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.
Chapter 38: Cow Creek Umpqua
The story of the Cow
Creek Umpqua (Nahankhuotana) is the story of a
who were faced with an invasion by a society that was
greedy and destructive of the Indian way of life.
It is the story of the clash between two distinct cultures, two distinct civilizations. The outcome was hardly in doubt, since the invasion was simply the next wave of a repetitive process that had been going on relentlessly for 300 years as non-indian settlers spread out across the continent, obliterating Indian groups along the way.
The attitude of the thuggish throng toward the Indians of Oregon, the Cow Creeks included, can best be summed up by quoting the standard history book for Oregon school children for over 20 years in the early 1900s:
The Indians of the Oregon country represented various stages of savage and barbarian culture...[none] of them possessed even the rude beginnings of civilization. They were always poor, hungry and miserable. They had bows and arrows...but beyond that stage They had not progressed. Those were truly savage men.
Utmost Good Faith Law 1787
In 1787, the US Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which contained a section titled the Utmost Good Faith law, which asserted:
The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without consent; and in the property rights and liberty, they never shall be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.
The Organic Act of 1848 created the
Territory, extended the Utmost
Act to Oregon Territory, and confirmed all Indian
in the territory. The Indian lands were not to be taken from
their consent. The Oregon
Land Act of 1850 granted 320 free acres to all
in Oregon over 18 years of age.
The Oregon Donation Land Act meant that non-indians could stake a claim to land no matter whether Indians lived on it or not. No consent was needed. No treaties were necessary.
In two years conditions were established that would lead to an inevitable clash over valuable land with precisely those Indians whose property and land claims were supposedly protected by the Utmost Good Faith law. The Indians were pushed out, villages were burned. Indians were sometimes killed in cold blood. Many of the non-indians fighting the Indians were irregular volunteers operating independently of the regular army and all established authority. These volunteers often planned their raids in taverns and were well fueled with alcohol. The land-grab was on, to the dismay of the Cow Creeks.
Also in 1850, a removal plan was hatched to remove all Indians from Western Oregon, including the Cow Creeks. The office of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs was created to carry out the removal plan.
Cow Creek Umpqua Treaty 1853
The Cow Creeks became the first Oregon
Tribe on September 19, 1853 after one day of negotiation with
Chief Miwaleta counseled the Cow Creeks to avoid warfare and sought a peaceful solution to the troubles that arose with non-indian settlers. they ceded their homeland to the US Government for the grand sum of $12,000, 2.3 cents per acre, to be paid over a 20-year period.
At the same time, the government was selling similar land to settlers for $1.25 per acre. In the 20th Century the amount of this payoff was to become the main point of contention between the Cow Creeks and the US, as the descendents of the original signers sought justice in the Court of Claims.
For and in consideration of the cession and relinquishment contained in article first, the US agree to pay to the aforesaid band of Indians [Cow Creek Umpquas], the sum of $12,000, in manner to wit: $1,000 to be expended in the purchase of 20 blankets, 18 pairs of pants, 18 pairs of shoes, 18 hickory shirts, 18 hats or caps, three coats, three vests, three socks, three neckerhandchiefs, 40 cotton flags, 120 yards prints, 100 yards domestic, one gross buttons, two pounds thread, ten paper needles.
The treaty left the Cow Creeks no land, no place to live, no protection. They became fugitives within their own territory. They were hunted down, some were murdered and others driven out.
Trail of Tears 1856
In 1854, the Oregon Territory
passed it illegal to sell guns or ammunition to Indians.
By then the Cow Creeks had been drawn into the Rogue Indian Wars to help their cousins to the south. In 1854, Superintendent Palmer visited several bands of Umpqua Indians, and he reported:
I found many of them wretched, sickly and almost starving... They said, truly, they were once numerous and now few and weak; that they had always been friendly to the non-indians, and desired them to occupy their lands; that they wanted but a small spot on which they might live in quiet. Many of their number they said had been killed by non-indians, in retaliation for wrongs committed by Indians of other tribes, but they had never offered violence in return.
Shortly after the Cow Creek Umpqua
was signed, Chief
Miwaleta died. The Cow Creek Umpquas were led into
Wars by Chief Miwaleta's successor. As a result, the government
its treaty obligation.
In September 1855, hostilities broke out again as volunteers moved to exterminate or remove all Cow Creek Umpqua and Rogue River Indians. Hard fighting ensued and many Rogues took refuge along Umpqua River where they and the Cow Creeks were rounded up and held against their will.
Although the Cow Creek Umpqua Treaty of 1853 called for a reservation, it existed for only about two years.
In 1856, these Indians were removed from the area and marched some 150 miles northwest to the Grand Ronde Reservation on the Yamhill River.
On December 29, 1982 a bill, PL 97-391, signed by Pres. Ronald Reagan, granted federal recognition of the Cow Creek Band of Umpquas. It was the culmination of legislative work by tribal members beginning in the early 1900s. This legislation, led by Congressman Jim Weaver, Senators Mark O. Hatfield and Bob Packwood, began a new era for the tribe. In 1987, Congressman Peter DeFazio steered legislation through Congress, PL 100-139, which protected tribal funds and enrollment.
In 1985, the tribe purchased 28 acres
I-5 in Canyonville
which gained full reservation status in 1986.
In 1989, Umpqua Indian Development Corporation was formed strictly for the purpose of economic development, and with a board comprised of tribal members and community leaders.
With a direct loan from the Bureau of Indian Affairs the Bingo Center on the reservation was constructed, opening April 30, 1992, employing 40 people, about a quarter being tribal members. During 1992, the tribe negotiated the first tribal/state gaming compact in Oregon allowing the use of video terminals. It was signed by Governor Barbara Roberts and tribal chairwoman Sue Crispen Shaffer on October 2, 1992, and approved by the Department of Interior on November 20, 1992.
The tribe employs 15 people in the administrative offices, focusing on cultural resources, health, education and youth development, and looks forward to future economic projects, not timber dependent, that will promote business and employment for both the tribe and local communities.
In 1993, the South Umpqua Historical Society, Inc. published the Articles in a completely new format to commemorate centennial celebrations for the cities of Riddle and Myrtle Creek.
The following are edited excerpts from Riddle's Articles pertaining to the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua and the Rogue River Indian Wars of 1855-1856.
Cow Creek Valley 1851-1861
In 1920, when George Washington Riddle (1839-1927) was 80 years old, he wrote a series of articles for The Riddle Enterprise relating his memories and experiences of crossing the Great Plains, helping his family establish Glenbrook Farm, and participating in the Indian War that followed. In his recollections of the first months of the Riddle family living in Cow Creek Valley nearly 150 years ago, Riddle speaks of the "mutual understanding and liking" that endured during the lifetime of Chief Miwaleta and his father, William H. Riddle. Those early pioneers and Chief Miwaleta formed the framework for a partnership between two cultures that will carry on into the 21st Century.
George W. Riddle's first meeting with
Cow Creeks was in the latter part of October 1851, when his
his family moved onto a donation land claim, or what is now
At that time his family consisted of his mother, Maximilla Bouseman, his father, William H. Riddle three sisters, one a window with a child two years old, and four brothers, one older and two younger than himself, a sister of his mother’s, a spinster, and an orphaned cousin, a non-indian girl 11 years old at the time; and in addition, two young men who drove ox teams. George Riddle was not quite 12 years old then. He recalls that the family arrived at their destination at about three o'clock in the afternoon and camped under the oak tree that now stands in the yard immediately north of the Glenbrook Farm. In a very short time their camp was surrounded by Indians who seemed to come from every direction. This caused the family no alarm. They came from curiosity—the elderly Indians, women, children and all came to the number of a hundred or more. They were curious about everything—the children were objects of interest, many of them never having seen a white child. A cook stove was set up and a fire started in it, which excited their wonder and curiosity. One young man came in contact with the hot stove pipe on his naked shoulder which caused him to leap and yell, but evoked uproarious laughter on the part of the crowd. The Indians, although friendly and good-natured, were crowding so closely about the camp that Maximilla and her daughters were unable to prepare the evening meal, and this situation proved embarrassing.
At that time the Riddles heard the words "Miwaleta, Miwaleta" and a hush fell upon the crowd as an Indian appeared whose presence and appearance showed that he was one in authority. He was a man 60 or 70 years old, about six feet tall, of heavy build, with full, round face, at least as George remembered him, with none of the gnarled features that characterize the motion picture Indian. The Indians seemed to regard him with reverence, more than fear. William advanced to meet him, and by signs made the chief understand that he wanted the Indians to stand back out of the way, which they did, forming a circle around the family’s camp where they seated themselves upon the ground or squatted upon their heels. Maximilla offered the chief a chair, which he declined, but seated himself upon his blanket on the ground. William proceeded to tell him by signs that we had come to live there, that he would build a house. Neither of them could speak a word that the other could understand, but they seemed to arrive at the mutual understanding and liking that endured during the lifetime of Miwaleta.
During the sign language conference, an incident occurred which in a way illustrates the character of Miwaleta, and greatly impressed Maximilla. A very handsome Indian boy detached himself from the crowd and came near the chief, stretching himself at full length on his stomach near the chief. This Indian boy, George learned afterwards, was a son of Miwaleta's son, who was dead. The old man's hand went out and rested on the boy's head. Maximilla knew from that that he was a good-intentioned Indian. At the close of the sign interview, William offered the chief food, which he accepted, giving a portion to the boy. The Indian boy, who was named Sam, and young George were afterwards boon companions, and in a few months had learned the Chinook jargon, Sam learning a great many English words while George learned Sam's native tongue; and through this medium, with Sam and George as interpreters, a perfect understanding was had between the Chief Miwaleta and William Riddle, it being understood that any overt act of the Indians should be referred to the chief but so far as the Riddles were concerned, there never was any trouble of any consequence.
In 1851, Miwaleta was the chief of five bands of Umpqua, all of whom comprised about 200 individuals, by far the strongest tribe of the Umpqua Valley. They spoke the same language as the Rogues, or Indians as far south as the Siskiyous. But the Rogues were the hereditary enemies of the Miwaleta, and they termed all the Southern Indians "Shasta."
The bands were divided about as follows, and each band and chief has the name of the locality where they made their home: All the north side of the creek in Cow Creek Valley was Miwaleta's and the Indians numbered about 75. The south side of the creek was Quintiousa, the chief took the same name, and was sometimes called Augunsah, the name of the country of the South Umpqua, east of Canyonville; the Quintiousas were about 50 strong. The Targunsans were about 25. Their chief was called Little Old Man. And in the Cow Creek country east of Glendale was a band of 25 or 30 whose chief was known as Wartahoo. In addition to the above there was a band known as the Myrtle Creeks, about 40 in number, whose chief was not known to George Riddle. There were three of their number who were always making trouble. Curley, who was large and powerful, Big Ike, and Little Jim.
All the Umpquas north of Myrtle Creek spoke a different language and were considered a different people, although they had more or less intercourse.
Over the Myrtle Creek, Targunsaw, Wartahoo and Quintiousa bands, Miwaleta was the head chief, and although there was often trouble between these bands, they held together against the Shasta and the Rogues.
Sam related to George some of the battles and the mighty deeds of his grandfather, Miwaleta, and at one time the chief showed Lomtu his war dress when he was present. The dress was made of two large elk's skins dressed soft, but left as thick as possible, then laced down th sides so to hang loose about the body and leave the legs and arms free, the thickest part of the skins were back and front and were impenetrable for arrows. The elk skin armor was ornamented with aboriginal paints forming figures and designs of which George didn’t remember the meaning. He didn't remember seeing the chief wearing headdress, but had seen the younger Umpquas wear headdresses that seemed more for ornament than protection. In wartime they wore a single white feather from the tail of a bald or white headed eagle that was snow white.
Miwaleta's war dress showed evidence that it had been of practical use, being pitted all over where arrow points had struck it, and the chief's arms, face and head showed many scars, which they claimed were made in the wars with the Shasta.
It has always been a question in George Riddle's mind whether Miwaleta had a genuine friendship for the non-indians or was wise enough to know the hopelessness of opposition. That he always counseled peace and was able to restrain his people from going to war with whites, we had ample evidence.
Miwaleta Gives Oral History of Tribal Wars
In the fall of 1852, a young white
mere boy, wantonly stabbed a Cow Creek youth, who lingered a few
and died. The whiteboy was hastily gotten out of the country and
Runners from the Rogue River tribes who came to induce the Cow Creeks to join them in a war against the non-indians, and a great council it was. At this council George witnessed a sample of Indian oratory. When he arrived at the scene the Rogues had evidently submitted their petition, and Chief Miwaleta was making a reply. The older members of the tribe were seated in a large circle, women and young boys forming the outer circle. The chief was also seated and talked without gesture in a moderate but oratorical tone. The Rogues sat in perfect silence, and the elders of Miwaleta's people occasionally gave grunts of assent or approval. George Riddle, in company with Indian youth his own age, listened to the chief for some time the day he commenced to talk. He was there on the day following, the chief was still talking, and was informed by the boys that he continued to talk until he fell asleep. Just what the chief could find to say in such a long talk was explained to George by the Indian Boys. It appears that the history and legends are committed to memory and handed down from father to son through their chiefs. In this case Chief Miwaleta was reciting to the delegates the history of their tribal wars and remonstrating with some of his own people who were inclined to listen to the Rogues and join them in a war on the non-indians. The counsel of Miwaleta prevailed, and when the Rogues went on the warpath, Miwaleta's band encamped near our house and remained at peace.
