I offer thanks to
relatives, and ancestors whose strength of purpose
led me to my own. A special thanks to my co-author,
Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel, for her deep love and dedication to me and this project.
Without her tireless effort and selfless interest,
this liberating history of Oregon would never have been written.
The Great Siwash Returns 1873
The year 1873 proved to be an exciting year for agent J. H. Fairchild (1873-1875). Early in the year, an Paiute dreamer-prophet Wovoka (1856-1932) came to the reservation stating that if the people danced "long and strong," The Great Siwash would return to help them successfully win a war against the non-indians and then they could regain their old homes and hunting grounds. Some of the Indians believed this Mahdi, while others did not. The employees became fearful but the only real incident to occur was the burning of the teacher’s house. It was never proven, however, that Indians did it.
On April 12, 1873, a permanent company
state militia was organized at Yaquina Bay to protect the pallid
The recent disturbance from Siletz coupled with the outbreak of
War in Southern Oregon, caused the bay area settlers
following officers were chosen: Judge Daniel Carlisle, captain;
Mackey, first lieutenant; J. H. Blair, second lieutenant; Joseph
Despite the formation of the militia, the dancing among the Indians at Siletz did not cease and desist, and was carried on to such an extent that even the most hearty were often compelled to desist from sheer exhaustion; some of the most fanatical, dancing for several days and nights continuously—this in direct opposition to Fairchild's advise and wishes.
Military personnel made every effort to prove the sayings of the Mahdi unreasonable, but to no purpose. Wildly the dance went on, while settlers looked on with bated breath understanding well that their safety had previously been in the divided sentiment and feeling of that people, for with them no unanimity existed; old feuds had separated tribes into factions. However, Wovoka succeeded in uniting all parties with one idea, and that understandably boding no good to the non-indians.
As if to add to the general alarm, at this juncture the residence of Edward Sawtell was burned, as many land-grabbers believed, by Indians, causing a general panic among Yaquina Bay residents, who all started "forting up" at different points.
In the meantime T. B. Odeneal, Indian superintendent of Oregon, visited the agency and found Indians greatly excited over the hostile demonstrations of bay area settlers. The Indians strongly protested that they did not contemplate waging war on the settlers; that they could not afford to do so; and that they well understood that such an act would be the height of foolishness on their part, and that the settlers need have no fear. They were then encouraged to give up their arms to calm the fears of the settlers. They put this matter to the vote, and gave up their knives and every other article with which people could be killed, if required, in order to preserve peaceful relations with the settlers—and diverted the much dreaded war.
The Paiute prophet Wovoka was believed to have been born in the Sierras of Nevada. By the time of his birth, non-indian settlers had already laid stake to the territory and the Paiute nation saw its world degenerate into a state of cheap labor for whites.
His father, Tavibo, died and his teenage son became attached to the family of a non-indian rancher named David Wilson. Both Tavibo and David Wilson had a strong theological effect on the young Wovoka, shaping his religious concepts with two very different notions of faith. Tavibo was known as a prophet among his people and preached the concept of a religious dance when Wovoka was still a child. Tavibo claimed that he went into the mountains to speak to the Great Spirits, where he was told the land would open up and swallow the white man, leaving only native peoples to inherit the earth back. However, most of the Paiute people did believe this and Tavibo went back to the mountains, returning with a second revelation that all of the native dead would be resurrected and join those who would reign in this new natives-only world. This prophecy also failed to gain root and Tavibo returned to the mountains for a third time, coming back to his people to warn that those who did not follow the dance of his prophecy would be damned with the non-indians who were predicted to disappear. Curiously, history has recorded many tribal prophets of different nations who shared common visions and warnings. None, up until the time of Wovoka, ever captured a wide following.
Chapter 47: Vision Quest
Crying for a vision, that's the
of all religion. The thirst for a dream from above, without this
nothing. This I believe. It is like the prophets in your Bible,
fasting in the desert, getting his visions. It's like our Sioux
Quest, the Hanblecheya. White men have forgotten this. God no
to them from a burning bush. If he did, they wouldn't believe
it science fiction.
Your prophets went into the desert crying for a dream and the desert gave it to them. But the white men of today have made a desert of their religion and a desert within themselves. The white man's desert is a place without dreams or life. There nothing grows. But the Spirit Water is always way down there to make the desert green again.
While Tavibo's standing as a prophet
with each new visit to the mountain, Nevada found itself at a
crossroads. The settlers from the east brought Christianity and
of the Catholic and Mormon faiths worked zealously to "save"
It was under David Wilson's protection that Wovoka, who was renamed Jack Wilson, became exposed to Christian concepts.
As part of the Wilson household, Wovoka earned the scorn of some of his people, who claimed that his father was really Wilson and not Tavibo. The fact that Wovoka's complexion was light-skinned and that Tavibo translated as "white man" only aggravated the rumors. It is possible that the gossip generated by this contributed to Wovoka's claims that he would save the native peoples. Wovoka eventually left the Wilson household and returned to live among the Paiute; the reason for this departure from his adopted family is not known.
According to ethnologist James Mooney, who had been able to interview the dreamer-prophet and many of the Ghost Dance leaders, Wovoka had become seriously ill in late December, 1881. By the morning of January 1, 1889, he was clearly a man torn apart by the conflicts of his past. His father's failure to be taken seriously as a prophet, the suffering of the native peoples and his own religious concepts weighed heavily on him. On that day, while he lay in fever, he fell asleep and was taken up to the other world, and here
he saw God, with all the people who had died long ago engaged in their old time sports and occupations, all happy and forever young. He was then given the dance which he was commanded to bring back to his people. Finally, God gave him control over the elements.
In his dream, Wovoka conversed with
who promised a new world set aside for the native peoples. The
of the region which was nearly depleted by non-indian settlers
replenished. The non-indian settlers would vanish en mass and
dead would be resurrected and reunited with their living
starvation, pain and disease would be wiped away forever. From a
viewpoint and the safety of hindsight, however, one can detect
which were not tribal in origin.
Even the most casual churchgoer would recognize the visions of the Book of Revelation in Wovoka's prophecies. Yet Wovoka's audience—the Paiute people and, later, other tribal nations—did not recognize it simply because Christianity did not take root among the native peoples. White missionaries for all of their efforts did not put their faith into the hearts of most native peoples. Wovoka, obviously recognizing this, refashioned the biblical warning to his world. He claimed the native peoples would receive God's favor since it was the non-indian who rejected the Christ. And unlike the New Testament, which was vague concerning the time and place of God's new world, Wovoka spelled out the immediacy of what he said. "Jesus is now upon the Earth," he stated. But again, there is historic contradiction here. Wovoka is quoted as saying he was the Christ and he wasn't the Christ. It would seem that either he excelled at playing to different audiences or was damned to being preserved by prejudiced historians.
Wovoka added this new world for native peoples would come, but only if ritualistic dance was practiced. In his initial preaching, he instructed his audience to dance five days and four nights, then bathe in a river and go home. Wovoka promised to send a good spirit to his followers, who were to return in three months, at which time he would promise "such rain as I have never given you before."
The ritualistic dance, which became known as Ghost Dance (Wanagi Wachipi), clearly appealed to the native peoples who were baffled by the pew-bound protocol of Christian faiths. Unlike the calls of his father Tavibo, Wovoka found an audience eager to follow his teachings.
And unlike the land-grabbing masses greedy to possess the Indians' ancestral homelands, Wovoka preached non-violence.
You must not hurt anybody or do harm to anyone. You must not fight. Do right always. It will give you satisfaction in life.
This philosophy made the Ghost Dance (Wanagi
a forward-looking social movement. The dancing itself helped
inspire dispirited native communities, and the visions dancers
fostered a revival of traditional culture, which amounted to a
resistance against overwhelming white pressure to assimilate.
the Ghost Dance cut across tribal lines, pointing the way toward
Mooney noted that the Ghost Dance was born—not only of despair—but also of hope:
As it is with men, so it is with nations. The lost paradise is the world's dreamland, before Pandora's box was loosed, when women were nymphs and dryads, and men were gods and heroes? And when a race lies crushed and groaning beneath an alien yoke, how natural is the dream of the redeemer who shall return from exile or awaken from some long sleep to drive out the usurper and win back his people what they have lost...
Ghost Dance spread to different
the West with a speed and ferocity unrivaled by any religious
the day. This turn of events was all the more remarkable for
the geographic and language barriers among the various nations,
of access to media or technology for spreading this news, and
that Wovoka never left the Paiute land.
Instead, members of other nations came to Nevada to learn from him. Why Wovoka did not travel could be attributed to either a fear of unknown territories, a lack of funds to accommodate travel, or even the possibility or enemies.
Earlier records indicate that Wovoka did venture away from his native lands, and while working in the Oregon hop fields, must have gained some knowledge of the dreamer cult and Smohalla's teachings, some of which he incorporated into his religion.
The Ghost Dance was initiated into Oregon by followers of Wovoka who had moved northward from Pyramid Lake, Nevada to the Warm Springs Reservation. Oregon Indians may also have visited Wovoka near Walker Lake.
In Northern Oregon the doctrine was espoused most firmly by the Shahaptian and the Salish.
Anthropologist Edward S. Curtis wrote that the Salish were animists,
and religious practices centered about the belief that men could obtain the power of supernatural creatures. All, excepting the Flatheads, observed a winter ceremony, usually of four days duration, in which persons possessing guardian spirits sang their sacred revealed songs and danced in a single file around a pole.
Initially the belief had not been
by the Hupa, Klamath, Umatilla, Grand Ronde or Siletz. Fourteen
the Siletz Reservation was formed, the Ghost Dance movement had
cut across most of the linguistic boundaries, and in 1873
briefly joined their Warm Springs counterparts in embracing the
At Siletz alarmed settlers voiced their concern to local chiefs. The Indians assured them that they contemplated no blood bath and as a gesture of good faith gave up all of their weapons—even small hand knives that were needed for hunting.
As late as 1915, Indians from Siletz donned the white shirts of the Ghost Dance on Sunday evenings and were observed and respected—rather than feared—by townspeople who came to watch them.
Siletz Agent William Bagley Confronts the Ghost Dance 1879
Most Pacific Northwestern
those confined to the Siletz Reservation—had grievances aplenty
them to the Ghost Dance faith with it promise for their future.
The letter here quoted is dated February 11, 1879. It is from agent William Bagley to commissioner A. H. Hayt in Washington DC. Bagley asks permission to round up some bands of Indians on the California border, who, under the influence of the Ghost Dance religion, are dreaming of overthrowing the Christians and restoring the ancestral liberties. He sends Rev. John Adams (1847-1928) and Grand Chief George Harney to parley with them:
Referring to my estimate of funds of
date. I respectfully ask your careful and favorable
estimate for the removal and settlement upon this reserve of
of Indians in Southern Oregon and Northern California, and
your attention to a few facts in relation thereto.
This reserve contains sufficient good land for occupation by Indians to furnish homes for all these bands, where they could be brought under good influences, and in a few years revised to that standard of morality and true manhood which many of the Indians here have already attained to, instead of being as they now are, a nuisance and a blot upon the name of man and who are spreading their moral and heathenish poison over the various reservations on the Pacific Coast. Where they are, and coming in contact as they do with only the basest class of whites, there is not a shadow of chance for their improvement or elevation to citizenship.
They are all firm adherents to the religion of the dreamers, which is the religion of all the hostile tribes. On the first of last October, there was to be a great coming together of these bands at or near Jacksonville, Oregon, for the purpose of holding a religious dance festival, at which time they proposed to show the reservation Indians some marvelous and mysterious things in connection with their religion. Having many applications from our Indians for passes to go there, and thinking there would be likely to be number of Indians there who belonged here and were without passes, I conceived the idea of sending two of our most truthworthy men to met the renegades in council, and confer with them on the subject of their settlement here. I accordingly selected John Adams, who is a thorough Christian, and a licensed exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and interpreter George Harney, who sent and met them in council, and drew from them the expression of a desire to change their wild life for a quiet home on the reserve.
They saw and talked with Indians from Yreka and from various places in California, as well as others from Rogue River and Chetco in Southwestern Oregon, who were very desirous of meeting an authorized agent of the government from this reserve, who would talk with them about coming here.
The representatives, Adams and Harney, from this agency were so much to superiors of their prophets in point of intellect and a general knowledge of the world that their religious dance was a total failure, so far as obtaining proselytes was concerned.
From letters received here from citizens of Jacksonville, I found that the good impressions made by our Indians were not confined to the Indians in council, but that the citizens themselves marked the superior intelligence of our Indians. Since their return to the agency after an absence of 24 days, the religion of the dreamers has not flourished here. The route taken by them to reach Jacksonville was via Albany per horseback, thence to Roseburg by rail, thence to Jacksonville by stage, and back the same route. Traveling expenses for the round trip amounting in the aggregate to about $200—which was paid by myself and for which there is yet no provision for reimbursement.
I am fully convinced that, if provided with the funds asked for and permitted to go in person and visit these bands, I could induce nearly all of them to come and settle permanently, and I respectfully ask that if possible the amount required be allowed.
Again referring to the matter of traveling expense, I desire to say that a considerable amount of such expense has been incurred in securing the conviction of a party for selling liquor to Indians, reference to which was made in my monthly report for January.
I respectfully ask permission to pay all the traveling expenses of the Indian witnesses who will appear in court and assist by their evidence in the conviction of such men, and allow them to use their court fees in the purchase of clothing or other articles of utility to them.
This as an inducement for them to inform on the guilty parties.
I further respectfully ask to be allowed to reimburse myself for the outlay for traveling expenses of John Adams and George Harney, out of funds allowed this agency for expense for present quarter.
Very respectfully Your Obedient Servant,
William Bagley, US Indian Agent
In the 1880s Wovoka's religion spread
the Fort Hall
where many Bannock became his converts. The Bannock were able to
the Shoshoni tongue and they had intermarried with the Southern
that it was difficult to fine a pure-blooded Bannock. Thus they
intermediaries between Wovoka and plains tribes on the east. At
of the Ghost Dance fervor, Bannock returned from the plains with
of the resurrection of the dead, and, when Plains tribes visited
they took Fort Hall Bannock with them as interpreters to
spread of the Ghost Dance religion.
Before the massacre at Wounded Knee they had carried the doctrine as far west as the Columbia, having been present at an Indian Pow Wow at the mouth of the Wenatchee River in August 1890. Those as far west as the Okanagan reportedly sent emissaries to the plains to learn of the doctrine. When a white freighter was killed in mid-October 1890, in a remote corner of the Coville Reservation, his supposed killer was lynched by vigilantes. The Indians of the area began dancing what the rumor-ridden white community believed to be the Ghost, or Messiah, Dance, despite the assurances of chiefs Moses and Joseph that they were merely performing traditional winter dances. The white community took no chances, and in 1891 units of the Washington National Guard were dispatched to the Okanagan country. Tensions were eased thanks to the efforts of Indian chiefs and the Rev. Stephen De Rogue, S.J.
In the summer of 1890, among those who visited Wovoka were two members of the Lakota Reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, named Kicking Bear and Short Bull. They became enraptured by Wovoka's faith and even stated that Wovoka levitated through the air above them. Kicking Bear and Short Bull brought Ghost Dance back to Pine Ridge, but in a very different form which lead to totally unexpected results.
Wovoka’s faith was based on non-violence with non-indians. In fact, he even urged his followers not to tell the non-indians what they were doing. But as interpreted by Kicking Bear and Short Bull, Ghost Dance took on a militaristic aspect. The Sioux began wearing special garments known as Ghost Shirts, decorated with the images of sun, moon, stars, crosses, magpies, and eagles, hoping that they would make them bulletproof. They also wrapped themselves in American flags, worn upside down as a sign of distress.
Government agents were permitted to witness the Ghost Dance ceremony and were told what it meant. Kicking Bear and Short Bull added the Indian messiah would appear to the Lakota in the spring of 1891.
Ghost Dance came to the Lakota with a fury. All activity at the Pine Ridge Reservation was put aside and the native peoples adopted this faith with a mania. Government agents and non-indian settlers were terrified by this sudden and (to them) bizarre turn of events. Newspapers spread stories of savage Indians in wild pagan practices. Tensions became overpowering in this region as the Lakota people gave all their waking hours to Ghost Dance.
Blame for Ghost Dance was placed on two people. Wovoka was traced as the father of the Ghost Dance and, when interviewed by James Mooney, the ethnologist and anthropologist with the Smithsonian Institute, Wovoka passed a message to him that he would control any militaristic uprising among the native peoples in return for financial and good compensation from Washington. The offer was ignored. And blame was also put on Sitting Bull, the chief medicine man of the Lakota people. Ironically, Sitting Bull was apathetic to Ghost Dance and only allowed its introduction at Pine Ridge with great caution. His initial qualms were realized: government agents considered Sitting Bull responsible solely due to his leadership role among the Lakota. Tribal police were dispatched to arrest him, but his apprehension resulted in conflict when several Lakota fought to protect him. Sitting Bull was killed in the crossfire on December 15, 1890.
Fourteen days after Sitting Bull's fatal shooting, the US Army sought to relocate and disarm the Lakota people, who failed to stop their Ghost Dance. On the frozen Plains at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation, government troops opened fire on the overwhelmingly unarmed Lakota people, killing 290 in a matter of minutes. Thirty-three soldiers died, most from friendly fire; 20 Metals of Honor were presented to surviving soldiers.
As news of Wounded Knee spread though the native tribes. Ghost Dance died quickly. Wovoka's prophecies were hollow: the land would not be returned from the white man through divine intervention. With the suddenness of its birth. Ghost Dance disappeared. By the time of his death on September 20, 1932, he was virtually forgotten by both Indian and non-indian peoples. It would not be until the 1970s and the birth of Native American activism that the story of Ghost Dance was told again—even if its father's life was reduced to footnote status.
The tragedy of Wovoka is a legacy of pain and suffering among the very people he wanted to save. The songs of the Ghost Dance are silent and the dream of Wovoka vanished in the harsh light of reality. The Christian principles which he laced into his theology were brutally ignored by the soldiers and settlers who held allegiance to their Christ and yet destroyed the native way of life with a brutality unknown in the Gospel teachings.
Peyote Cult Outgrowth of Ghost Dance
The most significant church to stress
experience arose from the peyote cult of the American Indians.
Church, its immediate background was the powerful
syncretistic Ghost Dance movement led by the prophet-dreamer who
an apocalyptic return to a kind of Indian Golden Age.
As taught by Comanche leader, Chief Quanah Parker, the peyote religion was a blend of aboriginal and Christian beliefs. James Mooney, helped Quanah to organize and incorporate the new religion under the name, Native American Church. Like the Ghost Dance, the peyote religion was born of despair, helping the poor full-bloods forget hunger and oppression, lifting up the hearts of their women. Like the Ghost Dance, it soon spread from tribe to tribe, sinking deep roots among the Kowana and Comanche, the Navajo and Apache, Crow, and Cheyenne.
The missionaries did not take kindly to the new faith, calling peyote a barrier to civilization, "Satan's fruit," or a "deadly drug." They also believed it was "an abomination" because it violated church doctrine which forbade prophesying: "This plant enables the Chichimecas who eat it to look into the future, foreseeing if an enemy will attack them or if the weather will continue fair, and other things of that nature." Therefore it was outlawed and suppressed.
Peyote has become a pan-Indian, inter-tribal affair, with people borrowing songs and variations of ritual from other tribes.
Peyote has its own symbolism. The Native American Church's main symbol is the water bird, which is seen again and again in silver jewelry worn by "peyoters." Participants often wear prayer shawls, half red and half blue. Paraphernalia consists of the staff, the feather fan, the gourd rattle, the water drum, and the bone whistle.
During the night, the peyote goes around four times, so everybody takes four buttons or spoonfuls. The paraphernalia goes around clockwise from person to person, and everybody has the privilege of singing when the staff and the gourd reach him or her—usually four songs at a time. A meeting ends in the morning with food and coffee, friendly talk, good feelings, and being pleasantly tired.
Chapter 48: Mission Siletz
Adrian Joseph Croquette arrived in Oregon in 1859,
so 20 years
after the first priests and three years after the founding of
He was then 41 years old. Back in Belgium, He had been a
Later on, a nephew of his, Deésirée Mercier, would
so outstanding a scholar that Leo XIII would enlist him to
approach to philosophy and theology in the church. Later still,
of Belgium during WWI, Cardinal Mercier would be the cone who
the patriotism of his people throughout the German Occupation.
he who founded the famous Malines Conventions between Catholics
The brilliance of Fr. Croquette himself was well known to the
the most Rev. Bertrand Blanchet, but He was a quiet man, and his
priests took his brilliance for granted, as also his deep piety.
stories about him touched rather on his lack of practical skills
his propensity for giving away whatever money or useful items
his hands. Already back in Belgium he had had the same
known ever to avoid promotions of any kind and to seek only to
humblest hamlets of his rural parish.
Fr. Croquette had a boundless love for his flock. It was not armchair admiration for their culture, such as is found in the Indian Journal of his Episcopal friend, Rev. R. W. Summers. Nor was it exactly a lofty ecumenism. He never incorporated native artifacts or rituals into his liturgy, nor made Grand Ronde's Spirit Mountain, a place of Christian pilgrimage, perhaps honoring the holy spirit on the Feast of Pentecost.
Spirit Mountain, the ancient sacred
of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, is located about a
of Grand Ronde, and was so named because the Indians believed
skookums lived on it. aboriginal culture prompted one to strive
worthily of the dead, and of the whole of nature. Healing lay in
tuned to the holistic world of the Great Spirit, and non-indian
often seen to do violence to such harmony, causing epidemics of
nature in Indian boarding schools.
Rev. R. W. Summers, the first Episcopal pastor of McMinnville, tells how Fr. Adrian Croquette took archbishop Blanchet up Spirit Mountain to see where the Indians went to fast, dance, chant and wait in solitude for the Great Spirit to reveal their individual vocations and equip them with individual charisms. Usually the candidate found his or her answer in the antics of a beast or bird. Aptly, Summers echoes a word of Job in telling of one thus attuned to the Spirit of the Mountain: "league with the stones of the wild; at peace with the beasts of the solitude." (Job 5:23). Spirit Mountain was at one time called Cosper Butte for Martha and David Cosper, early settlers. Dr. Rodney Glisan and other officers stationed at Fort Yamhill climbed this mountain on October 30, 1856, but Glisan does not mention a name in Journal of Army Life.
Tamanamas: The Willamette Meteorite
In April 2000, an escalating custody
was being waged between a coalition of Oregon tribes and the
of Natural History over a 15.5-ton meteorite. The Confederated
Grand Ronde filed a claim under the Native American Graves
Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in November 1999 seeking the return of
Meteorite to land traditionally held by tribal
the rock a Spirit that traveled from the moon and called it Sky
or Tamanamas in the Chinook language. Tribal members once made
to Tamanamas, collecting water pooled in its cavities for
dipping arrows in it for courage during battles or hunts.
Calling the meteorite a "feature of the landscape," the museum denied the tribe's request and subsequently filed a federal lawsuit, claiming "NAGPRA does not cover this type of object," that aims to invalidate their repatriation claim.
In 1855, the Confederated Tribes ceded to the US the land where the 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite lay. The government subsequently sold the land to a mining company, from which the museum's new $210-million Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York.
The tribes reacted angrily to the lawsuit, stating that "the museum should to the right thing and resolve this dispute now, directly with our tribe, instead of marching off to court behind a squadron of attorneys."
The Umatilla Wallula Stone
In response to a NAGPRA claim, another Oregonian rock was returned to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla by the City of Portland in 1996. the ten-ton basalt boulder, known as the Wallula Stone, was covered with petroglyphs and marked the spot where young men were sent to test their strength and courage. The Umatilla had ceded the land where it was found to the US in a 1855 treaty. Unlike the Wallula Stone, the museum argues, the Willamette Meteorite "has never been marked or altered. There's no indication it was ever moved by the tribe. No custody or control was taken over it."
Nor again was Fr. Croquette's love for
flock a cheap fraternizing, or a rubbing of shoulders on the
fishing trip. His thoughts concerning each individual were
match his prayer and his everlasting hope for this son or
to God. He treasured each one's name and cared enormously that
be alive or dead, well or sick, happy or in grief, clothed or
fed or hungry. It was not that he was a great go-between with
authorities, some of whose successive representatives despised
was simply that he listened, that he cared, that he was always
their sake alone, and that it did the soul a great deal of good
tell him what it was suffering.
Fr. Croquette was no crusader against alcohol or polygamy. When visiting priests would deliver fiery sermons against such vices, he would dutifully stand at their side and translate their words into Chinook jargon for the audience. But afterwards, in the sacristy, he would gently inform the preacher that this was not his own approach.
In 1988, Pacific Northwest historians Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown wrote that when Gen. Oliver Otis Howard visited the Grand Ronde, older Indians told him that
...nothing offended them so much as white men attempting to take their women. To the Indians who clung to polygamy despite missionary preachments against the practice it appeared that the agents were trying to destroy their family life by stripping then of their wives.
The commander of the US Army's Department of the Columbia, Howard was a one-armed Civil War hero, a friend of freed blacks, and a man known as the Christian or praying general because he delivered sermons.
Furthermore, as one Warms Springs Indian put it,
I love all my women. My old wife is a mother to the others... I can't send her away to die. This woman [pointing to another] cost me ten horses... I can't do without her. That woman [pointing to still another] cost me eight horses... She will take care of me when I am old. I don't know how to do. I want to do right. I am not a bad man. I know your new law is good; the old one is bad. We must be like the white men. I am a man; I will put away the old law.
Billy Chinook, who had been a scholar at the Methodist mission at The Dalles and in faraway Philadelphia, said:
I have two wives... If anyone wants one of my wives, he can have her; if he don't, she can stay.
Considering the implications of abandoning
wives" for the sake of Christian "purity," Fr. Croquette
in a salutary gradualness, and one suspects that his
down much of the brimstone. He foresaw spending the rest of his
this same flock, and he could afford to take his time. It was a
that went forward by little, carefully timed steps. Time and
he reached the decision that this or that promising disciple is
another step towards the fullness of the Gospel call, and he
the soul upon that step.
He perceived the value, if not of the aboriginal culture, then certainly of each Indian person in his charge. Among the clergy, he was himself a conversation piece, the merry butt of many a good-natured tale about his helplessness as a cook, as a woodsman, as a financier. Later on, There was sometimes a little bite in such comments, from priests less dedicated to the flock and less loved by the lowliest among them. But no Indian was ever a conversation piece for Fr. Croquette, and much less the butt of even the best-natured joke. He was a man of few words, but if ever He heard a remark disparaging his natives, he suddenly waxed vigorous in the defense of these children of God. He was ever giving them the very shirt off his back, not out of gullibility or "do-goodism," but simply out of the conviction that "you cannot let a child of God go naked."
Some non-indians were paid lavishly to teach the Indians thrift, tidiness and "civilization." Others made a hobby of documenting their ancestral culture. Fr. Croquette spent his life enjoying their company as fellow children of god, engaged in the adventure of the kingdom.
It was above all at their deathbeds that he was appreciated by his flock. He knew that, as soon as he left, the family would probably resort once more to the "witch-doctoring" that he officially condemned; but he knew better than to nag them about that. There survived many stories about his journeys to sickbeds amid the worst weather, with miraculous levitations across flooded rivers and always with consolation for the sufferer, drawn from the world of his prayers.
Fr. Croquette Returns to Grand Ronde 1890
When, around 1890, the reservation was again open to him, he was already an old man and, despite the improved roads and the warm welcome, the journey was taxing on him. He was pleased when the priests at Corvallis were able to take over his responsibility there, and especially when Fr. Felix Bücher naturally invited him to the dedication of the newly-built church, and the old veteran's reply to him has recently been discovered. While excusing himself from attending, because his age precluded so difficult a journey, he eagerly invited Fr. Felix to pay him a visit and recommended a list of available dates.
Oregon's spectacular seacoast forms
for the traditional image of Fr. Croquette. He could rightfully
all up and down the 300 miles of its length, but we have no
reaching further north than Garibaldi
or further south than the Alsea Agency at the mouth of the
was, however, a first, exploratory journey, in 1864; on that
his friend and companion, Fr. Fabian Malo, pushed on alone all
to Fort Umpqua and up to Canyonville. In practice, Fr. Croquette
jurisdiction as reaching from Tillamook Bay down to Yaquina Bay,
to be whittled down to the little stretch from Woods, on the
down to the mouth of the Salmon River. What weighed most upon
however, was the large Coastal Reservation, administered from an
at the big bend of the Siletz River.
The Siletz Reservation had been founded by Joel Palmer. The whites had wished to push the Indians east of the Cascades, but a compromise was reached of confining them west of the Coast Range. The north and south boundaries were not widely known, and invading horde kept pressing for closer confinement. In the earlier years, Indians had not been considered out of bounds anywhere between Astoria and Fort Umpqua, but if they went south of the latter, the whites would immediately lodge complaints and demand their forced return. Fort Umpqua proved to be an impractical boundary, and so its agency office was moved north to Alsea-Yachats. Scarcely had this been done when the land-grabbers demanded a broad corridor inland from Yaquina Bay. Soon afterwards, the Siletz Reservation was further reduced to the short stretch from that corridor up to the Salmon River, a matter of less than a quarter of a million acres. Finally came the sad history of individual allotments and of selling off the "surplus" lands to lumber interests.
Siletz, even in its reduced state, boasted far more land and better fisheries than Grand Ronde, but it was more difficult of access. Its agricultural potential, and even its milling capacities, were also below those of its smaller neighbor to the north. The first winters at Siletz were thus even more severe than at Grand Ronde, and the decline of the population faster. So much attention had to be paid at Siletz to the basics of keeping the Indians within bounds and supplying them with food, that any thought of education and evangelization tended to be minimized or postponed indefinitely.
Fr. Croquette Visits Siletz Reservation 1860
Fr. Croquette's first visit to Siletz Reservation is described in a long letter home, telling of a tour of Catholic Oregon, made in May and June of 1860, at the end of his year of apprenticeship. His guide on this tour was a veteran missionary, Fr. Toussaint Mesplié. Their first contact was with the largely Irish military garrison at Fort Hoskins, where they were welcomed. They then crossed the difficult pass and came to a first village of the reservation proper and were welcomed by a Canadian or Iroquois half-breed, Louis Vassal. When they got down to the central agency, however, they were coolly received. The agent, Robert B. Metcalfe, was absent; the priests had met him at the fort and already had his oral permission to preach, but the employees were not content with that and tried to force a delay. The priests knew this came more from the employees' dread of reproof for their own moral abuses than from specifically anti-Catholic or anti-foreign bigotry, but when Metcalfe did return, He had a protestant minister with him and he expressed displeasure at the priest’s defiance of the employees.
Fr. Croquette wrote of his journey to the Oregon Coast:
On Whit Monday, May 25, 1860, we
to Fort Hoskins, in Kings Valley, 15 miles west of Corvallis.
There our brave Irish soldiers, who furnish a large contingent
Army, showed themselves true to the traditions of their faith
devotion to the Catholic priest. We conducted religious services
Hoskins for several days, the same as at Corvallis, and they
as sedulously attended by the soldiers and the Catholic families
in the neighborhood. God granted us also to gather like fruit of
and like consolations. We registered some 30 communions, and
some Indian tipis in the valley, we administered Holy Baptism to
While at the fort, we met there the agent of the Siletz Reserve, and we made him acquainted with our purpose to visit the Indians under his care, presupposing him leave. He endorsed our plan, and told us that in a few days he would be back from his journey and would take pleasure in making with us the rounds of his wards. There was good ground, however, to doubt that our visit was much to his taste; for he had already held out a proffer to a minister of the Methodist church, of which he was a member, to turn the Indians over to that denomination. Our apprehensions were but too fully justified in the event.
18 Baptized at Logsden Village
The day after our meeting with him, we
for the reserve, which is located 25 miles west of Fort Hoskins.
we followed took us over frightful roads, which in bad weather
but impassable. Logsden, the first Indian village we reached,
prairie on the north side of Siletz River. The next day, which
we offered up the holy sacrifice of the mass in the lodge of a
Louis Nasal. The house was packed full of Indians, whom we had
and who for the first time witnessed the unbloody oblation of
victim who died for their sins, and for the first time heard the
of the gospel announced to them. After mass, we baptized the
18 in number, who were brought to us. This ministry
for the agent's residence, some six miles further on. On the way
attended by several Indian chiefs, who also took it upon
notify neighboring tribes of the missionaries' arrival.
