Indian Shakers

     Hello fellow Internet surfer and welcome to a gem of a site dedicated to illuminating the onyx-like parallels unearthed from an otherwise beclouded and boring American and world historical perspective into its many hues and flavors, a spectrum inclusive of most light that makes up the untold stories, fascinating stories and journeys not quite attached or put together in this theatrical or holistic manner as you will find!
     I bring many years of personal and unique historical research, reading, collaboration, living, and writing experiences. I am a published historian, journalist, and genealogist, whose roots are in the Central Oregon Coast, the primary though not exclusive gathering or focal point of these stories.
    I am not professionally enamored by historicism in the classical sense, or any particular intellectual chains, other than the challenge to loosen the usual grip of white Western European, heterosexist and masculinist elitism! And yes, I believe in being politically correct, and am proud of it, that I still name the names! I am a student and practitioner of folk and established history, and am expanding my understanding of story, wishing to share some of those exciting findings and perspectives. I plan to update this site regularly with the little known gems and connections to "the rest of the story" usually relegated to footnotes I have uncovered from the current draft of our mammoth, interconnected, well documented history saga, Sovereigns of Themselves: A Liberating History of Oregon and Its Coast. I would welcome and appreciate hearing from you, comments, questions, suggestions, corrections, or other resources and I hope that you'll stick around long enough to get to know just a little bit more about what this cyber-historian has to offer.


(1) M. Constance Guardino III (2) With Wife Marilyn Riedel (3) The Artist (4) In Drag

History-Onyx Online Challenges You To Believe It Or Not!

Oregon Reservations All Shook Up

     The Indians of Oregon first became acquainted with the Shaker religion through the inter mediation 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 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 here, 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 became 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 Shaker congregations. The church which is at Chiloquin has flourished and developed into a key element in the Oregon-California sector.
     The Umatilla, near Pendleton, heard about the wonderful powers of Kelso Shaker Aiyel soon after he had converted the Yakima. About 1906, a Umatilla man had some property stolen from him, and he decided to apply to the Shakers for assistance in recovering it.  The Presbyterians and Catholics were strongly entrenched on the Umatilla Reservation and Aiyel was fearful of a trap, so he took Alex Terio, the Yakima elder, and several other followers with him. As in another case, Aiyel's hands led him, under power, to the hidden place of the stolen goods and the thief's house. Some of the Umatilla were interested, and later a few came to the Yakima meetings and were converted. The Yakima attribute this failure to the vigorous oppositions 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 Presbyterians elders. (Indian Shakers, Southern Illinois University press 1957, pp. 82, 83)


(Center) Eddie Charley, Jip Washington, Paul Washington, Eddie Frye,
Skinner Williams standing on Siletz Bridge in the early 1900s.
From The Singing Priest Of Siletz, Guadeloupe Translations, 1997

Shaker Church Established At Siletz 1923

     The next church to be opened was at  Siletz in 1923. Reports of the religion had reached this reservation long before this date directly from the north, but it was slow in developing a foothold. Several of the Yakima had relatives at Siletz whom they visited even before the opening of the 20th century. In fact the wife of one Yakima Shaker, Homer Hoffer, came from Siletz, as did one of his daughters-in-law. In 1892, Hoffer's wife was sick, and a Yakima Shaker volunteered to make her well. She agreed to give him a chance, and she regained her health. (Indian Shakers: A  Messianic Cult of the Pacific Northwest, Southern Illinois Press 1957, p. 70) When the first wife of his son, Andrew, died, the latter married a Siletz woman and moved to that reservation to live with her. He was a Shaker before 1923, as were some others who had been in contact with the Klamath congregation. But in that year members from elsewhere were invited to dedicate a new church building and to hold a revival meeting. Shaker leaders among the Yakima and Klamath arrived in several automobiles and there was an immediate response to the appeals for converts. A large number of the Siletz Indians joined in the next few years; so many, in fact that their desertion from the other churches alarmed the missionaries. In 1928, Father 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..."
     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 great 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 his 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. (Indian Shakers, Southern Illinois Press 1957, p. 188)
     There were many instances of Shakers healing an individual through the restoration of his soul. Ghosts might be the cause of the misfortune; but this idea was not well understood by the Siletz Shakers. (Indian Shakers, Southern Illinois Press 1957, p. 189)


Siletz Valley Photos Courtesy Of Lucy Marrs 1978

     Soon after Shakerism was accepted at Siletz a Shaker Church was erected on Swan Street. Large numbers of Athabasban attended this church. (Grace Castle Interview With Indian Shaker Ida Bensell, 1970)
     On the reservation where many Athabascan 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. (Innovation: The Basis for Cultural Change, McGraw Hill Cook Company 1953, p. 75) 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 elder women.
     It is significant that the Rogue Rivers of Siletz 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 design 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 (Athabascan) in the 1920s and it can be assumed that the Rogue Rivers 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. (North American Indian 1907-1930, Vol. I, Johnson Reprint Corporation, pp. 20, 21) 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. (Siletz: Survival Of An Artifact, Dallas Itemizer-Observer 1977, 22. 27, 28)


Indian Shaker Leaders John Slocum & Louis Yowaluck
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution National Archives 3021