Cow Creek La Crosse
On their arrival in Cow Creek Valley, George and his brother Abner were soon on good terms with the Indian Boys of their age, of which there were about a dozen, and every minute of their spare time they were engaged playing ball, swimming, hunting or fishing. Indian boys were enthusiastic ball players. They had a ball game played something like La Crosse. In this game they used a wooden ball about one and a half inches in diameter and played with a stick flattened and crooked at one end to drive the ball. The point in the game was to drive the ball past and between the goal posts at the opposite ends of the field. The ball was put in play in the center of the field by tossing the ball in the air, and then it could be played upon with the crooked sticks. This game was mostly played by the older tribesmen one tribe or band against another, and on these games they would stake all their worldly possessions and when the ball was put in play, there was action for spectators. Football or basketball—both combined could not compare with this Indian game with about 20 young men on a side stripped to the breech clout and scattered over the field to intercept the ball and drive it through their opponents's goal. At times the interference would be terrific and the young men's skins would glisten with perspiration. It was in the summer of 1852 that the Cow Creeks engaged in this game for several days, in which contest the Miwaletas were opposed by the other small bands.
George Riddle and Indian Sam Visit Portland
Among the Indian boys was a grandson
Miwaleta, a youth about George Riddle's age. The two were great
Sam was his constant companion in George's grouse hunts, and he
to handle Riddle's rifle and was proud of the accomplishment.
Sam was a bright, handsome lad and learned to speak English quickly. While on their hunts they would give the English and the Cow Creek name for every bird or animal that they saw.
On one of William Riddle's trips to Portland with ox teams Sam went along. Portland at that time was a small town, and they camped on the riverbank near Morrison Street, turning their oxen out to graze among the stumps and timber. During the evening they discovered a small steamboat coming down from Oregon City. The boat's engine was a high-pressure kind, and was like one of the kind Lincoln told about that operated on the Sangamon River that had a ten-horsepower whistle and a six-horsepower boiler. The Riddles, including Sam, went to the water's edge to see the old boat come down, which with a loud exhaust and shower of sparks presented a terrifying sight to Sam. On its nearer approach he grasped Sam by the arm trying to get him away. About this time the boat's engineer turned all steam on the siren. This was too much for Sam and he ran for it. The Riddles found him in one of the wagons, a badly scared little Indian. After George had explained to him what it was, he wanted to forget it. On his return to Cow Creek Valley, Sam had many things to relate to his tribesmen.
George recalled those good old days when he would be off to the mountains with his rifle and followed by a half dozen Indian boys. He was the chief; he had the only gun. Sometimes he would allow an Indian Boy to shoot grouse which would fill him with pride and joy. The Cow Creek youth were a great help. Their keen eyes would spy out the grouse. Their blue color harmonized so well with the green foliage of the fir trees it made them difficult to find and when shot they would flutter down the steep mountain sides; but the Cow Creek youth would retrieve the game in short notice and would carry all the game which would be from ten to 20 birds for a full day's hunt. When the party returned to Glenbrook Farm, Maximilla would give the young men some bread and sometimes some of the game. Those were happy days for both non-indian and Indian boys.
The winter of 1852-1853 was a very severe one for Oregon. The snow was two feet deep in the valley and remained for a month or more. Pack trains were held up and miners and settlers in Jackson County were soon without supplies, especially bread stuff. Beef, without salt, was the principal food—salt was said to have been exchanged for its weight in gold dust, while flour was any price that might be demanded.
By the summer of 1853 the country began to present the appearance of permanent homes. Fields were fenced, all with split rails laid in worm fashion; two flouring mills had been established, one at Roseburg and one at Winchester, which were patronized by settlers from 40 miles away; also two sawmills, one at Myrtle Creek owned by Moses T. Dyer, and one at Canyonville owned by David Ransome. These mills were of the up-and-down saw variety but were able to cut enough lumber for flooring for cabins.
There are many things of which the history of Indian Wars make no mention at all and others of importance that have the slightest mention. There has also been a disposition on the part of historians, especially Frances Fuller Victor's The Early Indian Wars of Oregon (1894), to exaggerate and also to excuse the wrongs perpetrated upon the Indians by non-indians.
The Indians the Riddles found in the Cow Creek Valley had not come in contact with the non-indians, living as they did, remote from the line of travel between California and Oregon. Some of them had not seen a non-indian man, and a non-indian child was an object of great interest. They possessed few guns and no horses and had few of the implements or clothing used by civilized peoples, and what they possessed had been traded to them by the Klickitat who had made occasional visits to the Umpqua Valley. The Klickitat were a nomadic tribe whose home was somewhere north of the Columbia. They were traders and sometimes called the "Jews of the Indian tribes." The Klickitat had also taught the Cow Creeks a few words of Chinook jargon which was soon improved upon by the aid of a Chinook dictionary.
Cow Creek War 1852
The Indians in Cow Creek Valley were
up into groups or families and each had their headmen or chiefs,
seemed to acknowledge Miwaleta as the head chief. His band
north bank of Cow Creek with winter quarters at Cow Creek Falls
part of the valley was called Miwaleta, the chiefs always taking
of the locality.
The second most numerous band of Cow Creeks made their homes on Council Creek, and their leader was Chief Quentiousa, who also claimed control of the Indians at Canyonville and South Umpqua. They were called Taraunsal.
A small band that we called Myrtle Creeks were closely related to the Quintiousas. These bands would stand together against outside enemies, yet they had feuds among themselves. Minor offences were often settled by payment of damages.
George Riddle observed that revenge appeared to be characteristic of all Indians. If an Indian was killed by another it was incumbent upon the near relative of the dead to avenge his death.
Early in the spring of 1852 three Myrtle Creeks, Curley, Big Ike, and Little Jim, made themselves notorious. Curley wore long wavy hair and was a large powerful warrior and the leader. They would stalk into a settler’s cabin and demand food.
Curley wantonly killed an Indian woman, cut off her head and placed it on a stake near the body in the grove near the Umpqua. The woman was a sister of a young man the settlers called Charley—a member of the Miwaleta band.
Charley was undersized and weak physically, but it was up to him to kill big Curley. We often loaned Charley a gun to hunt deer, for which he would bring a share of the venison, but for arms he carried a bow and arrows, while Curley carried a good gun and had often threatened Charley, making fun of his bow and arrows. Charley related his troubles to the Riddles and had aroused Maximilla's sympathy, but the family would not loan him a gun with which to kill Curley.
Indian Curley, with his two companions, Big Ike and Little Jim, went to Glenbrook Farm one time when the men were away and, as was their custom, stalked into the house and demanded food. George was at home with a broken arm caused by jumping from a wagonload of poles to urge his ox team up a steep bank. In jumping his foot had slipped and in falling he had struck his left arm across a rock, breaking the bones above the wrist.
Seeing his arm in splints Curley seized hold of him pretending he would break his arm again, and hurting him cruelly. George rushed into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife with which to do battle with the big brute, but Maximilla stopped him. He was then 12 years old, but he supposed he thought that armed with a dull butcher knife he could fight an entire nation. So it can be seen that the non-indian settlers did not discourage Charley when he declared that some day he would kill Curley.
Late that summer Charley, with a small family, including two boys, Sam and John, who were grandsons of Chief Miwaleta, were camped on the south bank of Cow Creek. The camp was enclosed with willows, leaving an opening for entrance. Curley, coming along alone in a spirit of bravado, walked into the hut leaving his gun at the entrance, seated himself and ordered food to be brought him. The two boys were out hunting and Charley was alone except for women and children of the family, Curley no doubt holding his weakness in contempt. Charley, burning with his wrongs and the insults that had been heaped upon him for months, succeeded in reaching Curley's gun first and shot him dead. Charley, thinking that Big Ike and Little Jim, Curley’s comrades, would be near, ran to his tribe for protection. He reached the Riddle house, five miles away, almost exhausted and rushed into the house saying: "Nika mimaluse Curley. Kloshe mika pot--latch shirt (I have killed Curley. Give me a shirt)." Maximilla Riddle, from kindness or thinking he had earned a calico (trade) shirt, promptly gave him one.
Within a few hours after the killing, runners had reached all the friends on both sides of the quarrel. Quintiousa's band espoused the cause of the Myrtle Creeks and the Riddles were soon in the midst of a genuine Indian War with Cow Creek dividing the two hostile bands.
The Miwaletas were soon organized undera young leader, Chief Jackson. Their first effort was to find the boys, Sam and John, who would return from their hunt on Ash Creek unsuspecting and would fall into the hands of the enemy. Sam was George's chum among the Cow Creek youth and the Riddles were anxious on their account. Night had come on. The Riddles could hear the war cries of the Indians with occasional gun shots. It was about 11 o'clock at night that Jackson, with his party, returned with the young men safe, Sam giving George his eagle yell to assure him of his safety.
Yells of defiance could be heard from both sides all night long. Early the next morning the Miwaletas were assembled on the riverbank in front of the Riddle home and Chief Quintiousas on the high ground on the opposite side of the river. About 200 yards distant on our side of the river were two round log buildings near the river bank. In one of these George had his gun, with one white eagle feather, as a head ornament.
The bands appeared about equally divided, 40 on a side. A brave on one side would advance in front of his party, go through a war dance challenging the other side to combat individually or collectively, and wind up with a war whoop. The challenge would be accepted by a young brave on the opposite side so far a speech and war dance was concerned.
At one point Tyee Tom, a young leader of the Curley faction, left his band on the hill, rushed down to the riverbank, which brought him within gunshot from our side, and yelled his challenge, which was accepted by my chum, Sam, who rushed to the bank, dropped on his knee and proceeded to rest his gun on a stick that all Indian Boys carried to steady his gun. Sam shouted in English: "God damn you, Tom, I kill you now." Tom, seeing he was about to be shot, dodged behind some brush and ran for it. This was accepted as a great victory for our side and the whole band danced and yelled.
At this stage of the war, Chief Miwaleta took his platform on the riverbank and delivered an oration, no doubt advising peace, and was answered by the elderly chief from the other side, and a kind of armed neutrality seemed to be patched up and a few days afterward, Charlie, the slayer of Curley, died suddenly from hemorrhage of the lungs, brought on, no doubt, by his five-mile run after shooting Curley.
Massacre at Grave Creek 1851
During the summer of 1851 it was
that there was a non-indian child among the Cow Creeks.
Cpt. Remick A. Cowles, with a party of men visited Quintiousas camp on Council Creek to investigate. On making the object of their visit known, Tipsu Bill, armed with a rifle and followed by an Indian woman and an Indiangirl about eight years old presented themselves, and by sign language stated that the Indian woman was his wife and that the little girl was their child. On examination, the whites were satisfied that the child, although lighter than the average Cow Creek, was unmistakably Indian.
Tipsu Bill was not a native Cow Creek, but was adopted by the tribe. His homeland was somewhere near Butte Falls in Jackson County and he was likely a Molalla, and on account of tribal conflicts had migrated to the Umpqua country. With him had come, besides his wife and children, a younger brother about 15 years old named Jack, and an elderly man named Skunk, and a family, about ten in all.
The White Exterminators
Tipsu Bill was a very striking appearing Cow Creek—tall, straight, powerful. Cpt. Cowles relating the incident of the while child examination said that Tipsu was the personification of courtesy, coolness and courage, giving the non-indians the opportunity to look at the child, but giving the impression that "I am here with my gun to defend my family with my life." Tipsu Bill made his home with the Miwaleta band and during the Rogue River War of 1853 was encamped near the Riddle homestead. George related this fact to show further how Tipsu Bill lost his life in connection with the massacre of the Grave Creeks, of which A. G. Walling's History of Southern Oregon gives an account. It appears that after the treaty had been signed by Gen. Joseph Lane and his officers with the Rogue River chiefs, Joe and Sam, there developed a desperado class of non-indians the Cow Creek settlers called exterminators, that generally wreaked their vengeance upon some helpless bands of Indians that had no evidence of no less an authority than Judge Matthew P. Deady to prove that a fearful outrage was perpetrated at Grave Creek after the armistice was agreed upon. Deady wrote:
At Grave Creek I stopped to feed my horse and get something to eat. There was a house there called the Bates House, after the man who kept it... Bates and some others had induced a small party of peaceable Indians who belonged in that vicinity to enter into an engagement to remain at peace with the whites during the war which was going on at some distance from them and by way of ratification of this treaty invited them to partake of a feast in an unoccupied log house just across the road from the Bates House, and while they were partaking, unarmed, of this proffered hospitality the door was suddenly fastened upon them and they were deliberately shot down through the cracks between the logs by their treacherous hosts. Nearby, and probably a quarter of a mile this side I was shown a large round hole into which the bodies of These murdered Indians had been unceremoniously tumbled. I did not see them for they were covered with fresh earth.
The above account agrees in most
with the account George Riddle had from Jack, a brother of Tipsu
and two Grave Creek youths who made their escape and made their
the Cow Creeks for two years afterward.
It appears that after the Grave Creeks were rounded up in the log house as related by Judge Deady they were informed that their lives would be spared on condition that they would bring in the head of Tipsu Bill, who was encamped on Grave Creek a few miles below the Bates House, with his small band and engaged in hunting deer, Tipsu Bill being the only able-bodied man of the party. The Grave Creeks, thinking to save their own lives, detailed part of their band to bring in Tipsu Bill's head.
They found Tipsu Bill in his camp, who being at peace and unsuspicious of visitors, they treacherously shot and carried away his head to their unscrupulous non-indian captors, supposing they would soon be released, but in this they were soon undeceived, for they were all shot down as related by Judge Deady.
The two Cow Creek youths came in sight while the shooting was going on and, sensing the difficulties, ran for it. The exterminators turned their guns on the young men and hit one of them in the heel, but they made their escape.
The number of Indians killed in the log house was nine and was all the able-bodied men of the tribe. Tyee Taylor, with two others had been hung at Vannoy Ferry in December 1852 on a trumped-up charge of having murdered seven prospectors on Lower Rogue River. No evidence of the men being murdered was ever found and the reasonable supposition is that the prospectors had simply moved on to some other locality. It was claimed that Tyee Taylor had in his possession a small amount of gold dust and that when he saw that he was about to be executed, confessed to the killings, which is not in keeping with Indian character.