Logsden Camp Gorge 1957
Photo Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
Priests Arrives at Siletz Agency
At the agency they requested us to put
our intercourse with the Indians until after the agent's return.
two days, and then, on being told that the gentleman was likely
his absence, we concluded, since we had his consent to our
give up all further delay in carrying it out. We began by
Indians, going from lodge to lodge, urging them to assemble at a
upon, in the hall that served as a school. They eagerly
invitation, coming in large numbers to the appointed place,
to the gladsome news we preached, and bringing us their children
"born again of water and the holy ghost."
We asked if they did not wish to have missionaries, giving them to understand that the Catholic priest, not being encumbered with a family, would be a father and a guide to lead them to heaven. Most of these poor people had up to that time no knowledge of the Catholic priest, and, nevertheless, they at once placed all their trust in us, and they longed to keep us with them, despite the fact that from the day of our arrival every exertion had been made and the basest calumnies had been exploited to bias them against us; for among those sent to procure their well-being and to civilize them, there are not a few who take the lead in perverting them and in demoralizing them. No wonder, therefore, that these people, who look upon us as unwelcome censors, dread our presence and seek to keep closed against us the avenues of the reserve. The agent, when he at length returned, showed plainly his displeasure because we had gone on with our work without awaiting his coming. He was accompanied by a gentleman, who, we were told, was a Protestant preacher.
From the above you may infer that, despite the good intentions of the American government, in the establishment of these reservations for redmen, the missionaries not infrequently meet with obstacles in the exercise of their ministry, not so much on the part of the Indians as on the part of the agents and the employees sent out from Washington.
50 Baptized at Siletz Reservation
The confidence of the Siletz Indians
out to us withal: they called for the Catholic priest. This
owe, after God, to the common sense of some of their chiefs, who
with us and pleaded our case with their subjects. These chiefs
to clip the wings of the slanders that had been let loose
the wish of the Indians notwithstanding, the founding of a
reserve will suffer many drawbacks, so long as the present state
We have also learned that since the Indians were brought here, four years ago, their number has considerably decreased, with owning to the change of climate or for other reasons. We were not able to meet them all; many being scattered about along the seacoast, where they are fishing. Still, we baptized, besides those of whom I have made mention above, some 50 of their children.
Priests Depart for Grand Ronde June 6, 1860
On June 6, 23 took leave of the Siletz Reserve to go to another, situated in a more northern direction. On the way we stayed a day at Fort Hoskins, and we spent a night at the house of a settler who, we were told, owned 300 head of cattle and very extensive lands, but whose house was very far from betraying his wealth. Owning to the droughts that blew on our beds all night, our eyes were much swollen when we awoke in the morning; and as for the beds themselves, they could not be found fault with on the ground of oversoftness. On the 9th, we reached the Grand Ronde. ...
The main body of the Indians had had
acquaintance with the distinction between priests and ministers,
unanimously rallied to the celibate Catholics and against the
employees. Actually, the priests had obeyed the employees for a
so; in any case, the 70 baptisms they performed (all recorded in
City Register) are all of infants. They abstained from even the
individual instruction required for baptizing any adults in
The net impression Fr. Croquette took away was that the Indians
his services but that the officials were opposed to his coming.
From 1861 to 1863, Fr. Croquette would be spared confrontation with the authorities at Siletz. The seven or more trips he would make to the coast in that time would consist in short visits to the mouth of the Salmon and the nearby mouth of the Siletz, some 50 canoe-miles from the agency, or else, in adventurous crossings to Tillamook in the north. Only in July 1864, and with Fr. Malo as a companion, did he again venture so far south. Working their way down to the Alsea Agency, which they reached by the Sunday, the two priests were hoping to take advantage of the dignified setting there to climax their work by celebrating their first mass on the Oregon Coast. The plan fell through, probably because of the Indian who was to guide Fr. Malo further south, could not delay. Fr. Malo's route lay first to the Siuslaw River and then on to Fort Umpqua and even up to Canyonville. Fr. Croquette's itinerary, if less distant, was no less arduous. Gradually working towards the Siletz agency, Fr. Croquette was this time welcomed, especially at the military blockhouse, where he lodged between trips out to the various villages.
There was not at Siletz anything comparable to the corps of godparents which existed at Grand Ronde. Louis Vassel and his household, even in their distant village, could have played such a role, but they were to move quite early up to Grand Ronde, where one of their number, Victoire, became an early pillar of the faith. Thus, the early lists of baptisms sounds very anonymous, as of total strangers, as if the priest chose names by running off the litany of the saints or a list of his own kith and kin. Fr. Toussaint Mesplié had done the same earlier. By now, Fr. Croquette had mastered the Chinook jargon, but religious concepts were new to these Indians, and the time available for each baptism was minimal. On each successive trip, the identities of the children would be better established in terms of age and parentage, but, oddly, not of tribe. Fr. Croquette's nephew, Deésirée Mercier, tells us that the priest realized how many parents, not fully understanding the sacrament, would bring the same children for baptism more than once.
Fr. Croquette Visits Alsea 1865 and 1866
In 1865 and 1866, Fr. Croquette made
trip as far as Alsea alone. His nephew latter got the impression
continued as far south as Coos Bay, even through abandoning his
the Salmon River. Be that as it may, by the year 1867 Fr.
able to set up a rhythm for his trips; spending one Sunday at
another at Saint Patrick's (three and a half miles north of
he would then, in turn, spend one at the Siletz Reservation or
Agency or on Tillamook Bay. Salmon River could be
visited in a
much shorter run of a day or two. Each coastal site would thus
visit each year.
This rhythm, however, was interrupted almost immediately.
After taking up residence at Grand Ronde, Fr. Croquette tried to contact the Catholics of Siletz at least once a year. The easiest way to do this was to go down the wagon road to the mouth of the Salmon River and then down the beach to the bay at the mouth of the Siletz. On occasion he also got down to the sites of Newport and Toledo, from which he could reach the Siletz Agency itself, though usually only at a season when most of his flock was dispersed for the purpose of fishing. Even so, in one of the annual government reports, it is said that a small building had been set aside at the agency for his use as a chapel.
Whether or not the archbishop had information of the coming changes in federal policy, where the nomination of Indian agents would be in the hands of the churches, with Frs. Mesplié and Brouillet taking prominent roles in Washington DC, the fact is that Fr. Croquette's old companion, Fr. Mesplié, accompanied him to Siletz Reservation on the trip of 1868.
In the 1870s, he was largely excluded from the agency by the Grant Peace Policy, though he did keep up indirect contact.
U. S. Grant Peace Policy 1870-1882
The U. S. Grant Peace Policy operated
1870 until 1882 at various agencies throughout the country. It
on the principle that in the complex American society rapidly
after the Civil War, Indians could be saved from extinction only
an enlightened church-oriented policy in the management of their
Pacific Northwest Indians were, indeed, faced with the threat of
Nearly 2,000 Indians had been on the Grand Ronde Reservation in
were the remnants of eight tribes located there. Only five of
had treaties and received annuities; the remainder depended on
the agent might spare them from appropriations for their removal
Within a decade of their removal to the reservation a third of
Ronde Indians had died. It was not until 1865 that a special
of Congress officially recognized that Indians were decreasing
intemperance, war, starvation, and persecution by unscrupulous
On the Siletz Reservation, Indians expressed a willingness to
because, in their words, they had so much to gain by free
reservation and by warring against whites and so little to lose.
the Indians had a saying, "It is your peace that is killing us."
There follows a marked curtailing of coastal activities, both to the south and to the north. In 1871 there is no evidence of any trip at all, though one or two Tillamooks were that year baptized at Grand Ronde itself. By that year the new Indian Policy was in force, and the struggle was on to retain Grand Ronde for the Catholics and to regain lost rights at Siletz.
Methodist Influence in Siletz
The assigning of Indian agencies to
religious denominations was not only the Grant Peace Policy's
characteristic but also its most controversial. It angered
more than it bewildered the Indians that the agencies were
the churches like so many decks of cards. Especially unhappy
churchmen, who, seeking only to propagate their faith, had taken
in the reform movement from which the policy evolved. The
out scarcely better in the Pacific Northwest than in the nation
in the church-shuffling contest with Protestants. In Oregon,
assigned the Umatilla and Grand Ronde agencies. Under the
the Methodist Episcopal church were the Klamath and Siletz
More Indian agencies fell to the Methodists than to any other church although that denomination at that time had come to believe its greatest mission prospects were in Africa and Asia rather than America. According to the Methodist Pacific Christian Advocate of November 16, 1872, the Indians' "inaptitude and distaste for improvement" had smitten them with such deep-seated "deprivation of character" that their redemption was impossible.
The change in agency appointees from strictly politicians to churchmen made little difference in the management of Indian affairs. As before, some agency officials were good, some were bad, and many were indifferent.
A friend of the Indians at times compared with Fr. Adrian Joseph Croquette (1818-1902) was Oregon's Indian superintendent, Alfred B. Meacham (1869-1871).
Unlike Fr. Croquette, Meacham was born into awareness of Indian woes. Experiences in Iowa, California and especially at his state house in Eastern Oregon gave him a chance to develop and popularize theories on Indian needs.
In 1870, after many Indian Wars, Pres. U. S. Grant decided peace lay in bringing integrity to Indian administration, and for this he involved Christian churches in the choice of officers. Meacham was the key choice for Oregon as a whole.
On September 14, 1871, Meacham brought the highly regarded mainline Protestant, Felix Brunot, and the early Methodist missionary, Rev. J. L. Parrish, over to Grand Ronde for a big meeting.
Sharing the slogan, "Christianity is the best civilizer," Meacham naturally saw his own religion, that of temperance and Methodism, as the best for Oregon Indians. Nevertheless, as superintendent and later as author, he roundly condemned even Methodists if they "jockeyed" for jobs or if they preached a gospel less "simple and practical" than his own. He set aside Methodist horror of tobacco to honor the Indian calumet, and he made room for dance and horseback sport.
Central to his "civilizing" religion were practical steps to eliminate liquor and the buying of women. He put effort into popularizing non-indian weddings and divorces among his charges.
Other Methodists saw Catholicism as doing no good at all. Meacham tended to identify Irishmen with the liquor trade and to find little value in Catholic worship, but he was willing to praise individual Catholics, and he has nothing to say against Fr. Croquette, whose acquaintance, he seems, strangely, to have avoided completely. Meacham has strong words against the Catholic agent Patrick B. Sinnott's handling of a pet project of his own.
Grand Ronde was in Sinnott's time, from April 1872 to December 1885, under Methodist auspices, and Meacham saw no harm in that. The first missionary, Rev. J. L. Parrish, had been Methodist, and his successor, Rev. J. Chamberlain, had at least been Protestant. As a compromise for the Catholic mission, the non-Methodist agent was left in charge, and Methodist clergy was brought in only on special occasions. Soon the agent clashed with the Methodists and resigned; the chiefs then petitioned for a Catholic agent and a Sisters' School.
Meacham, strong on religious freedom, did want the Indians to understand their options. In the interregnum he eagerly exposed them to all that was best in Methodism, even taking three leaders to Salem to share in meetings and in the state fair. Above all, he successfully launched a program to divide land by families, and to provide an excellent mill. His way of dealing with the Indians as "men" won their trust. A number declared themselves in favor of Methodist control, especially those who had happy dealings with local farmers.
While Meacham was trying to find a way out of the religious issue at Grand Ronde, complaints against his zeal were multiplied, and he was forced to resign. Barely a year later, however, he was asked to lead a peace delegation to the warring Modocs. These shot and half-scalped him, but he recovered and spent the rest of his life agitating for the Indian cause.
When word had reached Siletz that the appointment of agents there was to be in Methodist hands, the incumbent, who was the trouble-shooting jack-of-all-trades, Benjamin Simpson, a dynamic man, had but one worry; least agents be appointed who were exemplary as preachers but incompetent as businessmen. The first two appointments did seem to fulfill this fear, though in quite different ways.
In 1856, Simpson had been at Grand Ronde to build its mill and had stayed on as owner-manager of the store and post office at the fort. He had even been elected to the legislature from there. As agent at Siletz, he had been responsible for the defense of the Indians' fishing rights against a bullying poacher from California, and possibly the legal actions resulting from this were a motive in removing him from that scene in 1864. All that year, Simpson served on trouble shooting missions throughout Western Oregon.
Before Simpson turned over the office as agent to Joel Palmer after eight years of service at Siletz, he warned in his last annual report of October 1, 1871, that, "in the search for piety in those who aspire to office, certain other very respectable and necessary qualities may be lost sight of": and a "talent for affairs" did not always follow godliness. Under the Grant Peace Policy's "talent for affairs" usually meant the degree of efficiency and effectiveness with which an agent and his aides could remake the Indian in the non-indian's image.
The first agent under the Grant Peace Policy, who served from May 1871 to March 1873, was Gen. Joel Palmer of Dayton, whose earlier foresight had created the Western Oregon reservation in the first place. Palmer arrived at the Siletz Reservation on April 30, 1871, to assume his duties as agent after an unsuccessful attempt to win the Oregon governorship. His aim now was to bring to the post an integrity, comparable perhaps to McLoughlin which would lift all parties to a level of mutual respect and trust, and thus release the energies needed to make the system flourish. Unfortunately, Palmer was so overwhelmed by the continued shabbiness of the daily lives of the Indians and by the makeshift character of the previous agents' interventions that he fell into a rather gloomy despair. Day-to-day feuds and vendettas claimed his personal attention, and longer-ranged plans were ruled out because of expenditures made on stop-gap measures to provide for each successive month. Added to ordinary setbacks, there broke out an Indian war in Eastern Oregon and, in the light of his earlier experiences, Palmer now decided to remove to safer quarters those of his Indians living too close to the non-indians of Yaquina Bay. This move would also free them from the liquor trade, but it meant their abandoning of the provisions they had prepared for the winter. The resulting expenses, and probably also Palmer's apparent lack of a coherent plan for the future, led to his early retirement. There was, however, another dimension to Palmer's failure—a shameful intrigue by an ambitious employee, described in A. B. Meacham's Wigwam and Warpath.
Caught up in the revivalism of the later 19th Century some Protestant groups tended to equate progress with religious zeal. Believing that secular progress did not come to Indian camps through camp meetings, Palmer came under the attack of a young preacher named Joseph Howard, a quarter-breed married to an Indian, Agnes Harney (1852-1883). Howard, who was employed as agency farmer, reported Palmer to his superior as unfit to be agent. To Howard, Palmer's unfitness was his inability to prove the superiority of Methodism over Catholicism.
In his 1973 thesis, The Siletz Indians Reservation 1855-1900, William Eugene Kent reflected on the incident:
Rev. Howard disapproved of the way Palmer was running the reservation and he also believed that the agent lacked zealousness when it came to religion. Palmer was criticized at a Methodist convention, but later it was Howard who was reprimanded by the church. Problems with deeply religious feelings of various denominations were also of concern in Simpson's time.
Methodist officials tolerantly retained both
in their positions and permitted the "Methodist mutiny" to brew
Siletz, from which they hoped it would not boil over.
measure of white blood made his rights on the reservation
after repeated accusations of gambling and intoxication while
and after consultation with Washington, Howard was expelled, in
was dragged after him by the police. Howard was the forerunner
Catholicism at Siletz who was baptized at Saint Paul in 1836.
as his expulsion from the reservation, Howard still witnessed
on Yaquina Bay. Two of Howard's goddaughters became the Louises
These were Maggie (60) and Frances (23) Harney. The latter soon
Margaret, wife of Grand Chief George Harney. Maggie was the
Harney, the cattle baron chief of the Rogues so highly praised
Palmer's successor, J. H. Fairchild, was oppressively religious. His motto was "Christianity is the best civilizer," and by that he meant, not a quiet integrity of Palmer's kind, but a vigorous program of almost daily sessions in church, along with formal visits to the homes of the wives of the employees and plenty of mutual admonition in regard to "sabbath-breaking" or any "profanity" of language or kindred vices. The Indians rapidly caught on; a whole new style of mutual etiquette emerged. The old "macho" vices of theft, fighting, wife-beating, inter-tribal feuding and so on, were abandoned, as was the prestige of enduring the guardhouse or the whipping post. Instead, the new virtues of neatness, cleanliness, punctuality and politeness were in honor. If the numbers involved in the church meetings were limited by the room available, their influence nevertheless radiated and there was a whole new concept of what was acceptable conduct.
Under both Palmer and Fairchild there were setbacks in food production, especially in regard to the potato crops, but they saw an overall advancement in grain crops. Palmer, for all his gloom, makes mention, in both reports, of one bright spot: the cattle raising efforts of the young Rogue River leader, George Harney, the man who was later to be the leader of the Catholics of Siletz.
Surprisingly, schools were the weak point still. One resident minister earned his living, for himself and his family, by teaching in the day school, but this one was soon to be replaced by a woman teacher. Both Palmer and Fairchild found female teachers peculiarly suitable for Indian children. Efforts to get a manual labor school going seemed doomed to fail; both men saw those earlier efforts of J. B. Clark, Duncan and others, as being too elitist. The obstacle now lay largely in the Indians' continued dread that boarding schools necessarily spelled death for most children.
Siletz, all this time, was paying enormous costs for transportation; it boasted no mill, whether for lumber or for flour. Palmer had dreams of a portable mini-mill, but Fairchild, with his Methodist business connections, was led into visions of a panacea steam mill of vast productivity. Though it did produce the needed lumber, this mill, along with other expenses, plunged the reservation so deeply into debt that almost all employees had to be dismissed, and Fairchild himself was forced to resign. Out of deference to his moral reform, however, he was allowed to designate as successor the man who had served under him as farmer, William Bagley.
William Bagley, who served as agent from October 1875 to July 1879, seems to have sustained the high moral tone of Fairchild. Certainly he maintained the veto on any visits from Fr. Croquette, apart from the "No Man's Land" at the mouth of the Salmon River.
School Matron Matilda Taft
A new style was introduced by another
still very much a Methodist: Edmund A. Swan, who served as agent
1879 to summer 1883. In his time the veto of Fr. Croquette
the center of religious fervor passed from the agency to the
boarding school and to its dynamic matron, Matilda Taft. As in
so especially in the appointment of this beloved matron, Siletz
numerous enlightening comparisons with Grand Ronde.
introduction of a bell and of Christmas parties made a big
church attendance, for Methodist services were still being held
schoolhouse. Interest in the meetings, however, had been on the
due mainly to a less imaginative pastor. A disastrous fire, in
Taft's school into makeshift quarters. Soon a superb new
it, but she left, and never again was lasting harmony achieved
staff. At Grand Ronde the nuns had suffered from lack of
and from inexperience in coeducation, but at Siletz the family
the staff members brought equally vexing problems: who would do
nursing during the many epidemics? Who would replace an
when his career found a better opening elsewhere?
Rival protestant and Catholic groups agreed that both the spiritual and physical welfare of the Indians had to be advanced. Even the Protestant stalwart, Gen. O. O. Howard, a preacher in his own right, was impressed with Catholic efforts. Howard noted the effectiveness of Fr. Croquette, whose ministrations were muzzled on the Methodist Siletz. As Howard put it, priests were effective because they did not try to draw "the broad line that we [Protestants] do between the converted and the unconverted." The general was impressed by the teaching efforts of the sisters on the Grand Ronde, where Fr. Croquette had founded Saint Michael's Mission in the early 1860s.
One of the changes that occurred during the Palmer years, although introduced long before, was the stronger emphasis on religion and the establishment of a sabbath school. The various reservations throughout the land were assigned to different churches. The Methodists were assigned Siletz but it was not until 1872 that they started any formal religious instruction. The reservation had before, though, been visited by some ministers of various faiths from time to time, with Fr. Croquette, a teacher at Grand Ronde, a yearly visitor. The Indians seemed to readily accept Christianity for the membership rose from 40 in 1873 to 100 in 1874. This was out of a population that had dropped to 1,400 or a loss of approximately 1,000 people in 20 years from the original total.
Gen. Howard was encouraged by the progress that Indian children on the Grand Ronde were making in speaking English, although during his visit in 1872 they passed his words on to their parents in the Chinook jargon. The Grant Peace Policy had worked no magic in eliminating the babel of tongues on the reservations. On the Skokomish Reservation, the Sunday School, in the words of its Peace Policy missionary, Rev. Myron Eells, began with: "Four songs in the Chinook jargon; then three in English, accompanied by an organ and violin. The prayer was Nisqually, and the lesson was read by all in English..."
Similarly, John Adams (1847-1928), a Methodist lay minister at Siletz, was for many years a preacher who gave his sermons in Chinook jargon.
Offsetting the rapid turnover of teachers—many of whom were ordained ministers and functioned as local pastor—the Methodists of Siletz had the wonderful institution of lay preachers. A United Brethren preacher also served in this way. One of these Methodists, Ulysses Grant (1860-1903), was a highly commended policeman and judge on the reservation, but was later tragically murdered. The other, better known, lay preacher was John Adams (1847-1928).
Adams had been an infant during the Rogue River Wars. He has left a dictated account of days then spent along with his grandmother in a deserted village—a gem of Oregon literature.
John Adams: A Story of Struggle
One of the greatest stories of those
living on the Siletz Reservation in Oregon is that of John Adams
who was born near present-day Ashland, in what was then "Indian
only invaded by a very few hardy non-indian settlers, at the
birth. His parents are believed to be Te-cum-tom (Limpy Tyee),
nation, and Usuwi, of the Shasta nation. Adams, in his later
that he could not speak his father's language, but spoke the
his mother's tribe.
Adams was the first Indian to become a Methodist minister at the Siletz Agency on the Central Oregon Coast.
He was a Rogue River Shasta, who had been orphaned in the early 1850s during a battle between the Indians of Southern Oregon and Northern California and the miners and soldiers who were invading the country.
He was left in the forest with his grandmother after his parents were killed and later was adopted by an uncle. In 1924, he shared this spontaneous narrative with ethnologist Edward S. Curtis, who wrote that Adams' narrative would not be remembered for its "historical value"
...but for its intimate view of the inexorable hardships of native life in wartime and of the difficulties attending "reconstruction" of the individual, the following spontaneous narrative of a Rogue River Shasta is given. John Adams paced thoughtfully about the green terrace at Siletz Reservation, and without solicitation began to speak these thoughts.
Pretty tough times! Awful hard time
I'm baby. Rogue River Injun War that time. Well, soldier come,
scatter, run for hills. One family this way, one family other
fighting. My father killed, my mother killed. Well, my uncle he
grandmother. Old woman, face like white woman, so old. "Well, my
you old, not run. Soldiers coming close, we have to run fast. I
it. I sorry. Must leave you here. Maybe soldiers nit find you,
back. Now this little baby, this my brother's baby. Two children
myself. I sorry, I not help it. We leave this poor baby, too."
my uncle say.
Course, I small, maybe two years, maybe three years. I not know what he say. Somebody tell me afterwards. Well, old grandmother cries, say: "I old, I not afraid die. Go ahead, get away from soldiers."
Well, just like dream. I 'member old grandmother pack me around in basket on her back. All time she cry and holler. I say, "Grandmother, what you do?"
"I crying, my child."
"What is it, crying, Grandmother?"
"I sorry for you, my child. Why I cry. I not sorry myself. I old. You young, maybe somebody find you all right, you live."
Then I sleep long time. When I wake up, winter gone, springtime come. I 'member plenty flowers, everything smell good. Old grandmother sitting down, can walk no more. Maybe rheumatism. She point long stick, say, "Pick that one, grandson."
I weak, can't walk. S'pose no eat long time. I crawl on ground where she point. "This one, Grandmother?"
"No, that other one."
"No, No! That one no good. That other one."
By-me-by I get right one, she say, "Pull up, bring him here."
I crawl back, she eat part, give me part. Don't like it, me. Too sour. Well, she show me everything to eat, I crawl ground, get roots. Pretty soon can walk. Old Grandmother never walk. Just sit same place all time. One day she point big tree. "You go see. If hole in bottom, inside you find nice, sweet ball hanging up. That's good."
Well, I find hole, crawl inside. White stuff there, sweet, good. I like that. Every day go to that tree.
Grandmother say, "S'pose you hear something say 'Pow! Pow!' That's man. You holler, he come help us." But I can't holler, too small, just make squawk. She make new basket, tell me: "Put upside down out there, maybe somebody find it."
One day hear something: "Pow! Pow!" She's too old for holler, me, I'm too small. Maybe I'm scared too. Well, I crawl inside tree and eat sugar. Pretty soon hear somebody talk. Then I'm 'fraid, hide in tree. Somebody coming! I lay down on ground, hide close. "Where are you? Where are you?" Well, there's my uncle. He pick me up one hand. I 'member hanging over his arm while he go back my grandmother.
"Well," that man say, "soldiers not stay long that time. Pretty soon come back, can't find you. Think some grizzly bear eat you. Look for bones, can't find bones. All winter I cry. Then I say my wife: "Maybe better go other side today. Maybe find something other side." That's how I find that new basket. Then I look close. Little grass been moved. Pretty near can't see it. Some kind little foot been there! That how I find my old mother."
Pretty soon soldiers come again. That's the time they leave my Old Grandmother 'cause she can't walk. Maybe she die right there, maybe soldiers kill her. She cry plenty when my uncle take me away. Well, all time going 'round in the woods. After while my uncle get killed. Then I'm 'one. Klamath Injun find me, bring me to new reservation.
Two my relations, they're married to Rogue River man. They take me, but pretty soon both dead. One Rogue River man say, "Well, you're small. You can't do nothing. I keep you. Long as you like to stay, you stay with me." I can’t talk his language, my mother's Shasta Injun. So we talk jargon. Few years after that, then he die. Then some woman hear about me, say she's my sister. Well, I don't know. I look at her. Don't know her. She take me in steamboat from Port Orford from Portland. It's like the ground falling under me, one side, other side. Can't eat, sick all time. Well, we go to Portland, I'm glad. Eat lots. Then we stay Dayton good many years, come Siletz. I'm young fellow now.
There is no record of Adams' arrival
Siletz Agency, but he told Curtis he was a "young fellow" when
at the reservation. According to Curtis, Adams lived with a
at the reservation's Upper Farm until he was able to take care
Life was hard those days. The Indians were hungry and angry at being brought to the strange land and the agents, seldom the best of men, left much to be desired.
From the beginning the problem of governing the many tribes had been a constant concern. The agents commissioned to serve the Siletz Agency complained of the difficult of managing the hundreds of Indians who had little in common except their presence on the Coast Reservation.
This used to be soldiers' house. Some
there, where posts used to be. I was prisoner once. Soldier gave
and ax, split spruce blocks. Wedge go in, block won't crack. Too
Soldier say, "Go ahead, split more block."
I say, "Got no wedge."
He say, "Twice I tell you go ahead, split more block. You no split more—I fix you!"
Well, what I going to do? No wedge for split more block, soldier he going fix me. Don't I want get shot. Ball so heavy I can't drag him, have to pack him on my shoulder. Well, I carry that ball, go up to soldier. I lift my ax, say, "Go ahead, fix me!" He try back away, I follow him, keep close so can't use his gun. Then somebody run between us. Another soldier say, "What's a matter you fellow, what's a matter?"
"Well, I got no wedge for split more block." This man say, "You no split more, I fix you." Don't I want get shot. "He fix me, I fix him plenty." That's what I say.
Each tribe, often each band within a
tribe, had its own language, making an interpreter necessary.
was called, interpreters were needed not only for the agent, but
for conversations among Indian tribes.
Adams related the tale of a Coast Indian who tried to stone him because his people "make that Rogue River War."
All this Coast Injun say: "That fellow
blood. His people make that Rogue River War. They start it. He's
They keep talking that way, looking at me. Sometimes throw
they start again, maybe twenty. I tired all that talking, get
all that talking, get mad. When they throw rocks, I throw too.
time lose these front teeth. Got no teeth since then. Rock knock
When that rock hit me, I get crazy. I start for my house for get
head me off. Can't run fast, feels like my head coming off. All
rocks. One fellow's got knife. Says, "We get him!" I grab fence
him on the neck. He drop, squirm like fish in canoe. Next one
him on head. He drop too. Don't squirm. That rail too heavy,
away and run again. Can't get to my house, they head me off.
do? Well, I get in fence corner. What I going fight with?
Some white man on other side say, "Here, Johnny, some rocks." Push some rocks under fence. I say, "Well, you come over help me."
"No, I 'fraid. Here's more rocks."
I pick up rocks. Four men get close now. He's got knife, too. Thump! Hit him in ribs. Stagger like drunk. Next man, thump! Hit him in ribs. He go back. Others all stop. Then I jump fence, run home, get my gun. They go back. That's rough times!"
The difficulty of governing the agency
recognized in 1871 by Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs,
when he announced the assignment of the Siletz Agency to the
Episcopal Church to "guarantee that the Siletz Indians will have
opportunity and encouragement to throw off some of the bad
by contact with vicious white men." (In the 1870s the religious
assumed responsibility for nomination of "moral men" to serve as
Many immediate changes were made in the Siletz Indians' daily lives under the supervision of the church.
Gen. Joel Palmer, agent from January 1871 to December 1872, abolished the buck and gag and the whipping post and seldom used the guardhouse. Palmer was one of the few non-indian men respected by the Indians, having won their confidence in treaty sessions and transportation of the tribes to the reserve. It was during his term as agent that Christianity was introduced to the Indians.
Reverend W. T. Pearce 1912
In 1912, Rev. W. T. Pearce, missionary
the Siletz Indians, published a brief history of the Siletz
Church in the Pacific Christian Advocate, which told of Palmer's
The old people tell how he used to come down to his officer in the morning, go in and take a book and read a few minutes then get down on his knees and talk to someone that they could not see; after which he would get up and begun the business of the day. This was highly amusing to the Indians who would gather, and looking into the windows, laugh and wonder what the general was doing and who he was talking to. In time, however, they came to inquire what it meant and then the general began to gather them together and teach them the true way of life.
Rev. John Howard
Through Palmer's efforts a Methodist
Rev. John Howard, was sent to the Siletz Mission, and when
in April of 1873 by Rev. J. H. Fairchild as agent, regular
were set up and religious instructions given to the Indians.
During Fairchild's three years in his dual role as agent and minister, many Indians, including Adams, became members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. (Fairchild was assisted in this missionary work by Rev. W. C. Chattin, agency teacher.)
Adams, in his 20s, had already begun a lifetime of service to his people, including employment as a government teamster, assistant farmer, stable hand, interpreter, freighter, policeman and judge.
A respected man, Adams represented the tribes in meetings with government officials and was selected by agents as a tribal representative, traveling as far as Jacksonville in an era when Indians were seldom allowed to leave the reserve.
Adams protested any government mistreatment of his people, but his forthrightness wasn't always appreciated by the Indians.
Named by the Indians to a seven-man committee to represent the entire reservation in 1892 negotiations with the US to sell approximately 200,000 acres of the reserve, Adams' life was threatened when he took a stand against the sale!
Acting on his personal motto, "What can be seen, can be fought," Adams and his friend, Harney, tried tried without success to preserve land for allotment to future generations, but on October 31, 1892, they reluctantly joined the other men in signing the sale agreement.
Adams regarded the government officer of $142,000 for the unsurveyed land as a trick to obtain cheap land for speculators and within a few years his worst fears were realized with the exposure of timber and land frauds.
In the years following the 1892 sale of tribal lands, Adams, speaking out against irregularities in the allotment procedures, was termed a radical, and allotted land in the Upper Farm area [was wrested] away from the "good people" of the reserve.
This entire period of his life was one of trials and disappointment, mingled with grief at the loss of several of his family members, including two daughters, Belle and Blossom, two sons, Roy and Wilbur, and his wife, Nettie Newton, leaving only his eldest son, Joseph, alive.
On June 6, 1893, Adams, now a judge in the Court of Indian Offenses, married Martha Jane Clay, a member of the Klamath Nation.
Herself no stranger to the misery of reservation life, Martha, 31, had already been married several times and widowed twice. To this marriage she brought four children, Lena and Inez Chapman, and Cecilia and Raymond Clay.
Following an August 1894 fire the Adameses hastily constructed a new home for their family which now included John Junior. In 1896 another son, Russell, was born.
Shortly after his father's wedding, Joseph Adams, already recognized as a potential tribal leader, had been sent to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. After finishing his studies he entered Dickinson College where he studied medicine, law, religion, and music, never deciding on a career. But respiratory problems had plagued the young Indians and on June 12, 1898, at the age of 23, he died of consumption at his father's home.
Despite his problems, Adams continued as a leader among his people, highly regarded by government officials and white settlers of the Siletz country.
Serving as a policeman and later as a judge, Adams sometimes was sent to Portland to appear as a character witness in federal court Indian trials. In their normal line of duty, policemen were regarded as "common foe" of the reservation Indians, and testifying against them was not pleasant.
But it is for his work as a Methodist minister that Adams is remembered. Beginning as interpreter of early missionary talks at the schoolhouse, he progressed to delivering sermons in jargon to his people.