Yurok Unshaken By Jimmy Jack

      Following the healing experience, Jimmy Jack resolved to reorder his life, return to Requa, and preach the gospel among the Yurok. He commenced his mission in earnest, first asking the forgiveness of his mother, whom he had treated inconsiderately, then going from house to house pleading for a hearing. He praised the newly revealed religion, enumerating its benefits and declaring that the acceptance of Jesus Christ had wrought a glorious revolution in his life. He called upon the sick and volunteered his services to prove the divine power of shaking. Realizing the disadvantage of his illiteracy he approached Robert Spott, an outstanding member of the community, with a plan to make him lieutenant because 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 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 meeting talked it over; some soberly and quietly rejected jack's religion, others laughed openly at him.
     He did, however, receive some support from his relatives. Toward the end of the year he prevailed upon his two young female cousins and the husband of one to accompany him to Siletz in order to attend the meetings of 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 husband was also converted. Encouraged by these favorable results, Jack invited the Siletz Shakers to a big meeting at Klamath. The Chiloquin Shakers were also notified and asked to lend their support by uniting with an eager group from Siletz. The combined parties arrived at Klamath inseveral automobiles led by Elder Jackson of the Siletz church.

The Shaker Meeting At Klamath

     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. (Indian Shakers, Southern Illinois University Press 1957, pp. 74-77)
     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 non-indian man 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. (Indian Shakers, Southern Illinois University Press 1957, p. 200)
     Leonard Whitlow II, who teaches U. S. History at Grant High School in Portland, vividly recalls childhood memories of the Shakers at Siletz:

     "When I was a child you could hear the ringing of the bells and the chanting clearly anywhere in Siletz. Joe and Sofia Simmons were an Indian family that lived one house off Gaither (Main) Street on Metcalf. They often treated sick people by "shaking" over them. My best friend, Darrell Bailer, lived in the house directly on Gaither. (next to the locker plant).
     They had venetian blinds on their windows, and when they were shaking we would sneak up on the front porch and peek "down" the slats inside. The "sick" was dressed in white and laying on the floor. The dancing chanters circled the body and rang their school bells. An Indian later told me that in some of these cures might go on for days, and as dancers fatigued, others stepped into their places and carried on.
     I also once went down to the Shaker Church to ask the grandmother of Robert Felix III if he could go to the movies with my family. His grandmother and another lady were "shaking" for someone in front of the altar. The altar was a pseudo-candleabra of crucifixes with lots of candles. Bobby and I sat on the benches that lined the outside walls and waited until they were through.
     The various Shaker Indians I knew as an adult always invited me to their services, with only the requirement that I not laugh at their ceremonies.  Several times I traveled down to the church (usually at night) when I heard the bells and chanting. I would get right up to the door and could not bring myself to go in. Ithink that I felt that I would really be imposing."

Siletz Shakers Sissy And Jakie 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 country. 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), and what business there was turned over to Kernville. The office was named in compliment of the Johnsons, who were favorably known.
     Jakie is said to have been a Siletz Indian, and  Sissy, 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 markings they tattooed dots on the wrists of their women for strength. (Contributions To Alsea Ethnology, Vol. 35-36, University of California Press 1934, pp. 88, 96) Indians of the Willamette Valley (the closest to the Siletz on the east) did not use tattoos. (Kalapuya Texts, University of Washington Press 1945, p. 196) A very light-skinned people, comparatively speaking, the Southern Oregon  Chastacosta women wore chin tattoos. (The Siletz Reservation 1855-1900, Portland State University 1973, p. 50) This is not unlike the chin tattooing tradition of the ancient Libyans, who according to Harvard professor Barry Fell, "...retained their ancient customs practiced [of] chin tattooing of the women, who did not wear the veil even though they are now Moslems. The men on the other hand cover their head and faces with a scarf like cloth, showing only the eyes to strangers." (Saga America, Times Books 1980, p. 244)
    Indian women of Sissy Johnson's period imitated non-indian dress habits and were especially fond of hats, shoes and colorful shirts. P. Ritz, a newspaper reporter said, "The Indian women from Siletz made an admirable appearance in their Sunday best." (Portland Oregonian 1869) He watched the two cultures collide "head on" as it were, however, when blue facial tattoos appeared atop 19th century urban fashions. A more graceful blend resulted when Indian women completed their costumes with their own beautiful basketry hand bags.
     A friendly and outgoing individual, Sissy Johnson taught local people how to cook mussels and how to mix ashes and salt to make a cement to patch cracks and drafts in wood burning stoves.
     The Johnson 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 were 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 George 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 US-101 and Clover Avenue. The couple rented rooms and served meals to travelers as there were no other accommodations available. Their estate included many farm buildings.
     Later, in 1910, 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 (1884-1890), homesteaded a claim on the bay front adjoining the Johnson estate. A merchant and postmaster of the Taft office, Bones sold his business in 1910 to William Dodson, who built a new general merchandise store a little farther back from the waterfront. (History of Siletz Bay Area, Lincoln County Extension Service 1975, pp.13-16)


M. Constance Guardino III

January 2013

Early Words and Sermons (1): An Online Ministry of Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel
Early Words and Sermons (2) Early Words and Sermons (3)


M. Constance Guardino III With Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel
M & M Club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2000

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