The family of Tipsu Bill, after the killing, returned to Cow Creek and made their homes with Miwaleta's band until the beginning of the War of 1855-1856.
Tipsu Bill's Family Sent to Grand Ronde
The supposed non-indian child was named Nellie and was sent to the Grand Ronde Reservation in Yamhill County with a lot of women and elderly Indians who were found hidden away in the mountains on the head of Rice Creek. Nellie grew up to be a famous beauty and many stories came back about her connection with prominent men. Jack, a young brother, lived with the Riddles for over a year doing all kinds of farm work George had gone out hunting with him in the mountains for a week at a time. He seemed to have no animosity against the whites for the death of his brother, but many times he said he would have to kill the two young Grave Creeks when he quit work for the Riddles; he wanted William Riddle to give him a rifle that he had used hunting while with the family. William refused to give Jack a gun, but gave him a horse instead.
A. G. Walling's Account of Southern Oregon Indian Wars Bigoted and Xenophobic
Historians of the Indian Wars of Southern Oregon are traditionally too ready to find excuses for the outrages committed upon Native Americans. The writer of Walling's History of Southern Oregon was disposed to be fair, but was often misled into making false statements. Here is a sample:
Throughout the spring and the first
of the summer of 1853 little was heard of the depredations of
Only one incident seemed to mar the ordinary relations of white
The event referred to was the murder of two miners, one an American, the other a Mexican, in their cabin on Cow Creek, and the robbery of their domicile, and as a matter of course, the deed was laid to Indians and probably justly, for the Indians along that creek had a very bad reputation.
George Riddle wrote that the killing
two men as stated above was absolutely false, especially as to
Cow Creek. Such an event would have been indelibly impressed
Another curious circumstance, he reflected, was that the names
were not given.
He thought it strange that stories so vague would be written into history, but that is still the case. Walling's History of Southern Oregon further states, referring to the Cow Creeks:
They were of the Umpqua family but had independent chiefs and were far more fierce and formidable than the humble natives of the Umpqua Valley proper. They had committed several small acts of depredation on the settlers of that vicinity, such as attempting to burn grain fields, outbuildings, etc., but had not it appears, entered upon any more dangerous work until the killing referred to. The unfortunate Grave Creek band allowed themselves to be mixed up in the affair and suffered ill consequences.
Further on the history states:
The total number of Grave Creek Indians who were killed in consequence of their supposed complicity in the acts and in the so-called murder on Galice Creek previously spoken of was 11... The Grave Crees tribe was rapidly becoming extinct.
And, as a matter of fact, they were extinct so far as able-bodied males were concerned except for the two young men that took refuge with the Cow Creeks.
Massacre on Wilson Creek
It was about a month after the massacre of the Grave Creek band that a party of men professing to be prospectors, 14 in number, visited our valley, making their camp across the small creek at about 100 yards from where the Glenbrook farmhouse now stands. These men were from Josephine County and no doubt were some of the same persons who participated in the slaughter of the Grave Creeks and other Indians. The day following their arrival a part of their company went up Cow Creek on the south bank of the stream about four miles from our house. They found a small camp of Indians—one very old rheumatic man, a brother of old Chief Miwaleta, one woman, and one little girl about three years old. The old man and the woman were shot down. A sick Indian that was some distance from the camp hid and witnessed the murders. There was also an Indian Boy named John out hunting, who returned a short time after the non-indians had departed and finding his family murdered and their camp burned, made his way to the Indians’ main camp on Wilson Creek. The little child was brought down alive, of which Maximilla Riddle immediately took charge. The men had found the child's beaded buckskin suit that they insisted on keeping, but were prevailed upon to give it up.
Myrtle Creeks, Canyonvilles and South Umpquas Retaliate
These vicious non-indians acknowledged
wanton killing, throwing off all disguise and said they were
from Rogue River, and immediately assumed to take charge of Cow
They placed a guard on the mouth of the canyon, where they met
Riddle's neighbors, Green Hearn, who with Chief Jackson,
to the scene of the murder, driving them back, leveling their
as well as the Indian. This massacre caused a great deal of
and apprehension among the non-indians. Would they retaliate by
vengeance on the settlers during the afternoon? All were
horrendous murders, and during the night Indian runners had
the scattering bands; Myrtle Creeks, Canyonvilles and the South
were all assembled.
Early the next morning the whole band of Indians, about 40 or 50 in number, appeared on the opposite side of the river from Glenbrook Farm, with the Riddle's neighbor, John Catching, among them. The non-indian exterminators seized their guns and rushed to the bank of the river. William Riddle got ahead of the desperados to prevent them firing, while Catching was in front of the Indians. The non-indians retired to their camp at the foot of a large pine about 60 yards from the riverbank. The Indians came straight on and soon completely surrounded them, forming a circle within 20 feet of the tree, with Catching and my father inside the circle. The non-indians did not seem to have any desire for a pitched battle with so many Indians, who seemed to want to make a showing of force, and to demand reparation for the wanton wasting of their people. During the Pow Wow there were tense moments. Young Tyee Tom was principal spokesman for the Indians and used every invective at his command in English, Chinook jargon, or his native tongue in denouncing the cowardly acts of the exterminators. He told them they were cowards—that they could kill an elderly man and a woman, but would not fight a warrior. One of the exterminators retorted: "You talk brave—you are four to one." At this Tyee Tom called out an equal number of warriors, saying: "Come on, we will fight you man for man."
The Cow Creeks held those desperados from early morning until noon. During the six hours neither side relaxed their hostile attitude for a moment.
The non-indians, although not coward, knew that their lives would pay for any hostile move, and the Indians also knew that battle with non-indians would be disastrous to them. The desperados agreed to leave the country and not return, and John Catching prevailed upon the Cow Creeks to submit their grievances to Indian Agent Joel Palmer, who was due to arrive in a few weeks to treat with the tribe which was accomplished during the fall.
Cow Creek Reservation 1853
Late in the afternoon the Indians had
the desperado band of murders struck camp and departed, going up
The following morning George was allowed to go with Chief
scene of the killing. Following the trail of the non-indians at
Flat they came to their campfire still burning. If they had met
non-indians there was no doubt that Jackson would have been in
They were on foot and George had an opportunity to witness the caution with which an Indian approaches danger. When they saw the smoke of the campfire they took advantage of every clump of brush, scanning every inch of ground ahead of us. Finally they discovered a coyote near the camp. Jackson at once straightened up, taking the trail, trusting to the sagacity of the coyote not to be in proximity of the non-indians.
Upon arriving at the destroyed Indian camp, a gruesome sight presented itself. The murdered woman had been thrown upon a drift heap of logs and was half burned up. The elderly Indian had made his way into the river before they had finished him and he lay partly out of the water on some rocks. George was at this time 13 years old and looked upon these Indians as our friends. His youthful emotions were expressed in tears. His Indian companion, with the stoicism of his race, viewed the scene without a word, and although this murder was one of the causes of the Cow Creeks taking the warpath two years later, they never held the settlers accountable.
Early in the spring of 1853, the remnants of Miwaleta's band scattered to the hills. More than one-half of them had perished of the fever during the winter. George and Abner were not allowed to go near the Indian camp at Cow Creek Falls for fear of contagion. It appeared that his Indian chum Sam had contracted the fever before the Indians left their winter quarters and had tried to follow, but was too weak and had been left to his fate. When this was reported to him, he obtained permission to go in search of him. He found Sam on Wilson Creek lying by a log alone. When he reported this to Maximilla, she consented for him to bring Sam to Glenbrook, where the family gave him every care, and for a time they thought he might recover, but after lingering about three months he died. Sam, during his illness was patient and grateful, but like all his race was a fatalist. He had made up his mind that he would not get well, and it is said that when an Indian loses hope of recovery he is sure to die.
After Sam got so weak and emaciated, George could carry him out under the shade of the trees where he could look at the mountains. At one time he said: "We will never hunt up there (pointing to Old Piney Mountain) any more. I will soon be gone." During Sam's sickness George was nurse, and when he died George was chief mourner; also undertaker and sexton. He buried his companion under some young pines on the banks of Cow Creek.
George recalled a young man, a kind of a runabout among the Indians, broke into the cabin of a settler named Chapin at Round Prairie and stole a lot of clothing. Cpt. Cowles came to Miwaleta's camp and reported the theft. The thief was apprehended with some of the clothing, his arms tied behind a tree, and was given a thorough whipping by the Indians.
Another time an Indian whose home was near Galesville, stole a horse and log chain from a traveler, came through the mountains, his horse and chain in the timber and showed up in Quintiousa's camp, the non-indian man coming to Glenbrook in search of his horse. William Riddle reported the matter to Chief Miwaleta, who immediately sent his young men out, who soon struck the trail and found the horse and chain, the Indian making his escape to his own band.
At this time no treaty had been made with the Cow Creeks. Gen. Joel Palmer, superintendent of Indian affairs for the Oregon Territory, at the solicitation of the settlers, had paid them a visit and promised to return, but before he did the epidemic broke out in Chief Miwaleta’s camp, and the old leader was among the first to succumb.
In September 1852, Palmer negotiated a treaty with the Indians, meeting them on Council Creek.
At the treaty all the Indians were assembled from Canyonville, Myrtle Creek and Galesville and to organize them Palmer asked them to elect a head chief and a sub chief at this election. Puintiousa was chosen head chief and his son, Tom, sub chief, passing over Jackson, the son of Miwaleta, much to the dissatisfaction of the remnant of that band.
In the treaty the land lying west of Council Creek and south of Cow Creek extending some distance back in the mountains was set apart as a reservation.
Three log houses were built in the grove where the council was held. These houses were about 18 feet square of unpeeled fir logs with flue through the center of the roof so that the Indians could live in their Primitive style by making a fire in the center. These cabins were only occupied by Quintiousa’s band, the others preferring their huts at their old homes.
A field of about 20 acres was fenced that fall and planted to wheat which the Indians harvested the following summer. The next fall they were furnished oxen and plowed and seeded the field themselves and for two years after the treaty there was nothing occurred to seriously disturb the peace although there were many small grievances.
The settlers' hogs multiplied and rooted up the camas fields. The Indian dogs which followed the squaws, worried the hogs and the settlers shot the dogs and as is always the case—even among civilized neighbors—the hogs and the dogs were a source of trouble.
Hangings and Killings Incite Cow Creeks
When the Rogues went upon the warpath
the white men in the fall of 1855, the wise counsel of Chief
forgotten and youthful Tyee Tom carried his people into the war,
their hereditary enemies, the Rogues, against the white men.
war in 1855 and 1856, there was not a full-grown Native American
survived. One, a boy, John, a grandson of Chief Miwaleta, is
acted as messenger between white men in their preliminary
for a treaty at the close of the war.
Many causes led up to this. Once authority gives the cause of the wars as the "encroachment of a "superior race" upon an inferior race."
In 1852, a young man, a son of Chief Wartahoo, was hung at the William Weaver place. It was claimed that he had insulted a young white woman by an indecent gesture. Within four hours he was hung. This might have been considered justified from a non-indian point of view at the time, but to the Cow Creeks, the boy’s fault would not compare with the treatment.
At another time a Cow Creek youth went south with a pack train, and leaving the train, was on his way home when he was stopped by white men that were at a trading post on Wolf Creek. It is probable that the men were drinking, as there was always plenty of whiskey at these houses along the road. At any rate there was a chance to have some fun by hanging an Indian boy, so the youth was placed upon a horse, a rope was put around his neck and attached to a limb of a tree. At this point in the proceedings the proprietor of the house rushed out crying: "Hold on, that Indian owes me six bits." The hanging was delayed until the melancholy brave produced the money and paid his debt, and finding he had a dollar left asked that it be sent to William Riddle. When these business matters were concluded the horse was driven from under the Indian boy and the handing was completed. When the facts of this affair became known that trading post was given the name of the Six Bit House by which it was known afterwards.
These hangings and killings together with the treacherous slaughter of the Grave Creek and the murder of Tipsu Bill by the Grave Creek at the instigation of the non-indians; also, the murder of the old man and woman near our home, and numerous other slaughter of Indians in Josephine County at the time of peace and of Indians not involved in the short war of 1853—all these outrages were known to the Cow Creeks and made them ripe to enter into the hostilities against the invading population when the general outbreak of the Rogues came in 1855.
Butte Creek Massacre 1855
The Rogue River Indian War of
an indiscriminate slaughter of a band of helpless Indians on
near The banks of the Rogue.
These Indians were a part of chiefs Sam and Joe's band, who by a treaty with Gen. Joseph Lane in 1853 had been settled upon a reservation on the north bank of the Rogue River, around Table Rock, and during the two years after the treaty there had been no authentic charges of wrong doing on the part of the treaty Indians. But there had been trouble with non treaty Indians, most of which originated between the miners and Indians in Siskiyou County, California, and small bands of Indians inhabiting the mountains west of Ashland.
On October 7, 1855, a company of non-indians from the mines around Jacksonville and led by Maj. Lupton surprised a helpless band of women, old men and children, killing them. The number has been variously stated.
Cpt. Andrew Jackson Smith of the Regular Army, stationed at Fort Lane, visited the scene of the slaughter on the day of its occurrence and reported to the War Department that there were 80 old men, women and children. Others fixed the number of 30.
Of the non-indians engaged in this business—about 40—Lupton was mortally wounded by an arrow that penetrated his lungs from which he died, and one other man slightly wounded.
It seems strange that 40 non-indian warriors could be so lost to all sense of justice and humanity as to engage in a slaughter of helpless old Indian men, women and children. But there was a feeling of insecurity among the pallid people of the Rogue River Valley, and a desire that the Indians might be removed, and a fear that the Indians might be aroused to avenge their own wrongs. There was some outspoken sentiment against the outrages committed against the Indians, but when the Indians retaliated within two days by a general slaughter of non-indians, the Indian sympathizers were very unpopular.