As agency interpreter, Adams had enjoyed the favor of successive Methodist agents and been a key member of all their religious meetings, persevering even when the general interest waned in long periods passed without a suitable pastor. In his early 30s, Adams had the full confidence of the agents and of the flock, and so he was readily accepted as preacher, always using the Indian tongue. In 1887-1888, however, when he was also functioning as a teamster for the agency, he came into conflict with a new agent, J. B. Lane, who had been making radical changes, especially at the school (which he virtually closed down). Adams led the appeal against Lane; somewhere in the process lane dismissed Adams as teamster, and there was much recrimination. Lane, in his report, claims that the Methodist flock then wrote Adams off as venal, but Lane himself was soon removed and Adams reinstated with honor. His eloquence at a Fourth of July speech, in 1903, is praised thus:
The Rev. John Adams, a full-blood Indian, delivered an address on the Fourth in Indian tongue. I was told by the whites who understood, that it was good, patriotic, and full of acknowledgements of the benefits of the school. His gestures were graceful and his carriage commanding.
The prominence of Rev. Adams continued
his death, which occurred on August 22, 1928, his last major
at the age of 81, being the Siletz Memorial Day service that
May. It is
duly attested in an anonymous manuscript history of the
That history was written soon after 1965, when the Siletz
with those of Toledo.
His obituary, which appeared in the Lincoln County Leader on August 30, 1928, described Adams in the most glowing terms:
John Adams, like his uncle [Tyee John], was a man of courage and character. He was converted to Christianity and joined the Methodist Episcopal church when J. H. Fairchild was agent, under the preaching and teaching of Rev. W. C. Chattin, who was then employed as teacher in the school. From that time until his death John Adams lived a true and faithful Christian life. For many years he was a local preacher in the church. He had a fine constitution and a bright mind. He learned the English language and spoke it quite well. Had he been educated he would have made his mark in the world as a preacher. All the agents and superintendents from Fairchild down spoke in highest terms of John Adams as being an honest and a true Christian. He had this name wherever he was known. He always stood for law and order.
The funeral was held in the Methodist Episcopal church by Rev. F. L. Moore, pastor. The church was filled to capacity, and a good many had to stand outside. It seems the community turned out en masse to pay this last tribute of respect to his memory. Some mourners came from Newport and Toledo to offer their respects.
"A Pioneer Woman of Siletz"
Five years later, on January 30, 1930, Martha Adams passed away at the age of 70. The paper eulogized her as "a pioneer woman of Siletz" and spoke of her also in the most glowing terms.
Martha Adams, wife of the late Rev.
Adams a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal church, and
here continually up to the time of her heath. She was received
church in 1893 by Rev. W. H. Myers who now lives in Eugene City.
attended church and Sunday School and was a good Christian woman
host of friends and no enemies. Her husband was received into
during the Fairchild administration by the pastor of the church,
C. Chatterin, an evangelist.
Mr. Adams for more than 53 years led a true Christian life and stood for education and Christian civilization and everything that would improve the conditions of his people. He had two sons in the world war, Dick, and Russell, they both came through with honorable records.
The funeral was held in the Methodist
church, conducted by F. L. Moore, pastor of the church, and
Rev. Alan Banks of Pentecostal Gospel Church. The choir sang
songs led by prof. Smith, principal of the high school. A duet
by Mr. and Mrs. Banks. The interment took place on Government
the beautiful Siletz Valley.
Rev. Adams, along with his second and third wives, Nettie Newton (1855-1889) and Martha Jane Huntsucker (1855-1930), is buried at Paul Washington Cemetery, Siletz.
Rev. T. F. Royal
Rev. T. F. Royal, a member of one of
most outstanding Methodist families in early Oregon, was the
missionary at Siletz. In recognition of civil marriage, and
divorce, he encouraged monogamy among the Indians and was
sale of wives.
In the early days, Methodist missionaries at Siletz had the use of government buildings for their services, and, since the ministers were also employees of the reservation, they lodged in government houses. Thus, when the Grant Peace Policy came to an end, and the minister no longer held a government post, the first need was for a parsonage. This was duly built in 1889 or 1890.
Only shortly after 1900 was an actual church provided. It consisted of the timbers of an old church at Newport, which were disassembled and brought piecemeal to Siletz. For foundations, it is said that some families contributed the tombstones of their dead! During the week, this building also served as a school. In 1933, a considerable annex was added for Sunday School use and recreation, and shortly after WWI, the whole complex was given a thorough renovation. Unfortunately, in 1948, a fire burned everything to the ground.
The community rallied and soon had a whole new church, built of cement blocks. A thriving parish life continued, but then came various fluctuations of the local economy and of the resident population, and by 1965 it seemed best for the Siletz Methodists to consolidate with those of Toledo. (Most pastors held Siletz for only a couple of years, and many were serving Toledo at the same time.) The building was then sold. It now serves as the Siletz Church of Christ. It stands on Logsden Road, just across from the entry to Paul Washington Cemetery.
In 1925, some months before the dedication at Raymond Town, there was an unusual incident which took place at the Methodist church in Siletz, and was recalled by a parishioner:
Rev. McIntosh was delivering his evening sermon with much shouting, but abruptly he quieted down. A strange expression swept over his face and in the stillness of the crowded church you could have heard a pin drop. Then came the tread of marching feet, and when they were in (the witness's) the line of vision, she could see the white-robed figures of the Ku Klux Klan. They walked up to the pulpit and handed the minister an envelope. Then they right-about-faced, and marched out without uttering a word. After the door had closed on the white-robed figures, the minister opened the envelope and read a note commending him on his good work. Enclosed within was a check for $50.000.
One cannot help thinking the Klan also
to signify its displeasure with the other clergyman in town,
Raymond, who was becoming decidedly too popular, and whose
a Catholic resort town should not be seconded.
Two years previously, the Klan had managed to outlaw Catholic schools in Oregon. Their law would be declared unconstitutional, but not until March 31, 1924, very close to the date of Fr. Raymond's famous trek in search of a site for his dream church. Fr. Raymond himself probably paid the Klan little heed, but leading priests in Portland had been awakened by the crisis and were shaping a whole new tone for church life in Oregon, led by an organization they formed and called The Catholic Truth Society in Oregon.
The institution of the itinerant preachers, the role of their wives, the hospitality afforded them by Methodist families along their routes, the enduring character of the friendships they formed, the gifts-in-kind made to such preachers in the wealthier towns and intended for free distribution of needier points along the route, the proverbial concern for the Methodists for singing and for temperance, the involvement of the individual missionary at a variety of reservations, the ordination of the individual for lifelong service to the Indians, the hardships of wintry roads, are some of the enduring themes that shaped the Methodist presence in Oregon.
Fr. Croquette Allowed Back to Siletz 1879
Fr. Croquette was tacitly allowed back to Siletz as early as 1879. About that time, agent Swan, himself a devout Methodist, began to complain bitterly of the extent to which the Methodist Conference sought to control agency affairs. Without doubt, this control was aimed to ensure a mutual support between families that were contributing heavily of their own resources, but it could scarcely be maintained in face of Washington's drift towards more secular policies. By now the position of pastor at Siletz was seen as unwanted; but in 1887 a new solution was proposed: no longer would the pastor earn his family's keep by teaching at the school all week; instead, he would be paid by the Methodist Home Mission Society, who also offered to send a woman missionary and provide a parsonage and a church building. By the time the first such Methodist missionaries arrived, the Rev. C. R. Ellsworth, in 1891, Catholics and Methodists would be regarded as, more or less, twin churches on the reservation. The fraternal harmony of both pastors and flocks would then be praised almost every year. By that time, however, Fr. Croquette had almost been phased out at Siletz in favor of a Fr. Patrick Lynch and, especially, of the German mystic, Fr. Felix Buücher, who was later to succeed him at Grand Ronde.
Siletz Boarding School
At the Siletz Boarding School, the
services and instructions on Sundays had by now become a matter
concern, since the children of Catholic families were expected
the Methodist Sunday School. It seems that Archbishop Gross, who
school facilities for his services, took occasion to reach an
for a nonsectarian curriculum of instruction. This held for the
of years, until Fr. Felix Büucher's visits became so
the lay leadership, like Frances Harney's (1836-1934) was so
that separate Catholic classes thereafter be provided each week.
By 1885, under Harney's leadership, baptismal classes consisting of the children of several families were being presented to Fr. Croquette on each visit, along with more and more mature adults as well. That year, she married Coquille Charley Johnson, and the following year Chief Harney himself came up to Saint Michael's and married Elizabeth Tole (1870-1958), daughter of a key Catholic family and recent graduate of the Benedictine school. In 1887, Chief Harney was duly baptized into the swelling ranks of fervent Siletz Catholics.
Fr. Felix's Visits to Siletz Begin 1894
Fr. Felix's visits began in 1894, when
was appointed assistant pastor at Corvallis. In April 1895, an
occurred at the school, which was traced to a backing up of
and gasses under the building. This was brought technically
by the fall of 1896, with the installation of a whole new water
and disposal system, but alarm had set in among the staff. When
in one form or another, came out in the newspapers, Fr. Felix
saw it as
his duty to take up residence on the reservation for the
This was the very year the Nuns were being phased out as matrons
The Harneys gave Fr. Felix the warmest of welcomes and urged the building of a rectory and church. Money for this was generously donated by the wealthy Philadelphia heiress and nun, Mother Katherine Drexel.
Coming as he did in the spirit of mercy, Fr. Felix had no proselytizing rivalries with the resident Methodist minister, and successive agents stress their gentlemanly harmony. In 1905, however, a new agent took over at a time when both clergymen happened to be absent for along time. In his annual report he commented that religion was not taken very seriously at Siletz and that it would be better to have only one or other of the churches, for he supposed that neither clergymen dared condemn any waywardness least he lose the offenders to his rival. Such could, indeed, have been the case in a situation of this kind, but the fact is that the earlier agents, who really knew the men, denied any such rivalry. They acknowledged that the flocks were small, but saw them as twin elites setting a tone of morality much nobler than would have prevailed without them. Setting aside the question of apostolic succession, which separated the Catholic from the Methodists and provided a theological claim to legitimacy, it is easy to see the providential fittingness for both churches' presence. Without the Methodist enthusiasms of a Fairchild and a Bagley, there would not have emerged a setting that could foster the uniquely beautiful piety and eloquence of a Rev. John Adams. But, equally, a George Harney need a non Methodist setting, almost and anti-establishment context, in order to grow in his charismatic leadership, not only among the Catholics and in the tribal government but also in his nationwide role as companion on the lecture tours of Alfred B. Meacham.
Katherine Mary Drexel (1858-1955)
There was no church at Siletz when Fr. Felix took up his residence there, but plans were made immediately to build one. "Practically a whole year or more I spent among the Indians," he wrote, "until a little church and residence was built to the glory of the Blessed Virgin Mary." The church and rectory were provided through the generosity of Reverend Mother Katherine Mary Drexel (1858-1955), Foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Cornwell Heights, Pennsylvania. The background of the Siletz parish, as well as the account of dedication ceremonies of the new church, was given in The Catholic Sentinel:
The Indians of Siletz Reservation had
for many years attended by that venerable missionary from Grand
Msgr. Croquette. A large number had become Catholics. When Pres.
made his famous division of the reservations among the different
the Siletz Indian Reservation was given over to the apostolic
Methodists. Msgr. Croquette was informed that his presence was
required on the reservation. Thus years rolled by and these poor
had not the chance of receiving the ministrations of the
Soon after the inauguration of Grover Cleveland into the presidency for the first time, the US Indian agent appointed by him wrote to Archbishop Gross that a Catholic priest would be a very welcome visitor to the reservation. Taking with him the venerable Fr. Croquette, the archbishop himself went immediately to the reservation. He was most kindly received by the agent. His grace can testify that on all subsequent visits he has always been received with great courtesy. At his first visit the most reverend archbishop was edified to notice, that, although deprived for many years of their priest, the Indians had kept their faith, and all efforts of the ministers had failed to pervert a single one. He preached to them and they nearly all came to hear the sermons. From that time there has been an occasional visit by the priest.
About a year ago that eminent Catholic lady, Reverend Mother Katherine Drexel, granted the request of his grace and consented to donate $2,000 for the erection of a church and parsonage on the Siletz Reservation. The work was begun under the supervision of the missionary priest Rev. Felix Büucher. The rainy season had set in when the building was completed. The roads, bad enough in summer, became simply impassible in winter. The dedication of the new church was, therefore, postponed until the summer.
On last Sunday afternoon, July 31, the most reverend archbishop arrived at the reservation. Some miles from the reservation a large body of Indians in wagons and on horseback, headed by Chief Harney, who bore a large and beautiful American flag, met his grace and escorted him to the reservation. Far in the distance the gilt cross on the steeple of the church can be seen, and shines more conspicuously, owning to the grove of green pines to the rear of the church. The church is a handsome building, being 22 by 48 foot. It has a gallery for the organ and choir, and a sacristy. The priest's dwelling adjoining the church, has six rooms. A bell weighing 550 pounds has been presented by Messrs. John Kern and brother of Portland.
Sunday, August 1, was adorned with Oregon's most delicious summer weather. Immense crowds of Indians had assembled for dedication of the church. The US Indian agent and other white gentlemen and ladies living on the reservation also came. At 10am the most reverend archbishop, assisted by very Rev. Severin Jurek and Rev. Felix Buücher, blessed the church. As his grace had received some time ago a large box of altar ornaments and church articles sent him by a society of ladies in ever-generous France, he could give a supply of decorations and vestments that added to the beauty of the church.
After the dedication ceremonies, high mass was sung by Very Rev. Severin Jurek. An organ had been procured for the occasion; Mr. Hoffman accompanied with the violin, and all were extremely pleased with the music. After the gospel his grace preached a sermon, and the large audience paid exquisite attention. Towards the end of his discourse the archbishop congratulated the Indians on the possession of this fine church. He informed them that they should contribute to the support of their pastor. When afterwards the collection box was passed around nearly every Indian present gave him money, and some even who are not Catholic made an offering. In the afternoon at 3:30 o'clock, his grace having given an instruction in which he explained the part which the bell plays in Catholic worship, blessed it. It has a very sweet sound, and the Indians are highly pleased at having this fine bell. The services of the day closed with the benediction of the most blessed sacrament.
The new church is dedicated under the title of "Our Lady of Guadalupe," that remarkable shrine which the Sacred Mother of God made for herself among the lowly Indians of Mexico, wherein innumerable graces and blessings for soul and body have been obtained by her all-powerful intercession. May this gracious lady, who offered her divine son on Calvary make a shrine for herself of Oregon; and then, for its people too, will be realized what is written in the Bible: "They found Jesus with Mary, his mother."
In 1885, when Grover Cleveland
became president of the US for the first time, an effort was
such grievances as the Indian has suffered under the U. S. Grant
Policy, and so, in Oregon, a warm invitation was extended to
the Catholic presence at Siletz. After a few tentative efforts,
William Gross happily found that two priests of the new
currently resident in Corvallis, were eager to serve both Siletz
as well. But this was a time of financial setback and money for
projects was hard to come by. Nevertheless, the archbishop
have a generous Benefactor back East, whose prime interest lay
for Africans or Native Americans.
Archbishop Gross had previously served as bishop of Savannah, Georgia (1873-1885), where his projects for Black Catholics had been generously helped by a wealthy heiress of Philadelphia, Katherine Mary Drexel (1858-1955). Soon after his promotion to Oregon City, he again contacted Ms. Drexel, on behalf of Catholic Indians east of the Cascades (1889-1891), and so now, in 1895, he naturally turned to her to provide Fr. Felix Buücher with a church and rectory at Siletz.
Katherine's grandfather, Francis Martin Drexel (1792-1863), was born in Dornbirn, Austria. In 1817, he escaped from Europe at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and had rapidly gained a reputation as a portrait painter for wealthy families in Philadelphia and throughout the Americas. He also had a genius for investing the considerable earnings his artwork brought him. In 1838, he established in Philadelphia a brokerage office, originally for dealing in foreign currencies and securities, which developed into the banking house of Drexel & Company. In 1847, Katherine's uncle, Anthony Joseph (1826-1893), became a member of the firm and the dominating influence during its period of expansion. After 1863, F. M. Drexel founded Drexel, Morgan, and Company in New York. The firm specialized in government bonds, railroads, mining, and real estate. He was co-owner with George W. Childs of the Philadelphia Public Ledger. In 1892, F. M. Drexel was founder and benefactor of Drexel Institute (enrollment 7,269) of Philadelphia. This business acumen proved to be of great advantage in times of nationwide financial crisis, and it was duly inherited by his sons, along with his deeply Catholic faith. Once of these sons, Drexel's father, Francis Anthony Drexel, also inherited his father's artistic ability, though more as a musician than as a painter.
Katherine's mother died when she was still an cradle, but she was blessed with an excellent stepmother and with an Irish governess, Ms. Cassidy, who deserves to be compared with Helen Keller's (1880-1968) Ann Sullivan.
F. M. Drexel had three daughters, but no sons; and when his second wife also died relatively young, he came up with an extraordinary plan for his daughters; financial future. He was glad to see them use their enormous fortune for the support of Catholic charities, but he did not want any less loftily motivated husbands interfering with their judgment in that regard. He therefore made out a complicated testament, in which his millions could go only to his daughters and to any offspring of theirs, and if there were no surviving offspring, then it would revert to favorite Catholic charities of his own prior choosing.
Two of the daughters eventually married. One of these died rather soon, in childbirth, and her child died with her. The other spent many happy years with a husband who shared her charitable ideals, but she too eventually died childless. Each of these deaths left Katherine with responsibility for an ever greater share of the vast inheritance. She considered entering a convent and putting it all in the hands of an administrator. But from childhood she was convinced that her wealth should go effectively to the benefit of the ever-neglected African and Native American population, and her spiritual advisors warned her that the only way to guarantee this was to become a nun under an understanding bishop, and to use his overriding authority to ward off those seeking funds for unrelated causes.
When Archbishop William Gross first contacted Reverend Mother Drexel on behalf of Siletz, she had already entered the Sisterhood. In 1889, she served her novitiate with the Sisters of Mercy. She became the Head of Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Africans in 1891, a new order created by Leo XIII (1810-1903) at her request. She established a mother house in Cornwell Heights, Pennsylvania in 1892, from which the Sisters were sent to serve missions for Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and to work with African Americans in the Deep South and in northern cities. In all, she founded 63 schools for African and Native American people. In 1894, Reverend Mother Drexel founded Saint Catherine's School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1915, she founded Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans (enrollment 3,467), which became the Catholic church's only American college for blacks.
Twice her travels brought her to Portland in person, but on neither occasion could she visit Siletz. The first visit was made in 1884, while her father was still alive. He had helped to finance the new transcontinental railroad and his whole family was invited to ride it as guests of honor. Reverend Mother Drexel's other passage through Portland was on a tiring business trip in 1935, when her health was about to collapse.
On this second journey, she was already in her late 70s and needed to provide for her work to continue after her death, since, as her father's will had specified, the entire fortune would then pass to other hands. The strain of this trip, and the effort to make each foundation financially self-sufficient, soon ruined her health. But this infirmity did not shorten her life, for she enjoyed another 20 years funneling her father's wealth to her beloved blacks and Indians.
Like Fr. Felix Buücher, Reverend Mother Drexel was a mystic, and her spiritual personality was reflected in the journals her Irish governess had long since taught her to enjoy keeping. Unfortunately, her many letters to Fr. Felix have perished, but all of his to her are extant. At the bottom of Fr. Adrian Crockette's Christmas letter to her in 1934, after 40 years of correspondence and shortly before that final passage through Portland, she jotted a telling comment: "a very saintly and very humble priest."
A leader in race relations, Reverend Mother Drexel was also an able administrator who attracted more than 500 women to her Order before her death on March 3, 1955, at the age of 96. In 1964, steps were taken toward her canonization. Pope John Paul II gave her the title of "Blessed," the rank immediately below "Saint." Her holiness manifest itself in the ease she demonstrated with prelates and statesmen and persons of wealth. She was skilled in business and in assuring a sound financial basis for her undertakings, able to give the needed administrative leadership and to delegate the more personal tasks to colleagues. She was never condescending to those she wished to help, nor did she pretend to offer them a leadership from within. Rather, she knew well how to find out what real needs existed, and which of them she was equipped to meet. And she met them—as with Fr. Felix—for decades on end. This endless goodness of hers created a setting rich in friendships. It is a highlight in Oregon history for the little parish of Siletz to have a woman foundress like Blessed Katherine Drexel, who may one day be called "Saint."
Our Lady of Guadalupe
It was Reverend Mother Drexel who
the name for the church in Siletz. It is not known exactly when
this choice, but by January 29, 1869, Archbishop William Gross
taking it for granted, and from then on it appeared in various
“Guadalupe” is the name of an old Mexican shrine. It had long been popular in the Southwestern US, but in 1895 it was virtually unknown further north. Then, precisely in October 1895, a major pageant was held in Mexico, which surely found echo in Catholic newspapers available to Reverend Mother Drexel; a papal coronation of Guadalupe's image, done on the 15th of that month.
Guadalupe seems not to have been one of Reverend Mother Drexel's major meditative themes, though it could well be that she gave financial help when, a year or two later, a newly arrived Irish priest, Fr. George Lee, published the first English language book on this devotion. Fr. Lee was then stationed at Dequesne University in Pittsburgh, which was closely connected with the convent of the Sisters of Mercy where Reverend Mother Drexel had done her Novitiate in 1889.
The archbishop and Fr. Felix apparently welcomed this choice, but the title hardly caught on among the parishioners. Siletz was the first non-hispanic church in the country named for Guadalupe, and so unusual a title could not but prove an embarrassment in face of Oregon's often anti-Catholic public. As with other Marian churches in the archdiocese, therefore, the full devotional title was telescoped to Saint Mary's. Soon, a Jesuit priest made this abbreviation semi-official. He also changed the name of Newport's Star of the Sea to the old Jesuit standby, Sacred Heart. Today, however, when Guadalupe is so dear to the vast majority of American Catholics, Siletz is proud to reclaim her.
The classic telling of the Guadalupe apparitions, which took place in 1531, is found in an Aztec pamphlet, first published in 1649 and today known as the Nican Mopohua. There is discussion among scholars about how this account was put together, but none question that certain highly poetic sections of it stem from an author with an extraordinary mastery, both of the Aztec language and of the mystery of providence, couched in motherly terms.
The legend tells of a Marian apparition, who appeared as a beautiful 14-year-old Aztec maiden, accosting an Aztec convert, named Juan Diego (?-1548), at a 130-foot hillock five miles north of Mexico City, named Tepeyac. She asked him to arrange with the bishop, Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga, a Franciscan from Spain, to erect a shrine to her there. The bishop asked for proof that it was Mary who is requesting it, and she produced for the poor Indian an abundance of exotic Castilian roses, blooming miraculously in mid-winter. Juan Diego carried them enfolded in his tilma, and when he opens it to present them, there suddenly appears on the rough fabric a likeness of Mary, just as he had seen her at Tepeyac. Thereupon, the shrine was duly built in 1709. Above the high alter is Juan Diego's tilma—still intact. Two straight pieces, coarsely woven of fiber from the maguey plant, are sewn together so that the whole measures 66 inches by 41 inches. In color it looks rather like unbleached linen. Modern scientists are agreed that in the Mexican climate this cloth would naturally have disintegrated beyond recognition within 25 years. The figure is only 56 inches tall, but as one draws back from it, it seems to become larger and more plastic. Surrounded by golden rays, it emerges as from a shell of light, clear-cut and lovely in every detail of line and color. The head is bent slightly and very gracefully to the right, just avoiding the long seam. They eyes look downward, but the pupils are visible. The mantle that covers the head and falls to the feet is greenish-blue with a border of purest gold, and scattered through with golden stars. The tunic is rose-colored, patterned with a lace-like design of golden flowers. Below is a crescent moon, and beneath it appear the head and arms of a cherub.
The seer saw the apparition as a person of his own race, and was firm in his conviction. Her physiognomy in the painting bears him out, as also do her garments. Her star-studded outer mantle resembles that of an Aztec queen.
Millions have viewed the during the nearly five centuries since. Some 1,500 people kneel before it on every ordinary day, and on days of pilgrimages (of which there are many, every year, from other countries), the numbers cannot be counted. Some 14 million pilgrims visit the shrine each year.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrated throughout the world on December 12, is the Patronal Festivity of Mexico and is also celebrated with solemnity in the Southwest. To all American Indians, the message applies as it was spoken: an end to strife and cruelty, a promise of solace, peace, maternal love. To all inhabitants of the Americas, the image implies interpersonal unity and the union of races.
Father Felix Bücher 1894
Fr. Felix left The Dalles in June 1894. The town was then just beginning to recover from the effects of a major fire of 1891 and from failure of the crops in the surrounding districts, and now, within days of the priest's departure the swollen Columbia would flood a great portion of the town and cause another depression of business. Meanwhile, Fr. Felix took up residence with his confreres at Saint Mary's Church in Corvallis. While staying at Corvallis he visited the Siletz Reservation for the first time and there was introduced to the work among the Indians which was to become his concern for the rest of his life. Beal Gaither, US Indian agent at Siletz, makes notes that there were 45 Catholic Indians at the reservation in 1894 and that they were visited occasionally by a Catholic priest, Fr. Adrian Croquette. In a report to the secretary of the interior on August 29, 1895, G. W. Myers, superintendent of the Siletz School, says:
Rev. Fr. Buücher frequently visited, preached and administered to the spiritual wants of the Catholic portion of the Indians on the reservation.
In 1895, Fr. Felix was stationed for a
at Newport, a mission of Corvallis, and from that place made his
to the Siletz Indians and wherever else in the area his services
When an epidemic began to rage among the Indians of the Siletz Reservation in 1896, he asked permission of the archbishop and his superior to take up his residence there. In the following year, 1897, Br. Nazarius Wallny, a Salvatorian confrere, was sent to help him and remained with him for six years. Wallny's nickname was Br. Rotbar or Brother with the Red Beard.
The advantages of having a permanent church and a resident pastor became immediately evident when one notes the growth of the congregation during the pastorate of Fr. Felix Buücher. According to the report above, the Indian agent estimated the number of Catholics at about 45 in 1894. From that date up until the beginning of 1907 almost 200 children and adults at Siletz received the sacrament of baptism, as shown by the Saint Mary's Parish Register. This more than a fourfold increase must have been gratifying to the pastor and people of the Siletz Parish. It was a blessing, no doubt, resulting from the fortitude of these good Catholic Indians who had kept the faith strong during the period when the priest was not welcome on the reservation. It would be impossible now to identify all of these hardy souls, but it might be supposed that among them were the men and women whose names were recorded frequently as the godparents at baptisms: Nellie and James Gaither, Elizabeth and George Harney, Minnie and Scott Lane, and Ellen Watts.
The following is a tribute paid to Chief Harney by Fr. Felix on the opening page of his original Siletz Parish Register:
The Church, built by the munificence
Mother Drexel (1858-1955) of Philadelphia in the year 1896.619
August 1, 1897, by his grace Archbishop William Gross. His grace
the bell in honor of Saint John the Baptist; the bell presented
Kern and family, of Portland, Oregon. Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fr. Adrian
of Grand Ronde, Oregon, Yamhill County visited the Siletz
about once a year. A few visits have been paid by Rev. Fr.
in the year 1901 and very Rev. Fr. Severinus Jurek visited the
once a month in the year 1903. ...
His grace, Archbishop Alexander Christie, administered the holy sacrament of confirmation the first Sunday of August, 1899 and the second Sunday of June, 1906.
For the most part, it is left to the Siletz Parish Register to tell the story of Fr. Felix's spiritual efforts at Siletz, as the missionary's ministrations were woven into the history of his people at the important moments of their lives and after death. In other matters the historian gets but a glimpse or two into the physical hardships of the missionary pastor or a note of consolation concluding some human-interest anecdote. Fr. Felix had a few such items to relate during his story-telling later years. His first sick call at Siletz remained in his memory through the years and he recorded in his Memoirs:
I was making my first sick call to the Indian reservation of Siletz, a 90-mile journey from Corvallis by rail, bus and horseback. It was a boisterous October day. Near the end of the trail I found an old Indian, tattooed in rainbow colors, patching the leaky roof of his hut. Seeing me, he came down quickly. His face was wrinkled from encounters he had had with the whites while he was chief of the Rogue River Indians. My tall friend had many stories to tell me. But I wanted to get as quickly as possible to see the sick Indian who sent for me. The old man's wife, seeing my anxiety, smiled and beckoned me to follow her. Without uttering a word, the woman turned and led the way down to the river bank. I followed her into a little canoe. My guide brought me safely to the other side of the stream whence I made my way quickly to my destination. That good Indian guide got her reward when I baptized her and her husband.
The rainy winter season along the Oregon Coast often made traveling difficult for the missionary. The unsurfaced roads spelled trouble even before the advent of the automobile. Typical of the wet-weather problems was the incident Fr. Felix told concerning his experiences at Siletz:
About 40 years ago, when I had been on the Siletz agency only a year or so, I made frequent trips to a place about eight and a half miles from where I was living. On one winter trip my horse mired down. He became discouraged with trying to get out of the mud, so he lay down and would make no effort. I had to get the Indians to come, attach ropes to him and pull him out. I got another horse, but the sticky clay tired this horse too and he also became discouraged and refused to negotiate the mud, which was more than knee deep. I finally finished my eight and a half mile trip on the back of a third horse.
Physical endurance was certainly required of the missionary in such demanding circumstances. Among the feats performed by fr. Felix during his time at the Siletz Reservation was the 170-mile round trip he made on about 50 occasions to the mission of Grand Ronde. Several times he rode over the hills to Grand Ronde to assist the aged missionary, Msgr. Croquette, and after the retirement of that priest in 1898 he went to Grand Ronde about 1907. The trip was sometimes precarious. Fr. Felix noted:
When the water was high, I would have to swim the rivers. One time I crossed the Siletz River while it was in flood and was washed off my horse, but I held to its tail and it towed me safely to the opposite bank.
As early as 1903 the pastor of Siletz was included among the outstanding citizens of the Willamette Valley. A biographer wrote of Fr. Felix:
Fr. Bücher has ministered to the spiritual needs of a large and increasing congregation, for the responsibilities of which he is eminently fitted, having learned the Chinook language sufficiently well to be able to converse and preach therein. A scholar, linguist and man of practical and humanitarian ideas, Fr. Büucher exerts a wonderful influence upon the lives of those by whom he is surrounded, leading them always up to greater heights, and into broader and more useful fields of activity. He is devoted to his work, to the country in which his lines are cast, and to the people who look to him as their guide in the every-day affairs of life.
Chief Harney, a Rogue River who was elected chief of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, was remembered by Fr. Felix in his Siletz Parish Register as an Indian who
...showed special zeal for the holy religion of his hospitality and attending the divine services at the agency regularly, although about eight miles distant and separated frequently by the swollen Siletz River.
Fr. Felix's fond remembrance of Chief Harney is also displayed in an inscription on one of the stained-glass windows of Saint Michael's Church at Grand Ronde. The inscription reads:
In Memory of George Harney of
Siletz, Oregon, by Father Felix Bucher 1922
Fr. Felix Transfers to Grand Ronde 1907
During the last three years of Fr.
term at Siletz, the care of the Indian parish at Grand Ronde, a
parish than Siletz, was a great concern to the energetic
was finally determined that it would be better if he took up
at Grand Ronde and kept Siletz as the mission parish. Upon
his residence early in 1907, Fr. Felix entered the larger and
chapter of his mission life in Western Oregon.
Although Fr. Felix soon came to be identified with Grand Ronde, he did not forget his former parishioners at Siletz, whom he continued to visit through 1907. His concern for both his new and old missions was shown in a letter to his provincial two years after he came to Grand Ronde:
As for Siletz, where I was for many years, I have not been there for over two years now, for the most reverend archbishop has given it to the Jesuits. A father went there once a month, but for a long time now he has not gone, according to rumor. An Indian mission is fast spoiled. A missionary was here at Grand Ronde for 39 years up to 1899, and in the meantime until I took over the mission from Siletz in 1905 there were seven priests. As regards the negligence in Siletz one must give a strict account. The work in the reservation is not easy as in other places. Most of the work is known to God alone.
Two years later, in 1909, there came a fateful blow: the Wisconsin house was made the American headquarters of the Salvatorians and the whole West Coast was disowned. Even the thriving Salvatorian Sisters at Uniontown were called back to Wisconsin, though a few of them stayed on, forming a new Sisterhood of their own. Fr. Felix was the unique exception: he was allowed to stay at Grand Ronde, though he had to abandon Siletz to a diocesan priest.
