me to do the same. My Heart is I will not speak about the Reservation you speak up. I wish to have a piece of land on the east side of the De chutes River that is all I have to say. I wish to have a piece of land on the spot I spoke of the rest you can have. My heart is to chose this piece of ground. That I speak of from the Columbia to the Blue Mountains. Also my fishing place on Columbia De Chutes Falls. This is all I have to say.

Pozet- I have few words to say, our chief has spoken. Our Head Chief. His word is our word although we speak after him, but his word is ours. All the places that our Chiefs have mentioned is also our hearts.

The Tribes all eventually signed the treaty and removed to Warm Springs. Their treaties powerfully guarantee their rights to fish, hunt and gather in their usual and accustomed places. And a community remained at The Dalles, the Celilo community, an off-reservation band of the tribes of the river peoples (Pum).

To all peoples of our lands, the land and its resources are like our hearts, its what sustains us through our lives in this place.

Regarding Joel Palmer- He was a powerful speaker and got tribal peoples to believe his words, his promises. He knew what the tribes wanted and I believe he wanted to preserve them from the Americans, who wanted to exterminate all Natives. Many of his promises in the heat of the treaty negotiations were hollow and not true. He had no idea what would occur once the tribes moved to reservations, but he promised that the tribe would have houses, food, and land. This did not hold true for the tribes for generations. The tribes were given the worst lands and had to hardscrabble a life out of the poorest soils. Many tribal people already knew animal husbandry and farming, and what to do that, but the lands given, by and large, were poor for this type of living. At the reservation, the tribes were starved and ignored as Indian agents struggled to find the resources to buy food and build lodging. All of the promises made in the treaties were empty.

Tribes were fooled by the treaty negotiators, I believe, because they equated the President with their Chiefs. American presidents are pure politicians and half or more of what they promise cannot be believed. In addition, their offices end in four to eight years and so politically everything can change in a short time. What was promised by one administration may change dramatically with the next. Chiefs, on the other hand are normally men and some women of experience and training, they work on behalf of their people, and therefore they must be as truthful as possible. They are appointed by the community for their wisdom. The tribal political process was very open, and every tribal member had a voice. Every care had to be taken to appoint the right leader, because they were appointing this person to lead the tribe for the rest of his, or her, life. Normally, tribes had more than one Chief, and chiefs and leaders, headmen and headwomen, would rise to that position and role because of who the person was.

 

Reference:

Territorial Papers of the United States: for the Territory of Oregon, 1848-1859, NARA M1049, Reel 1, Microfilm in the Oregon State Library, Salem, Oregon

 

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