The massacre of the Indians on Butte Creek occurred on the morning of October 7, 1855. On the 9th and 10th the country between Gold Hill and Galesville on Upper Cow Creek, a distance of 50 miles, was ablaze. Only a few houses, where settlers hastily assembled and defended were left standing. Over 30 non-indians were killed on the 9th. The Indians had selected the sparsely settled districts on which to revenge the Butte Creek Massacre. At the time of these happenings, the Riddles were in deep distress at the sickness of George's little sister, Clara, the youngest of the family. He was called home to Roseburg.
On October 10th, Henry Yokum arrived at Glenbrook with information that the Indians were sweeping north, killing and burning and had killed two men at Galesville and at that time had that place surrounded. The Indians had not been seen near the Riddle farm for two days, a sign of possible danger. George rode Yokum's horse to the Indian camp to ascertain what They were doing. He found their camp on Council Creek abandoned, but continuing on up the creek, he was met by some Indian boys whom he had not seen for several months.
The Indians were camped close to the creek further up in the timber. They evidently were holding a council. George could hear that one of them was making a speech and they no doubt at that time were conferring runners from the Rogues.
In a very short time some of the older Indians came out to where George was talking with the boys and he could see that they were not in a friendly mood. "Whose horse is that?" the Indians asked.
"Henry Yokum's," George replied.
"What do you want?"
"My sister wants a squaw to come and do some washing."
"Klat-a-wa (go)," the Cow Creeks ordered him.
This was unusual. They had always shown the greatest friendliness to the Riddle family at their camps. They repeated their demand for George to "hy-ak klat-a-wa (quick go)."
George left, and when he reported his experience to his parents there were several of their neighbors at their house, and it was concluded that the neighborhood was in imminent danger of an attack by the Cow Creeks.
Early in the afternoon, Clara passed away. Immediately afterwards the neighbors who were at Glenbrook went hastily to their homes, and loaded what they could of their effects into wagons, abandoned their homesteads, and drove to William Weaver's place that afternoon.
A state of alarm prevailed when the details of the massacres between Gold Hill and Cow Creek were made known, and the settlers were anxious about what action the Cow Creeks would take. That there were hostile Rogues with them was certain. The settlers of Cow Creek Valley acted upon the principle that "self-preservation is the first law of nature" in deserting their homes. The alarm spread all over Southern and Western Oregon. Settlers in the Willamette Valley caught the infection. Alarmists at Salem and Portland were devising means of defense, and in Washington County the Methodists place a stockade around their church. A safety meeting was held at Corvallis because it was believed 300 Cow Creeks were said to have come north to the Calapooia Mountains and threatened the lives of all. Alarm spread like wildfire and even the number of Indians was magnified, as the number of Cow Creek warriors would not have exceeded 25, and probably not one of them had been north of the Calapooia Mountains in their lives.
After Clara was buried on October 11, Maximilla Riddle volunteered to go to the Cow Creek camp to induce them to come to Glenbrook for a conference. She went on horseback across the river to the camp where George had seen the Indians the day before and found it deserted. On her return home, coming out of the timber and crossing Council Creek some Indians, seeing who it was, showed themselves on the side of the mountain toward Heckler Flat. Maximilla rode up to them and inquired for the aging Chief Quintiousa. They told her that the chief was "sick tumtum (heart sick)" and did not want to see a non-indian.
Maximilla told them that the settlers wanted to be friends with them, and she wanted them to come over and talk with William and the neighbors, telling them who was there. The Indians had great confidence in Cpt. Cowles, one of the party, I. B. Nichols was the only settler that the Indians harbored a grudge against. This was on account of his hired hand striking the chief with a club for which Quintiousa demanded a horse. Nichols refused to give him a horse, thus wounding his pride as well as his head.
Maximilla Riddle obtained a promise from young Tyee Tom to come for a talk and a short time afterward, Tom, followed by about a dozen of his young braves in full war regalia and armed, appeared on the Riddle side of the river, halting just across the small creek near the stone spring house at Glenbrook, where William met them. Cpt. Cowles, with some of the men, were posted in a log house and other of the men in a hewed log dwelling that served as a fortress in itself and commanding a view of the council and 60 yards distance. I. B. Nichols was requested to keep out of sight on account of his unsettled difficulty with Quintiousa and his son, Ed.
At the conference, William Riddle stated the desire of the settlers for the Indians to remain at peace and to camp near Glenbrook until the troubles in the Rogue River Valley were over, and offered protection.
Tyee Tom's Oratory
Tyee Tom was spokesman for the Cow
He did not question William Riddle's sincerity and admitted that
always been fair and just with them but questioned his ability
them. Tom acknowledged that they had been promised an agent to
them but that he had never appeared. He pointed out that they
at peace during the Rogue River War of 1853, but "me-sah-chee
non-indians had killed one of their men and a woman when they
In fact, Tyee Tom, in a quite eloquent manner, recited their
since the coming of the non-indian invaders; the cowardly
Grave Creeks; the killing of Tipsu Bill; and many other
that the Rogues had been among them and informed them of the
the Rogues, at Butte Creek, four days previous, and that the
that the non-indians meant to exterminate them whether they
peace or not; and that they were going to join the hostile
The young chief did not express animosity towards the settlers, but throughout the conference expressed the conviction that the Indians were in fact doomed to be exterminated, but that they would in deed die fighting.
Tyee Tom himself was killed in the Olalla battle and it was reported that out of all the able-bodied young men of the Cow Creeks, but one Indian boy, survived the war. That was John, one of George Riddle's hunting companions. He was afterwards known on the Siletz Reservation as Citizen John Hill (1828-1910).
Tyee Tom Joins the Rogues
While the conference was proceeding
Tyee Tom and William Riddle, Israel Boyd Nichols (1824-1893),
warned not to appear, approached the scene of the Pow Wow. When
distance from the Indians he was discovered by Quintiousa's son
immediately dropped upon his knees, taking aim at Nichols.
fire Tyee Tom seized his gun and commanded him to desist. There
that Nichols escaped death by a hair's breadth. He saw Ed's
shoot, but did not falter. I. B. Nichols had met with heavy
hands of the Indians—had lost an entire pack train and their
and had narrowly escaped with his life. He had never had any
the Cow Creeks until the episode with Ed and his going to the
the time was to show the Indians that he was not afraid to meet
When Tom and his band retired with the avowed intention of joining the hostiles they were never seen again in the Cow Creek Valley.
The Belle of Grand Ronde
Within days after these occurrences,
companies of volunteers were raised in what now comprises
Cpt. Samuel Gordon's company mustered in at Roseburg, in which
and young William Riddle enlisted, and in about ten days after
had disappeared, I. B. Nichols, with a few men, were quartered
home, and soon after a stockade was built around another house.
least ten days the homes in the valley were deserted and
at the mercy of the Indians, yet not one thing was disturbed,
that they had no desire to harm the settlers who had lived in
them throughout the past four years.
During the winter of 1855-1856, the Riddles lived at Roseburg, William caring for his blacksmith business and Maximilla keeping boarders, with George as assistant.
Those were stirring times. Volunteer companies were passing through Roseburg to the to the Rouge River Country. Col. William J. Martin made his headquarters at Roseburg. It was here that he issued his celebrated order to "take no prisoners," yet he soon had a lot of prisoners, but not of Indian warriors.
It appears that when the Cow Creeks went on the warpath their old men, women and children were hidden away in the canyons of the mountains. A band of these—between 30 and 40 in number—were hidden on the head of Rice Creek near Dillard. These refugees would steal out to pilfer from abandoned homes. Finally a few of the settlers assembled and calling Lazarus Wright of Myrtle Creek, a celebrated grizzly bear hunter, to their assistance, tracked the prowlers to their camp. They were so securely hidden that they were in the midst of the camp before they discovered them, and to their surprise found more Indians than they expected and of a different band from what they expected to find, but found that the Indians were Cow Creeks and quite willing to surrender. These Indians were turned over to Col. Martin who had them brought to Roseburg, where George Riddle recognized old friends. He had learned a great deal of the Cow Creek language, and was then employed as interpreter and instructed to ascertain where the warriors of the tribe were, but they, if they knew, would not tell. The captives were housed in an annex to a carpenter shop. As a spy, George was instructed to spend the night under a workbench where he could listen to their conversation. He could hear the names of absent warriors mentioned, but no locality that he understood.
On the following day Col. Martin had two Cow Creek youth, aged 12 or 14, brought to a room in the hotel. Among the men present was Cpt. Daniel Barnes, aid to Col. Martin. One of these Indian girls was Nellie, the daughter of Tipsu Bill who was murdered by the Grave Creeks, in the futile attempt to save their own lives and the supposed white-child mentioned earlier. George was directed to ask them where the Indians were, but could get no answer but "wake-tum-tux (don't know)." The young Indian women could speak Chinook jargon and could understand English. Cpt. Barnes undertook to put them through the third degree, but could get no information from them.
Col. Martin had with him a sword—the property of Gen. Lane, one that had been surrendered to him by the Mexican General Antonio Loópez de Santa Anna (1794-1876) in the Mexican War 1846-1848. It was a beautiful sword with gold hilt, scabbard elaborately engraved. Finally Cpt. Barnes pretended to become enraged, seized Nellie, thrust her into the corner of the room, assumed his fiercest look (he was a large bewiskered man), enough to strike terror to the heart of the beautiful Indian maid, and addressed her in jargon, "Kah mika kon a wa Tillicum (Where are your menfolk)?"
Nellie gave no answer.
Drawing the sword and rushing at her as though to thrust it through her he said "Al-ta-mi-ka wa-wa pe-mi-ka mamook mem-a-loose mika (Now talk or I will kill you)."
But Nellie, isolated in a room with a half a dozen fierce-looking soldiers, the point of the sword at her breast, did not show fear by the batting of an eye or a quiver of the lips. The well-staged attempt to frighten these young women to tell of the whereabouts of the warriors was an utter failure, reinforcing the fact that the Indians could be demoralized by a surprise attack, but as prisoners they could not be intimidated to confess anything.
While being held prisoner near Dillard, a bachelor became infatuated with Nellie and begged with tears to be allowed to adopt or keep her and have her educated, to which Col. Martin turned a deaf ear. The man, who was ridiculed by his associates, made no secret in expression his grief and genuine attachment for the Indian maid, who one day became the Belle of the Grand Ronde Reservation, her beauty romanticized all over Oregon.
The Cow Creek remnant of elderly men, women and children were finally placed on the Grand Ronde Reservation in Yamhill County.
Rice Family Attacked By Hostiles
After the Battle of Hungry Hill, Cpt.
company of Douglas County volunteers was stationed near Cow
and the settlers gained confidence that they would not be
Indians and began to move freely about the valley to look after
and stock, with most of them remaining forted up at the Riddle
Tracks of Indians appeared near the home of the Russells, who with two sons, were at their cabin. When the Russells discovered the Indians, they evacuated their cabin immediately. The Indians, having no desire to injure the Russells, did not follow them on their two-mile run to safety, and left their home unmolested.
Some time in December a band of hostiles composed of Cow Creeks and Rogues attacked the Rice family near Dillard, that was followed by a fight on the Olalla. Frances Fuller Victor's The Early Indian Wars of Oregon (1894) gives a meager account of this Indian raid. After narrating the disposition of the volunteer forces, it says:
But the companies were not permitted to remain in quarters. During the absence of the volunteers early in December some roving bands of Indians were devastating the settlements on the west side of the South Umpqua, destroying 15 houses whose inmates had been compelled to refuge in the forts.
George Riddle cites this as an example
what "will pass on down to future generations as history," and
a more complicated series of events.
A man named Yell, who had some cattle grazing in the Boomer Hill district, went out one day alone to look after his stock, going over the mountains by way of "section four," following the trail around by what was then known as pole corral or Boomer Hill. On top of the ridge west of the Ledgerwoods, Yell discovered a band of Indians in a grove of small oak trees about 300 yards away. The discovery was mutual. Yell turned right and dashed across the steep gulch, while the Indians rushed to head him off. Yell, thanks to his sure-footed horse, reached the top of the ridge leading to the valley ahead of the Indians, who were firing at long range. Yell, urging his horse down a rocky ridge, his saddle slipping onto his horse's withers, had no time to stop to adjust his saddle but got behind the saddle and rode to the stockade, a very much demoralized man. It appeared there were none of Cpt. Gordon's company available to go in pursuit, so I. B. Nichols immediately organized about eight men to join in the pursuit and was on the Indians' trail before noon the next day. In the meantime the Indians had passed over the mountains and camped on Rice Creek within half a mile of the Rice family residence. On the following morning they discovered smoke, evidently coming from the Indians' campfire.
On seeing the smoke the Rices were apprehensive and sent their 14-year-old son, Sylvester, to inform their neighbors. It appears that Sylvester, on arriving at the Umpqua River, about a mile and a half from their home, found the canoe was on the opposite side of the river and failing to secure help from that quarter, turned and ran to the home of his grandfather O. L. Willis. The Rice and Willis homes were both situated in narrow valleys with a high steep ridge between and about one mile apart on a direct line, but over three miles around by wagon road. After the Willis family had made their preparations for defense one of the sons, Albert Willis, went on horseback to see what the result of the attack had been. Coming in sight of the Rice home from an open hillside he was warned by the Rices to go back; that some of the Indians might still be lurking in the vicinity. Albert, in returning home by the wagon road, was fired upon by the Indians, but rode through a hail of bullets without a scratch.
Harrison's brother, Austin, went to higher ground to get a better view of the smoke. He was fired upon by the Indians, receiving a rifle bullet in his arm, shattering the bone. At the same time the Indians were firing at Sylvester who was running, the bullets whizzing all around him. After he had gotten well away, he dropped to the ground and removed his shoes that he might run faster. Austin Rice managed to get into the house, which was a small weather-boarded affair situated near the bank of a creek with lower ground between and the main bank about 50 feet on the opposite side from the house.