Fathers Henry Pelletan and Charles Raymond 1914-1926
In 1904, a colony of Trappist monks
Frontgombault, France arrived in Oregon and took over the parish
east of Albany and made heroic efforts to establish a refuge
the whole community. By 1914, myriad setbacks and insuperable
had driven them to bankruptcy and a dispersal of their
debts were generously assumed by the archdiocese and by Mt.
Angel Abbey. Two of their priests, in gratitude,
stayed on and
dedicated the rest of their lives to active ministry in Oregon.
these was their prior and fac-totum, Fr. Henry Pelletan.
For the remaining 30-odd years of his life, Fr. Henry served generously in every post where he was asked to fill in. At Siletz, apart from many signatures in the Parish Record, Fr. Henry left virtually no memories.
The ninth of 12 children, Charles William Raymond was born in Aurora, Illinois, September 15, 1875 of "emphatically Quebecois" parents. His talent and love of singing developed while in grade school; his spiritual upbringing in French-speaking parishes was likely influenced by the Saint Viatorian Order which seminary he entered at Bourbonnais, near Kankakee, Illinois, days before his 18th birthday.
While still a novice, he was given teaching assignments at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago where his musical talent was recognized and established his experience as a choir director and singer in his school and active with the school drama group.
Although he left Saint Viator for unknown reasons before ordination, he did answer an invitation from archbishop Alexander Christie of Oregon whose good word allowed Raymond to shorten his studies at the Major Seminary in Montreal joining his parents who had previously moved to Quebec. He received minor orders in 1906 and ordination that summer after spending 14 years in religious houses.
Upon arriving at Siletz in 1923, Fr. Raymond quickly won the hearts of all parishioners. Frs. Croquette and Bücher were remembered mainly for generously sharing with their flock every penny and every thread of clothing that came their way, and also for their consoling presence at many a deathbed. Fr. Raymond seems to have been remembered more for his practical skills, such as those two men never possessed.
Fr. Raymond had always made it a point to welcome homeless men into his rectory, offering them dignified work in return for their board. At Siletz, he is known to have gone a step further, and to have made himself the regular nurse for ailing men in cottages near the church. As soon as the roads became fit for his automobile, he was ever available to convey anyone to the nearest hospital.
His lack of eloquence was no impediment, and they would have loved him even without his magnificent singing. Again, with so small and impoverished a population, fund-raising was hardly a theme of his tenure, and, without a parish school, sacred concerts hardly had a place. It was his homely skills that made the people comfortable in teaming up with him as a parish.
In 1924-1925, while stationed at Siletz, Fr. Raymond founded a small resort town on 80 acres of land, between Devils Lake and the Pacific Ocean, a little to the north of D River. He gave it his own family name—Raymond Town—but it was afterwards known as Ocean Lake. It has long since become a part of Lincoln City. Fr. Raymond's departure, in 1926, would break their hearts.
Mysterious Years of Exile: 1926-1928
Very soon a new archbishop, Edward
would replace Fr. Raymond's patron, Alexander Christie. Fr.
many another homely priest, would soon feel the effects of this.
Archbishop Howard, who was to live to the age of 105, was already 48 when he was appointed to Oregon at the end of April 1926. His whole career had been as a school teacher and administrator, with a short stint at the end as an auxiliary bishop. He must have been puzzled about this former Viatorian who had suddenly come up with a dream of being a missionary, and was now down on the beach, singing duets of "Old Man River" with personal friends from parishes in which he had earlier served. He summoned Fr. Raymond to his office, late in 1926, and, as the result of their conference, Fr. Raymond returned to the Viatorian headquarters at Bourbonnais, some 50 miles south of Chicago.
Saint Viator's, a comprehensive educational institution run by that Order, had just suffered a disastrous fire, and so parishioners welcomed their former choir director back with open arms. One of the men recalled the general belief that he had returned to Saint Viator's for "reasons of health." In reality, however, it was a leave of absence, and in the course of 1928 a letter arrived from Archbishop Howard with an ultimatum: he could either return to Oregon and take whatever jobs were assigned him, or else he was on his own. He did return and, perhaps because his replacement at Siletz had caused considerable scandal, he was reassigned there, to help heal the wounds. But he was ordered to move his residence to Newport and to drop all pretense of being a missionary to the Indians. Fr. Raymond rose to the occasion, and it seems he now loyally broke off contact with the Viatorian Order. At least, the Raymond dossier in the Order's archives confesses a lack of further data on him, even for his eventual death.
It was on August 5, 1928, that he became pastor of Newport, Toledo, Ocean Lake, and Siletz as missions, and he served there for over three more years.
Around that time, Shakerism emerged as a "naughty contender" to the Indians' missionary training. In 1957, Homer G. Barnett, author of Indian Shakers: A Messianic Cult of the Pacific Northwest wrote:
A large number of the Siletz Indians
in the next few years; so many, in fact that their desertion
churches alarmed the missionaries.
In 1928, Rev. Charles Raymond was appointed to undertake a preaching mission at Siletz because of "the deplorable fact that the Catholic Siletz Indians have joined the Shakers... ."
Despite his failing health, Fr. Raymond was assigned to Silverton on October 31, 1931. He would serve there for just over a year. After that, he was assistant pastor in Milwaukie for eleven months, and was sent to Seaside for almost five years. In September 1940, following a period of hospitalization, Archbishop Howard, finally convinced of the limits of his strength, gave him the small adjacent parishes of Monroe and Junction City in the Upper Willamette Valley. On July 1, 1942, he left Monroe to become chaplain at the Provincial House of the Holy Names Sisters, at Marylhurst, just south of Portland. This was to be his last appointment. Fr. Charles Raymond died in Chicago on March 20, 1943.
Chapter 49: Indian Shakers 1923
It is the opinion of ethnologist Homer G. Barnett that humankind has never lacked its visionaries who claim supernatural power to alleviate its ills. Societies everywhere have produced seers and clairvoyants who drew upon their mystic insight to allay the anxieties of petitioners beset with doubts and dilemmas beyond human power to resolve. More spectacular, but answering the same need for security, are the messiahs or prophets who cry out against the afflictions of their people and proclaim a divinely inspired formula for mass relief from frustration and oppression. Such dedicated people with self-appointed missions to admonish and lead their fellow sufferers have emerged on numberless occasions throughout history and in all parts of the tribe.
The Prophet Tenskwatawa
An early example of this phenomenon was the brother of Chief Tecumseh (1768-1813), Tenskwatawa, known as The Prophet (c1768-1834), claimed in 1805 the reception of a message from the "Master of Life." He gained fame as a religious mystic and revivalist. Tenskwatawa advocated the return to Indian ways of life. He helped his brother work for an Indian Confederation, and during Tecumseh's absence was defeated by Harrison in the Battle of Tippecanoe Creek. Having lost his prestige as a prophet, Tenskwatawa lived on a British pension until 1826, and thereafter resided in the US.
The Wanapum Prophet Smohalla
On the lower mid-Columbia several
Indian leaders resisted government pressures to round them up
and send them to the Yakima, Umatilla, and Nez Perceé
Influential in stimulating them to resist such moves were the
of a Yachta (leader and spiritual advisor) named Smohalla
a hunchbacked Wanapum prophet. He was a distinctive kind of
neither a realist nor a politician. He avoided dealings with the
and relied on dreams, visions, and promises of restoration of
lands from the invading hordes to hold his followers. As those
his teachings gathered momentum and spread to other tribes. Chief
Smohalla wandered down the Pacific Coast to Mexico
the Southwest, and appeared among his own tribe as one
from the dead.
The powerful Queahpahmah had influenced by the teaching of Smohalla. He had been arrested by government officials and cruelly treated in confinement, and on November 8, 1861, after trial and sentencing in the circuit court for Wasco County, four of his men were hanged for killing some white men.
In 1862, a tiny knot of traditionalists in the Grand Ronde Valley clashed with settlers, who were quickly filtering into the valley to appropriate the fertile lands that formerly belonged to the Indians. Four Indians were killed trying to elude troops of the First Oregon Cavalry under Cpt. George B. Currey, dispatched there at the settlers’ request to arrest them. The dreamer Tenounis was one of those killed.
Natives flocked to Smohalla's P'na village at Priest Rapids to dance the Washat, the ritualistic dance of Smohalla’s dream religion, and listen to his predictions that Indians would someday reinherit the earth. Smoholla told a Methodist preacher that the Indians were first on the earth and that all people came from one Indian mother. To another white man he said: "My young men shall never work... Men who work cannot dream, and wisdom comes to us in dreams."
Smoholla reportedly predicted a major earthquake that rocked the Pacific Northwest on the night of December 14, 1872. The quake dislodged a cliff, temporarily blocking the Columbia north of Entiat, Washington, and sending Indians of the area scrambling in terror to higher ground.
The Sanpoil Dreamer Skalaskin
Another cripple prophet, the Sanpoil dreamer Skolaskin, was also reported to have predicted the quake. Skolaskin controlled his followers with stratagems, such as piling logs in front of his lodge, with which, he told them, he could build an ark to save them from a second flood. Because of his control over the Sanpoil and his defiance and his defiance of governmental authority, Skolaskin was hustled off in late 1889 by the military and finally incarcerated at Alcatraz. He predicted a severe winter as he left. The winter was one of the coldest on record.
The Wenatchee River Dreamer Patoi
A mysterious Wenatchee River prophet, Patoi, also used the earthquake and its aftershocks to continue his teachings. When he told Fr. Urban Grassi, that during prayer after the tremors he had seen three persons clad in white, the priest, seeking some way to gather Patoi and his followers into the Catholic fold, told him that he, Grassi, was the third person. Besides running to the hills in fright, Indians responded to the earth shaking by seeking out priests for baptism and vowing to abandon polygamy forever. The prophets' effective use of the earthquake was evident when many followers of Chief Moses succumbed to the teachings of Patoi and when the chief himself hurried down to the P'na village to dance the Washat. Chief Moses feared God's punishment for his sins, which he believed included permitting land-grabbing hordes to enter his lands.
The Dalles Dreamer Collawash
Once an Indian named Collawash began dreaming and drumming across from The Dalles, and the zealous Methodist minister, James H. Wilbur, went down to put a stop to it. With little resemblance to his laying on of hands in his religious services, the reverend's arms began revolving "like the fans of a great windmill" as he seized the dreamer by the nape of the neck, handcuffed him, and returned him to the agency in a hack. A teller of the story wrote: "The act was characteristic of the man. He feared God only."
The Celilo Dreamer Skimiah
In the late 1870s, Skimiah, the dreamer leader of a small band near Celilo, was thrown into the Fort Vancouver Guardhouse, and his people were removed to the Yakima Reservation.
The Palouse Dreamer Hush-hushcote
In April 1873, Wilbur informed the dreamer Hush-hushcote, that the law required that Hush-hushcote and his people go into a reservation. Hush-hushcote was a Palouse chief of little bands that farmed for 60 miles up and down the Snake River. They refused to go on the reservation, claiming that the government had not fulfilled its treaty obligations by failing to evaluate their properties.
The Nez Perceé Dreamer Toohoolsote
Near Thorn Hollow on the Umatilla
Reservation there was in effect a
dreamer religion, where such dreamers as the Walla Walla Homily
Umatilla Talles held sway. Nez Perceés often came there
Wallowa homeland in Northeastern Oregon to hear teachings
own nonreservation status. A prominent Nez Perceé
gaining a following among dissidents, was Toohoolsote. His
Gen. Howard, called him a "cross-grained growler" and a "savage
worst type." His followers included both Old Joseph and Young
them he represented the old Indian way at its best, while to
represented the worst.
Few of these self-proclaimed Messiahs survive the indifference of their contemporaries; still fewer are remembered after their passing; and only rarely do the names of the few come to the attention of people who write books. Still they continue to appear, regardless of their reception, for they are impelled by the conviction that they are the chosen instruments of some divine purpose.
Prophets Smoholla, Wovoka, and later Squasachtun, are seldom honored among a people who feel that they are masters of their own destiny. A social atmosphere which stimulates a spirit of self-confidence is not one to encourage reliance upon supernatural forces. It is only when the shocks and perils of existence are overwhelming that the individual feels the need for something to support his mortal weaknesses. Prolonged frictions and failures can accomplish this demoralization and the effect is magnified when a whole society is so affected. Intense deprivation keeps the individual in an emotional turmoil, and his inability to command or even to comprehend the sources of his frustration makes it appear to him that it is humanly impossible to reduce the confusion and doubt that engulfs him and others about him. Under such circumstances the way is prepared for messianic messenger. For in this extremity of despair people have no recourse to place their trust in and insights and the promises of dreamer or visionary—a self-anointed vehicle of the Great Siwash.
Subjugated peoples suffering from the oppression of their captors have often reached this desperate decision. So have nations, tribes, and communities of people who, while not reduced to ignominious bondage, have lost the initiative to establish their own patterns of existence. Still others have brought catastrophe and impotence upon themselves through wars of attrition, fratricidal cleavages, and prolonged dynastic struggles. Whatever the far cause of the helplessness of such people, the immediate cause of their disquiet is the collapse of a valued way of life and their failure to find a satisfying substitute for it.
The Indians living around Puget Sound, like many other indigenous tribes overrun by the expansion of Western civilization, reached this impasse by cumulative steps through the relinquishment of their independence to alien standards and controls. In 1855, the several conquered tribes occupying the area were forced to abandon to the US government all title to ancestral homelands formerly owned by them with the exception of a few square miles of territory incorporated in reservations set aside for their exclusive confinement and use. In return for this coerced cession they were—as POWs—"guaranteed" certain compensations, mostly in the form of unwelcome services designed to bring them within the orbit of non-indian ideas and practices. At the same time certain restraints were placed upon them. They were required, under the threat of beatings, imprisonment or loss of life, to live peaceably in accordance with standards of conduct determined by federal laws and regulations. In order to ensure their right to survive and to hold them to their oppressive obligations a representative of the government, a reservation superintendent, was assigned to administer their affairs. In the prosecution of his duties the agent inevitably frowned upon or explicitly forbad the continuance of sacred native customs and, in varying degrees insisted upon the acceptance of non-indian ideals.
In the process of becoming "whitemanized" the Indian became a ward of the government and, like all welfare recipients, was despised and gradually lost the initiative to set his own goals and to follow his own inclination. His ancestral way of life was disrupted and his spiritual underpinnings were shaken, if not smashed. The Indian, for all intents and purposes, had lost his sovereignty.
The Prophet Squasachtun (c1842-c1898)
Mary Thompson and John Slocum
were among the many Indians who were caught in the cross
troublesome times. They belonged to the Squaxin tribe, a small
concentrated along the shores of a southern branch of Puget
their lifetime, however, most of this homeland was ceded to the
and their people were scattered and reduced in numbers as their
efforts to adjust to changed conditions and new demands failed.
John Slocum first attracted public attention in 1881 when he was about 40 years of age. At that time he lived with his wife, Mary, and their two daughters on an isolated homestead on Mud Bay near Olympia, where he worked at logging. In the autumn of that year Slocum, like Wovoka, fell sick and apparently "died," later to be resurrected.
Although there are numerous varying accounts of Slocum's death and resurrection, around 1911 Sarah Endicott Ober, an assistant Presbyterian missionary among the Makah on Neah Bay during the first decade of this century, gives the most sympathetic account of the origin of the cult and recognizes Mary Slocum as its visionary and the charismatic force behind its success:
It was within 30 years that the Shaker
started, having its inception with two Indians, John Slocum and
Indians, living on the Big Skookum, near Olympia. They were
and degraded. They had some religious instruction in the mission
Myron Eells, but later joined the Catholic church. But they were
from their sins. When in November 1882, the man was sick unto
sent for an Indian medicine man. His wife was distressed, and
to be faithful to the "white man's God," and the religion they
and not revert to heathenism again. But she could not prevail on
when the medicine man came, with tom-tom, rattles, bells and
dancing, howling and performing incantations and hypnotic
the poor woman fled to the woods, there for three days and
out her soul to God for her husband's salvation. Then a vision
was vouchsafed her, comforting, assuring and cleansing her from
There came with it an ecstasy and a strange tremor, every nerve,
and limb shaken in a marvelous manner. This was the first
Shakerism, and from this the name is derived.
The woman returned to her home, shaking, dancing, praising God. She found her spouse to all appearance dead, and the Indians wailing over his body, awaiting her return before burial. When the medicine man saw her he fled in terror. The Indians assert with all reverence that "those in whom is the spirit of evil cannot stay in the presence of those in whom is God's spirit." The strange power came upon the seeming dead man, and he arose shaking, and praising God. He always asserted that his soul had gone into God's presence, and there he realized his sinful and lost condition. That God had given him a new lease on life, entrusting to him a message to his people, that "Jesus Christ, the son of God, could save and keep them from sin."
Sister Slocum was not the first matriarchal mystic to influence a religious movement among the original people:
There are traditions, told by Indians of the present century, which beat out the view that pseudo-Christian cults flourished in the early 1800s west of the Cascades. In particular, it is related that soon after 1800 a woman from one of the tribes on the north side of the Columbia near its mouth died, went to heaven, and returned with a messianic message. We are told she was the one who began counting seven days to a week and instituted a custom of "dancing" on the knees during devotional exercises. Whether this inspiration had any relation to the visit of Lewis and Clark to this vicinity we do not know; but there are several accounts of similar visionaries from the Lower Columbia region at about this time or a little later.
Slocum’s account of his experience
profound impression on those who heard him. A church was soon
many local Indians came to hear him proclaim the need for their
and to learn what they must do to accomplish it. Excitement ran
a time, and out of it came a number of conversions. Slocum was
figure or vigorous proselytizer, however, and gradually the
of his death and resurrection was dulled by his unimaginative
Also, it appears that he, too, began to lose conviction in his
or felt defeated by its requirements. At any rate, after a few
he began to grow indifferent to his own admonitions and slipped
rut of his old vices. It is probably that the whole episode of
might have faded out of memory had not another spectacular event
a second crisis in his life and that of his faithful wife, Mary.
was his second serious illness.
Slocum again fell ill about a year after his presumed death. He was expected to die, this time without promise of a reprieve. This crisis induced in Mary a hysterical seizure in the course of which she approached Slocum's prostate body praying, sobbing, and trembling uncontrollably. When her convulsion had passed it was observed that Slocum had recovered slightly. This improvement Mary attributed to her seizure, which she interpreted as a manifestation of divine power. That was the beginning of "shaking."
Rev. Myron Eells, who had a mission at the Skokomish Reservation, described the shaking in a letter to ethnologist James Mooney:
The followers of this new religion
dreams, saw visions, went through some disgusting ceremonies
mode the black Tamanowus, and were taken with a kind of shaking.
arms at full length, their hands and arms would shake so fast
person not under the excitement could hardy shake half as fast.
into the heavens, their heads would also shake very fast,
a few minutes and sometimes for hours, or half the night. They
brush each other with their hands, as they said, to brush off
for they said that they were much worse than pallid people, the
being bad only in their hearts, while the Indians were so bad
badness came to the surface of their bodies and the ends of
so that it could be picked off. They sometimes brushed each
and sometimes so roughly that the person brushed was made black
or even sick.
In connection with this they held church services, prayed to God, believed in Christ as savior, said much about his death, and used the cross, their services being a combination of Protestant and Catholic services, though at first they almost totally rejected the Bible, for they said they had direct revelations from Christ, and were more fortunate than the whites who had an old, antiquated book.
The incident also provoked a renewal of
in Slocum's message and marked its rebirth as the Indian Shaker
With the revitalization of the cult that came with Mary Slocum's inspiration, news of it spread far beyond the Squaxin and their immediate neighbors. The movement was given considerable impetus in 1892 through the guidance and assistance of Olympia attorney, James Wickersham, who served as legal counsel and public defender of the cult; and a few years later it was consolidated as a religious body with legal sanction through the efforts of another sympathetic non-indian in the same city.
James Wickersham Parallels Society of Friends and Indian Shakers
Wickersham was born at Patoka, Marion County, Illinois, in 1857. There is no pertinent information on his early life except that he mentions, in defending the Indian Shakers, that he had seen non-indians professing Christianity who behaved in the same excited fashion under the influence of religion. Specifically,
In times of excitement many of them (i.e., the Ann Lee Shakers) twitch and shake, but in no instance do they conduct themselves in so nervous a manner as I have seen orthodox Christians do at old Sand Branch camp meetings in Illinois.
It is probable that he is referring here to some of the peculiar forms of ecstasy—such as barking, jerking, and rolling—that manifested themselves among Baptist, Methodist, and other sects in the periodic religious revivals that welled up in the adjacent sections of Illinois and Indiana during the first half of the 19th Century. But there is a bare possibility that he had witnessed, or at least had heard about, some of the performances of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, better known as the "Shakers."
Mother Ann Lee Founds Shakers in England 1747
This religious society was founded in
around 1747. Her followers received visions, prophesied, talked
tongues, healed, and were overcome by convulsive tremors of the
limbs during their meetings. Their uninhibited shaking,
and shouting led to persecution; and in 1780 they fled their
Manchester and Bolton and moved to America where they founded a
at New Lebanon in New York state.
The revivalism that occurred among New Light, Separatist, and Free Will Baptist groups was strongest throughout rural New England rather than in the growing urban centers of America. These were the groups that the Shaker missionaries spoke to and often converted in the early years from 1781 to 1783. It was not unusual for the members of one religious community to convert to another. The search for utopian fulfillment was a strong desire.
There is no record of Shaker missions south to New York City or Philadelphia during this period. Urban America was preoccupied instead with American Revolution and the establishment of a colonial government. That is not to say that religious revivalism had no foothold in urban areas, but that it did not take on primacy in daily life.
By the 1800s American ideology was transformed into a grand experiment. Immigrants flocked to the US, each person with her own version of the ideal society and social perfection. Every young woman and man wanted to be in the vanguard, and for thousands upon thousands the communal venture was to be that vanguard.
From New Lebanon, New York, the sect eventually spread to a few isolated parts of the US. One offshoot took root in Kentucky. The society leaders, inspired by reports of the widespread religious ferment that manifested itself there just about 1800, decided that the signs were auspicious for spreading their doctrine. Accordingly, from 1801 to 1811 they took part in the so-called Kentucky Revival and were energetic in establishing churches in several counties. In 1810 they organized a community near Vincennes, Indiana, across the Wabash in Illinois. No new colonies were founded there after 1826, although some unsuccessful attempts were made. In 1827 they abandoned the venture in Indiana and the participants returned to Kentucky. The movement continued to flourish, however, the period of greatest membership being from 1840 to 1860.
Although Patoka is not more than 100 miles from Vincennes, these facts do not provide a solid basis for inferring that Wickersham was familiar with the society. Still, some of the correspondences between the Ann Lee Shakers and the Indian Shakers are worth noting. Both sects separate the sexes during their meetings and refer to their fellow members as brothers and sisters. Both use hand bells as signals during services. Symbolic colors are in both cases blue and white.
Wickersham gave the Shakers their name. Without question this could have been spontaneous. It is curious, though, that two other terms are applied in common with the two cults. The Society of Believers, like the Indian Shakers, call their revelations, and the ritual requirements sanctioned by them, "gifts" (I Cor. 12). The other term is applied to the activities under power. Indian Shakers call their trembling, stamping, and marching "the work"; the Society of Believers refer to the same kind of exercise as "laboring." Both cults also appeal to the Christian Bible to justify their "dancing before the Lord" (II Samuel 6:14).
More interesting still are the dance figures incorporated into their services by the Ann Lee Shakers. In the beginning their dancing was spontaneous and undirected, but around 1785 this chaotic manner of self-expression began to be discouraged. Marches were introduced early in 1817; and a few years later the participants were executing dynamic figures based on passing files, squares, circles, and serpentines. The first of these ideas—two lines of participants singing and trampling while moving in opposite directions—was most popular, and was employed in a number of variations. It was incorporated into one of the so-called "union" dances of the 1830s so that two concentric circles of participants, one of men the other of women, revolved in opposite directions.
Even more reminiscent of the Indian Shakers was another "union" dance which began with a line of men on one side of the room and a line of women on the other. In this figure the last individual in each line passed in front of the others singing a song of agape love and shaking hands with each person as he or she moved by. Another figure, developed in 1828, strongly recalls the typical Shaker arrangement at a Sunday morning service. In this the participants first arranged themselves in ranks with the sexes on opposite sides of the room. Then at a given signal the block formed serpentines as a member moved down the line of his own rank and back along the line of the rank next, the circle being closed by the first rank swinging around the outside to join the tail end of the last. The two units, men and women, moved in opposite directions and they remained closed circuits, whereas the Indian Shakers used the device to unwind their ranks in order to form one large circle.
Indian Shakers Gain Followers
The cult continued to spread in all
and ultimately gained followers on most reservations of
Oregon and spilled over into Southern British Columbia and
Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown explain the cult's attraction:
Squasachtun's religion, Shakerism, was a substitute for the now forbidden native religions. Its practices incorporated certain native, as well as Roman Catholic, forms, and in some instances they became a spiritual substitute for the native religions. Finding the spirit more powerful than spirits, one Shaker exulted, "Come into it, come into it, it is as good as getting drunk." The reaction of Indian agents to the new religion, which they called the "Shakes," was at first negative. Their opposition was moderated somewhat as the Shaker Indians evinced a morality that lessened the tasks of the government officials. Complaints against Shakerism continued, however. In 1898, the Tulalip agent reported that healers were taking credit for cures effected by agency doctors. The Shaker movement eventually spread into Oregon and eastward to The Dalles. It spread more widely in the 20th Century despite differences among its followers, who were divided over whether the Bible was more efficacious than the Indians' traditional nonwritten word.
The Indians of Oregon first became acquainted with the Shaker religion through the intermediation of a clairvoyant Kelso Shaker known as Aiyel, and his associates in that area. The time was probably 1893. The known details are few; but according to available information, knowledge of the new religion was carried to the Warm Springs tribes in North Central Oregon by a Wasco (Galasq'o) named Hunaitca. With some companions from the Oregon reservation, he was picking berries during the summer in the vicinity of Hood River when he saw a Shaker performance by the Longview people. From there, at an uncertain date, it is said that word of the cult spread to the Klamath, on the reservation in Southern Oregon. It was not until sometime later, however, that the record becomes clear. In 1914 a Klamath man got sick, and word was sent to the Yakima Shakers requesting them to pay him a visit to try to cure him. About 15 of them decided to answer the call. There were already some Shakers among the Klamath, but they had no church. Their first meetings were therefore in a temporary structure on a campground. Later on, a new convert turned a dance hall that he owned over to them. Several converts were made upon the occasion of this meeting, which lasted for a week or two, and another community was added to the growing list of Shakers congregations. The church which is at Chiloquin has flourished and developed into a key element in the Oregon-California sector.
Shaker Church Established at Siletz 1923
The next church to be opened was at
in 1923. Reports of the religion had reached this reservation
this date directly from the north, but it was slow in developing
Several of the Yakima had relatives at Siletz whom they visited
the opening of the 20th Century. In fact, the wife of Yakima
Hoffer came from Siletz, as did one of his daughters-in-law. In
wife was sick, and a Yakima Shaker volunteered to make her well.
to give him a chance, and she regained her health.649 When the
of his son, Andrew, died, the latter married a Siletz woman and
that reservation to live with her. He was a Shaker before 1923,
some others who had been in contact with the Klamath
in that year members from elsewhere were invited to dedicate a
building and to hold a revival meeting. Shaker leaders among the
and Klamath arrived in several automobiles and there was an
to the appeals for converts. A large number of the Siletz
in the next few years; so many, in fact that their desertion
churches alarmed the missionaries. In 1928, Rev. Charles Raymond
to undertake a preaching mission at Siletz because of "the
that the Catholic Siletz Indians have joined the Shakers... ."
Jimmy Jack, whose home was in the town of Klamath, near the Yurok village of Requa, California, was living at Siletz at the time of the greatest excitement over the new religion. He had voluntarily exiled himself to this locality in 1919 because of trouble with his family over his infatuation for a Siletz woman whom they did not like. Although he was impressed with the Shaker performances that he saw, he was not converted until early in 1926.
At one of the Siletz meetings that Jack attended as a spectator a young man under power approached him and allowed his shaking hands to play over Jack's chest. Afterward the young man announced that he had seen blood clots there, and that Jack "was in danger." The latter was amused at this diagnosis, for he had been suffering from a disorder of the lungs that caused him to spit blood occasionally for 17 years. The young man did not say specifically that he had done anything about the blood clots that he saw, but Jack never afterwards had any trouble with his chest.
There were many instances of Shakers healing an individual through the restoration of his soul. Ghosts might be the cause of the misfortune; or a fall; or a fright; or the enmity of a shaman; but this idea was not well understood by the Siletz Shakers.
Soon after Shakerism was accepted at Siletz a Shaker Church was erected on Swan Street. Large numbers of Athapascan attended this church.
On the reservation where many Athapascan and some local Salish had already joined Christian missions, the missionaries saw, by 1923, that orthodox churches were loosing ground to faiths more comfortable to the demonstrative Indians. European religious standards were too severe. Indian Shaker beliefs were intuitive, emotional—comparable to aboriginal myths and legends.
In spite of superficial renunciation of ancient beliefs which gave an appearance of relying heavily on Christianity, Indians kept a belief in spirit-power and the mysteries intact for a long time. The beliefs were as firmly attached to their lives as tattoo marks on the chins of their older women.
Design Concepts Not Altered by Advent of Shakerism
It is significant that the weavers saw no conflict of loyalties by adhering to traditional symbols on their basketry while they practiced their new faith. If anything might have altered their designs it would have been the force of religion, and obviously the Shaker religion was not powerful enough to effect a change. However, it is known that cross and crescent symbolic designs were used by Shakers among Southwestern Apache (Athapascan) in the 1920s and it can be assumed that the Rogues knew that they were to be included in the four sacred articles (candles, bells, crosses and prayer tables) required in Indian Shaker households. These sacred articles were never displayed in public. So, although the cross and crescent were seen on southwestern coiled basketry they were seldom seen on twined baskets and no design changes appeared on twined work which was sold.
Anthropologist Edward S. Curtis wrote that the Pit River (Achomawi) Indians produce baskets
...only by the process known as twining, which is true weaving, never by coiling, which is actually a sewing process. In general their baskets have bottoms and sides slightly rounded, opening broad, and depth rather shallow. The usual materials are willow rods for the warp, or upright elements, and pine root strands for the weft, or horizontal elements.
Shaker Missionary Jimmy Jack Preaches Among Yurok
Following the healing experience,
resolved to reorder his life, return to Requa, and preach the
the Yurok. He commenced his mission in earnest, first asking the
of his mother, whom he had treated most inconsiderately, then
house to house pleading for a hearing. He praised the newly
enumerating its benefits and declaring that the acceptance of
had wrought a glorious revolution in his life. He called upon
and volunteered his services to prove the divine power of
the disadvantage of his illiteracy he approached Robert Spott,
member of the community, with a plan to make him his lieutenant
he could read and write.
In spite of his sincere effort Jack was received with skepticism or indifference by almost everyone. Toward the end of the summer he announced that a meeting would be held in his house and that all were welcome, especially those who were suffering prolonged illnesses. Those who attended Jack's talked it over; some soberly and quietly rejected Jack's religion, others laughed openly at him.
He did, however, received some support from his relatives. Toward the end of the year he prevailed upon his two young Femelle cousins and the spouse of one to accompany him to Siletz in order to attend the meetings at the Shaker Church on Swan Street. The women succumbed to the shaking soon after their arrival, and one of them had visions condemning the Yurok opponents of the cult. Her spouse was also converted. Encouraged by these favorable results, Jack invited the Siletz Shakers to a big meeting at Klamath. The Chiloquin people were also notified and asked to lend their support by uniting with an eager group from Siletz. The combined parties arrived at Klamath in several automobiles led by Elder Jackson of the Siletz church.
A meeting of two weeks duration was announced. The salmon cannery at Requa was in operation at the time, and a large number of Indians from other places were collected in the vicinity for the work that it offered. Many of them were attracted to the meetings by the prospect of their novelty, as were the resident Indians who were scattered along the coast near the mouth of Klamath River.
Martha Case was one of the Siletz Shakers who helped to introduce the religion to the Yurok in 1927. During one of the meetings upon that occasion she had a vision of death. After she had recovered from shaking she announced that someone would die before three o'clock in the morning two days hence. It did happen that a white man was drowned sometime during the night that she had designated. The excitement among the Shakers was in consequence so alarming that Elder Jackson felt obliged to dampen their enthusiasm. At the next meeting he warned the Yurok novices against the excesses into which their ardor was likely to lead them. He cautioned that Case's revelation was an unusual manifestation of power. Not everyone should expect it to act that way nor even try to bring it to bear upon such things.