The Indians soon surrounded the house, firing into it from all sides. Harrison Rice, aided by the 16-year-old Indian lad who lived with them, returned the fire and managed to keep the hostile Indians from approaching the house. Several times Indians with torches would rush from the creek side of the house, but would be met with gunfire that sent them back. The Indians had torched the barn, carpenter shop and all out buildings, and the house was riddled with bullets. That none of the family was hit was on account of the forethought of the Indian boy.
The Rice family always expressed a deep sense of gratitude to the Indian boy, believing that his help saved their lives. What was remarkable about this boy was that only a few weeks before his whole family and tribe had been cruelly murdered by a surprise attack of exterminators. The Indian boy's family was of the Umpqua or Olalla tribe, had no connection with the hostiles, and did not speak the same language. The Indian boy was one of four that escaped the massacre and remembering that the Indians had always been kindly treated by the Rices, went to them for protection.
After the fusillade the Indians slackened their firing but remained around the house for several hours, firing occasional shots and attempting to torch the house.
Before noon, the Indians disappeared. No doubt their lookout discovered the approach of the Nichols party, who on reaching the Willis farm, were informed of the attack.
Tyee Tom Killed at the Battle of Olalla Creek
Reports of the attack upon the Rices
reached Roseburg and cause some excitement. The settlers in the
and Olalla districts deserted their homes and concentrated for
The sheriff of the county, Patrick Day, hastily organized a few
went to the rescue. At Olalla they were joined with the Nichols
late at night the Indians were located, encamped on the west
They had swung around from the Rice-Willis settlement, following about the same route that the road now runs from Dillard to Camas Valley. Finding all houses deserted they had helped themselves to their contents and had secured a lot of horses on which to pack their loot. They evidently did not expect to meet with opposition. Their raid seemed to be for the purpose of foraging more than to kill and destroy. They had chosen a place for their camp between a large fallen tree and the creek, the log lying parallel with and about 50 feet from the creek.
Sheriff Day assumed command of the minute men, about 20 in all, and in the vicinity were about the same number of volunteer members of Cpt. Buoy's company. During the night a consultation was had and a plan of attack was agreed upon. Cpt. Buoy's men were to cross Olalla Creek on a foot log and take a position on the opposite side of the creek from the Indian camp and await the attack by the sheriff’s men. The plan was a good one, and if it had been carried out to the letter they would have had the Indians between two fires.
Day’s men took their position on the hillside in a fringe of young oaks, about 200 yards from the Indians with open ground between, where they lay for an hour or more awaiting the coming of daylight to make their surprise attack.
The Indians seemed to be having a jolly time—had big campfires and were baking bread by wholesale—their laughter reaching the waiting men on the hillside.
Before it was daylight some of the horses the Indians had rounded up came up near the men. A couple of Indians came up after the horses, one of them coming near Pat Day who became excited on thinking that they would be discovered, fired, missing the Indian, and spoiling all their plans.
I. B. Nichols, sizing up the situation, called on the volunteers to come on and charge, which they hesitatingly did. The men charged down the slope reserving their fire until they reached the log. The Indians had fired upon their charging foe without reserve which gave the non-indians the advantage when the fighting was over the top of the log. One man was wounded in the stomach while running in a stooping position, making an ugly wound, but not penetrating far under the skin.
The battle continued for over 30 minutes, with the Indians finally giving way, wading the creek, which was at flood, and came up to their armpits.
Cpt. Buoy's men did not arrive until the Indians had all made their escape except one, Tyee Tom, who was found dead in the edge of the creek, and no doubt, there were several wounded Indians.
During the following summer, George Riddle found rags tied on bushes where trails parted that he surmised were put there for wounded Rogues not familiar with the country to follow.
The hasty firing of Sheriff Day before it was light enough to shoot accurately, and the failure of Cpt. Buoy's men to reach the designated point in time, saved the Indians from almost total annihilation.
The Battle of Middle Creek
Among the efficient organizations of
was Cpt. James Burns' infantry company.
This was a small company. Cpt. Burns was employed scouting through the mountains usually with four or five men. Their business was to locate the Indian camps that were laid away in the mountains.
About six weeks after the Battle of Olalla Cpt. Burns, with three or four men, located the Indian camp at a point now known as Camp B in Cow Creek Canyon. At that time Cow Creek Canyon was almost an unexplored country, yet there was a well-defined Indian trail from Cow Creek Valley over the mountain to Middle Creek and over another to the Indian camp.
When Cpt. Burns discovered the Indians early in the morning, a dense fog covered the canyon. He was so close to them that he could hear their voices and smell the smoke from their fires.
When Cpt. Burns made his report, Col. Martin immediately assembled all the available forces at Glenbrook—in all about 400 men, composed of Cpt. Gordon's, Cpt. W. W. Chapman's, Cpt. Joseph Barley's and some detachments of other companies. Something over three weeks was spent in assembling this small army, and much of this time was spent in drilling the men, which was, to say the least, highly absurd. With his own old "nose" loading gun the manual of arms was no benefit to him.
During the assembling of this army the Riddles moved back from Roseburg to Glenbrook, William remaining in Roseburg to conduct his blacksmith business.
The stockade had been placed on two sides of the Riddles' log house, the stockade projecting past a corner on each side so as to have a clear view on every side and holes were made between the logs upstairs, from which to fire their rifles.
From the preparations made by Col. Martin, he must have thought that he was going out to attack the whole hostile tribes and their numbers were always exaggerated. The Indians at Camp B at that time might have numbered 40, judging from the number of huts left by them.
When Col. Martin's preparations were finally made his army was marched over the mountains to Middle Creek, the first day about eight miles, and on the next day they marched over the mountains from Middle Creek to the Indian camp. They found the camp but no Indians. With all the preparations and noise of two days march, the Indians were fully advised of their approach and simply faded away into the many timbered rocky gulches of the mountains.
Col. Martin had marched his army down the mountain to the deserted Indian camp and there was nothing left to be done but to march his army back up the mountain the way he had come. But the volunteers were not to get out of the mountains without casualties.
About one mile from the Indian encampment there was a beautiful prairie of a few acres, almost level land on the side of the mountain and with convenient water. Cpt. Joseph Bailey obtained permission to encamp there during the night and pitched his camp under some trees, the ground dropping off into a steep timbered gulch immediately from the camp.
Bailey took no precautions but allowed his men to build bonfires around which they were engaged in wrestling and having a good time. The Indians approached the camp from the timbered side of the bluff, firing into the crowd of men assembled around the fire. John L. Gardner was instantly killed and Thomas S. Gage mortally wounded, expiring the following day.
Returning from the expedition, the dead whiteboys were carried upon litters and were left at the Riddle house. Gardner was interred in the Riddle family cemetery, and Gage's body was taken to Brockway for internment.
During the evening, after the return, when several of the officers were stopping at the Glenbrook, and discussing the events, some of them suggested that it was too dangerous for families to remain where they were. Maximilla lost patience and addressed them about as follows: "You gentlemen seem to forget that those two boys back there are lying dead through your incompetence, and as to leaving my home again, all I ask of you is to leave my boys with me, and we will take care of ourselves."
A few days after the above occurrences Cpt. Gordon's company was discharged and a new company was organized with Edward Sheffield as captain, in which William II was enrolled.
The events narrated above have no mention in either F. F. Victor's or A. G. Walling's Oregon histories although the entire northern battalions were engaged for nearly a month. If they could only have exchanged a few shots with Indians, Victor's The Early Indian Wars of Oregon (1894) could have described a great battle in which several hundred Indians were engaged and uncounted Indians murdered, etc.
After the return of the expedition to
bend of Cow Creek the volunteers were sent mostly to the meadows
River. Cpt. Sheffield's men were assigned to Cow Creek Valley
command of Lt. Samuel S. Burton. With this detachment were
and his brother William.
Two very large oak trees were felled and the limbs cut and arranged to enclose Lt. Burton's camp is referred to in some history books as Fort Sheffield.
George and his brother were detailed to stay at home for the protection of the family and were allowed to assist in planting crops, but his arrangement did not last long.
Indians were reported to be in the vicinity of Olalla. Lt. Burton immediately called his scattered army of 20 men to assemble at Fort Sheffield and make his detail for the expedition. To his great disappointment, George was omitted from this detail because he had left his horse at Glenbrook.
When the party left camp he resolved that he would not be left behind. He was 16-years-old, very tall for his age, and as a mountaineer he felt himself equal to any one in the volunteer service. So he ran to Glenbrook, about two miles distant, and on arriving home he found that the horse he expected to get was in use by someone and away from the farm, so, knowing the trail the party would take, he started to overtake them on foot, and knowing the most direct route, he ran up through Hannum Gulch over Jerry Flat and on the east end of Nickel Mountain.
He overtook the party just as they approached the top of the mountain. When he came in sight he was completely exhausted. When his brother William saw him he came back and allowed George to ride his horse to the top of the mountain where Lt. Burton had halted, and proceeded to bawl him out. The men pleaded for George and Lt. Burton finally yielded and the men throughout the trip gave him rides on their horses.
Lt. Burton's men made their first camp on the John Byron ranch on the south fork of Olalla Creek. There they found the Indian signs which consisted of some squaw tracks where they had been digging some potatoes that had been left.
The camp was under an open shed. That is, there was a roof, but no side walls. In this shed a large fire was built, while George was placed on guard about 100 yards from camp. It was raining and half snowing. He was thinly clad without an overcoat and he envied the boys around the campfire. The horses were grazing near the creek bank some distance from where he was stationed, when all at once there was a snort and a stampede. The men around the fire went out from the circle of light and threw themselves on the ground thinking there were Indians, and calling to George to know what caused the stampede. George had not seen anything, but thought it might be Indians. At any rate the fire was snuffed for the night. He was left on guard for several hours, Lt. Burton saying that he would teach the young man to obey orders.
Burton was an illiterate man, incompetent as an officer, a big bluffer, and there was little discipline in his detachment.
On the following day, the volunteers went over some mountains to a point south of Camas Valley. They found no Indians, but the hunting was excellent. Elk and deer were plentiful. Here they camped several days, killing plenty of deer, but no elk, and if there were any Indian in the vicinity they were kind enough not to molest Lt. Burton's detachment, and if it had not rained so continuously they would have had a very pleasant trip.
On this expedition, George's shoes entirely gave out, so he made himself a pair of moccasins out of fresh deer skins, hair side in. The moccasins served him well except on the hillsides in the wet grass where the bottoms would turn to the top.
The expedition returned to Fort Sheffield without casualties, for which they were indebted to an old mule named Lizzie for smelling the Indians as they were sneaking up to the men sitting around that big campfire.
Chapter 39: Southern Oregon Indian Wars
Most American history has been written as if history were a function of the white culture—in spite of the fact that well into the 19th Century the Indians were one of the principal determinants of historical events. Those of us who work in frontier history are repeatedly nonplused to discover how little has been done in regard to the one force bearing on our field that was active everywhere... American historians have made shockingly little effort to understand the life, the societies, the cultures, the thinking and the feeling of the Indians, and disastrously little effort to understand how all these affected white men and their societies.
South Pass 1846
Like the Indians of the northern
those in Southern Oregon faced non-indians traversing their
the Willamette settlements and California. The numbers of
to increase with the opening of a new route from the East
into the Willamette Valley. In 1846 Jesse and Lindsay Applegate,
John Scott, and 11 other men searched out a route into the
valley as an
alternative to the trail from Fort Hall to The
Dalles and down the Columbia. In June, following an
Trail, the party crossed the Calapooya Mountains into the Umpqua
Farther south the Rogues, keeping them under surveillance, fired
ineffectively on June 26 with dew-moistened muzzle-loading
the party crossed the Rogue at the California Trail crossing
Pass), large numbers of Rogues came from hiding to taunt them as
their way up the Rogue. When they had harassed them out of the
the Indians turned their attention to taunting another party of
travelers. Along the Oregon-California border near the foot of
Mountains, which the California Trail crossed, the Applegate
east through unexplored country via Green Springs.
In the Lower Klamath Lake region in Northern California, Modoc smoke signals warned Indians of the passage of the pallid party. The Modoc still smarted from losses that they sustained two years earlier in the Lower River-Tule Lake country in a fight with the better-armed Bill Williams party, who had brushed with various Indians throughout the American West. Now the Modoc were greatly agitated thinking the Applegate men had come to punish them for an attack that they had made on Col. John C. Freémont's camp on Upper Klamath Lake only a few nights before, when Lt A. H. Gillespie had brought Freémont a dispatch stating that his services were needed in the US-Mexican War. In the attack on Freémont's party three of his Indian guides were killed, but the famous frontiersman Kit Carson escaped. Gillespie reported that nine Klamath were killed when the Freémont party attacked a Klamath tribes and destroyed their village. That those killed were perhaps innocent of the attack on the party was of little moment to it.
The Applegate party moved east to the Humboldt (Nevada) section of the Fort Hall-California branch of the Immigrant Road, following this route to Fort Hall, where it was hoped Oregon-bound immigrants would be induced to travel down the California road before breaking westward on the South Road blazed for them by the Applegate party. Critics of the route condemned it because it traversed a desert "as dry and blasted, as if it had just been heaved upon from some infernal volcano."
Reaching Humboldt River on its return, the Applegate party led a train of 150 invading immigrants to the Willamette. As they rolled in their wagons via Robert and Blue Rock Springs, they discovered the original inhabitants to be as volcanic as their land. At Clear Lake in California, then called Lost, or Modoc, Lake, the Modoc swooped down early one morning on the immigrant camp, shouting and waving blankets, stampeding cattle and horses over wagons, and tearing down tents. The Modoc pierced the body of one white with over two dozen arrows. The immigrants hurried on. Near Tule Lake, where the meadows were narrowed by bluffs gashed by gullies, and thickened with tules, about 300 warriors in a trench that they had dug, waiting for the travelers to pass through the place. As the pallid party approached the braves waved blankets and stampeded stock firing volleys of poisoned arrows at the trespassers through their lands. As the arrows were no match for the immigrants' muzzle-loading rifles, the overpowered Indians were forced to seek refuge in nearby hills. They returned to the scene of the fight on hearing the anguished cries of one of their captured warriors. Whites had viciously fed him red pepper. Fighting resumed and continued all day. Pools of the blood of the slain—many of whom were Indians—dotted the grisly scene, which was known thereafter as Bloody Point. Carnage lay strewn there for years. Travelers of South Road were warned of the danger along the route by the words "Look out for the Indians" scrawled on bleached cattle skulls.
Although about 5,000 non-indianss immigrated in 1847, only 80 wagons traversed the South Road. The Klamath, Modoc, and Rogues continued harassing immigrants, sending them hurrying to the Willamette Valley instead of settling on the lands of their ancestors.
In 1978, Bill McCluskey of Toledo, a descendent of early Oregon settlers wrote:
At the time of the Rogue River War
Isaac Leabo, an early Elk City settler, had about 19 acres of
in the Grants Pass region.
One day, while Leabo was clearing land with the children helping him—Hannah driving the wheel oxen and Noah the lead ones—the were surrounded by the chief and 11 warriors in full war paint. Leabo sat down on the beam of the plow and pulled the two children down on his knees. He talked to the chief and wanted to know why they were being visited, explained that he'd always been friendly and had paid the Indians for his land—with two cuetons (horses) and two blankets! The chief said that they had always been friends and that his people would not bother their friend, and that Isaac and his family would be "safe" from them.
During the war, the Leabo children frequently saw painted warriors in the woods but were never molested.
The few land grabbers who settled on the south side of the Calapooya Mountains at the northern rim of the forbidden country might have suffered attacks by its rightful owners if the Klickitat War commander and his stalwarts, who were armed with Hudson's Bay Company guns, had not colluded with the enemy and forayed south to fight the Rogues.
Klickitat War with Calapooya 1839
The Klickitat also sold guns to
Oregon Indians, stole their women, and buffered non-indian
the attacks of other Indians. Around 1839, crossing the
overran the Willamette Valley, killing game in defiance of the
whom they boasted they had taught to ride and hunt. Shortly
in Kings Valley they had defeated the Calapooya in a skirmish,
outnumbered. They rented lands from the Calapooya, trading
things to them for hunting grounds and privileges. They were
established depots for collecting furs and to have levied
conquered aboriginal tribes. Their restlessness propelled them
grounds as far west as Oregon's Coast Range.
The Klickitat are credited with trading non-indian clothing to the five-tribe, 200-member Upper Umpqua (Etnemitane) in the area of the south fork of the Umpqua teaching them words of the Chinook jargon. They helped non-indians less from love than from love of gain. Klickitat men hired out as farm hands, and sometimes sold the services of their women to non-indian settlers, in hopes that the land-grabbing horde would let them continue hunting in the Willamette Valley and let them keep a small tract that they claimed on the west side of the river at the head of the valley.
Anthropologist Edward S. Curtis wrote that the Klickitat made war
...not only against their tribal enemies, but for hire.. [they] were paid in women and beads. Parties of the Klickitat sometimes crossed the Columbia to aid the "river dwellers" (Chinookans) in their warfare against the Shoshoni.
When a non-indian came among the Klickitat around 1845, they asked him his intentions. When told that he intended to settle, the Klickitat chief retorted, "You can if you don’t meddle with us." In 1851, the Klickitat living in Oregon numbered nearly 600.
Cayuse War 1847-1849
In early 1848 the Indians of Western Oregon were threatening to the pallid population than usual. Many young non-indians of that region had joined militia outfits fighting the Cayuse far from that place. Word spread through the valley that Tyee Crooked Finger, a Molalla, was angered at non-indians (especially Frémont for his attack on the Molalla's allies, the Klamath) and that Crooked Finger had gathered a force of 150 Klamath, Umpqua, Rogues, Atsugewi, Achomawi, and Modoc to strike a blow in the valley that year. In response some settlers and sell-out Indians ambushed a force of combatant Molalla and other Indians who were advancing along Butte Creek, in present-day Marion and Clackamas counties in Oregon. The Molalla had been joined by some Klamath, possibly Upper Klamath, who had been residents for several years of the Willamette Valley. The Klamath had traversed the Klamath Trail to the Silverton country, east of present-day Salem, to camp with the Molalla. After they arrived, non-indians ordered them to leave the area. When they refused, the non-indians, on March 5, 1848, attacked their camp on Abiqua Creek, killed two of them, and the next day killed seven fleeing warriors, one of whom was the warrior woman Kaitchknoa, who was armed with a bow and arrow. Two other women were wounded. One account placed the Indian losses at 13 dead and one wounded. Only one non-indian was wounded. Much controversy raged over the Battle of Abiqua. Some hostiles called it "justifiable" action to remove "dangerous" Klamath from the Willamette Valley.
Apserkahar Relieves Miners of Gold Dust 1850
After placer mining on California
the new Oregonians returned home with a little dust to seek
on the lands that they had abandoned for the gaudy glitz and
gold. Along their homeward route the Rogues, in the spirit of
justice, sometimes appropriated their properties. After they had
one such group of their gold pouches, the goldmongers requested
Territorial Gov. Joseph Lane (1801-1881) and a 15 member party
people with Klickitat Chief Quatley and ten of his warriors
June, 1850, to Rogue River Valley to retrieve the gold they had
from the bowels of the earth.
On the south bank of the river, the
and his party were met by armed Rogues, specifically the
that was divided into two major tribes: the Dagelma, or "those
Rogue River," and the Latgawa, or "those living in the uplands."
was under Tyee Apserkahar. Ordered to return the gold, the
had thrown the golddust away, delivered only empty pouches,
to have been the only things of value. At a critical point in
Tyee Apserkahar signaled his warriors to arms. Tyee Quatley and
perhaps felt that they had little to lose in this action against
because the Klickitat were encroaching more heavily on the lands
and Rogues as the land-grabbing horde began to disrupt Klickitat
grounds on the Willamette Valley. At this time Tyee Apserkahar
with Lane's bold action and with his extraction of a peace from
that he asked him if he might not take his name. He was granted
to take only Lane's first name, Joe. In exchange the Indians
Lane with a Modoc slaveboy.
After this event involving the Lane party, Tyee Quatley in 1851 expressed to Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Anson Dart, a wish to extend the Klickitat hunting grounds southward rather than have them forced to return to their ancestral homelands in the interior north of the Columbia. Their wish was granted, for, with the increasing hostility of original people below the Columbia, the Klickitats in 1855 were forced to remove to their ancestral homelands, although they pleaded their rights and exerted their claims in white courts.
The confrontation involving Lane, the Klickitat and the Rogues did nothing to improve relations between the many Rogue River tribes and the non-indians. It did not take long for the indigenous population to learn that the lust for gold sent moilers' running like quicksilver globules from panned-out Sacramento streams to all corners of the American West. The Indians of Northern California and Southern Oregon were among the first to feel the impact of that invasion.
Rogue River War 1850-1856
Early in 1851, gold was discovered on Shasta River, and thousands were attracted into Northern California. Provoked by the incursions, the Rogues laid aside their treaty with Lane to increase their attacks on alien intruders traversing their lands. They killed a number of packers and one of their victims was Cpt. James Stuart, who was with a detachment of regulars that Maj. Philip Kearney led from Fort Vancouver to Benicia on San Francisco Bay. The ten-day fight began on June 17, a few miles up the Rogue from Table Rock, about ten miles north of present-day Medford. Stuart was felled by an arrow. Lane came down to join in the fighting, in which 50 Indians were reported killed or wounded. Kearney took 30 women and children prisoners, and Lane delivered them to Oregon Territorial Gov. John P. Gaines (Aug. 18, 1850-May 16, 1853). A few years earlier the natives had had but few firearms; now they had accumulated several. The increase augured more trouble for the future.
Visionary Wilbur Fisk Meets the Lower Rogues 1850
The Lower Rogues (Tututni) were finding their ancestral homelands invaded. In September, 1849, the ship William G. Hagstaff, bound from Astoria to San Francisco, foundered as she tried to enter the Rogue for water. The Indians burned her, but salvaged her chain plates to make knives. The next year the Samuel Roberts landed on the Lower Rogue. About 35 passengers were aboard under Methodist clergyman Wilbur Fisk (1792-1839), "an old genius full of enthusiasm and brandy." They tumbled ashore, eager to acquire land. One passenger described the Rogues who met them as "about five feet tall, with low foreheads and an expression of inveterate duplicity, and ... incarnation of every savage vice." The Rogues had pierced noses, from which they suspended ornaments of "everything that tickled their fancy." The Rogues swarmed around the vessel, offering bows, arrows, pelts, baskets, mussels, fish, berries, and any other possessions in exchange for beads, trinkets, and fire-damaged cutlery. They confronted expeditions from off the Samuel Roberts with much gesticulation, whooping, and pointing of arrows. Their actions, accentuated by their fighting appearance, made the visionary feel unwelcome.
Battle Rock 1851
Along the Southern Oregon Coast the
continued. At dawn on June 10, 1851, natives gathered for a war
ready themselves to challenge party of pallid people who had
cannon the previous day at Battle Rock at Port Orford. The
from the ship Sea Gull, under Capt William V. Tichenor. They had
lay out a townsite and search eastward through the Coast Range.
ship sailed off, the Indians attacked those who had disembarked,
arrows at them on the rocks. Most of the missiles passed over
of the squatters. The Indians then rushed the rocky beachhead on
the tiny party held its ground. After a brief skirmish, in which
were reported killed, the Indians retreated to plan a
days later they returned, reinforced in numbers and harangue
John, they broke into a prolonged yell and then swarmed down the
across the beach and up a narrow path to the driftwood
hostiles fired their cannon into the breastworks, forcing the
retreat. From behind the rocks and trees the warriors arched
into Battle Rock. During the night the invading party stole
reaching Willamette River. Later 70 armed men returned to Battle
Tichenor. Among them were William G. T'Vault, who set out with a
from the coast eastward over the Coast Range to meet the
Road. On Coquille River, T'Vault and his an attack by the Coquille,
who were enraged at trappers and miners corrupting their women
plugging their game trails, felling trees, and digging up their
They may well have recalled their traditional tale of a wrecked
whaler crew in 1830, whom they believed had carried a disease
through their villages at that time, but the illness may have
an outbreak of intermittent fever.
On September 14, Dart arrived at Port Orford to persuade about 500 Coquille and Rogues to cede their lands to the government. Within a few weeks he concluded two treaties with them. The troops dispatched to Port Orford were reinforced for two planned expeditions: One against non treaty Coquille on the north side of their river and the other to survey a route across the Coast Range to the Oregon-California Road. On November 5, the Coquille exchanged shots with the military party under Col. Silas Casey, and on November 22 they lost 15 killed and many wounded in a 20-minute fight with the troops.
Donation Land Law 1850 Depletes Indian Land Base by Six Million Acres
The land-grabbing horde represented the greatest threat to the original people's safety and security. They illegally occupied ancestral homelands as they had Indian lands on previous American frontiers, aided by generous government land policies. Nowhere were the government's policies more generous than in Oregon Territory (1848-1859) after Congress's enactment of the Donation Land Law in 1850. Under its provision half-sections of land were granted to white men (including half bloods) if they were over 18 years of age, were citizens or had declared their intention of becoming so before December 1, 1851, their wives were granted a half-section also. White men 21 years of age and over and their wives were each granted 160 acres if they settled between December 1, 1850, and December 1, 1853. In Western Oregon the Donation Land Law appropriated 2.5 million acres from the Indians' land base. Designed to encourage and reward settlement of the Pacific Northwest, the laws were extraordinarily disastrous to the region's aboriginal population and violated the American principle of government that individuals' lands should not be taken from them without their consent. Not even fur traders had made such demands on the Indians' lands.
Only Soil-Tillers Fit for Earthly and Heavenly Rewards
Quickening the white horde's exploitation of Indian lands was their failure to find a unity between themselves and nature. In their haste to exploit, non-indians believed that only soil-tilling hard work fitted one for rewards in this and the other world. Although concerned with things of the spirit, the ancient ones were also deeply concerned with their own physical survival in a delicately balanced environment, which the encroaching squatters and their tools could easily disturb. Nevertheless, the Indians found themselves unwittingly drawn into the non-indian pattern of survival; they scarred the earth themselves on a limited scale by planting and harvesting crops at various places in the Pacific Northwest. In so doing they were careful not to disturb the bones of their ancestors. In 1852, Indians on the South Umpqua became angry when a thoughtless thug, more interested in bushels than in bones, plowed up a field containing their dead.
Massacre at Bloody Point 1851
When they saw what the non-indian
was doing to the Indians of the Willamette Valley, Indians in
vowed to resist the process. In 1851, the Paiute rushed a
camp at Bloody Point, where the South Road ran between
At dawn they killed 35 men, women and children, wounding others
$18,000 worth of property. If the Paiute had not then been
the Nez Perceé, and the Rogues against the Klamath, they
been more free to attack non-indian travelers and protect their
Gov. Lane and the Oregon territorial delegate to Congress, Samuel R. Thurston, were without authorization to conclude treaties with the Indians for title to their homelands—only to give them presents and to obtain their friendship. They proposed forcing the Indians off their ancestral homelands west of the Cascades to east of that range. White men, denying the reality of the proposal, called this unscrupulous policy "colonization." Some of them honestly believed it essential to "safeguard" and "protect" the Indians they proposed to move. For most land-grabbers, however, it was a segregation policy to rid their communities of an unwanted indigenous population. To the Indians, who were keenly aware of the intruders' motivations, it was a form of genocide.