Siletz Shakers Jacob and Sissy Johnson
Other influential Siletz Shakers were Sissy (1859-1931) and Jakie Johnson (1859-1933), Shaker missionaries and ministers living in the northern part of the county. Johnson post office, named for the couple, was at the Parmele place about half a mile up Drift Creek from the mouth of the stream on the east side of Siletz Bay, and about two miles north of Kernville. The office was established March 11, 1899, with George S. Parmele (1853-1930) first and only postmaster. The office was closed May 23, 1903, and what business there was turned over to Kernville. The office was named in compliment of Sissy (1859-1931) and Jakie Johnson (1859-1933), a local Indian couple, well and favorably known. Jakie Johnson is said to have been a Siletz Indian. Sissy Johnson, a Shasta from Northern California, bore the tribal markings of three double lines tattooed on her chin. Among the Southern Oregon tribes Indian women tattooed their chins with three vertical stripes and were dubbed the "one-eleven girls" by non-indians. The ancient Shasta had tattooed the entire chin, and while the Yakonan did not use face markings they tattooed dots on the wrists of their women for strength. Indians of the Willamette Valley (the closest to the Siletz on the east) did not use tattoos. A very light-skinned people, comparatively speaking, the Southern Oregon Chastacosta women also wore chin tatoos. This was not unlike the chin-tattooing tradition of the ancient Libyans. In 1980, Harvard Professor Berry Fell wrote:
"Those Berbers who retained their ancient customs practiced chin-tattooing of the women, who did not wear the veil even though they are now Moslems. The men on the other hand often cover their head and face with a scarf-like cloth, showing only the eyes to strangers."
Indian women of Sissy Johnson's period
white dress habits and were especially fond of hats, shoes and
shirts. One news reporter said, "The Indian women from Siletz
appearance in their Sunday best." He watched the two cultures
on" as it were, however, when blue facial tattoos appeared atop
urban fashions. A more graceful blend resulted when Indian women
their costumes with their own beautiful basketry hand bags. A
and outgoing individual, Sissy Johnson taught local people how
mussels and how to mix ashes and salt to make a cement to patch
and drafts in wood-burning stoves.
The Johnsons held land by patent and part of the town of Taft is on property owned by the pair. Sissy and Jakie Johnson were influential Siletz Shaker missionaries and ministers. The Johnsons, who are both buried at Paul Washington Cemetery on Government Hill in Siletz, were well and favorably known. Jakie’s mother, Susan Johnson, died March 13, 1910, and is buried at Taft Cemetery. The Johnsons operated a general store, once owned by Parmele, for Nelson & Ray of Cloverdale, who built their ocean-going boat, Della. They built their large, two-story home on the hill east of the store at a location near the present Highway 101 and Coast Avenue. They rented rooms and served meals to travelers as there were no other accommodations available. Their estate included many farm buildings.
Later, in 1909, the Mercer family built a home on the bluff facing the ocean just above the store, and operated it as a hotel. In 1974, a new home replaced this landmark.
In 1904, John W. Bones (1884-1970), homesteaded a claim on the Bayfront adjoining the Johnson estate. On January 22, 1906, Taft post office was established with Bones the first postmaster. The post office, named after the pres. William Howard Taft (1857-1930), was located on the north shore of Siletz Bay in the urban strip, which is now Lincoln City.
Bones donated land for the cemetery located above Spanish Head and some time later the pioneers collected money to buy land for the cemetery.
He sold his business in 1910 to William Dodson, who built a new general merchandise store a little farther back from the waterfront. This building, after many renovations and additions, eventually became the Driftwood Nursing Home. The nursing home is no longer in operation but the building still stands.
Umatilla Converts 1906
The Umatilla, near Pendelton, heard
Aiyel's wonderful clairvoyant powers soon after he had convinced
About 1906, a Umatilla man had some property stolen from him,
to apply to the Shakers for assistance in recovering it. The
and Catholics were strongly entrenched on that reservation and
fearful of a trap, so he took Alex Teio, the Yakima Elder, and
other people with him. As in another case, Aiyel's hands led
power, to the hidden place of the stolen goods and the thief's
of the Umatilla were interested, and later a few came to the
and were converted. The Yakima attribute this failure to the
of the local Christian churches.
In 1912, Yakima Shaker Enoch Abraham was asked to come to Pendleton by a Umatilla delegation. He supposed that they wanted him to explain the Shaker faith to them and to offer advice to potential converts. Instead, he found that he had been summoned to an inquisition by the red-skinned Presbyterian elders.
Chapter 50: Indian Western Movement
As religious groups grew, immigration
tribes from outside of the reservation increased from a trickle
1870s to a substantial stream in the next few decades. In 1890
much clerical grumbling. Indians outside the reservation had
Siletz had abundant food and they had come in of their own
seen as a true Indian Western Movement separate from the
the land held for non-indian settlers.
As usual, the alien tribes added their anglicized surnames to the genealogical hodgepodge which still irritated officials, but from the view point of culture this influx, largely from Southern Oregon, brought in ethnic strength. Accomplished basket weavers among them reinforced the quality and increased the volume of work which came from Siletz.
Learning to "Speak the Paper"
Between 1870 and 1890, new groups of
arriving at the Siletz Reservation reasoned that they needed to
about non-indian society and the decided that they must be able
the paper" as a Calapooya (Kait-ka; Tsanh-alokual amin) chief
to written language. The self diagnosis was in agreement with
prescribed school for all Siletz children, and white children of
personnel were in the same school with Indian children.
Indians welcomed education for their children as they knew it would elevate their status in society. Officials publicly expressed benefit from it for the whole community, but their motivation had been prompted by the theory that schooling would weaken lingering tribe alliances.
At any rate, aboriginal youth were confronted with formal education and acquired an early command of English. They bridged the linguistic gap with the help of Chinook jargon in the first years. (The Grand Ronde agent had stated that many children learned to read prior to the move to Siletz—and some to spell "in just a few months.") children helped their elders add English to a vocabulary of Chinook and sign language. The result was Pigeon English and whatever it lacked in polish it made up for in practicality—it was Jargon that was clearly understood. In fact, Indians comprehended more English than they appeared to—at times it was very convenient to ignore a conversation.
Perspective teachers recognized the potential of the children and encouraged adult Indians to continue with their original skills, especially that of basketry. Some firm friendships grew between non-indian teachers and the weavers. One Siletz teacher of the 1920s had her interest perpetuated when her heirs gave her extensive collection of basketry to the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum.
Indian children were good scholars—when they could be persuaded to attend school. When they had been taught reading exclusively they reacted by becoming unmanageable truants. The missionaries had made the mistake of directing reading skills toward Bible studies only. Classes for manual skills had been enthusiastically attended.
Education for aboriginal youth accomplished much of the agents' aims as it resulted in close friendships even though school attendance was erratic. An embryonic community had begun to emerge from the school.
John Upton Terrell wrote that the theory of the agents and the educators sent to reservations by the BIA was basically this:
If Indian children were to be fit to enter white society, the first thing to be done was to remove them from their respective environments. They must be prevented from having any contact with their families for at least four, and preferably six or eight years. They must wear the clothes of white children. All heathen teachings must be driven from their minds. They must be made to forget the songs taught them by their mothers. They must attend Christian services. They must not play Indian games. They must be made to forget everything they knew. They must be forced to think, act and believe as white children. They must be taught to labor, to assume responsibilities, to behave like "civilized" persons. They must be severely punished for infractions of rules. They must be given new instincts. Above all, nothing must be permitted to enter their lives that might remind them of their homes, their parents, their brothers and sisters. The world of the Indian must be forever closed to them.
Education for the adults came slowly. It was a "reeducation" and conducted largely through trial and error. Formal education was especially unacceptable to the men; they resisted any instruction within four walls. (For some it was the first school building they had ever seen). They eagerly accepted outdoor instruction in the use of mechanical tools. Such training was informal and under these conditions traditional antagonists worked peacefully side by side under the supervision of their mutual former enemies.
Siletz School Erected 1857
Agent Robert B. Metcalfe had two main goals in his policy toward "whitemanizing" the Indians. They were self-support and education. Schools did not successfully get started during the Metcalfe administration. Some of the children did, however, attend the two schools at Grand Ronde. The Siletz school was erected in 1857 but the superintendent of Indian affairs, James W. Nesmith, advised that it be abandoned for reasons unknown. Money would seem a likely answer. Even without a school, agent Metcalfe still continued to think about education:
My experience would serve to show that it would be folly in the extreme to attempt to educate them after they arrive at the age of ten years for their habits and superstitions are thoroughly fixed.
Metcalfe recommended the hiring of female
who could teach needlework and garment making.
During the first two years Daniel Newcomb was Siletz's third agent, there were two developments. The first was the reopening of a school. The teacher for 1860 was E. B. Ball. The school was opened in March, but was soon discontinued. Ball noted of the ten to 40 who attended: "seem to possess excellent minds, and exhibit an aptitude to learn not exceeded by white children of the same age."
Southern Oregon Hunting Grounds
The second development occurred in 1862,
of the Rogues were allowed to hunt in their "old hunting
Oregon, if they secured a pass from Newcomb.
Ruby and Brown reflect on the "pass" system on the Alsea and Siletz reservations:
Sometimes agents were ordered by their superiors to limit the number of passes issued to their charges for off-reservation travel. Those who received the permits often overstayed the time limits imposed, and many times the Indians slipped away with no passes at all. Then the military was frequently called on to help return them to confinement. In April 1863, superintendent J. W. Perit Huntington, using the pass system, recovered over 500 Indians from the Willamette Valley alone. He also estimated that up to 300 escapes from the Siletz Agency and the Alsea (which was fragmented from the original Siletz) were scattered from the mouth of the Umpqua to near Crescent City, California, playing an annual hide-and-seek game with authorities. The rationale for their migrations, as for those of so many others, was nonratification of their treaties; they were sent into confinement where they were unable to subsist by themselves. The Upper Umpqua and about half of the Rogues were almost the only Indians of Western Oregon with ratified treaties, and they were shipped off to Oregon reservations to live with Indians of the Oregon Coast whose treaties were still unratified.
Siletz Agent Ben Simpson 1871
In that time before in inauguration of a federal merit system many agency personnel were qualified only by their political connections. Some were dishonest or at best inefficient. They were isolated from governmental scrutiny, which would have been ineffective in any case because of the turmoil and corruption of the Civil War and of the ensuing Reconstruction era. With perhaps more insight than indignation, Siletz agent Ben Simpson in the last annual report, dated October 1, 1871, described the Interior Department-Indian Office complex as "little better than a gigantic circumlocution office, in which everything is done by indirect and circuitous methods." The cursory examination of agencies by government inspectors, which perhaps took place three times yearly, did little to improve their workers. The same isolation that permitted agency personnel great leeway in the conduct of their affairs drove many from the service. Those who remained bickered with Indians and with each other; the ramifications of their quarrels sometimes reached the national capital.
Just a short five years earlier the
effort had been made to keep them from returning, and now they
the privilege. The times had changed and so had the conditions.
known who originated the idea of passes but it was a precedent
years that many Siletz people took advantage of. A few people,
abused the pass privileges. Some of them were at Jacksonville
to return to Siletz. The army had to go after them. On August
Cpt. Seidenstriker arrested Tyee John Chamberlain for
to go south and stay.
William Eugene Kent wrote that some Indian troubles
...required more drastic measures. Chief John, of the Rogue River, and his son, finally had to be sent to Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco because they contributed to "unrest and rebellion." With their chief removed and their numbers dwindling, the spirit of the Rogue River was dissipating.
The tenure of Siletz's fourth agent, B.
R. Biddle (1862-1863), was one
his administration much of the land was enclosed. From the mill
rails, 400 fence posts, 10,820 pickets, and lumber from a
Biddle noted that most of the people had a "great antipathy" for
labor and it was the women who did most of the field work.
Schooling was the main concern with Biddle and he opened the school doors for a further attempt. Margaret Gaines was the schoolmarm and the following was the reason for quitting:
I will close my school now because I feel I am accomplishing nothing, comparatively speaking. I came here feeling a deep interest in my pupils and determining, if possible, to do something to benefit them permanently.
Some of Gaines' problems were lack of parent
and no pupil application and perseverance. Many pupils were
their curiosity only. They did not know what the school was for,
did not know what the pallid people meant by "education," and
naturally, they were unresponsive.
The pupils also naturally reflected the general depression and hardships endured by the residents. Referring to education, the told Gaines "They may not live, and then it is all lost." They did not want to waste their time in school if they were going to die, as so many of them had.
Margaret Gaines was not the only schoolmarm during these years because agent Biddle charged that some of the people who had been teachers "conducted themselves in such an immoral manner as to inspire Indians with contempt." They were there to "gratify their lust" and that the Indians were reluctant to send their older daughters to school because "bad examples have been practiced."
Education in the early years appeared to be going nowhere due to the conditions just mentioned. The school building itself was also enough to discourage any attempt made by teachers and pupils alike. By 1863, due to neglect and disuse, it was in a
dilapidated and filthy condition, destitute of doors and windows, the fence that had been erected around it entirely destroyed; in consequence, it had become a place of refuge for stock.
There were also no cook stoves or fireplace and the few faithful pupils who did attend wore clothes made from flour sacks.
Clarks Initiate the Manual Labor System
Such were the conditions described by
new teacher in 1863, former army captain, J. B. Clark. Along
he labored long and hard repairing the school and instilling an
in the community toward education. Despite the hardships, the
and laid the permanent foundation upon which the Siletz School
They did this by initiating the "manual labor" system. It was a
school concept whereby the pupil lived at the school. Not only
taught reading, writing and arithmetic, but the Indian boys
Clark in planting a garden and learning various vocational
as carpentry, horseshoeing and others. Ms. Clark taught the
"housewifery," which included cooking, sewing, knitting and
All of them were taught the "Christian" version of morals,
Beverly Hungry Wolf is "thumbs up" about her boarding school experience:
I grew up with the taste of wild meat, cooked intestines, and berry soups. I still consider them favorite foods. I never did know of a Blackfeet Indian who was a vegetarian. But I had learned about modern foods and how to pick the good ones from the bad ones. Even at boarding school they taught us about food values. I have heard many critical things said about our boarding schools, and about the nuns that ran them, but I seldom hear anyone pointing out the many good things that we had and learned. A lot of our food was grown in the school's farmyard, where we could watch it. Because it didn't have the personal feeling of our mothers' homemade meals, we tended to make fun of it and dislike it. It was mass-cooked for mass meals of students, but it was basic and nutritious.
However, John Upton Terrell doesn't paint quite as bright a picture:
...in nearly every boarding school there were children of 11 or 12 spending four hours a day in more or less heavy industrial work—dairying, kitchen work, laundry and shop. The work is bad for children of this age, especially children not physically well-nourished; most of it is in no sense educational.
The philosophy behind type of school was starkly expressed by Superintendent Huntington when he wrote that
The hoe and the broad ax will sooner civilize and Christianize them, then the spelling book and Bible.
Some of the pupils seemed to like the
very much. Most of them were under 12 and several were orphans
no other home. Their parents did not like the fact that their
did not live with them any more, and they realized that their
were not learning the tribal languages and customs, and refused
them to school.
William Eugene Kent wrote that in 1897, that the main concern of the people was education, and that
some parents refused to send their children to school, having an "aversion" to education and disliking the personnel troubles which plagued the school. The problem got so bad that the next year agent Buford denied money and rations to some of the parents. In turn, they threatened habeas corpus against him, but the government upheld Buford's actions. The name of the school changed in 1897 to Liberty Industrial School, but that did not seem to help resolve some of the problems.
The older Indians never let a day pass in which they did not voice their opposition to education. They were glad their children were reasonably well treated and provided for, but the conflict in cultural interests between Indians and nonindians was a sore point and still is today among some Indians. The government in the 19th Century was also in the active process of "whitemanizing" the people, and the boarding school was viewed as the fastest and best way of achieving the goal. Will Roscoe wrote:
By the 1920s, education of Indian children had become the government's primary vehicle of assimilation. In 1922, nearly all Indian children were enrolled in government schools; 25 percent or more of off-reservtion boarding schools.
Compulsory education was required at all
although it was not enforced in the early years because of the
of the schools.
Although they succeeded well, comparatively speaking, the Clarks soon left Siletz and moved to Grand Ronde to teach. Their brief tenure helped mark the beginning of a new era for the Siletz people, for in the latter part of the century the people were among the best educated in the state, Indian and non-indian.
Agent Ben F. Simpson largely carried on the progress of his predecessors in self-support and education. He felt that the people needed to realize "that they can by their present labors supply their future wants." To accomplish these goals, 30 families, to begin with, were given a plot to farm, and the school was further developed under the "manual labor" system.
The Siletz school continued to operate to the plan devised by the Clarks:
The scholars are kept in an enclosure six days in the week, cultivated a small tract of land, the boys performing the labor, and the girls needlework, housework ...and at the same time due attention is given to elementary studies.
In 1864 there were 15 pupils. The teacher
year quit because of what he felt was an inadequate salary. L.
and his wife taught in 1866. Below is their description of the
"At present the scholars are compelled to cook, eat, sleep, and
in the same room." Naturally Frazer recommended the schoolhouse
There were only 16 pupils, two of whom died during the year. The
were "apt to learn, and take an interest in their studies." Most
could read and write a little and They were making progress in
When H. R. Dunbar taught in 1867, there were only 11 pupils, and he was discouraged.
Perhaps the most emotional and revealing account of the reservation was written by him in a letter to R. P. Earnhart in 1867. Dunbar confided to his friend that the reservation was a "God-forsaken region" of floods, foul weather, loneliness and employee conflicts on interest and personality. He believed that no one
that thinks anything of his family and that has never stepped in such a hole as this with his family absent from him, can realize what it is to stop in this lonesome, wicked place.
Superintendent Huntington visited Siletz then and he noted that those who have been in the school more than two years,
surprised me much with their progress. They read and spell well; more of them write very well, and they have a knowledge of the rudiments of geography and arithmetic. They were cleanly, tolerably clothed, well behaved, and altogether a credit to themselves and their teacher.
The school was uncomfortable and inadequate, and $,1,500 for a new one and $3,000 per year for "books, stationary, fixtures and pay of the necessary teachers" was recommended.
Simpson Turns Siletz into Day School 1868
Agent Simpson in 1868, however, was forced to change the school from a manual labor system to the day system for two reasons. First, the enrollment rose to nearly 20 pupils and second, he did not receive the needed funds to operate a boarding school with all of its functions. Although the parents provided room and board now, lowering the costs for the BIA, the switch was felt to be a step backward in education because the pupils would now be under the cultural influences of their people and the learning and training would suffer.
During this time (1868) improvements in farming varied among tribes. There were three main farms and a farmer to each one. John Willis at the agency farm reported having erected four new homes there, and planted 1500 apple trees. In contrast was the Rogue River Farm, at which there were few new homes being built, and when the farming was done, the people moved to the hills to hunt. The third farm was for the Chasta Scoton, and was supervised by Royal A. Bensell in 1865. It had 11 frame and four log homes and some barns and fencing. There were 75 acres of oats, which yielded 2,175 bushels, 15 acres of meadow, which yielded 39 tons of hay, and 100 acres of potatoes for 2,500 bushels. The Chasta Scoton were "generally contented, and desire to improve and cultivate their land." Agent Simpson claimed that the Indians under his charge seemed
quite well satisfied to remain at this home, and to work with a will and determination to secure a livelihood by their own labor... A spirit of rivalry and competition seems to be increasing among them—a powerful inclination to exertion, and ever conducive to success.
By 1869 Simpson felt that the people were "unusually docile" and that agriculturally it was the most extensive year, even despite the fact that most of the potato crop was lost, due to the frost.
20th Century Tourists Demand "Genuine" Indian Crafts
In spite of educational progress the
of white economy of the last two decades of the 19th Century
Indians. The 1880s and early 1890s were lean years for all
These years were followed by an era of prosperity which extended
first two decades of the 20th Century and directly affected the
of aboriginal basketry.
White travelers had become "tourists" who acquired small souvenirs and gift items for out-of-state friends. "Genuine Indian crafts" were in demand and the quality of the Siletz basket work was saluted as the most desirable Native memento of Western Oregon.
Collectors from the Willamette Valley accumulated impressive numbers of fine baskets through purchase or barter (a popular practice before WWI). The subtly toned little artifacts blended well with heavy Oriental wicker furniture, intricate wood carvings and rich lacquer of the true collectors of the time. They supplied textural contrasts against delicate ivory fans and embroidered silks which filled handsome display cabinets, turning many homes into small museums of fine art crafts.
Until this time bartering in basketry
been for traditional trade goods, i.e., food, leather, horses,
barter was the only kind completely eradicated). Now, the
demand the white's money or their fascinating white wardrobes.
from both Grand Ronde and Siletz brought their wares directly to
centers. A department store merchant in Corvallis tried to buy
but the Indians would not sell. They wanted clothing rather than
He then offered to barter new clothing for the baskets and was
The Indians preferred to trade their baskets to white women in
for attractive garments which had taken their fancy.
A weaver's persistence to acquire some special garment was a matter of legend. A story was told in 1975 by a Corvallis collector, Mary Julian Goldblatt. She and her mother had walked to the Indian encampment near the hop fields along the Willamette to obtain a basket. Her mother examined several and finally chose a very large spruce basket which was nicely decorated. When she asked the weaver what she wanted for the basket, the Indian woman said "your dress." The surprised white woman tried offering the weaver a very high price—raising the first price several times—but she received no answer whatsoever except a bright smile. Finally, the customer stepped behind a bush, took off her dress and returned home on foot in her petticoat and duster happily carrying the huge basket. The small daughter was much embarrassed by her mother's behavior—but the weaver was triumphant over her new dress.
Cherished Heirloom Dress Returns Home
I love to tell stories to children, old stories handed down from generation to generation. Funny stories about Ikotome, the smart-ass spiderman, scary stories about ghosts, sad stories about maidens dying of love, brave-heart stories about Sioux warriors counting coup in battle. Such tales keep our spirits and language alive. --Lame Deer, 1968
The richness of her Native American
comes alive in the storytelling of Mitzi
Shoemake of Newport.
Shoemake has memorized material from a book of Native American legends and stories, especially adapted for young people. She hopes to install a cultural awareness in her children.
Performing before a captivated audience of young and old alike, her long black braids intertwined with leather things and milk pelts given to her by her uncle, Clayton Lane, Shoemake wears the original ceremonial dress her great-grandmother, Minnie Louie Lane (1863-1950), wore 75 years ago (1910).
Minnie Louie Lane was a member of the Chetco tribe of Southern Oregon, and was removed to the Siletz Reservation sometime between 1863 and 1900.
The fringed buckskin dress, buff in color, is artfully embellished with wampum, cowie shells, brass buttons and bells and multi-colored glass trading beads.
"Merchant ships from Italy brought barrels of beads and other trade goods to Fort Astoria," said Shoemake, who has been studying tribal history since she received the treasured family dress.
"In 1883 a trading post called Sutler's Store was opened in Siletz," she said. "Beads and other items from overseas ports made their way from Astoria to outlets on Indian Reservations."
But the family relic, which has an interesting history of its own, did not pass with smooth succession into Shoemake's hands.
"It took a strong Indian woman to keep up with the demands of white culture," Shoemake pointed out.
In the 1920s, Lane sold her buckskin dress to Leo Bateman, a Toledo businessman and collector of Indian artifacts.
"Father gave it to me for my 16th birthday," said Bateman's daughter, Jean Sherwood, who operates an antique store in Toledo. "He paid $100 for it. At that time, that was almost enough money to buy a house."
Sherwood displayed the garment from time to time and in 1980 it was exhibited in the museum at Georgia-Pacific's headquarters.
"I had known about the existence of the dress for years," said Shoemake, "and when I heard it was on exhibit in Portland, I went up there to look at it. I admired it," she said, "but never thought for a moment it would ever be mine."
Fate would dictate otherwise. In 1984, on her 30th birthday, her husband, Burl Shoemake, fulfilled her dream.
"When I opened the box and saw the dress, I just broke down and cried," she said. Present at the celebration was her mother, Pauline Peterson, and her grandmother, Bertha Lane, both of Salem, who were equally overjoyed to see the family treasure return home.
"I want to learn all I can about my Indian heritage and share it with others," Shoemake said. "I grew up knowing very little about my culture, and so did my mother."
"Scott I. Lane, my grandfather, was more in touch with his roots when he was growing up and knew how to hew a canoe from a log," she said. "He had other traditional skills as well. My grandfather, who was Minnie Louie Lane"s youngest son, did the stone work for the ceremonial fireplace on Government Hill, and the one that is still standing where the Indian agency used to be."
With hindsight and foresight now blending together, Shoemake concluded: "That kind of special knowledge and skill needs to be kept alive for future generations."
Chief Hoxie Simmons Serves on Election Board 1907
Their new, relative affluence turned
interest of Indian men towards local government. They were urged
as full citizens and to form and use their own voting districts.
issue of the Lincoln County Leader, March 9, 1893, reported an
consisting of a judge and two associates. The Indians had also
own election boards. In 1907 Tyee Hoxie Simmons (1872-1963) was
as serving on the election board as its Republican
it was common to find Indian judges and clerks listed in the
An Indian police force of was headed by a non-indian officer; a separate force of each of the three sections of the reservation. In once incident Indian police brought a white man to headquarters who had refused to leave at nightfall. He was expelled after explaining that he had an Indian wife and was looking for another one:
Once upon a time, a white man came on the reservation about noon and stopped at a Indian house, in sight of and within a mile of the agency, whither the Indians tried to get him to go, but he refused; so, when it was dark, the Indian, fearing that the man was after no good, gave notice to the police, whereupon he was arrested and in the absence of the agent, brought to headquarters, and not being able to give a satisfactory reason for his conduct was, by the chief of police, ordered taken out, given his breakfast and sent under escort of a Indian policeman, off the reservation. While on his way he confessed that his object was to get a squaw for a wife and live among the Indians; that he had one squaw wife and wanted another.
Bensell reflects on tribal law:
A murderer or criminal of any kind, either male or female, can pay a specified remuneration and lose nothing in standing. If the culprit is poor and unable to pay, then his or her tribe foots the bill. If a married woman is caught in an act of impropriety and she acknowledges the same, the outraged spouse must be paid damages, and if the gay lady denies any charges against her character, the tribe assemble, have a trial, and if circumstances are against our lady she is burned with coals until she confesses, divulging the name of her paramour.
Indians were proud civic participants, and
entered into cultural events with enthusiasm. A Siletz Club was
in 1912, which sponsored a variety of activities, sometimes
for Indians, such as "The Indians of '56." On occasion Indians
musical entertainment for the entire community.
The Indians' love of mimicry made them naturals for dramatic productions and they joined white members of the community on the stage. Their broad humor included poking fun at themselves during this time because of an ethnologist's study. When the Indians were again interviewed during the 1930s by anthropologist Homer G. Barnett, they teased each other about the sessions and laughed about "going to school." This humor exposed an unfortunate paradox: it cast doubt on information from native informants who had been approached to help salvage a fading cultural history, and it correspondingly weakened the scholastic effort.
Will Roscoe, author of the Zuni Man-Woman sheds some light on aboriginal attitudes that "weakened the scholastic effort":
There is an old joke that the typical
household consists of a mother, father, children, and an
In fact, the Zuni are one of the most written-about tribes in
Anthropologists have been joined by writers and poets, artists
of the arts, and political and social reformers of every stripe,
whom sought and found in Zuni and Pueblo Indian cultures a model
preserved and even copied....
It was a genuine disappointment, then, that I came to realize how often the impact of these outsiders on the objects of their fascination had been disruptive and detrimental. Despite their admiration of the Pueblo, early anthropologists more often bolstered the image of the vanishing Indian than challenged it. As historian Curtis Hinsley II, had pointed out, theirs was a legacy of both knowledge and annihilation. The bitterness that many Zuni feel toward countless investigators who have dissected their society is apparent from comments and actions recorded in a variety of sources, but most of all, in the work of anthropologist Triloki Pandey, who had devoted particular attention to the history of inter-cultural relations at Zuni. "Why are you studying us?" one Zuni demanded to know when Pandey first arrived in the 1960s. "Why not study those white people... who treated us like dogs?" And another asked, "Are we still so primitive that you anthropologists have to come to study us every summer?"
By the end of the Depression years, men from the tribes increased their political activity. Tribal leaders conferred with state senators on matters concerning their area. At least one Indian joined the male leaders in meetings held at Chemawa concerning Indian affairs. One Indian politician was the leader of a local orchestra, The warriors, and another became a well-known popular singer for the college radio station.
Savages in Tall Feather Bonnets 1923
Although Indian activities had
in the incorporation of a Lincoln County Fair, 4-H clubs, and
of a coastal baseball league, public images of the "redskins"
even in Western Oregon. The "savage-in-tall-feather-bonnet"
image was a
holdover from the 1890s when Fourth of July war dances featured
Indians" and garnish "Indian" shows complete with "tribes of
and Comanche." Such shows must have amused local Indians much as
cream posters bearing a picture of a bonneted Indian perched on
enjoying a cone had amused them. Occasionally the "savage" image
Members of one tribe who were attending a fair in Dallas decided
a joke on another tribe encamped at the far edge of town. They
tribe of "hostiles" and rode en masse yelling and whooping the
Main Street. The prank caught a group of visiting dignitaries in
of the mounted "raid" who panicked, leaving the embarrassed
up the redskins" and restore the dignity of their guests.
The Siletz neither looked nor behaved like the Indians of the dime Westerns any more than they behaved like the noble Indians of the popular novels. They were neither ignorant nor lazy as a people—and they did not "vanish." They had retained some naivete but were largely realistic and capable of surviving in a white washed world.
I’m not angry at any particular white man. You know, as they say, "some of my best friends are white." But I’m sure angry at the white man's system he has imposed on us. Rod Skenandore, Seneca
The Indians looked with clear insight
non-indian society. They admired modern conveniences by the
their dreams of living as white women did. They had detected
and laziness among white women and sometimes showed their
terms. There is a story of a Klamath woman whose spouse
intoxicated on liquor. Whenever he negotiated his uncertain way
doorstep of his house, he was pushed back outside. His
wife then recited in very loud English, "You go. You no good. No
come here. White woman good enough for you!"
Indian women were disconcerting in their manner of approaching townswomen. They and their small children would walk, smiling and silent, through back doors of the kitchens where they sought work, unaware that such an unannounced entrance usually startled white women. With the same openness they would closely examine the strange color and texture of the clothing of any white woman or child, noting every detail for possible use in future bartering.
Any clothing which had been inadvertently hung on a yard fence or spread out on the ground near a gate was interpreted by many Indian women as a sign that the clothing was of no further use to the white family and therefore the property of whomever might want it. When Yaquina Bay settlers realized that the custom was not thievery, they left garments and bedding or rugs on the fences as gifts for their aboriginal neighbors.
These same customs were observed along Newport Bay where Indian women made regular rounds to clean or do laundry or to trade baskets full of fish or fern-covered ripe wild berries for household items and clothing. The weavers valued their bartering skills second only to their weaving.
The women yearned for face creams, perfumes, and hair dye and believed that cosmetics contained magic which made white women "beautiful." They quickly progressed from awe to bartering with baskets for the desired cosmetics. They often included combs and hair fasteners in the bargaining.
These Indian women might justifiably have resented hackneyed slander against them for a lack of fastidiousness. It is true that early explorers noted neatly combed hairstyles, decorative costumes and enthusiastic bathing in the stream at dawn, but they seldom recorded any effort toward "daintiness" within an Indian home. (Few recorded the custom of passing a basket of water after a meal to allow the men to wash their hands). Descriptions were usually limited to ritual cleansings and "prayer" plunges. As a matter of common fact, Indians loved water and their enjoyment was habitual rather than occasional.
Beverly Hungry Wolf discusses the personal hygiene of her grandmothers:
My grandmothers kept themselves clean, as well as neatly dressed, according to early writings and stories that have been passed on. During warm weather they generally bathed each day in a part of the nearby lake or stream that was set aside for their privacy. Usually they waited until their morning work was done and most of the men were gone hunting. While they had their dresses off they usually cleansed them using cakes of white clay and scraping them with rough pieces of stone. Usually they washed their hair at the same time, just with cold water, though sometimes they washed it by their lodge with a special brew of herbs and scents if they wanted it extra clean, pleasant-smelling, or rid of lice and dandruff, neither of which was common. In the wintertime women cleaned themselves occasionally with a sweat bath.