The aboriginal tribes in the region to which they were to be removed—the Yakima, Cayuse, and others—feared that an influx of Indian brothers and sisters from the west of the Cascades into their semiarid country would upset the land-man ratio, which was more delicately balanced there than in the Willamette Valley. They also feared that an influx would bring venereal and other diseases.
Targeted for removal by the territorial government, the Willamette Indians had no choice but to meet the three-man commission headed by Gaines authorized to deal with them for the sale of their lands. The commission in May 1851, treated with the Santiam, Tualatin,Yamhill and Lakimuit tribes of Calapooya and with two Molalla tribes—all of whom surrendered their valley homelands. The occasional whites and half-bloods who urged the Indians to make no deals with their foe were thorns in the flesh of the non-tribal treaty makers in the valley, as elsewhere. In early August, Dart, assisted by Rev. Henry Spaulding and Rev. Josiah L. Parrish, concluded ten treaties at Tansy Point in Clatsop country with Indians living near the mouth of the Columbia. As noted above, they had concluded two other treaties at Port Orford and one with the Clackamas (Guithla'kimas) of the Willamette Valley. By their treaties the Willamette Indians surrendered lands from Oregon City south to Marys River in Benton County.
The treaties involved a total of $91,300, which was to be paid to the native population in ten annual installments of clothing, flour and other groceries, other goods, and small amounts of money. In exchange, the non-indians received an estimated six million acres of land.
So Much Down and So Much Junk
The government in the 1800s had a
unique way of "purchasing" land from Indians. It was: so much
a small portion of the purchase price, and so much junk per year
form of cloth, clothing, useless implements, some food and
a horse. Few clothes got to the Indians, less food and the
be counted on to be of the poorest quality.
In his published journal, All Quiet on the Yamhill, Royal A. Bensell noted:
Provisions for the Indians amount to a few "spuds" and a little wheat issued every Monday to each head of family. Just now, and for some time to come, the agent will answer a supplication for "muck-a-muck [food] after this style, Nika halo muck-a-muck [I have no food]." Poor Indians, this is your reward for trusting the "Boston men."
The government didn't carry out its
to the Indians. Lack of food, cheating by the Indian agent,
prices charged to the Indians, and no improvements for their
among the broken promises to those living on the reservation.
tragic farce, the Indian had given his/her valuable land.
Charles R. Tuttle makes this observation:
That the Indians as nations have been shamefully treated is an unwelcome truth. The solemn engagements into which they have entered with their great father (president) have, for the most part, received greater respect and compliance from the Indians, who were generally forced to make them, than from the government, which, in nearly every case, dictated its own terms. And yet, after all, it seems to have been within the scope of a divine providence that the Indians of North America should vanish before civilization. Nor does the writer believe that any policy of the US government, no matter how deeply fraught with forces calculated to foster and perpetuate this dying race, could have saved them from the extermination which they have already suffered. It is, however, a stigma upon out national honor, that the decline and rapid disappearance of the Indians is so heavily freighted with unnecessary cruelty.
The government had even built a grist
inside the agency, and then let it rot. If the Indians wanted
had to tramp across the mountains to Kings Valley to get it at Rowland
Chambers' mill. More than one squaw carried 100
pounds of flour
back home over the rugged hills.
Kings Valley, the Site of Rowland Chamber's Grist Mill, 1962
Here, as elsewhere, the women do all the hard work and are really the "hewers of wood and the drawers of water," and ancient 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.
Ironically, personnel at the fort
to have plenty of time for drilling, cutting firewood, wondering
get enough to eat, or drinking to forget it all.
Historian Ina Curtis noted:
The great problem of officers in
with enlisted men was caused by whiskey. A small allowance of
was given the men at their meals, but they wanted more. The
who located their establishments just outside the fort's limits
than willing to supply it. The men used all sorts of stratagems
it back into fort with them. When caught, the penalty was
In his journal, Bensell recorded:
Sep. 11, 1862: Radford got a jug of liquor, and the contents got several "sogers." Baker, Radford, McPherson, Munday, Thompson and Day confined for being drunk.
For the most part, the fort was
by California volunteers, who like Sheridan, were unhappy about
to such a lifeless place. No doubt they had anticipated a more
in the Civil War.
It is a fact that critics have long thought Fort Yamhill and Fort Hoskins were a waste. Because of Fort Hoskins’ location outside of the reservation, men and supplies had to be transported to the Siletz Blockhouse; and the lack of real activity or accomplishment made the fort's existence seem futile to soldiers who wanted to fight.
Nonetheless, about the time of the establishment of the Coast Reservation, the Indians in the Pacific Northwest were not entirely "peaceful." They were not at all blind to the fact that they had been cheated out of their lands by treaties which the whitess had failed to live up to. With the increasing number of white settlers moving into what was once their land exclusively, the Indians decided that if they were to survive at all, they would have to fight for what was theirs.
Forts Yamhill and Hoskins, as well as the Siletz Blockhouse, have passed out of existence and memory. Their buildings have long ago recycled back to the earth.
The hamlet of Hoskins is virtually a ghost town. The old store is gone. The schoolhouse is empty. The mill has long since disappeared. With it has gone the streets paved with sawdust.
The Fort—the town's main establishment—is a tavern which stands in commemoration of what once was, and perhaps need not have been.
Because of the destruction of their economy,
food to be received was vital to the Indians' survival.
Although Lane had urged in 1849 that they be allowed guns and ammunition to hunt what game was left to them, government bans made it almost impossible for them to hunt for food on their lands. Until the full amount of the goods provided by the treaties, government officials dispensed some of the items at gatherings which they called potlatches. This practice of aiding the subsistence of Indians with whom treaties had been made or were to be made was continued among other Pacific Northwest tribes. The policy was expressed in the words of one government official: "They must be fed or fought," or they would, in the words of another, resort to "the tomahawk and scalping knife." Often the foods and goods too little and too late. In 1847, lt Neil Howison of an American naval reconnaissance expedition to Oregon suggested annual distributions to the conquered Indians of a few thousand flannel frocks and good blankets, stating that “an Indian would rather go naked than wear a bad one.” Concerned lest Indians believe the gifts were from the Hudson's Bay Company, government officials quickly instructed their agents to dispel that misunderstanding by purchasing the goods from American merchants wherever possible. This did not raise the blankets' quality in the Indians' thinking, for they continued to favor those of the company—to cover not only the living but also the dead.
Intercourse Act 1834
Of as much concern to Dart as the
were the illegal ones, especially liquor. When negotiating his
he asked Maj. Hathaway, the commander of the First Aces at Fort
to stop the introduction of liquor at Astoria. Judges of the
Supreme Court that the Intercourse
of 1834 did not apply to the country west of the
it pertains. The Congressional Act of June 5, 1850, however,
the negotiation of treaties in Oregon, did contain sections
laws "regulating trade and intercourse" to Indians west of the
Treaty making agents were customarily accompanied by American troops to give them extra leverage on the Indians. When Dart was preparing to effect treaties with the tribes of the Lower Columbia, the secretary of the interior requested that troops accompany him there, only to be informed by the war department that the only troops in the general area were two companies of artillery—one stationed at Fort Steilacoom on Puget Sound and the other dividing its duties between Astoria and Fort Vancouver.
In his treaties Dart, included the provision that aboriginal villages or tribes receive certain portions of their deeded lands as permanent homes, a policy that was at odds with that of the government. Some have cynically noted that Article 4 of the Tansy Point Treaty permitted Indians to "pick up whales that may be cast away on the beach." After learning that "novel provisions" of the treaties displeased the settlers, the US senate failed to ratify them.
Gold Discovered in Rogue River Valley 1851
With gold discoveries in Rogue River Valley in 1851, Southern Oregon was no longer merely traversed by outsiders but occupied by them. Because the Rogues' reaction to incursions in their valley, Gaines met with them in July of that year, shortly after their defeat by Maj. Phillip Kearney, to get them to renew the 1850 peace promises that they had made to Lane. Dart shortly ordered Alonzo A. Skinner, the newly appointed agent for Southern Oregon, to settle the valley with his headquarters near Table Rock on the Rogue’s right bank opposite its confluence with Bear Creek. With increased occupation and spoilation of their lands, the Rogues regarded very lightly the treaty effected with Gaines.
Jacksonville Established 1852
In January 1852, 50 land-grabberss
donation claims in Jackson County in Rogue country. Among them
and his interpreter, Chelsey Gray, and Samuel H. Culver, whom
left as agent at Port Orford in the autumn of 1851. On the heels
land-grabbers and gold-mongers, the town of Jacksonville was
from which whites could move more easily onto the Indians'
or supply miners and settlers with goods and services.
The Rogues prepared for trouble, among other ways by seeking aid and allies among neighboring tribes. Among those they visited were the Cow Creek s under Tyee Miwalerta, who declined to help them. The following year, his body scarred from fighting the Shasta, he died fever-ridden from an 1852-1853 plague, along with half his tribe. His son and successor, Tyee Quentousa, continued the fight against the palefaced foe.
Volunteers Organized At Yreka 1852
In July 1852, after the Rogues resumed efforts to save their land, non-indians in Jacksonville organized a volunteer force under John K. Lamerick, for whom Fort Lamerick on the Rogue would be named. At this time Skinner called for a council of volunteers and Rogues at Big Bar below Table Rock to prevent hostilities between the two tribes. At the council were volunteers under Elijah Steele from the mushrooming mining town of Yreka, California. They had organized to curb the Shasta as the Jacksonville volunteers had organized to curb the Rogues. Most Shasta lived in Northern California along Middle Klamath River and its tributaries, the Scott and Shasta rivers. A small portion of the tribes lived in Oregon on the northern slopes of the Siskiyous and in Rogue River drainage area from present-day Ashland, to Table Rock. Despite a November 4, 1851, treaty with the Shasta, calling for a reservation for them along Lower Scott River, the Shasta, like the Rogues, were angered at white incursions in their country.
Indian Peggy (c1800-1902) Warns Yreka Miners of Shasta Attack
When Indian Peggy (1800-1902), a Shasta, overheard her tribe's plans to attack the miners in Yreka, she knew that if the raid were successful, the minders would seek revenge, and her own people would suffer in the end. Even though she knew she would be killed if her treachery were discovered, Indian Peggy warned the miners, advising them to hide in the tunnels with food supplies. When the Shasta rode into the village, war paint on their faces, they realized it was futile to wait for the miners to leave their hiding places. A brutal massacre on both sides was avoided by the courageous woman's ingenuity. Her grave, marked by an oval rock, was inscribed:
Indian Peggy. Born about 1800. Died
Beloved Member of the Shasta Nation.
A friend of Indians and whites.
On July 21, 1852, the Oregon Shasta in
tenuous peace with their Rogue allies, the Takelma111 and
said that they would not communicate with other Shasta who had
enmity with the Oregon tribes, although the latter had also
the Yreka gold diggers raping their land. On the night of June
miners who were seeking the killers of a non-indian settler,
son of Shasta Tyee Sullix. The next month the son was shot in
at close range when accused by a Yreka volunteer of attempting
On July 17, another Indian was shot to death by John Calvin as
accompanying volunteers to the council. That event precipitated
firing between Indians and volunteers. The Rogues escaped under
(Toquahear). The following day Lamerick's bloodthirsty pack of
attacked a Rogue River village at the mouth of Evans Creek, a
The day following that, they discovered Sam and his tribe in
along the Rogue near Table Rock. Tyee Sam dispatched two women
advancing volunteers with word that he wished two non-indians to
firearms to parley with him. After that, on July 20, some
loose to cross the river. Their escape was frustrated by gunfire
troops. At this turn of events the Indians strongly appealed for
to prevent further genocidal aggression on the part of the
Consequently, "peace" was established with the Rogues, who had
but to agree that non-indians could settle anywhere in Rogue
Rogues were not to molest the settlers' cattle; they were to
properties; and they were to have no further communications with
nor seek protection among them after committing depredations
land-grabbing hordes. Because of poor cooperation from
out to destroy the indigenous population, Skinner resigned.
To protect themselves from extinction, the Rogues continued to seek allies among neighboring tribes. Their sources of subsistence were rapidly disappearing, forcing them to eat the land-grabber's cattle and wear his cast-off clothing. In the month before they established peace with Skinner, Rogue River tribes, such as that led by the aggressive Sam, had made a pack with the Modocs to exterminate the ever-increasing numbers of non-indians entering their lands over the South Road. California Indians had also made similar pacts to exterminate the invading horde.
The Modoc Attack Wagontrain 1852
After their agreement with Skinner,
lessened their aggressions against non-indians. The same did not
the Modoc, who increased their attacks. At their ambuscade
Point at Tule Lake, they attacked several immigrant parties in
of 1852. In one attack they killed all the people in a wagon
one man and mutilated the bodies of women and children. When
attacks reached Yreka, Benjamin Wright, a former revivalist and
seller, led a party of volunteers to the scene of troubles to
trains. In the group were five Shasta, fraternal foes of the
Mary, a Modoc; and two other Indians. In an August confrontation
Modoc at Bloody
the volunteers exterminated over 30 tribesmen, forcing their
to flee to the tules for safety.
The Modoc were put in further jeopardy when Wright's volunteers were joined by others from Jacksonville. Wright also secured boats from Yreka with which to reach the Modoc in their tule hideout, but the latter escaped to lava beds on the south. The Shasta, with Wright and Turncoat Mary, destroyed all the Modoc winter stores. In November, the Indians received word from Wright that, if they brought two captured immigrant women and the stock that they had rustled, he would leave their country. In response Modoc leaders Schonchin and Curly Headed Doctor came to Wright's camp on the north side of Lost River. Schonchin's 45 warriors outnumbered Wright's 18 men, since most of the volunteers had returned to Yreka. Fearing the Modocs were about to kill him and his men, Wright outmaneuvered them during the night by sending six men across the river to prevent the Indians from escaping an attack that he planned on them. At dawn the Modocs found themselves trapped by the attack. Schonchin and Curly Headed Doctor escaped. Forty of their men were reported slaughtered by Wright's men, who suffered only four wounded. The scalps of the Modocs dead were paraded through Yreka. Years later Indians claimed that Wright had attacked the Modocs when they came to hold a truce with him. Whites disagreed whether or not it had been Wright's intention to invite the Modocs to a feast in order to poison them and force them into flight while he and his men shot them down.