Drying and Tanning Odiferous Processes
Indian household activities made cleanliness
anglicized standards inappropriate as they included drying and
of fish and meats and the tanning of leathers and furs. The
included the use of odiferous solutions of barks, human urine,
animal dung and wood ashes in large volumes, and the components
resulted in such effective tans and dyes) reached an intolerable
by white men’s standards. It should be noted, however, that
Beverley Hungry Wolf noted that in her grandmothers' days an Indian woman was judged by the way her tanning looked:
A good tanner was considered an industrious woman, while a bad tanner was considered lazy. I guess they figured that if a woman couldn't tan well then she couldn’t do much else well, either. This was back in the days when leather was a basic article in the daily life of the people.
Hungry Wolf described the process among the Bloods:
Rawhide articles are best made from
of buffalo and, more recently, beef. The first step is to
which was most often done by staking it out on the ground, hair
with Tipi stakes. A fleshing tool is used to remove all the fat
of meat that are clinging to the hide. A knife can be used for
not as conveniently. This job requires more strength and skill.
thing to watch for is not to cut into the hide while removing
After the hide is fleshed, it was usually left to dry and bleach
sun for several days. Sometimes warm water was poured over the
during this time. Next, the cleaned side of the hide is scraped
an even surface with a tool that looks like an adze. The hide
thick if it is going to stay as rawhide, or it can be made quite
it is going to be soft-tanned. For this work, the dried hide can
down or it can be brought into a sun shelter and just laid on a
When the flesh side is scraped completely, the hide is turned over so that the hair can be removed. This used to be done with the same tool, and the same method as the flesh side. More recently. Women have taken the hides, at this point, and allowed them to soak in a washtub or barrel of water. There were no barrels in the past, though some women let their hides soak in a stream or lakeshore. However, dogs and coyotes have a bad habit of dragging such hides away... The water softens the hide after a couple of days, so that the hair can be pulled out by hand, instead of with a scraper. If the hair is removed in this way, the hide much be stretched out again to dry. Then it is rawhide...
To soften a rawhide, it is first laid on the ground and worked all over with a greasy mixture. In the past this was most commonly made of animal fat mixed with mashed brains and liver... This mixture is first worked into the hide with the hands, then it is rubbed in with a smooth stone so that the heat distributes it into all the pores. When the hide has been worked this way completely, then it is moistened again with warm water and rolled up to dry. After it has been left to dry for a time, it is again moistened... As it dries once again, it is scraped all over with a rough-edged stone... Alternately, the hide is pulled back and forth through a loop of rawhide or thick, twisted sinew. The friction from this rubbing causes heat for drying and also turns the hide whiter. The rough stone is used to give the hide and even, grainy appearance.
Vanilla Leaf Pallets
Another housekeeping custom not usually reported was the renewal of sleeping mats. A counterpart to the non-indian ritual of "spring cleansing," Indian women gathered cured fragrant evergreen bough tips, dried fragrant grasses, mosses and ferns which they piled thickly between newly woven rush or reed mats to form soft pallets. From some shaded forest areas "vanilla" (Achlys triphylla) leaves could be gathered and dried and these especially sweet smelling plants were added. Beds thus prepared were aromatic and "forest-like." (The weavers also gathered sweet "nashsdik" or "Yerba-buena" (Micromeria chamissonis) to tie in their hound hair).
Onto Sturdy Backs of Indian Women
It is somewhat understandable that non-indians failed to recognize fastidiousness in the incredible Indian women who performed such heavy physical labor. The burden of men's aversion to physical exertion was often transferred onto the sturdy backs of Indian women. There were recorded instances of Indian women being used in lieu of pack animals. Bensell wrote:
The government had even built a grist mill inside the agency, and then let it rot. If the Indians wanted flour, they had to tramp across the mountains to Kings Valley to get it at Rowland Chamber's mill. More than one squaw carried 100 pounds of flour back home over the rugged hills.
Here, as elsewhere, the women do all the hard work and are really the "hewers of wood and the drawers of water," and old squaws will carry an incredible load. Last winter, Litchfield & Company hired squaws to pack flour to Fort Yamhill from Kings Valley, distance 35 miles, over an awful road. Each squaw carried her two sacks, weighting 50 pounds each! When loaded heavily, whether in numbers of singly, they chant a monotonous or melancholy tune, really saddening to hear.
The compensation for this unwieldy feat was the meager wages offered by white men.
The Clam Diggers of Yaquina Bay
These same strong women were patient
diggers of the tribes. They worked the mud-flats and smoked
clams, threading them onto hazel switches which they tied in
hang above the indoor fire areas. The procedure was common to
Takelma and Salish whose lifestyles were all sea-oriented and
treks regularly to favored inlets.
Food gathering had been difficult at first for Southern Oregon Indians who, although effective riverine harvesters, had preferred their warm woca bed marshes and warm water lakes. The absence of Southern Oregon acorns and pinion nuts was a painful loss. They gathered hazel nuts but they could not replace sweet acorn meal which had been the mainstay of their diet. (Alsea Indians used inland acorns which they ground and added in small amounts of salmon eggs, but the nuts were too bitter to use in quantity). Within a short time Southern Oregon women located the camas meadows (ithwe) upstream on Alsea River. They had also learned to steam skunk cabbage roots as the north coast Indians did. Southern Oregon Indians shifted food forays from nut groves to the seashore where all of the tribes shared the same fine fishing.
Burden baskets remained essential for foraging and food storage, and when basketry cooking pots and bowls were set aside in favor of clay pots and metal pans, the baskets were claimed by appreciative collectors.
World War I Interrupts Basket Industry
Basket weaving was interrupted as WWI
Indians either in the armed forces or in the fields working to
raw materials for their country. The men were joined by the
pursuits, leaving only a few behind to practice ancient skills.
war ended the men returned to go on to trade schools and some of
chose to pursue illustrative job opportunities as well. A few
with the weavers to harvest forest fibers.
Indian women worked diligently but they had limited exposure to the world of pallid people beyond the homes in which they worked. They understood little of social changes such as Woman Suffrage, although feminists like Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915) were actively struggling for its materialization. The labor laws affecting females which had been passed in 1911 had little effect on white women except in urban areas, and no effect on Indian women. The weavers could not visualize a concept of a ten hour work day or a 60 work hour week. For them their demanding craft had begun to bring in some income and social recognition, and these had to be compensations enough for the long hours.
Indians enjoyed their former social life for a few uncomplicated years following WWI. Remnants of tribes gathered in 1929 for a potlatch campfire feast 25 miles upriver—where the grandson of a chief had the food baked trench-style for the occasion. About 150 Indians attended (largely from the Coos Bay and Lower Umpqua areas).
Such opulence grew thin, however, as economic depression thickened—for Coastal Indians as far all Oregonians—by the early 1930s. Men left home to find work and had little time to assist the weavers who produced fewer, and smaller, baskets. Fibers were scarce and customers wanted less expensive baskets.
The acquisition of fiber itself became critical. The spruce mill at Toledo had supplied material for aircraft prior to 1918 and had depleted the prime spruce stands, forcing the weavers to travel further from the reservation for material. As basketry sales dropped the women went back into the domestic labor force.
Economic depression destroyed a strong incentive to weave. A good market might have encouraged young Indian women but they had also been exposed to colorful magazines and the reflected glitter of Hollywood. They were smitten with "escapism" as all other youths of the era, wanting pretty clothing and above all, not to go "backward." They hunted work, bought bright lipstick, had their long dark hair cut, and in general irritated their grandmothers who warned that the young ones were becoming "as worthless as white girls."
Older, dedicated basket weavers surmounted the upsetting social climate and continued their satisfying, enduring craft. They again took orders, combed forests in early autumn, wove the fibers in winter, and delivered the baskets in the spring. They disposed of any surplus basketry near Willamette Valley campsites as they labored in the summer crops.
Even then, the weavers did not limit their production to one or two of the most popular basket types. Artistic sensitivity remained healthy, and they eliminated most of their early non-indian design experiments. Some traditional baskets had disappeared long before the 1930s: weapon cases, war dance baskets, fishing weirs (steel wire had become a convenient substitute for hand-woven cord). Others, including women's hats, wedding baskets and prayer baskets had become rarities.
World War II
Indians were occupied with trades, and
and a life in peacetime seemed promising, when, once again, the
was involved in global war.
Willamette Valley hop fields closed in deference to wartime agriculture. This was a major loss of revenue to the Indians according to historians Robert Ruby and John Brown:
A major place of employment for Indians from all over the Pacific Northwest and as far north as Alaska was the hop fields. In September 1890, for instance, 98 canoe loads of the once-feared Alaskan natives—their fierceness lessened by missionary efforts—came down to pick hops in the Puyallup Valley. From around 1865, when the first field north of California was planted, the hop industry boomed, creating a labor shortage and forcing growers to recruit Indians to do the picking. In late summer and early autumn they moved in large numbers to fields in the Willamette, Puyallup, and Yakima valleys. One observer wrote,
These Sound Indians go in the old
in canoes, taking along whole families—men, women, and children,
chickens, guns, fishing lines, gambling utensils, and every
luxury and article of property incident in Indian life.
Natives of the interior staked their horses at various inland stations and boarded the trains of the Northern Pacific Railroad (which first crossed the Cascade Mountains in 1887) for the ride to the Puyallup hop fields.
The exodus of the natives caused ambivalent feelings among their agents. The officials were relieved that their charges could earn money to ease their subsistence problems. At the same time they worried about the adverse influences to which the Indians were exposed in the fields. Drinking and gambling there could send them home penniless. During picking times Indian schools were emptied of pupils—a situation that continued into the 20th Century, when mechanical devices obviated the need for hand labor. When school was not kept on the Yakima Reservation during the 1895 season, and reservation life was disrupted, whites sneaked sheep to graze on the southern edge of the confine. In 1889 whites burned a Quileute village while the later were away picking hops. Because of hop picking, other white employers of Indians were hard pressed to secure their services. Wages in the hop fields varied with the times. Around 1890 pickers earned $1.00 per 100 pounds. In the Yakima Valley, to which much of the hop raising shifted, nonreservation Indians demanded 25 cents more per box than the whites had bargained for. They were influenced by their leaders, So-Happy and Columbia Jack, who sensed that whites would rather "stand a gentle squeeze than run any risks."
Around the turn of the century and up until 1912 a remnant of Nez Perceé from the Coville Reservation journeyed to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia to pick hops through arrangements with the Canadian government.
In search of employment during WWII,
men and women moved toward Portland shipyards or into wheat
of the Cascade Mountains. At least 18 volunteers joined the
Siletz; one of them an Indian woman. Large groups of citizens
to serve wartime crops and weavers tended Victory Gardens and
fruits and berries.
Considering their status as a conquered people, Ruby and Brown commented on the Indian community's attitude towards military service:
By WWII the opposition of the Indian community to their young serving in the American armed forces had all but disappeared. Examples of Indian valor in that conflict are many. Two will suffice. A Spokane Indian, Louie Adrian, died a few feet from the top of Mount Surabachi so that the American flag could be raised there. Walter Lawyer, a descendent of the chief lawyer who was severely wounded by Blackfeet, died in 1945 from wounds sustained in Germany. The war drew many Indians to Pacific Northwestern cities to face for the first time the complexities of urban life. Some sought escape from the alienation suffered there by returning to their reservations in hopes of finding security among their people on the land.
World War II relegated basket weaving to the background and the little artifacts to shelves or cardboard boxes in closets and attics. However, a few of the baskets had begun to assume a new importance in Oregon museums and as the displays were largely from local private collections, some could be cataloged. This was the beginning of recognition of the basketry as an authentic artifact rather than as a curio.
Siletz Weavers Listed in Yellow Pages 1950
After the war, the weavers sought
through a modern method: they advertised "in the Yellow Pages."
as 1950 three weavers were listed in the Directory of Lincoln
delivered baskets in person, making regular stops at places
art had been well received before. Perversely enough, economics
against basket weaving about this time because some members of
had received payments stemming from an unratified 1855 treaty.
windfall lasted not many baskets were woven. As the money was
the baskets reappeared on the market.
Types of baskets had narrowed to several popular ones: round baskets with double handles, shallow baskets with no handles, infant cradles, wall hangings and small novelties. In general, the sizes had stabilized in the middle range. Personal names or initials were frequently requested by collectors as decorative motifs. Occasionally, flower and butterfly designs reappeared.
Some collectors evolved from a stance of buyer-holder to collector-seller. They became commercially astute brokers who merchandised the baskets for the weavers, until the Indian women realized that they were being exploited by greedy middle-men. Disillusioned, the weavers retaliated by reverting to direct marketing.
OSU Extension Service Offers Basket Weaving (1961-1966)
Between 1961 and 1966, special
agents from Oregon State University attempted to organize
in the town of Siletz and to set up reliable commercial outlets.
was to encourage young Weavers to take up the craft and supply a
for underemployed Indian women. Additionally, the educators
the classes would revive a dying skill.
But fibers were scarce due to mechanical land clearing and weed-spraying which damaged hazel bush growth. The ancient practice of brush burning which had brought about strong, straight regrowth, had been outlawed.
However, although problems of supply were important, the primary stumbling block to the project was a lack of enthusiasm among young Indian women who saw no vital reason to take up the skill. Even though market prices for finished baskets were high, weaving required many painstaking hours for little monetary return. And basket weaving was still too close to traditional ways.
The well-intentioned effort was premature. A sympathetic social atmosphere necessary for ethnic cultural promotion was several years away and contemporary social forces proved stronger than artificial economic stimuli.
The fact that basket weaving had prospered in the past remains a tribute to the adaptability of the weavers, and the tenacious hold that a true cultural artifact has on aboriginal life. Baskets from Siletz have consistently reflected elements of the Indians' changing lifestyle.
This generation may see a renewal of appreciation for the Siletz epilogue in aboriginal art. But, in an era of minimum wage controls, the discipline to twined weaving and native fiber must be undertaken only as a labor of love. It is unlikely to survive simply as a captive craft to provide treasures for tourists—unless a solid respect for its worth as art remains uppermost.
The passing of true aboriginal basketry is regrettable, but it may be thought of as a special spirit which has gone to join the Old Ones.
The Remnant 1938
Sixty years ago, the population on the
Reservation (population 1,117) was composed of Cayuse (Wailetpu)
Perceé, and Wallawalla tribes, with many full-bloods and
all of whom speak the Nez Perceé language. Wasco, Tenino,
with a combined population of 1,140, were chiefly concentrated
Springs Reservation. Klamath, Yahuskin, Snake (Walpapi), Shasta
River (Archomawi), with a combined population of 1,201, were
the Klamath Reservation. Rogue River, Chetco, Tillamook and
tribal remnants, with a combined population of 1,140, dwell on
Reservation. In addition there were 2,220 Indians living on the
domain, including an independent Paiute village a few miles
north of Burns.
The Indians living on reservations in 1938 dressed in much the same way as their non-indian neighbors, lived in the same kind of houses, and carried on the same domestic and industrial pursuits. Their native handicrafts which are enjoying revival as the century nears its end, included tanning and decorating skins, basketry, beadwork on buckskin, and the manufacture of cornhusk bags and mats. Each reservation was served by Christian church mission schools or by the state's public school system, the only government schools for Indians being on the Warm Springs Reservation and at Chemawa near Salem.
Chemawa Indian School
In the post-Civil War era of
and economic dreams, the presence of idealistic reformers may
strange. On the other hand, the American system had yet to be
internal doubts. Consequently, these reformers, like many other
held their society in such high esteem that they developed an
attitude toward cultures that they responded to other values.
this type of evangelistic fervor, the reformers stood a good
succeeding. By the late 1870s they had begun their campaign.
The first extensive federal funding of Indian education was stimulated by the efforts of Richard Henry Pratt (1840-1924), the US Army captain who in 1879 founded Carlisle Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Cpt. Pratt's most important contribution was to convince the public that the Indian was educable. Pratt, who was born in Rushford, New York, remained head of this school until he retired in 1904.
The success of Carlisle, which was acknowledged by a large congressional appropriation in 1882, led to the sudden expansion of off-reservation industrial boarding schools. Those that were to have the longest life spans included Chemawa in Oregon (1880); Albuquerque in New Mexico (1884); Chilcocco in Oklahoma (1884); Santa Fe (Institute of American Indian Arts) in New Mexico (1890); Carson (Stewart) in Nevada (1890); Phoenix in Arizona (1890); Pierre in South Dakota (1891); and Flandreau in South Dakota (1893). By the turn of the 20th Century, 25 off-reservation industrial boarding schools had opened.
Founded at Forest Grove 1880
Founded in 1880 at Forest Grove, as
Industrial Training and Normal School, Chemawa is the oldest
boarding school in the US. The first students to arrive were 18
children, brought by steam engine to the campus of Pacific
Once there the children had to literally build their own school
and dormitories. In the early years the students included not
but sometimes entire families.
In 1885, the US government moved the school to a site named Chemawa on the Southern Pacific railroad line north of Salem. Indian students and staff not only built the buildings, but worked in hop fields to buy the first acreage on which the school was located. Known at first as the Salem Indian Training School, it soon became known simply as the Chemawa Indian School.
That year, six Siletz students went to Chemawa. In 1886, one Siletz Indian girl graduated from Chemawa. By 1888, 22 students were at Chemawa. The best students were sent to school there in order to receive better training and education. A few Siletz students went to Eastern schools. In April 1898, Andrew Chetco, for example, arrived at the Indian School in Kansas. In 1894, five Students went to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Joseph F. Adams (1874-1898), the son of Nettie Newton (1855-1889) and Methodist lay preacher Rev. John Adams (1847-1928), was a graduate of both Chemawa and Carlisle. Stanley Orton (1904-1925), who is buried at Logsden, was also a graduate of the school.
The name "Chemawa" may have origins in the language of the aboriginal peoples who lived in this region of the Willamette Valley. Some scholars claim that the name referred to a part of the river where there were deposits of gravel, providing a place to cross. Others believe that the name meant "happy home."
The Indians living on reservations in 1938 dressed in much the same way as their non-indian neighbors, lived in the same kind of houses, and carried on the same domestic and industrial pursuits. Their Native handicrafts which are enjoying revival as the century nears its end, included tanning and decorating skins, basketry, beadwork on buckskin, and the manufacture of cornhusk bags and mats. Each reservation was served by Christian church mission schools or by the state's public school system, the only government schools for Indians being on the Warm Springs Reservation and at Chemawa near Salem.
At the time of termination, a roll was made in Chemawa, filed June 22, 1956. It was accepted as the official role of the Siletz and totaled 935. Since that time, it has not been updated. A generation of Siletz was not identified on any tribal roll because of this policy.
Today Chemawa is a four-year high school fully accredited by the Oregon State Department of Education and the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. It is guided by the Chemawa Indian School Board which represents and supports the interests of the students and their parents and encourages the involvement of tribal leaders in the school program. A student council is elected each year by the students and its members are encouraged to participate in decisions affecting the entire school.
The school’s agriculture and horticultural programs and the Chemawa Farm have received enthusiastic support from the Students and the local community. In a few short months the farm has acquired several head of cattle, horses, pygmy goats, rabbits and chickens. Long range plans include a riding facility, rodeo club and expanded classes in environmental education.
The spirit of Chemawa is in learning about aboriginal traditions within an inter-tribal setting. The students represent dozens of tribes from 17 Western states and Alaska, bringing many talents and great diversity to the school. That diversity is exemplified in the artistry of murals decorating walls throughout the campus. Required course work includes classes on aboriginal literature and history. Many students participate in dancing and drumming or take classes or special courses in the arts of beadwork, leather, and drum making.
One of the most important lessons Chemawa students can experience is learning to honor their elders. From elders to recent graduates, alumni come great distances year after year to attend the Pow Wows organized by Chemawa students as well as the annual graduation ceremonies.
Chemawa has always been a gathering place to discuss important tribal matters. By the end of the Depression years, men and women from the tribes increased their political activity. Tribal leaders conferred with state senators on matters concerning their area. Minnie Louie Lane attended with Louis Klamath, Archie Ben, Hoxie Simmons and Hawley Catfish joined in meetings held at Chemawa concerning Indian Affairs. Local and national chapters of the DAR provided generous support of Chemawa, including educational materials for the library, personal items for students and funding to support various projects and activities.
Siletz Reservation Revisited 1873
When Gen. Sheridan returned to Siletz for a visit, he paid a visit to the Indians, and the following is what he found:
When I saw them, 15 years later, transformed into industrious and substantial farmers, with real homes, fine cattle, wagons and horses, carrying their grain, eggs and butter to market and bringing home flour, coffee, sugar and calico in return...
However, two years earlier, in 1871, Joel Palmer found Indians on the Siletz
living in rude huts, eating bad fish, suffering from social diseases, and generally in a worsened condition than when they first came there 16 years before.
It was Ruby and Brown's assessment
was "describing what approached the norm for such places."
In terms of overall assessment of the Siletz Reservation, it can be termed a success in its aims of “whitemanizing" or having the people adopt new lifestyles; and the reservation was successful in making most of the residents self-sufficient to meet their basic needs by the end of the 19th Century.
The reservation was not, however, without its scandals, misery, fighting and general vices and turmoil which was so tragically characteristic of Indian affairs. These problems were, however, limited to a small period of time. Physically, the reservation was very large and was not one of the infamous "desert" reservations. Even though the climate leaves something to be desired, Siletz is livable and undoubtedly many Indians found it to their liking.
Most of the social problems at Siletz and other reservations reflect the conditions of the reservation itself. With their Old Ways destroyed, supplemented with the poor conditions of reservation life, many people turned to drinking, drugging, and socially aberrant behavior. The lowering of moral standards—through contact with non-indians—was also a tragic part of the early reservations.
One hundred years later, in 1973, AIM leader Dennis Banks wrote that before the American Indian Movement,
there were more suicides among Indians than among any other racial group in the US. Young people drank themselves to death and sniffed glue. They lived in despair. They wore neckties and cut their hair short trying to look like white men. They were ashamed to be Indian. They were ashamed of their language and their Indian ways. At Wounded Knee they became warriors again and began feeling good about themselves, feeling good about being Sioux, and Cheyenne, Ojibway, Navajo, Cree, Iroquois, Saulteaux, and Nisqually. They put on red face paint, let their hair grow, and proudly wore their ribbon shirts and angry hats. They called themselves "Skins" and stopped being whitemanized welfare recipients. Under fire they learned to respect themselves once more and, after almost one hundred years, they were ghost-dancing again. Even if AIM had not achieved anything else, it would have fulfilled its job.
One area which the BIA had little
in was employment. For reasons already indicated, reservations
employment. The people raised their own food and constructed
homes, but they could not be totally self-sufficient until they
a living, thus separating themselves from government welfare.
the reservation, but to do so meant to break ties with friends
and enter a tribe of people who did not look like themselves and
were unfriendly. The isolation of a place like Siletz, coupled
unity common to a despised racial group that is a minority in a
creates a provincialism that is hard to break and hinders
in this case. Although there are many successful Siletz people,
is still a problem as it is in many other areas where Indians
The problem was that the government intended for Indians to live only temporarily on reservations until they could become a part of the American melting pot and then the reservations would be sold and no industries or economic ventures were to be established on them by Indians.
Today not many people know where Siletz is and even fewer know that it ever was a reservation. That is a sad fate for a place which played an important role in the history of Oregon. It was the home of most of the better-known and more prominent tribes, and the list of non-indians associated with the reservation reads like a "Who's Who" of Oregon history. Its present sereneness and natural beauty obscure the rich heritage of the tribes it had in the 19th Century.
The Landless Indian
over the great green meadows that
used to call your home,
And to the right, the rolling hillsides, while hunting you used to roam.
Over to the left, the tall timbers, serving as shelter and as fire.
Yes, this is what you are leaving, your only heart's desire.
Through your veins run the forest blood, for just this you should care.
And your great-grandfather's spirit shall always and ever be there.
No, you have not begun to die, for you have just begun to live.
And you know now the Great Wisdom, how it is to lose and to give.
The story of Bobby Simmons, a Siletz
told in his poems is of "The Landless Indian."
A century old story, it is still living memory for the Siletz people. As his father tells it in plainer terms: "They kept squeezing the reservation so damned many times that we got to be nothing."
All but five sections of the timberland and 44,459 acres in Indian allotments were squeezed from the Siletz Reservation during the 30-year period between 1865 and 1895.
The 1,600,000 acres of coastal reservation, described as "quite worthless" in 1855, systematically melted away, starting with the trespass of reservation land by Capt. William Valentine Spencer and the discovery of the Yaquina oyster.
They ask, "Where are we to be taken? Where are we to be moved?" the Indian agent reported in 1864.
We gave up our former homes and lands. We are assured this should be our permanent and lasting habitat. Here, we erected comfortable houses. Our land is just put in such a condition that we may live comfortably. We have always lived by the coast, been used to subsisting on fish and game, and to remove us to the interior, we must die.
Native Yaquina Bay Oysters
California shipping companies were quick to
the value of the oyster, however, and within a year, in 1865,
the removal of the Indians. Thirteen townships were ceded from
and four tribes, the Coos, Siuslaw, Alsea, and Umpqua, were
Within the village of Newport came pressure to open the rest of the reservation for settlement. The Oregon territorial legislature sent a message to the US congress requesting that the southern part of the reservation be "restored to the public domain."
During a congressional investigation of the memorial, 135 Indians assembled in Siletz to express their views for the congressional record of 1874.
"I went to the president to help these Indians improve," said George Harney (Ol-Ha-The), a Rogue and commander-in-chief of the Confederated Tribes. "We want this talk about removing us stopped."
All spoke for "not to be taken off land," and requested congress to confirm the right to land they then occupied "peacefully and industrially." Within a year, however, the Alsea Subagency closed, and 12 townships "from the Alsea to the Umpqua" were opened. It was this same year, 1875, that Congress gave the Indians the right to live there.
Due to the ever-changing politics of the BIA, however, the right was short-lived. Twelve years later congress passed the Dawes Act of 1887, which Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) reportedly looked upon as a "mighty pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass."
Elizabeth Jameson and Susan Armitage wrote that complicated struggles occurred on Indian reservations following the passage of the Dawes Act in 1887:
That act, which remained the cornerstone of US Indian policy until the New Deal, decreed that tribal lands were to be divided into private parcels and farmed by the individual nuclear families. This policy, from the government’s perspective, had two benefits. It would open up large parts of the remaining tribal lands to white homesteaders and railroads, and it would "raise" Indians up the "ladder of civilization" by turning nomadic people into sedentary farmers. In other words, it would destroy their autonomy and force them to assimilate.
To individualize tribal lands, the Indians would be given a plot of 80 acres (to be held in trust). Eventually in 1884, 44,459 acres were parceled out to 551 Siletz tribesmen.
Government Negotiations for the Sale of Unallotted Indian Lands 1892
On this day the 17th day of October A.D. 1892, a council was held with the Indians of the Siletz Reservation, but the commission heretofore duly appointed with said Indians for the purchase of the lands unallotted, when the following remarks were made by the commission, and interpreted to the council by Oscar Brown, the regular appointed, qualified and acting interpreter of the agency, and who was also appointed by said commission to act as interpreter of said meeting:
W. H. Odell: If you are now ready to
with the council, I will state that Mr. Brown here will act as
and will repeat to you what we say, and interpret to us what you
We have a reporter here who will take down all that is said on both sides.
Judge Boise, Major Harding and myself were appointed as a commission by the government to come here and talk with you in regard to the selling of your lands that are not needed in allotments. Judge Boise the chairman of our committee will explain to you briefly the work we will have to do, and lay it before you in such a way that you will be able to understand it. (Repeated so that the interpreter would more thoroughly understand it). Judge Boise, Major Harding and myself were appointed a commission by the government at Washington, to come here and talk with you, in regard to the selling of your lands that are not needed in the allotments. We have with us here a gentleman who will take down in writing all that is said on both sides. Judge Boise the chairman of our committee will now explain to you fully what we are sent here for.
R. P. Boise: We have been appointed and instructed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The commissioner represents the president of the United States; he speaks for the president. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs is the man who has charge of this business and represents the government, and we are instructed to talk with you about selling these lands to the government, which have not been allotted to you by Mr. Jenkins. The government does not think that these lands are so much value to you now, after you have the best lands that are on the reservation allotted; and that it would be better for you to sell them; for what you would get for them would be of more use to you. The government will pay you for the lands all that they are worth. The money that you would get for the lands would bring you an income, or some money every year. A part of the money would be paid to you when the bargain which we make with you is ratified by Congress, (by the government) at Washington. Part of the money would be put at interest. You will now, after these allotments, be obliged to pay taxes on these lands, and the government is going to make provisions to pay these taxes. You will have to pay taxes the same as white men have to, and the government wants to make provisions for that. It is going to make it in this bargain to save some money to pay taxes with so that your land cannot get sold for taxes. If the taxes are not paid when assessed against the land, the sheriff will sell the land, and in order that no such thing should happen the government will make a provision to pay out of this interest money, these taxes, which will not be very high.
Probably the lands may be assessed at $1.00 an acre, and these taxes will not be large, but it will have to be paid, and the government is looking out for this. We cannot tell you what they will be, the assessor has to fix that.
There will be reserved from these lands that are not allotted, some timber land to supply this mill with logs, to make lumber for the Indians, and to make lumber for sale if they want to. This timber land will be reserved, and belong to the Indians. We have called you together to talk this matter over, and have an understanding.
The lands which have been allotted are of a great deal more value than the lands which are left. You have got most of the good lands as we understand it. The matters which we are to talk with the Indians with reference to is, first, as to whether they are willing to sell these unallotted lands, and then as to what we are to pay for them.
These are the things that we are here for:
First, you want to determine whether you are willing to sell. When you talk this over, let us know whether you are willing to sell these lands. Then, decide as to what you think these lands are worth, and we will then talk with you further on this subject. Mr. Jenkins has made these allotments and we have no power to change his work. We are not authorized to do anything about the allotted lands.
H. H. Harding: We will be glad to answer any question that any one may wish to ask. It may be better to have some spokesperson appointed to speak for you so that we can proceed in better order, but when we make the bargain, every one will have his say for himself, and when we have agreed upon a bargain, if we do agree, we will report it to the government, and if they approve it at Washington, then they will provide the money to pay, and comply on the part of the government with the bargain which we make, and which they approve. It is better not to have too much talk, but to proceed to business.
There is no question for us to deal with except the purchase of the surplus lands, that are left after the allotments have been made. So, the first important fact for you to determine is whether you want to sell these lands; then if you decide so, at what price, and on what terms of payment shall the purchase be made. The government does not need these lands, but it is willing to take them and pay a fair and liberal price, so that the Indians can derive an annual, that is a yearly benefit, for the price of their lands.
It is the policy of the government to pay a certain amount, which is to be agreed upon, down in cash; the balance the government will hold in trust for you, and will pay you every year five percent interest on that money; and if you need it, it will be provided that congress may every year make an appropriation to pay you a part of the principal. In the case that any Indian should die before this money is all paid, then his heirs, or relations, will succeed too, and receive any amount that is due him that has not been paid.
W. H. Odell: I do not know whether you got to understand what was meant by the taxes. Judge Boise said the taxes would probably amount to $1.00 a year on the land. He did not mean that would be the amount to be paid, but he meant it would probably be assessed at $1.00 a year per acre, and the percent would perhaps be two cents on the dollar, so that you see the taxes would not be $1.00 per acre, but two cents per acre. The most of you can understand this without its being interpreted. The counties of Polk, Tillamook, and Benton will have their jurisdiction extended over this country, and they would not be willing that this land should be left without paying taxes, because all the other lands in the county, and in the state have to pay taxes, and consequently the government proposes to provide for that, and it may amount to two or two and a half cents an acre, but the government will pay that, so that you will not have to provide for it, except as indicated by Judge Boise.
H. H. Harding: Explain to them what trust means.
W. H. Odell: I presume most of you know what trust means. It means the same as holding that money, and paying you five percent interest, that is $5.00 on every one $100 and keeping the money safe. But, you get all of the money in the end; when they make the final payments they will pay in full, that is they pay the principal. If we agree on $100 or $1,000, or any other amount, that is called the principal, and the interest would be five percent of that, or $50 on $1,000, and so on, so that when they come to make the final payment they will pay the principal, but they pay this interest to you every year.
H. H. Harding: In regard to the taxes, the government proposes to pay the taxes and not to call upon the Indians for it; the land will not be subject to taxation until these allotments are approved, and the title is perfected. No lands will be taxed until the allotments are made, and the title is completed, and then the lands will be subject to the State of Oregon and the county in which the lands are situated, and will be taxed, but to save the Indians from any trouble in that respect, the government will make a provision in the contract they now make, by which these taxes shall be taken care of. The Indians will not be troubled by the authorities of the state and county.
R. P. Boise: The Indians have not been used to paying taxes and it is a matter that cannot be understood without some explanation, and that is the reason that we have been particular to try to have it understood. We white men, all understand about paying taxes, because we have been used to paying them. There is a man comes around and values all the property and concludes what it is worth, and then each man has to pay on that a tax to the county and to the state. You have not had to pay that because your lands belong to the government; and, the government intends that it will look after this matter. The agent could look after it so that you would not be troubled with it, and would not be liable to have the lands sacrificed. Some of you have lands that are not occupied, and these lands will be assessed and taxed, and if there is no provision to pay, the sheriff would sell them, and you would lose them. It is the desire of the government that you be secured against this, until you get used to the paying of taxes and understand it.
W. H. Odell: Now, if it is your pleasure we will retire and let you talk this matter over among yourselves, and agree upon how you will present the matter. We do not want to interfere in the least in the way you present it.
Present it in your own form, and in your own way, but try and put it in as condensed and business-like a way as you can, and we want you to be perfectly free and do as you think best. If you conclude you don't want to sell it, keep it. We are not here to urge you to sell it, or to compel you to sell it, but we are here to talk in a business-like way, and we want you to talk in a business-like way, and to come to a perfectly satisfactorily agreement all round. We want you to be perfectly free and talk this matter over among yourselves, and do just as you think best. The rule is that the majority always governs, the majority of the people governs, and when you come to make the final agreement we don't expect every Indians to agree to it, but we must have a majority of the Indians in favor of it, or else it will be no contract at all.
The Commission Here Retired Until Recalled by Indians
Frank Carson: Well, we have not got
to say. They are all settled to sell if they go according to our
and that is the first thing to look after the money matters. How
to get their pay? They want to get their pay, cash in hand first
they want to sell. We don't want to be paid installments; want
cash in hand;, they are willing to sell; if not, it is the other
is a few of them want to ask you fellows a question, and that is
their land. They are a little bit afraid that would be jump into
lands; we can’t make them understand; we have told them over and
that they could not do it.
W. H. Odell: Any questions we will be gland to answer the best we can.
Frank Carson: They had an idea they did not want to sell before they got a patent for their lands that is allotted.
H. H. Harding: The allotted lands of course are one thing and your sale of the other lands does not affect your title to the allotted lands at all. In the agreement which we propose to make with you, and which is to be your title to the allotted lands at all. In the agreement which we propose to make with you, and which is to be signed now, there will be no money paid on it, and nothing done with it until it is approved by congress. The allotted lands of course, the title at once vests in the persons to whom they are allotted; your bargain don't affect the allotted lands, only it has a tendency to confirm your titles, because there is nothing left here but lands that are allotted, and the other lands that are public lands. As I understand it, and as stated before, the government does not buy these lands because they want them, or need them. They are buying to give away to the settlers, the same as the other public lands. When they become public lands, homesteaders will come in and take them up and the government will get nothing for them. The government will not pay own cash in one amount. It is for the benefit of the Indians, and to provide an income for them. The government would not make a purchase in any other way except for the benefit of the Indians; and the government's experience is that Indians are not accustomed to dealing with the outside world the same as other people are, and if they were to pay the Indians down in cash, the Indians would be liable to be swindled out of it. Many of them could take care of it, but the government must adopt a policy which applies to all. And, from time to time as the Indians need money the government can, and provision will be made that an appropriation can be made not only to pay the income—that is the interest—but can make an appropriation from year to year to pay a part of the cash purchase money; but the government will not buy these lands and pay it in cash, simply for the benefit of the Indians. They are dealing with you just as they would deal with all the Indians all over the country. They will not make exception of these Indians.
They will treat with them, and buy of them just as they buy of others, and provide a fund so that their Indians can have some money every year coming to them; and if you have five percent, that is: five percent on $10,000 is $500, or five percent on $100,000 is $5,000, and so on, would come in every year. The object of the government is to make an income for the Indians; to provide a safe income for them. The government only pays white men, sometimes as low as two percent for their money. White men are loaning money now to the government for two percent, but the government proposes to pay you five percent. It will be paid annually, every year; so that you will be an income, and from time to time, and from year to year, if the government finds you are doing well and prospering, and improving yourselves and your property, and taking care of your money, and you need a portion of the principal that they hold, they will of course from time to time, as will be provided by the contract, provide for paying you not only the income, but from time to time pay you part of the principal sum if you need it.
Now I want to say another thing. It has come to my ears in such a way that I cannot but believe it is true, that some of you have had an idea that we were to get some advantage, to cheat the Indians. If any of you have any such idea, I want to tell you that the government instructs us particularly that we are here as well to look out for the interests of the Indians as for the interests of the government. We don't represent anybody else but the government. We are here to make a fair bargain with the Indians, and not to take advantage of them or to swindle them. We would be violating the instructions from the government if we undertook to take advantage of you. We are connected with no outside schemes; we simply represent the government, and we propose to make a fair honest bargain with you, to be carried out, and the government, if we make such a bargain, will carry it out. But, the government will not make a bargain with you different from what it has made with all the other Indians.
They are to pay you sufficient money to ease your present wants, in cash; and then they are to pay you every year a certain income, so that you won't have your money to squander, but will from year to year get the benefit of this fund. And, it may be that the government will see fit to shorten the time. I have very little doubt they will shorten the time so that the allotments can be handled the same as the white men handle their lands. The government has pursued a policy to protect the Indians, recognizing the fact of their inexperience in business, and want of experience and care in dealing with people, until they will be more capable of taking care of their own affairs.
And, another thing: if you cede these lands to the government, as I stated before, they will be given away to the people for homesteads, and white man will be induced to come in and settle, and they will want to occupy your lands, and increase the value of your lands. The government wants you to get the benefit of all your property, and is willing to give you four times as much as any private person would give you for them. No private man could come and buy the lands that are left unallotted here, and pay more than a trifle for them, but the government will take them at a fair price, and will pay you own a certain amount in cash, and every year will pay you interest on the balance, and from time to time will pay you as you need it, the principal sum.
R. B. Boise: Are there any other questions you want to ask?
Charley Depoe: They want you folks to produce your authority that appoints you here to deal with the Indians; the authority that you got from the government. Mr. Harding here produced his commission, and handed it to the interpreter for inspection, and then read the same to the council.
H. H. Harding: These other gentlemen have a like commission down at the agency.
R. P. Boise: Is that the voice of the Indians, that the cash must all be paid down before they will sell the lands? Is that your wish?
George Harney: I see you are here to make a trade with the Indians for the lands. All my people wants a dollar and a quarter an acre, and before they turn them over to the government they want the cash right down before they get satisfaction with them. They say they have been promising a good many reservations and never filled their promises. This time they think it is best to pay so much down, but before my people is satisfied the money must be paid right down with them. I think it is well enough, they are old people here now, because this government has promised before what land they would divide out, and pay them for it; it is not going in this way at all. Some say they want the pay in the bank anywhere in Portland, they want to get the benefit of it himself. They say they can take it themself, they can take care of it themself. What land left now, and get pay for it before we give land to government, we will all be satisfied. We will all sell the land, although they must pay us first, so before we die we will see the money with our face and will get the benefit of the money; that will be all right. My people said and vote that I tell to you that you should make a report to Washington: Indians want money before the land be turned over, so you can make the report. My friends here you ask us a question about the land, all right; we want to sell to you, but we want to get money all paid down and will be satisfied. (Then turning to Indians he asked "Do everybody hear what I say is so?") Applause
R. P. Boise: With the authority that is given to us, which we get from the commission which was read to you, we could come here and make a bargain with you for your lands, but at the same time we received that commission and authority we received the instructions which are contained in this paper with reference to the manner in which we should do this business, and in these instructions we are not authorized to pay the whole of the money down to you; and if you are to have all the money down, and will not sell the lands in any other way then we are not authorized to make any bargain with you, and you will have to keep your lands. It takes a good deal of money granted every year by the government to keep up your school, and to keep up this agency. They are giving you money all the time, year after year, to keep it up. They have thought it was proper and necessary to give the Indians an education in order that they might be better prepared to take care of their lands, to raise crops and to support themselves, as they can no longer support themselves by fishing and hunting; so that the government has established a school here, and a school in Salem where some of your children are, and they are kept there at the government's expense. When we white people send our children to school we have to pay their way; we have to pay their board and tuition; but the government deals more generously by you than it does with us, simply for the reason that they wish to bring you to that state when you could take care of yourselves.
But, in this matter we cannot depart from the instructions which are given us in this matter; if we did our work would not be accepted, and the sale which you would make would amount to nothing, for the government would not accept it; so you might as well understand this now. The lands that you have left after the allotments are of very little value. They are of so little value that the government has not even employed a surveyor to survey them, knowing that they could not sell them if they did. A large portion of your reservation remains unsurveyed by the government, because the lands are away back where nobody wants them; where the timber is worth nothing, because it will cost more to haul it than it would be worth. After it was laid down beside a mill it could not be brought out for the value of it. If you desire to keep them, it would be cheaper for the government to keep them, than it would to take them at the price which we would give you.
George Harney: I suppose that the government sent you here to ask us about the lands. I suppose the government wants to buy the land we have got not allotted to us; now we have got that land. What land is still left to be sold, I think there is a good many timber of that land, and a good many timber is money. Timber is money. He can't say there is no money in it; and bottom land, there is lots of that left. The government sent you here to ask us about it, because we want of course to be satisfaction with the government; because you not got any money to pay down with us this time, whatever you say of course you have right make report back to Washington. We want to do everything straight. We don’t want to find out of way about it at all. Now you say land not worth anything for the government?
H. H. Harding: We shall not be in haste at all about this matter. It is a matter of very great importance to you; it is a matter of very little importance to the government. It is of no importance to the government whatever except to fulfill its desire to do what is best for the Indians whom it considers itself the guardian for. If we were to take you now at your rash words (some of you are somewhat rash perhaps and quick to speak, others of you no doubt think more than they say; it is the thinking people among you that will bring about a bargain for your interests, if one is brought about, and not those who are so quick and ready, and rash, if I may be permitted to so speak) it might terminate this negotiation at once.
Now if I thought that those who have given tongue to their opinions reflected the entire thought of all of you, and that the matter would not be considered at all, I would be prepared at once to say that our mission is terminated, and that tomorrow we could leave you and go back to our homes.
I have no personal feeling in the world in this matter; no personal pride and no personal interests possible; there are no personal interests involved in this matter except your interests. Then anything that I can do to promote your interests, and fulfilling as the government desires me to do, my mission here, am willing and satisfied to wait and council with you, notwithstanding what has already been said. I am willing to give you time to discuss all this among yourselves: whether it is better to terminate this negotiation now, or whether it is not better to pass propositions to be considered; and I ask you to remember and think of one thing: The has already gone to considerable expense in money, to send out a commission here, not only to allot your lands to you so that you will have in severalty your own lands and homesteads, but to send out a commission to you, to buy those other lands for which you will have no use. If you send us back now, without further consideration, and refuse to treat with us on the only terms that we are authorized to treat at all, you must reflect that it will be a long time before the government will again go to the expense of sending out another commission to negotiate for those lands: and that leads on to the thought which you must think of, and reflect upon, that in the meantime you are getting no money in hand, and are provoking no income for yourselves from these other lands, and must get along the best you can with simply the allotted lands, without any other aid. Now, as I said before, if this commission was disposed to be rash, and quick to take you at your word, it would terminate this negotiation at this time, but with a candid and fair desire that you shall have time to think, and determine whether you will not make a bargain from which you will derive benefits, or whether you are willing to go on in the condition you are in, without the power of selling a foot of timber, or a square foot of land, we will not be in haste in this matter.
I put it to you to reflect and consider whether it is not better for you to attempt at least to treat with us upon the terms that we are limited to treat upon. When you come to hear what these terms are, and have time to reflect upon them, if then you see fit to reject such a bargain as we can offer, then that will end the matter. We do not come here to make a report to the government what the Indians want, we make no report whatever unless we make a bargain, except to report that the Indians will not sell their lands. Now then is not it wiser for you to consider? Is not it worth your while to consider for a day, a week, or two weeks, or a reasonable length of time, what is best for you; recognizing the fact that what you now want, or think you want is cash in hand, when we tell you that we cannot make such a bargain, is not it proper for the sensible man to consider, if I can’t make this kind of a bargain which I prefer to make, to consider whether it would not be better to make another kind of a bargain by which I can get some money in hand, and some to be paid from year to year?
If we cannot come together, and it may be perfectly understood that we have no authority to make such a bargain as you ask for, and we can't make that kind of bargain, we are willing to try and come together on some other basis, and we are willing to have patience with you, and let you consider these matters, and not cut it off at once. It is a matter in which you have a vital interest, and worthy of your serious consideration, and the thoughtful men among you should confer together, and see whether it is not better to continue these negotiations for the time, and see whether there is a neutral ground upon which we can come together.
W. H. Odell: We want to conduct this business in a very frank and free way. We want to be honest with ourselves, honest with you, and want you to be honest with us. We do not want to make a representation here that is not exactly true. If you believe we are making representations that are not true in your judgment, we will go away. We don't want to talk to men who do not believe what we say. It is of no use to talk to men who do not believe our statements. We propose to make statements honestly and fairly; we propose to accept yours on the same terms. Perhaps you are talking to us just as you feel and think. One man sometimes thinks one way, and another man thinks another way, but when they come together and talk together quietly and see all the facts, and all that is to be done, they will then see that they were mistaken in their first proposition. Now I am satisfied my friends that some of you have got the impression that we are here in the interests of some clique, or for some what men that want to get possession of your lands. No white man will get possession of a foot of this land unless he gets it under the general laws of Congress, and then only the lands that are outside. The lands reserved for school purposes, and lands for your allotments, and the timberland reserved, no white man can trample upon it, or interfere with your rights and privileges upon that at all. That is reserved for your benefit. The government will observe good faith with you in that regard. No white man from Salem, or anywhere else will get a dollars interest in any of this land upon this reservation. Any bargain that we make with you, no white man will be benefited one cent by it. None of these commissioners will be benefited one cent by it. All that we will get in this business will be the pay per day as we come here and talk to you. No part of the money will go to any white man. You think of this matter. I can say to you candidly, we cannot pay the money all down. If this is your judgment after you have canvassed the thing thoroughly, then we will go home. We don't propose to deceive you; we don't propose to say a word to you that we do not believe to be exactly true. Talk to us friendly and quietly, and if we cannot agree we will go home and leave you just as you are.
George Harney: My friends, it seems to me that you have got sometimes word that you gentlemen are talking about you. I don't believe anybody speaks bad of you gentlemen. All my people asks so much; they want the money before they die; they ask you about it; they don't talk about you; they don't want you to go away; they know you are good men, and they think gentlemen come here to do what is right with us. We don’t expect anything except you make a report what the government says to us. We want to have fair understanding. We want a good bargain. That is right way, and we want to do what is right. We want pay for the land because the government has promised us a home, and we ask that they pay us for it. We try to do what is right. We want to make it understand by them; whatever agreement we make you must make us understand it; we try to get you to help us and do right with us. Then we can see whenever our mens get paid, get his money for his land then he be satisfied.
After a short consultation, it was decided to meet the Indians in council again on Saturday the 29th day of October 1892, at Siletz Agency, to further consider the matter.
Unallotted Lands Thrown Open for Settlement 1895
At noon, July 28, 1895, the last of the reservation land in Lincoln County was thrown open to homesteaders at $1.50 per acre, or entered to public domain.
Yeah, in 1956 they liquidated us and gave us all our deeds, sold all our land and everything else. Oh, they gave me $500, I think. All these government people that have money, they voted to "liquidate" us.
After 100 years, the tribes of Siletz
all their land. It was the price of full citizenship. "The
it," said the BIA.
"They outvoted us," says Archie Ben, one of the last of the full-blooded Indians. His father, Chetco Ben, came to the reservation in 1856 at age 14.
We didn't want to be liquidated. We had fishing rights, we had hunting rights, we had everything. We were better off. The people that wanted money, wanted to sit at the beer bar and be like white men; they wanted it. We couldn't say nothing.
By vote of its membership, the tribes
sale of five sections of timberland by the BIA. At the same
the "will of the people" that the 39 acres on Government Hill
land. After "termination," however, no tribal government
and the lands went to the City of Siletz.
Only two or three families retain their original allotted lands. Many were lost in hard times, for the price of a cow or a thumb print. About 85 land allotments remained at the time of termination, but most were lost to the county when taxes weren't paid.
In 1975, the Confederated Tribes, having incorporated, received back from the City of Siletz their tribal burying ground, the Paul Washington VFW Cemetery on Government Hill. For 17 years, Archie Ben and his wife, Victoria, took care that it would not become wilderness.
Now it is their history book, written on telling markers; the last piece of land to unite all the tribes of the Siletz people.
Instead of the original aim to make the Indian a citizen, the aim appears to be to keep the Indian an Indian.
This was Congress' attack on the BIA in 1943, which launched the program for termination of respective tribes, bands and groups of Indians whom the federal government "believed" could "manage their own affairs."
The Indian was correct in his
termination as annihilation rather than emancipation. Events of
decade have more than confirmed the worst fears. The Menominee
Wisconsin, terminated in 1961, symbolizes the nightmare come
of the tribe were proud and relatively self-sufficient people
schools, community services, and a tribal owned sawmill. Once
their reservation became incorporated into a county, and today
most impoverished county in the state.
When the Indian is asked to forsake his status under the BIA in exchange for cash, for promises of technical aid, for public works improvements and industrial developments he has learned to expect two things:
• That the promises will not be kept.
• That even if they should be kept, they will prove inadequate to maintain the Indian at his reservation level of deprivation.
Between 1954 and 1958, ten acts would
passed by Congress terminating the Alabama and Coushatta tribes
California "Rancherias" and Reservations, the Klamath tribe of
Menominee tribe of Wisconsin, Ottawa tribe of Oklahoma, Paiute
Utah, Peoria tribe of Oklahoma, the Wyandotte tribe of Oklahoma,
and Ouray Ute Mixed Bloods of Utah, and 60 bands of Western
The tribes of Siletz, identified as one of the more assimilated groups in the country, would be presented with the Grand Ronde and Southern Oregon tribes and the bill, would be known in federal publications as The 60 bands of Western Oregon from that time on.
In 1951, the BIA office in Portland prepared a complex plan for the withdrawal of federal supervision over aboriginal tribes of Western Oregon.
The decisions of that time would be instrumental in causing division among the Siletz people for years to come:
Dividing those who would "forget" the old and those who wished to remember it; or, as some felt, the choice of money over land; the right to "sit at the bar" or continue to be "wards" of the government. It was all one complex, either-or package.
"Considering that time, that era, that
there was not much reason not to vote for termination," recalls
Tom, who was a senior at a Salem High School at the time and is
the tribal council.
Many men had fought in WWII only to return to the US as "wards of the government," and be denied entrance to the bar. Their perspective was different than that of the older people, one or two generations from the father or grandfather who had been brought into the coastal reservation 100 years before.
For them, the reservation, once so harsh, had become home. Even as the Indian lost land and was pushed farther into the interior of Lincoln County, the Siletz Valley was a center; a Indian community with a focal point on Government Hill.
Until 1925, a succession of Indian superintendents had administered affairs from Government Hill. Administration then moved to Salem, and, in 1948, to a Portland office.
However, even in the 1950s a number of buildings were in use on the Hill.
There was a cannery used by Siletz women for food preservation. A council hall was used regularly for tribal meetings and an active Women's Club. Old Doc Carter's clinic was used for a recreation building and some small homes built during an active Indian CCC program still remained.
The tribe had $60,211.71 in tribal funds (in trust) and 146 individual accounts totaling $155,867.87. The virgin timber tracts, totaling 2,751.07 acres, lay dormant as the Indians were not permitted to manage them without governmental supervision. In a great many cases, the government was unable to assist because of insufficient funds and personnel. Congress had cut the BIA budget by 50 percent in the late 1940s.
Demand for lumber and other wood products enhanced employment in the area from WWI through termination.
"A lot of logging going on around here then," is the recollection of Ed Simmons, a logger for 47 years.
A lot of gypo outfits; a lot of big major outfits up here. Most of those outfits want to have the Indian boys work for them, damned good workers, they found that out.
This was the picture painted by the
from Portland. The Indian had "assimilated" and most were
were members of labor unions, teachers and many had entered the
of valley life.
Also, at the time of termination, some tribes had claims pending against the US government for land taken without compensation. The Rogue River and Alsea tribes would receive the highest claim of $5,000 each.
Other tribes, like the Tututni, Chetco, Coquille and Tillamook, would receive one-eighth of the expected amount. Interest was denied by the supreme court, and as with the smallpox-infected red blankets of old, the services of the BIA would be deducted from the final payment, which was about $500 for each Indian.
When some of the older Indians were asked recently if the government statement made at the time of termination—"Many have lost their identity as Indians"—were true, the answer is: "How can that be?"
"No, no," they said. An Indian is an Indian. He'll always be an Indian. I can't be no Chinaman, white man or Japanese. I'm an Indian anywhere I go."
With termination a wave of apprehension at the loss of tribal government hit the Indian people. Factions developed between those who were in favor and those opposed.
The Siletz Indians became statistically dead. Services which many had felt were inadequate at the time of termination would end. Many would find that they could not even prove they were Indian to claim others.
It would take more years for the government to recognize that
American society can allow many different cultures to flourish in harmony and that an opportunity for those Indians wishing to do so, can lead useful and prosperous lives in an Indian environment.
But first, the policy of termination
destroy tribal existence and cause a "serious setback in the
education of the indigenous population, according to tribal
It would dive many young people away from their tribal heritage.
Congress had granted the secretary of interior certain powers to determine the membership of aboriginal tribes.
Under the act of June 30, 1919, which is still in force, the secretary is authorized "to cause a final roll to be made of the membership of an Indian tribe."
This power was granted primarily to divide tribal funds held in the US treasury.
About 2,000 Coastal Indians were brought together to the Siletz Reservation in 1857.
The tribal roll established at that time lists names of chiefs and Old Ones with their ancient Indian names, as well as monikers adopted for the white world.
A study of tribal roles, as taken by the Siletz Agency through the years, tells much about the people and their numbers. The peak population of the Siletz tribe was in 1865 when they numbered 2,800. There was a steady plunge downward from that time on, to 1,085 in 1878, 998 in 1880 and 637 in 1883.
At the time of termination, a roll was made in Chemawa, filed June 22, 1956. It was accepted as the official role of the Siletz and totaled 935. Since that time, it has not been updated. A generation of Siletz is not identified on any tribal roll because of this policy.
"The role closed on August 13 and my daughter was born August 14," a tribal member said at a recent meeting. "In my family there are two Siletz and three children eliminated from the tribes."
For Delores Pigsley, Salem, it meant
a $7,000-a-year job in Indian studies at Haskell
Indian Junior College in Lawrence, Kansas, the only
junior college in the US. When Siletz was terminated she was not
"active Indian roll," and therefore ineligible, she was told.
There were other effects of termination for the Indian. All records and history of tribal life and government were lost when the council disbanded and the old council hall on Government Hill was closed.
"You'll have to understand, termination was an emotional experience. People were tired and many things were just left behind," recalls Art Bensell the new tribal chairperson.
Few of these records are available locally. Some families have kept their own things together. The Lincoln County Historical Museum, rich with Indian artifacts depicting coastal Indian life, has only a few papers concerning the history of the Siletz Indian, most derived from agency reports. Most of the records are scattered throughout the country, in various universities and museums, and are practically inaccessible for research.
With termination, the Siletz Indian became statistically dead. In the US Department of the Interior book, The States and Their Indian Citizens, published in 1972, the 60 bands of Western Oregon are referred to twice, only in reference to termination. There is no information collected in terms of population, social needs, educational, health and unemployment figures.
"So many of our people are running around without teeth, and need glasses," says Mae Boswick, tribal council member from Salem. "Many times I end up paying for medication myself because they have nowhere else to turn."
"It is my observation that our Indian people received a better education and better health care before termination," chairman Art Bensell wrote Senator Mark O. Hatfield.
"We had more Indian people completing college; more teachers, and there was a certain amount of effort to correct health problems."
Quoting "What Is" at the Siletz School in 1974, Bensell cited:
Forty-four percent of the Indian young
in Siletz between the ages of 17 and 25 did not finish high
Eight of the 16 girls and 22 of 34 boys ages 17 to 25 among the Indian young people of Siletz have only one parent due to death of the other parent. Twenty-three percent of the children in grades one to 12 in the Siletz schools come from broken homes, and there is "little assistance available for children in these circumstances."
"The Indian children of Siletz have
dental, and eye and ear problems for which their parents cannot
proper care," he said. "And the history, culture and traditions
Indian peoples are being lost and are not being transmitted to
The Indian children do not have a true image of themselves."
"Termination told us we were not Indians," says Robert Tom, a Siletz Indian living in Eugene. "But," he adds, "it didn't tell society we weren't Indians."
When we talk about restoration, we’re
about the children, future generations.
Restoration should be thought of as something this society has gained forever. Day by day this society is losing things: resources, rivers, forests. Grass is buried under concrete, asphalt, and will never grow again. We as Indian people don't want to lose that.
We’re talking about values. The supportive feeling of sitting around the drums; an unemployed Indian sitting next to a chief; an alcoholic next to a college graduate. No one can speak for everyone. We give these rights to each other. There is no status. This is the Indian way we wish to preserve for the generation that never experienced it.
Those are the aims of the Siletz
Bill, which will be presented to the US Congress, tribal leaders
Tribal government will be organized and the tribal roll updated. The tribe will once again be federally recognized and in a position to determine the needs of its people. Tribal identity through preservation of the culture will be the goal.
"We hope, if restored, the BIA will look on us as mature people capable of running our own affairs," says Bensell. "Termination was a mistake. Restoration is a method of correcting that mistake."
Except for a few pick-ups and cars, the road is almost deserted, allowing one to gaze leisurely at rich valley land, close mountain ranges and the few scattered barns and cows grazing in fields.
City of Siletz
The City of Siletz, population 700,
to have the rhythm of the Siletz, which circles it, flowing down
mountains, then looping back up to the east before it winds its
the ocean. There is a quietness, a slowness, a couple of grocery
gas stations, churches, a tavern, grange hall and school, which
person wonder what people do here for fun.
Scattered over a field of green, once the site of the Agency Farm, then a postwar housing development, are a few small buildings in a fresh coat of canary yellow; city hall, a library and, off in the distance, the Siletz Valley A-frame, silhouetted like a tipi against the barren western landscape.
"Like sassas, try to spell 'sassas."
know what 'sassas' means?" There's some fun going on in the
Ida Bensell, age 95, the oldest living member of the Siletz
conversing with Archie Ben, age 75.
"'Sassas' means white people. Shouldn't you spell it 's-a-s-s-a'? Might be. I don’t know, I think my grandpa spelled it different. How about 'cee-too'? That's horse."
The language being discussed here is the authentic southern coastal language, Takelma, which some trace to ancient Aztec peoples.
The gathering is part of a "living history" session taking place for a week. Old pictures are passed around and people, buildings identified. There are plenty of stories: remembering school days, floods, events. There are demonstrations and displays of artifacts and pieces of clothing brought out from locked boxes: a woodpecker bonnet, an intricately beaded vest, the old stick game.
Stick Game Tournaments at Taft and Otis
"I don't know, I think I'm the only
that played this game," says Archie Ben who started when he was
old. He still remembers the challenges between the Grand Ronde
Indians along the beaches between Taft and Otis. The men would
several weeks—go without water, work up a sweat, then go into
take a dip in the cold river—before canoeing down the river for
along the beach.
"These problems are a small taste in generating tribal togetherness," says Robert Rilatos, tribal councilman. "We are trying in this social setting to recapture and relive the untold stories of our most precious history, traditions and culture."
Since incorporating in 1973, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians have brought into the community a revival of old customs: basket weaving, beading, dancing, and the sharing of local history. Several Manpower programs have been initiated, as well as a school counseling program, alcohol program and services to the senior citizens.
"The resurgence of tribal identity has been dramatic and widespread," says Charles Wilkerson, NARF attorney handling the Restoration Bill.
Recent tribal meetings have been increasingly well attended. The possibility of a Siletz Restoration has been carefully considered at several recent tribal meetings.
"After thorough discussion of the issues involved, the tribe has made a strong commitment to make the many sacrifices necessary to seek major federal legislation," he says.
The specific benefits that would come to the Siletz Indian people if the bill is passed would be:
• BIA Programs: Johnson-O'Malley funds
elementary and secondary age school children; availability of
schools; scholarships for college-age young people; hiring
for some jobs in the BIA; some welfare benefits; and
funds for some purposes, which would be channeled through the
• Tribal Land Base: The tribe is not asking for any land. However, in time, loan funds may be available for land that would be placed in trust and accorded tax-free status. Tribal headquarters could be located on reservation land from which tribal programs could be run.
• Reorganized Tribal Existence: An interim council will be elected and the tribal roll brought up to date. All persons of at least one fourth Siletz blood will be added. A constitution and by-laws will then be drawn up and tribal members will elect a tribal council.
"We are daily encouraged by the
response the Restoration Bill is receiving locally," said Art
tribal chairman and former mayor of the City of Siletz. "We were
with the recent action taken by the city giving full support to
There are 350 Indians living in the Siletz Valley area. "Our funds are limited but programs are starting to reach the people," says Robert Rilatos. "Restoration is the only hope we have that they will continue."
US Court of Claims Awards Damages for Treaty Violations 1950
In January 1950, the US court of
following a previous opinion by the circuit court, ruled that
must be paid for 2,775,000 acres taken from four coastal clans
through unratified treaty. Originally the Tillamook, Coquille,
and Chetco agreed to give up their ancestral homelands, to the
the Coast Range, for a stipulated amount of money, with payments
over a period of years. But although the Indians were segregated
lands, the unratified treaty left them poor. Hence the "large"
with interest—to their progeny. Meanwhile, other coastal clans
claims, had thus not fared so well.
Robert Cruden, a history professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, explained the white faction's failure to keep treaties with Indians in terms of racism:
In the nearer West of the Great Plains, the US had... [a] race problem—the problem that has been with us since early Virginia settlers took over Indian planting grounds. In the Reconstruction era the problem was not with agricultural Indians, but with the nomads of the plains country, whose prime food supply was buffalo. As the transcontinental railroads were built, the buffalo herds were exterminated. The railroads also made it possible for squatters and miners to swarm into lands the Indians thought assured to them by agreements with the US. Since the US made little effort to halt the white invasion, and indeed usually furnished military protection when called upon, the Indians fought back. In terms of our day, the Indians believed they were engaged in just wars against aggression waged in violation of solemn pacts and treaties.
Also in 1950, the Indian fishing village of Celilo, long a ceremonial salmon fishing center on the Columbia was replaced by a modern USCE constructed village. Located south of the traditional site and across US-101 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, its facilities cost over $125,000. This Celilo Falls site is utilized by the Warm Springs, Yakima, Umatilla and Celilo, who here net and spear much of their spring and autumn food supply of salmon.
Oregon Tribes Win Restoration 1977-1988
• 1977: Confederated Tribes of Siletz
• 1982: Cow Creek Tribe of Upper Umpqua restored;
• 1983: Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde restored;
• 1984: Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw restored;
• 1986: Klamath Tribe restored;
• 1988: The Grand Ronde Reservation Act was signed into law, reestablishing the 99,811 acre reservation for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community. --1995-96 Oregon Blue Book
There was considerable use of canoes above tidewater on the Siletz, as the old place named Canoe Landing at River Mile 22.5 indicates. They were used to carry persons and goods by the Indians for the most part, but were also commissioned for use from time to time by immigrant travelers and settlers. The last canoe was built by Archie P. Johnson (1875-1967) at Siletz Agency and is now on display at the Lincoln County Historical Society's Log Cabin Museum in Newport.
After the opening of the Siletz area
in 1895, the river served as an artery of communication during
two decades until roads could be built and the railroad extended
town of Siletz.
In 1902, Ted Kosydar's father rafted lumber from the Siletz Sawmill to his farm site above Euchre Creek It was done during cresting high water at night with only a lantern for illumination. His son marvels to this day that the trip was completed without fatal consequences.
The Lincoln County Leader chronicled some of the downriver trips from the old seat of the Siletz Agency to Johnson or Kernville on the bay. In January 1909, Goyne & Harlow floated downriver with a scow load of freight. The following March, John I. Butterfield came upriver and took a scow load of provisions down on his return. At the time, John Lloyd and William Mulkey were also preparing to take a scow filled with provisions and a raft of lumber downriver. The following winter, Tip Holland and his family floated down the Siletz in high water at the end of November. Ms. Fielding of Kernville received a visit from her Mother and brother who also took advantage of the same high stage of the river to boat down from Siletz. In March 1911, a scow load of feed was brought downriver for Jackie Johnson.
Remarkably enough, there is little
of the river having been used above the town of Siletz to
or timber products. Only in November 1906, was there notice that
of Upper Farm was using the unusually high water of that month
posts down the Siletz. During WWI, the USSPC dumped their logs
present Highway 229 Bridge north of Siletz into the river and
to the mill they had established a short distance downstream.
In general, downriver trips from Siletz were made by horseback or wagon to Mowery's Landing from which tidewater location a boat would be used for the remainder of the trip. The early mail carriers also used a boat to get to Mowery's Landing, and then packed the mail upriver using small boats at four points on their journey to ferry themselves back and forth across the river. This mixed mode of carriage accounts for the December 1909 report that the mail carrier from Siletz to Kernville had capsized, and other boating mishaps by the carriers.
In May 1923, F. W. Gerttula deposed before the Public Service Commission that he had made regular winter trips with a gasoline powered boat to deliver fresh fish as high as Canoe Landing and had even made deliveries up to River Mile 31. Ted Kosydar of Siletz says he can remember hearing the throb of Gerttula's boat coming upriver from the window of the schoolhouse he was attending.
The tidal portion of the Siletz had some logging operations in the two decades after the non-indian land invasion. An expansion of activity there, which would lead to large scale logging above the head of tide, took place during WWI. Siletz spruce was in demand for airplane construction during the war. W. A. Noon and his brothers established a mill on the Lower Siletz, about three miles from the bar with a daily capacity of 30,000 board feet.
Twenty-two miles upriver on tidewater, the logging camp was constructed from which the logs were rafted and towed to the mill by small gas towboats.
By courtesy of the owners, the gas schooners Rustler and F. L. Smith and Mirene were engaged for the transportation of lumber to Astoria, and later the government gave the use of the new government dock at Yaquina City, and also secured the schooner Roamer for the run between Siletz Bay and Yaquina City.
This operation was followed up during the 1920s and 1930s by PSC [with Manary Logging Company as the subsidiary], and Lincoln County Logging Company, whose operations gradually went above the head of tide. The latter company was owned by A. S. Kerry, C. H. Davis and Frederick E. Weyerhauser. It took more than 800 million board feet of logs over the treacherous Siletz Bar in modified Davis rafts for marketing in Tillamook Bay, the Columbia River, Grays Harbor and Puget Sound. Their camp was at Mowrey's Landing where they had a floating lumber camp, the Ark, which housed 70 men during the logging season. From the camp, they logged along the river. The rafts were assembled at Mowery's Landing, and towed out by such tugs as the Dodeca, Chahunta and Sea Foam. During the 1920s and 1930s, H. E. Crawford also put in logs at Euchre Creek for flotation downriver.
Later, Pacific Pulp & Paper had a large rollway at Euchre Creek which operated into the 1950s. Vernon Castle, who still lives near that location, operated a small tug which took small rafts from one mile above the mouth of Euchre Creek down the Siletz to Mowery's Landing, where they also were made up into larger rafts and taken into the Pacific Ocean.
Chapter 51: Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde
Ancestors of present day members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde community lived in the Willamette Valley, the surrounding mountains, and the northern portion of the Oregon Coast. The prehistory of this area starts shortly after the end of the last glacial period. As the glaciers retreated, hunting people occupied the lands of Eastern Oregon and Washington. By 8,000 years ago, they had entered the Willamette Valley and the surrounding uplands.
In the period from 8,000 to 3,000
the climate of the region became warmer and drier. The valley
heavily covered with conifers; open prairies and oak glades
Over time people who lived by hunting and gathering occupied the
more intensively and made use of an increasing variety of
and animals. They did some fishing, but because of the partial
of the Willamette Falls, fishing was a relatively unimportant
activities for many tribes. The expanded resource base in part
to environmental changes, but it was also related to
and to management of the environment by the indigenous
About 3,000 years ago the valley became cooler and moister, but these changes seem not to have radically altered the existing environment of the valley. Perhaps this was because the occupants of the valley were able to maintain the open nature of the country by periodic burning of forest cover. The cultures continued relatively unchanged, in so far as artifacts are concerned, for the next 1,000 years. In this period, the first remains of pit houses are found.
From about 2,000 years ago, there is increasing evidence of contact with people in surrounding regions. Sea shells, shell ornaments, and whale bone clubs indicate contact with coastal people, although these items may have been traded via the Columbia River, rather than over the Coast Range. There is also evidence of contact with Great Basin people and with people south to California. Obsidian for tools was obtained from locations as far distant as Eastern Idaho. By the end of the prehistoric period, it is clear that although the Willamette Valley people were fairly self-sufficient in an environment with varied and abundant resources, they nevertheless had extensive trade contacts in every direction.
The cultures of the Willamette Valley did not change dramatically over the last few thousand years of prehistory. The people lived primarily by hunting and making use of uncultivated plants in an environment which was characterized by a mild climate and rich flora and fauna. Deer, elk, and other game were abundant. Social and political organization in the valley remained simple, as it was at the time of European contact. All the evidence suggests that the Willamette Valley people had achieved a remarkably stable equilibrium with their environment. At the time of contact, these people spoke dialects of Kalapooian, Molalla, and Clackama Chinook languages. The ancestors of these people may very well have been the first settlers in the valley.
The prehistory of the Salish-speaking Nehalem, Tillamook, Nestucca, and Salmon River people of the Oregon Coast, some of whom were eventually relocated on the Grand Ronde Reservation, is distinct from that of the Willamette Valley peoples just discussed. By 2,500 years ago, Salishan-speaking people were settled just south of the mouth of the Columbia with a fully developed Northwest Coast fishing culture similar to that of their kin on the Washington Coast and in the Puget Sound region. We do not know whether people were living along the coast much before the past few thousand years. If there were sites occupied in earlier times, presumably they have disappeared with rising sea levels along the stormy Oregon Coast.
The prehistory of the indigenous peoples of the mountain valleys southward from the Willamette Valley is not well known. The valleys were occupied by hunting people possibly 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. The culture of the earliest occupants seems to have had affinities with the Great Basin Cultures across the mountains in Southeastern Oregon and Nevada. Over time, people entered this tangle of mountains and valleys from all directions and found refuge in their isolated pockets.
The ancestors of the Umpqua, Cow Creek, and Rogue River people must have had a remarkable prehistory. A little over a thousand years ago, they would have been with their sub-arctic Dene-speaking kin in Northern Canada and Alaska. At some time after that, tribes of Dene moved to the south. Their exact routes are not known. By the time that Europeans arrived in the northwest, some Dene had reached Southwestern Oregon and Northwestern California. Two isolated tribes, no longer in existence, lived in the heavily forested hill country just north and south of the Lower Columbia. There are various hypotheses as to how the Pacific Dene reached their homes. Since most of them lived in isolated and heavily forested mountainous country, it is possible that they were skilled upland hunters who infiltrated their Oregon homelands by moving from Southwest Washington down along the Coast Range in country relatively little used by other aboriginal tribes.
Shasta-speaking people from the Rogue River were among the first Indians settled on the Grand Ronde Reservation. The Rogue River Shasta were northern representatives of the Hokan linguistic group whose members occupied much of Northern California, a portion of the coast north of San Francisco, most of Central California, and desert lands around the Lower Colorado.
There is much that we do not know about prehistory in Western Oregon. The available data reveal tantalizing glimpses of fascinating events and mysteries. In the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, there are Descendants of people who have probably lived in the Willamette Valley for over 8,000 years. The ancestors of others may have arrived only about a thousand years ago. Whether of more ancient or more recent origin, all the Indians ancestral to the present day Grand Ronde people were established in Western Oregon well before the arrival of the first non-indian visitors and explorers.
European explorers and traders were
the shores and the great rivers of the northwest by the end of
and the beginning of the 19th centuries. However, apart from the
people and those on the Lower Columbia, none of the ancestors of
Ronde people had direct contact in their own territories with
visitors. The first European known to visit the lands above the
the Willamette was Stuart of Fort
Astoria in 1811. In 1813 a fur trading outpost was
near present day Salem. In these early years the Willamette
its environs were an important source of furs and supplies,
venison, for the fur traders along the Columbia.
Fur trading parties, first of the North West Fur Company, and after 1821, of the Hudson's Bay Company, visited the region to trade and to trap, and to use the valley as a route to the south. These men found the climate and resources of the valley attractive. French-Canadian employees and former employees of the fur companies began to settle above the falls of the Willamette. Soon there were small farms with herds of horses, cattle, and sheep. Many of these men married Indian wives and established close ties to Indian communities.
The relations between the early traders and the Indians was for the most part friendly, although there was some conflict with tribes on the southern perimeters of the Willamette Valley. In 1818 a North West Company party killed 14 Indians in the Umpqua Valley and in 1828 11 members of an independent American fur trapping party were killed in an altercation on the Lower Umpqua. Whatever the reaction of Indians to incursions of newcomers in the Willamette Valley, they could muster little resistance after severe epidemics of introduced diseases swept the region between 1830 and 1832.
Fur traders were followed by missionaries and others. In 1834 Jason Lee established a mission in the mid-Willamette Valley. In the following years, more and more travelers were using the valley as a route between California and the Northwest. By the 1840s there were settlements along the Lower Columbia and up the Willamette to the falls. After 1845, when 3,000 settlers entered Oregon, these newcomers began to establish themselves in farming communities upstream in prime locations through the Willamette Valley. Some Indians also began to farm.
The goldrush to California in 1849 temporarily slowed European settlement in and development of the region. However, by the mid-1850s, large numbers of settlers had entered the valley and taken claim to much of the prime land. Prospectors working north from California searched for gold in the peripheral mountain and hill country and entered the lands of aboriginal tribes that previously had been spared the heaviest pressures of the contact period.
By the 1850s there was increasing pressure to remove the Indians from their ancestral homelands. In 1850 the federal government offered free land to settlers who would open up farms in Oregon. Prior to the passage of the Oregon Donation Land Act of September 27, 1850 (9 Stat. 496) there was no legislation by which settlers could acquire title to their lands. The Donation Land Act was passed by the congress before treaties had been negotiated providing for extinguishment of Indian title to the land. There was growing conflict between Indians attempting to defend their homes and non-indians who coveted Indian farms and village sites and who demanded that the Indians be removed. By 1855 frontier elements were advocating extermination of the Indians. Land cession treaties were hurriedly concluded with a view to clearing the legal impediment to non-indian settlement.
Treaties and the Executive Order of 1857
The Indians of the Lower Columbia and
Willamette Valley negotiated treaties with federal
in 1851 which would have secured to them small reservations in
territories. The senate declined to ratify these treaties.
the years 1853 through 1855 the US negotiated seven ratified
Indian tribes and bands of the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue
in Western Oregon. These treaties provided for the
title to lands lying between the Coast and Cascade ranges in
The treaties provided that the separate bands would confederate and remove to land that would be reserved as a permanent home for them. The Indians were insistent that they would not leave the Willamette Valley. Beginning in 1856 and for the next several years the US removed over 20 Indian bands from their traditional homes and lands in these valleys and adjacent areas and relocated them on the Grand Ronde Reservation. In the 1870s these people were joined by some Indians from the Salmon and Nestucca rivers.
The reservation was established pursuant to treaty arrangements in 1855 and an executive order of June 30, 1857. The text of the executive order does not clearly set out the exact boundaries of the reservation. This, combined with other problems, has created some confusion as to the exact acreage contained in the original reservation.
The Grand Ronde Reservation was located on the eastern side of the Coast Range of mountains on the headwaters of Yamhill River in the Willamette Valley, 18 miles east of Lincoln City. The center of the reservation was about 60 miles southwest of Portland and about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
The Indians who were removed to the Grand Ronde Reservation in 1856 were forced out of their ancient homelands in desperate circumstances. Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon Territory (1848-1859), negotiated the seven ratified treaties concluded with these bands. In November 1855, before the treaty with the Molalla was negotiated, he selected the site of the Grand Ronde Reservation and initiated purchase of the donation land claims in the area. In a letter to the Commissioner of Indian affairs, Palmer wrote:
In order to secure the acquiescence of the citizens in the removal of the Indians to that point I am compelled to purchase and pay for several of the land acquisition claims that will be occupied. This the department may deem an unwarranted assumption on my part, but I can conceive of no other means by which to avert an impending calamity involving the destruction of these bands and a blot upon our national reputation.
The prospective destruction of the bands was described in a letter which Palmer sent in December 1855 to Maj. Gen. John E. Wool, commander of the Pacific Division:
The existence of a war of
our citizens against all Indians in Southern Oregon which by
appears to evince a determination to carry it out, in violation
treaty stipulations, and the common usage of civilized nations,
me to take steps to remove friendly bands of Indians now
Lane and upon Umpqua Reservation, to an encampment on the
the Yamhill River, distant about 60 miles southwest of Vancouver
the Coast Reservation.
This plan has been adopted with a view of saving the lives of such of those Indians as have given just and reasonable assurances of friendship.
Grand Ronde Reservation 1856
Joel Palmer's establishment of the Grand Ronde Reservation was reluctantly accepted by the Indians and was vehemently opposed by some non-indians. On January 8, 1856 a petition from Oregon citizens to Pres. Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) protested the purchase of the land claims and the colonization of "thousands" of Indians in the "heart of the Willamette Valley." Sentiment against relocation of Indians at Grand Ronde was so threatening that Palmer had to organize civilian protection and request the presence of troops. On April 11, 1856 Palmer wrote to the commissioner of Indian affairs:
The threatening attitude of the community led me to apprehend a general and combined attack upon the camp of friendly Indians, located at the Grand Ronde, and the slaughtering or driving into hostile position all who might be residing in the valley. I accordingly deemed it necessary to organize a force of armed citizens and place them on the eastern line of the reservation, cutting off all communication between settlements and the Indians. And whilst engaged in this line, to construct a fence from mountain to mountain, as a line of demarcation, across which no one could pass. This I have attempted putting into operation and have good reason to believe will be successful. It will require a force of about 60 men, and to remain until relieved by the promised company of US troops.
The donation land claims and the
of the military at Fort Yamhill within the boundaries of the
created land and jurisdictional disputes from the outset. While
the settlers were willing to sell their farms within the
the reservation, others were not. The existence of these claims
the record relating to the acreage contained within the
The accompanying tracing of a map made in 1858 shows the location of the Kuykendall and Babcock land claims in section 7 and 8 as well as the location of the Shasta, Santiam, and Cow Creek villages. The location of Fort Yamhill is also shown. There was constant confusion and conflict because of the overlapping claims of the Indian Department, the military and the several settlers who refused to sell their lands. Conflict over the unpurchased claims continued for many years.
Initially the Indian bands settled in
villages located in different parts of the reservation. The
tribes maintained their separate identities, elected their
to the general legislative council of the reservation, and the
of each village farmed land in common. In 1872, in anticipation
legislation, individual Indian families were allotted farms at
The Indians immediately began fencing and clearing their
and building homes.
The General Allotment Act, also known as the Dawes Act, became law on February 8, 1887. Under authority of this law, 270 allotments were made to Indians at Grand Ronde. The certified schedule was submitted to the secretary of the interior on January 25, 1891 and the allotments were approved on April 29, 1891. In July 1892, 265 patents were transmitted to the agent at the Grand Ronde Agency. Several of the allotments had inadvertently been made on land within an unpurchased donation land claim and one person eligible to be allotted had been overlooked. The remaining patents were issued a few years later after the land assignments had been readjusted.
The patents issued under authority of the Dawes Act contained a provision that after 25 years, the lands would go out of trust and into fee status. During the first 25 years the lands were held in trust for the Indian patentee by the US and the lands were not subject to tax. At the close of the trust period, a fee would issue and the lands became taxable. Most of the allotments were fee patented and went out of Indian control with alarming rapidity. This was true, not only at Grand Ronde, but across the nation whenever allotments had been made under the General Allotment Act.
In a belated effort to preserve Indian ownership of reservation lands, a series of executive orders were issued extending the trust period on some of these allotments. As a result, a small number of the original allotments at Grand Ronde remained as trust lands until the federal-Grand Ronde relationship was terminated in 1954-1956. At Grand Ronde, as elsewhere, the alienation of land from Indian ownership and control was due to a series of disastrous policy decisions and legal enactments, rather than any desire on the part of the Indians to divest themselves of their lands. Much of the land at Grand Ronde was unsuitable for farming. In an effort to provide some farmland to each allottee, the allotments were provided in several parcels some of which might be widely separated. The plan which was put into effect was described in an 1889 report of inspector T. D. Marcum:
This reservation contains 61,440
not to exceed one-sixth of the reserve is suitable for
A small portion is very good grazing land, while the remainder
but very well timbered with pine and fir trees.
Land in severalty is being allotted to these Indians, and the plan pursued by Col. Collins, the allotting agent, giving each Indian a portion of the farming land, and the balance in grazing or timbered land, is the only equitable method that could have been devised.
This effort left some allottees with
separated holdings and still others with only timbered land, as
not sufficient land suitable for cultivation. Government policy
turn of the century prohibited Indians from cutting timber from
for sale. They were only allowed to remove dead and down timber
for farming purposes. Allottees with timbered lands were unable
a living from their lands.
There was, at the same time, pressure from non-indians to get possession of unallotted Grand Ronde lands. Much of the land which remained as tribal, unallotted land was timber land and suitable only for grazing stock. In 1900 an attempt to insert a provision in the appropriations bill to authorize negotiations with the Indians for the sale of "surplus" lands failed. However, by the following year US inspector James McLaughlin had been detailed to secure an agreement for a cession of the unallotted lands at Grand Ronde.
One of the proponents in Congress for the opening up of the Grand Ronde Reservation was Judge Thomas M. Tongue of Hillsboro. Frank C. Armstrong, special agent at the Grand Ronde Agency, also urged sale of the unallotted lands even through there were no provisions to secure land for minor children born subsequent to the initial allotting process and adult mixed bloods living on the reservation had not received lands. Armstrong held that the rolls were closed and should not be reopened except for three individuals.
Armstrong reported that the Indians could manage very nicely on the allotted lands if several conditions were met. He recommended that authority be given for old and infirm allottees without direct heirs to transfer their land to younger Indians who would buy them, giving these Old Ones a life interest and occupancy which would support them during their lives. He also suggested that the Indians be allowed to cut and sell timber on their lands.
On all their allotments there is sufficient wood and timber to do them for future time. Some of them have much more timber than they can ever use. These, under the supervision of the agent should be allowed to cut and sell some of this timber, thereby clearing their ground which would be then good for farming or grazing: now it cannot be used for either. They could have these logs sawed at the mill and sell the timber, for which they have a market. This would give them some money and the use of the land, whereas now they cannot utilize it and the timber is going to decay.
Armstrong urged the sale of surplus
noting that on the north side of the reservation there were
acres used principally by stockmen for grazing and about 20
good timberland on the southern part of the reservation. He
the Indians derived no revenue from the grazing land because the
paid no fees and that the timberland had saleable lumber.
According to the agent, the Indians were anxious that the unallotted land be sold. He urged that the sale price be turned over to the Indians in a lump sum so that they could purchase stock and improve their farms. He claimed that this request was unanimously made by them, but no supporting petitions or letters were found in the agency records. Following Armstrong's report, inspector James McLaughlin was detailed to conclude an agreement with the Indians for the sale of the unallotted lands of the Grand Ronde Reservation.
The 1901 Land Cessation
James McLaughlin was a US Indian inspector who negotiated a series of agreements with Indians for sale of so-called "surplus" lands, of lands remaining after allotment at the turn of the century. In a letter of instructions providing background on the Grand Ronde Reservation, the commissioner of Indian affairs, W. W. Jones, wrote to McLaughlin:
The Grand Ronde Reservation was set
for the colonization of Indian tribes in Oregon, and
Willamette tribes, parties to the treaty of January 22, 1855 (10
1143), by the executive order of June 30, 1857. The reservation
59,699 acres, of which 33,146 acres has been allotted to 269
26,551 acres held in common, of which 440 acres is reserved for
The allotments were made under the Act of February 8, 1887, and were approved April 29, 1892.
McLaughlin was advised of agent Armstrong's recommendations and his report that the Indians at Grand Ronde were anxious to sell the unallotted lands. The commissioner of Indian affairs directed McLaughlin to negotiate an agreement which should be signed by a majority of the adult males of the reservation. The letter of instructions was not detailed. As the commissioner noted:
No further instructions in the matter are considered necessary as your experience in such matters will be a sufficient guide in this.
McLaughlin visited the Grand Ronde Reservation and concluded an agreement with the Indians there on June 27, 1901. In his letter transmitting the agreement, he reported that the tract which the Indians ceded was approximately 25,791 acres. He noted that:
The tract ceded by the enclosed agreement comprises all of the unallotted lands of the Grand Ronde Reservation, except 440 acres which was reserved for government uses at the time allotments were made to said Indians, the said reserve embracing the school farm of 200 acres and a timber reserve of 240 acres.
McLaughlin spent three days looking
the unallotted lands which he described as situated chiefly
western and northern boundaries of the reservation, hilly and
but with rich and fertile soil. He noted that the southern and
portion of the reservation, about 13,000 acres, included in the
was well timbered with a good growth of live timber, chiefly fir
that it made very good lumber for home consumption and local
did not regard it as likely to find ready sale at profitable
an Eastern market.
He described the northwestern portion as having luxuriant grass which affords good grazing, "horse, cattle, sheep, and goats thriving wonderfully upon it." McLaughlin predicted that, when cleared of downed trees and brush, with its abundant supply of excellent water it would make one of the finest stock ranges in Oregon. After describing the land in the foregoing terms, he reported as follows:
After examining the lands in question,
assembled the Indians in council to negotiate with them for the
and they at first asked $2.00 per acre for the tract, holding
time for that price for the portion containing the live timber;
regarding the burned district, with its range advantages, of
to the live timber portion, would not concede any extra price
for the southern tract.
After some consultation among themselves they reduced their price to $1.25 per acre, whereupon I made them a lump sum offer of $28,500 for the entire tract, being a fraction over $1.10 per acre, which offer, after consulting further among themselves, was accepted and the agreement thus concluded.
The resulting per capita payment for
ceded lands worked out to about only $72.00, leading McLaughlin
a lump sum payment.
The commissioner of Indian affairs in transmitting the agreement to Congress for ratification, noted with respect to the payment "this is undoubtedly a moderate price for the land."
In reporting the bill to ratify the June 27, 1901 agreement, the House Committee on Indian affairs suggested an amendment which would enable the Indians to receive greater compensation for the ceded lands. The amendment provided for sale of the lands by sealed bid with the actual proceeds of sale to be distributed pro rata to the Indians. This modification was presented by the agent who gave it his approval after consultation with leading members of the Grand Ronde Indians.
Indian Claim Commission
In Docket No. 238 before the Indian Claims Commission the Calapooya and Grand Ronde Community filed a claim to recover the value of the lands ceded under the McLaughlin agreement on the basis that the payment had been an unconscionable consideration. It appears that the claim was dismissed.
Land Purchased Under the Indian Reorganization Act 1936
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde accepted the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act in 1936. Shortly thereafter six ranch properties and one building site comprising a total of 536.99 acres were purchased with IRA funds. These ranch properties contained 331 acres of farmland. Twenty-two assignments were made and managed by the Grand Ronde Business Committee. These assignments were to provide subsistence and farming site. In 1956 these lands were still assigned in 22 tracts with one 70 acres tract not assigned.
In 1954, omnibus legislation which
the trust relationship between the federal government and the
Western Oregon terminated the more than 100 year history of the
Reservation. At the time that the reservation was first
was resistance to the settlement of Indians at the location and
thereafter several of the donation land claimants refused to
their lands within the reservation boundaries.
By the turn of the century pressure had mounted which resulted in the cession of all unallotted lands of the reservation except those reserved for government purposes. The disastrous effects of the General Allotment Act resulted in the alienation from Indian ownership and control of most of the allotted lands.
In 1936 when the Grand Ronde people elected to come under the Indian Reorganization Act, the tribe was able to purchase some lands to provide homes and farms for residents of the reservation. This effort at recovery was brought to an abrupt end with the disastrous policy of termination in the 1950s.
Throughout this difficult history, the Grand Ronde people had managed to remain in the Willamette Valley. For the last 30 years they have been virtually a landless people in their own land.
In 1983 the congress passed legislation restoring the trust relationship between the federal government and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community.
In 1983, Congress reestablished the
relationship with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde
by enacting Public Law 98-165, the "Grand Ronde Restoration
22, 1983, the Act was approved and signed by the president. The
Act provides that the Confederated Tribes shall be considered as
unit for purposes of federal recognition and eligibility for
for the establishment of tribal self-government, for compilation
roll, and for the establishment of a tribal reservation.
The 1983 Restoration Act reverses most of the provisions of the 1954 Termination Act. The 1983 Act restores federal recognition to the Grand Ronde tribes (hereafter to be dealt with as one tribe) and reinstates the corporate charter which has been issued under authority of the Indian Reorganization Act and has been ratified by the tribe in 1936. Federal recognition and the corporate charter had been terminated by the 1954 Act.
Except for hunting, fishing and trapping rights, the 1983 legislation restored all rights and privileges to the tribe and its members under any federal treaty, executive order, agreement, or statue, or any other federal authority, which may have been terminated or diminished under the 1954 legislation.
The Restoration Act contains provisions regarding adoption of a membership roll, a tribal constitution and by-laws, and election of a tribal governing body. The effect of the 1983 Act is to restore federal recognition of Indian rights and powers of self-government which the 1954 legislation had been designed to terminate.
No part of the former Grand Ronde Reservation lands are restored to the tribe by the 1983 Act, but the law provides for a reservation plan to be developed within two years of the enactment of the Restoration Act. The secretary of the interior and the tribe are to enter into negotiations for the establishment of an enlarged Grand Ronde Reservation to be established by a subsequent act of Congress. Real property transferred to reservation status will be held in the name of the US in trust for the benefit of the tribe or its members and will not be subject to federal, state, or local taxes.
Effects of Termination
When federal supervision over 60
of Oregon was terminated through the Act of August 13, 1954 (68
724), including the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde
federal trust relationships and all services performed by the US
because of their status as Indians, ended. As a result, all
including tribal lands, were sold or otherwise disposed, and the
lost its government-to-government relationship with the US.
The Termination Act's promise of equality and greater freedom and wealth for the Indians was never realized. Rather, the Grand Ronde Indians lost their federal status and associated benefits as a result of termination, which led to the disposition of their tribal lands.
The BIA apparently did hold several meetings locally concerning impending termination. Most of the tribal elders were in their youth then and "were not too concerned" about what was happening. Consequently, the extent to which the implications of termination were explained by the BIA and understood by the tribe is unknown. Some question also surrounds the attitude of the federal government toward the Grand Ronde tribe at the time of termination. For example, at that time, a tribal member submitted a bid on land for which the federal government was handling the sale. The bid was rejected, but shortly thereafter, the government sold the very same piece of land to a non-Indian at a lower bid.
Termination affected individual tribal members in several ways: to a few there was "little change from what it was," but to others, primarily tribal elders, it was a loss of "home" and personal identity, as well as the health and educational services previously available through the BIA and the IHS. With the loss of their land and thus the resources which could provide a livelihood, it was necessary for many tribal members to move from the community to seek employment where available. The fact that less than half of the population resides in the six-county area reflects this movement away from the community.
The younger members of the tribe have had identity problems as well. While to the white community they are Indian, even though they have no homeland or reservation, to other Indians they are not "Indians." They have grown up with non-terminated Indians who are receiving per capita payments, lease payments, and BIA/IHS health and educational services—all services which have been refused them because of their status, a status about which they had no say. For example, some tribal members have been unable to obtain preference for employment and career advancement within federal agencies.
The low average income level, the high unemployment rate, the lack of educational/vocational training and health services, and the poor housing all reflect the negative impact of termination.
Accomplishments and Efforts to Maintain Tribal Identity
The accomplishments and efforts of the Grand Ronde tribe to maintain tribal identity fall into two distinct periods since the August 1954 termination of the tribe from federal supervision.
To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred, and their resting place hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon the tables of stone by the iron finger of your god so that you could not forget. The red man could never comprehend nor remember it. Our religion is in the tradition of our ancestors—the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems; and it is written in the hearts of our people. --Chief Sealth (Seattle), Northwest Gateway, 1854
The first time period is from
to around 1980. During this time, there was no designated
the cemetery committee remained in existence and, through
tribe, carried out all traditional tribal government functions
recording births, deaths and maintaining membership records).
as a cohesive body maintaining the identity of the tribe and
the focal point for the Grand Ronde community.
In 1975, in order to combat the detrimental effects of termination and to further strengthen the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde community of Oregon, the tribe formed a stronger governing body through Articles of Incorporation filed with the Oregon Department of Commerce. Specific provisions for the operation of the tribal council and membership requirements were outlined in the articles of incorporation and by-laws. Membership was limited to individuals who are on, or are eligible to be on, the final termination rolls developed pursuant to Public Law 68-724, and their descendants.
Many of the tribal members continued to live in the vicinity of the former reservation, the land base having been depleted to two and a half acres containing the tribal cemetery. In the late 1970s, the tribe purchased an additional seven acres adjoining the cemetery with a small building for the tribal headquarters. At termination, these seven acres, along with all other reservation lands, had been sold for $5 an acre. The Grand Ronde tribe, through extensive community fundraising efforts, repurchased these seven acres for $3,250 an acre. In addition, the tribe purchased a greenhouse for the cemetery site through a grant from the Chiles Foundation.
At this time, the tribe was able to employ a very small staff through grants such as the Indian Manpower Act and the Economic Development Program. This enabled the tribe to begin to work on other grants to benefit the tribal members and also enabled them to work as a unit. This activity led the tribe to begin their work toward Restoration.
The second time period, around 1980 to the present, the tribe became active regarding legislation to restore them as a federally recognized tribe. Since legislation brought about termination, it required legislation to restore the tribe. The tribe began seeking funds to allow them to travel and hire staff necessary to do the research, prepare proposed legislation and other required work. They received funding from several federal, local and private organizations. After several years of intensive work, Public Law 98-165 was approved on November 22, 1983 and federal recognition was restored to the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde community of Oregon.
The Restoration Act set forth several requirements which the tribe had to meet within a specific time frame. The Act required the election of the interim council within 105 days from the date of the Act. A tribal constitution had to be prepared and adopted within six months and a new tribal council elected pursuant to the constitution had to be established within 120 days after the adoption of the new constitution. In addition, during this two-year period, a process for tribal enrollment had to be established and the membership roll constantly updated. The tribe met all these requirements within the required time frame, and in addition, performed all the work necessary to keep the tribe operating on a day-to-day basis.
How the tribe is working on the last requirement which states that within two years from the passing of the Restoration Act, the secretary of the interior, through negotiation with the tribal governing body, shall present a plan for the establishment of a reservation. This will complete the requirements of the Act.
Into the Next Millennium
The following decade was one of
forward progress for the Grand Ronde tribe, beginning with the
detailed and definitive master plan, a document that even today
as the blueprint for economic and community development.
The centerpiece legislation of this revitalization was the Grand Ronde Reservation Act of 1988, which returned at least a portion of the land—9,811 acres—to the original owners of record, giving the tribe once again a land base to call its own.
Other economic development activities followed in close order, culminating in late 1995 with the opening of Spirit Mountain Casino, a tribal-owned and operated gaming establishment that has already become known as the finest in the Northwest.
The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde community of Oregon are on the move and seeking new horizons—for their own people and the people around them. If the past decade is any indication, the decade leading into the 21st Century will be unprecedented in Grand Ronde tribal history.
And its been coming for 150 years!
Sermons (1): An Online Ministry of Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel
Early Words and Sermons (2) Early Words and Sermons (3)
by Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel I II
Oregon History Online: Volume I Volume II
Volume III Volume IV Volume V
Volume VI Volume VII Volume VIII
Volume IX Volume XOregon History CD Edition
1870 Benton County Oregon Census A-ICensus J-RCensus S-Z
1870 Polk County Oregon Census A-M1870 Census N-Z
Wild Women West: One-Eyed CharlieWestern Warrior Women
Black Pioneers Settle Oregon CoastYaquina Bay Oyster Wars
Wolf Creek SanctuaryRogue River CommunitiesGolden Campbellites
Murder on the Gold Special: The D'AutremontsTyee View Cemetery
Eddyville CemeteriesOlex CemeteryApplegate Pioneer Cemetery
Thomason CemeterySiletz Valley CemeteriesSiletz Indian Shakers
Glenwood, Harlan, Chitwood CemeteriesElk City Pioneer Cemetery
Eureka CemeteryToledo Pioneer CemeteryGuardino Family History
"So Be It" Autobiography by Mariano Guardino
Dobbie-Smith Genealogy "Aunt Edie" by Harriet Guardino
Dobbie Obituaries and Letters
Historic Oregon Coast AlbumHistoric Grants Pass Oregon Album
"The Great Pal" by Harriet Guardino