Miners were just as guilty of treachery. When they captured Indians, they hanged them, or they tied their hands then told them to run for their lives and shot them in the back. In one attack near present-day Ashland, goldmongers ruthlessly murdered six Indians. Chiefs Joe, Sam, Jim (Anachaharah), and several other headers then pledged themselves to exterminate the whites raiding their sacred homeland. Precipitating the Rogue River War of 1853, the Rogues in early August broke into the cabin of a white settler named Edward Edwards. When he returned home, they shot him to death and mutilated his body. Then they went on to kill another non-indian, wound another, plunder cabins, steal cattle to feed their starving families, and ambush non-indian settlers on the very outskirts of Jacksonville. In retaliation miners attacked a Shasta tribe on Bear Creek. Fearing that miners would extend and continue their attack on the Rogues, Tyee Joe sent runners as far north as the Siuslaw to seek help for the Rogues, as well as to the Klamath, Shasta, and Modoc. When they failed to heed the warning of the Shasta leader, Tyee Tipsu, who lived at the foot of the Siskiyous, to leave the country, non-indians found themselves in a 100-mile swath of burned buildings and other pillage, from Cow Creek south across the Siskiyous and along the South Road, where Indians killed nearly 40 white travelers.
Rogue attacks were now widespread. On August 11, Willow Creek, a tributary of Lower Bear Creek, they attacked five white men, including William G. T'Vault, who escaped as he had the Coquille attack two years before. They swept through the valley firing cabins and foraying against volunteers on the Applegate, a Rogue tributary. Volunteers had routed an Indian camp near the mouth of Sterling Creek, another Applegate tributary, the Rogues ambushed volunteers and attacked miners holed up in a cabin. A few days later they ambushed other miners fleeing to Jacksonville, killing one. On the night of August 17, Sam's tribe killed two volunteers in a three-hour skirmish. The Indians might have made a routine of it had not a volunteer company from Yreka chased them off. Before the volunteers arrived, the Indians had captured 18 horses and mules loaded with blankets, guns, and ammunition. That same day the Rogues killed five more settlers in the valley and attacked their cabins and immigrants on the South Road, killing one.
On August 22, Gen. Lane, commanding Oregon volunteers, left Camp Stuart (on Bear Creek near Phoenix) accompanied by Lt. Bradford R. Alden with ten regulars from Fort Jones, California. They ascended Rogue River near Table Rock, picking up the trail of the now-retreating Indians. Col. John E. Ross, commanding two companies of volunteers, led one battalion down Rogue and up Evans Creek into the mountains over a route made difficult by rocks, underbrush, and trees which the Indians felled to impede the progress of their pursuers. They also set fires, choking the lungs of their pursuers and reducing their visibility.
Veering from Evans Creek, the Indians ascended a high ridge near its headwaters to camp at a spring on the side of Battle Mountain. Taken by surprise, they took to the cover of trees and underbrush as the troops opened fire on them from a distance of 30 yards. After four hours of sharp fighting the Indians sued for peace. In the fight Lane was wounded in the right shoulder by a Minnie ball. The Indian losses were eight killed. Seven of the 20 Indians hurled at the soldiers that they would fight and die defending their lands. In response to a summons from Joe, Sam arrived on the scene, but was too late to be of any help.
The Indians asked to see Lane, whom they respected. In the ensuing parleys, Joe, Sam, and Jim agreed to a cease-fire and to meet in seven days at Table Rock to negotiate. That night Indians and soldiers camped uneasily 400 yards apart, fearing treachery from each other. At that very time there was treachery down the Rogue, where a volunteer company lured several of Joe's Grave Creek braves to a cabin with an offer of food and friendship. When they arrived, the volunteers murdered several of them. In revenge those who escaped burned cabins along Jumpoff Joe Creek and on August 28 ambushed volunteers at Long's Ferry (west of Grants Pass).
Table Rock Treaty September 10, 1853
On September 1, Indians and soldiers
near Table Rock at Camp Alden. The next day Cpt. Andrew Jackson
with his dragoons from Fort Orford. On September 3, Joe, Sam,
wife, Mary, entered Lane's headquarters to engage in talks. An
company under Lt. L. F. Grover arrived accompanied by Gen.
Palmer, Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
been appointed to his post in March after Dart resigned futilely
to explain to the Rogues why the government had failed to
obligations. Giving more force to the whites' assemblage were
and a US district court Judge, Matthew P. Deady.
As some Indians were absent, the red negotiators were given three more days to assemble in council. They were warned that, if they were not on the grounds by then, hostile attacks on them would commence. By agreement only ten unarmed men, no troops, were to be at the council grounds. Leaders were to be present, but were to keep their warriors and arms at a distance. On September 9, Lt. August V. Kautz and his warmongering regulars from Fort Vancouver arrived dragging a Howitzer to further augment the army’s clout at the council.
On September 10, under the frowning perpendicular cliffs at Table Rock, with "seven hundred hostile savages" in war paint and feathers some distance away, the chief listened to speeches by Lane and Palmer, which were rendered in English, translated by James W. Nesmith into the Chinook jargon, and finally translated from that language into that of the Rogues. In the middle of the afternoon a young warrior ran onto the council grounds, sweat streaming from his naked body, to harangue his fellows with the news that volunteer troops under one Elias A. Owens had captured the Indian Jim Taylor, tied him to a tree, and shot him to death. On hearing this, the Rogues threatened to tie each non-indian in council to trees with lasso ropes, readying the ropes as they did their guns, which they pulled from skin cases. Seeking to extricate the non-indians from this threatened attack, Lane assured the Indians that Owens was not one of his soldiers, but a "bad man" violating the truce, for which they would be caught and punished. Perhaps out of desperation, Lane admitted that the Rogues could easily kill him and his fellows, but warned that, should they do so, non-indians would hunt them down from tribe to tribe wiping them from the face of the earth. The Rogues appeared calmed by Lane's words, as they were by promises of shirts and blankets to be paid to Taylor's relatives to cover his death. With the air thus cleared, the council proceeded.
Temporary Reservation Set Up at Evans Creek
The treaty of Table Rock was signed by
Culver, and eight headmen representing 287 Rogues. The treaty
a temporary reservation (until a permanent one should be
up Evans Creek to a small prairie, across mountains to Upper
south to Rogue River, and down that stream to the mouth of Evans
Lane set payment for all lands in the valley at $60,000. In a
peace treaty signed on October 8 with chiefs Joe, Jim and Sam, a
of that sum was to be withdrawn to indemnify settlers suffering
losses at the hands of Indians. Under the provisions of the
Treaty the government promised to build houses on a reservation
headmen. The Senate would ratify the document on April 12, 1854.
September the military established Fort Lane a mile below Table
the south bank of the Rogue with Smith in command.
As in other negotiations with Indians, whites learned in the Pacific Northwest that indigenous peoples living in independent tribes or villages had not combined into large units. Thus the treaty-making process was complicated for government officials. While Palmer treated with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua on September 19, providing them a temporary reservation in their ancestral homelands until a permanent one should be established, Tyee Tipsu and his tribe, who claimed ownership of the Upper Rogue River Valley, hid in the Siskiyous and did not sign the September 10 treaty. After the council, Lane struck off to find Tipsu, with whom he signed an agreement in which the great leader promised to respect the "rights" of settlers.
Tyee John Skirmishes with Miners
Indians and non-indians continued to clash on the Applegate. On the Illinois, a Lower Rogue tributary, a tribe under Tyee John, who were not a party to the recent treaty, skirmished with miners. The chief maintained that he was fighting because he "lost more of his people in one year of peace than in two years of war."
Athapascan Driven from Homelands 1853-1854
The presence of goldmongers and squatters on the Oregon Coast extended Indian-non-indian conflict into that area. Gold discoveries in the summer of 1853 resulted in the establishment of the towns of Elizabethtown, Logtown, Prattville, Whalesburg, and Empire City and spelled doom to neighboring Indians. Tolowa tribes (Athapascan) at the present-day Oregon-California border were driven from their homes up Smith River in Northern California under the continuing non-indian attacks. In those forays 70 Indians were exterminated, and their villages burned. In January 1854, more Indians were slaughtered there.
Coquille Removed to Siletz Reservation 1855
A troublesome town for the Nasoma (Nasumi) tribe of Lower Coquille was Randolph in Coos County, Oregon, six miles north of the mouth of Coquille River, where gold was discovered in the winter of 1852. Indians living in huts at the mouth of that stream had abandoned their animal skins for cotton clothing, but had yielded little else of their old way of life, including resentment of non-indians. In the winter of 1853-1854 they killed isolated settlers, burned cabins, and drove off and killed cattle. In retaliation the settlers sent an ultimatum to Coquille commander, Tyee John, to make his stalwarts cease their attacks. John returned the ultimatum with one of his own—that he would kill every non-indian coming against him. Shortly, as they were sleeping in an unguarded camp, the Coquille were attacked by a volunteer outfit, and Randolph minute men. Under a musket-fire barrage some of the Coquille, who had an arsenal of only three guns plus bows and arrows, jumped into the cold river trying to escape their attackers, as others fled into the woods. In their flight 16 of their number, one a woman, was killed and four wounded, and their villages burned. The hostilities were over by the time Kautz and his troops arrived that evening from Port Orford accompanied by Indian agent S. M. Smith. Three Coquille were hanged, victims of swift frontier "justice." Their survivors would be moved in 1856 to the Siletz Reservation, established by executive order, November 9, 1855.
Settlers Attack Main Chetco Village 1853
Angered by attacks on them in early 1854, the Coquille retaliated by killing trappers and ambushing other non-indians, who in turn continued the revenge cycle by hanging two Coquille. Shortly thuggish throngs massacred some Nasoma. The Chetco were still angry at the loss of their ferrying business, which non-indians unjustly appropriated, and at savage attacks on their villages, such as that made by A. F. Miller and some of his cronies in 1853. After appropriating the Indians' guns, the attackers had assaulted the main Chetco village. Allowing its civilians to escape, they assassinated two of the braves while two more burned to death in houses which had been fired. When Palmer visited the Chetco and Coquille in May 1864, they were understandably cool and noncommittal toward him.
Crook Dispatched from Fort Jones 1854
The flurry of coastal mining was nearly over. Not so the flurries between Indians and non-indians. Back in the Rogue and Klamath river valleys Indian-miner clashes caused troops to be dispatched from Fort Jones, California in January 1854, to quash the Indians. With the troops was one soldier who later gained a reputation as America's greatest Indian decimator: George Crook (1829-1890), then cutting his military eyeteeth as a young army lieutenant. Before terminating his service in the West, Crook learned to his discomfort that the Indians' weapons were still effective. In the spring of 1857—shortly after extinguishing, as he called them "my first Indians"—he was wounded in Pit River country by an arrow whose head he carried to the grave. At the time of his wounding he was concerned that natives of that area fired arrows impregnated with the livers of deer and antelope bitten by rattlesnakes. Wishing to shatter the Shasta, troops with Crook fired balls from a Fort Lane cannon into a cave. Shortly, the Indians sued for peace. Ironically, their rifles were superior to those of many non-indians.
Soldiers Beat, Scalp and Drown Tyee Bill 1854
One victim of the struggle was Shasta Chief Tipsu. A call went out from the military to 38 Tygh in Wasco County to join a Fort Jones detachment in running down the Indian leader and his followers. The soldiers and their red mercenaries were denied the glory of bringing on his demise, for he died at the hands of his own warriors, so weary were they of fleeing their foes. On May 24, volunteers tried to force the Shasta to Fort Jones. The prospect of going there was none too pleasing to them, especially since the Rogues confined there were and suffering from rampant disease and starving. Sixty shattered Shasta were rounded up. As they paused at Klamath Ferry to bathe in the river, volunteers shot five of them, including Shasta Bill. Before expiring he was savagely beaten, scalped, and tossed into the rapids.
Palmer Treats For 7.5 Million Acres of Indian Land 1855
In the spring of 1854, Palmer, touring
scene of the troubles, attributed them to the Donation Land Act.
Oregon historian Terrance O'Donnell wrote that the 1850s in Oregon
was a decade of growth and also of
what was at hand. There was achievement in all areas—the
education, government, the amenities of everyday life. But
of this, there was a stain, and it was the stain of blood. From
and again from 1855-1856, Indian wars plagued both Southern and
The problem was land. With the Donation Land Law of 1850, Congress offered "free land" to the immigrants before arranging for its purchase from the Indians—treaty after treaty negotiated for such a purpose and never ratified. Some of the squatters sympathized with the Indians in their plight, but many urged their extermination. "Indeed, this seems to be the only alternative left," editorialized the Oregonian in the autumn of 1853. Certain individuals took it upon themselves to do just that, but others, such as [former governor] Joseph Lane and Joel Palmer, sought to gain fair treatment for the natives.
He returned that autumn to extinguish title
the remaining Indian lands. On November 18, he persuaded the
Table Rock to permit other tribes to share their reservation.
day at the mouth of the Applegate he treated with the Shasta and
as-yet-untreated Upper Umpqua tribes for cession of their sacred
their removal to Table
Reservation. Eleven days later at Calapooya Creek he
with certain Calapooya of the Umpqua Valley and with other Upper
who were without treaties, to persuade them to cede their
After ceding they were expected to remove to a percent home at a
place chosen by the government. Through treaties the government
title to all Indian lands between the Calapooya Mountains and
Oregon borders. At Dayton
on January 22, 1855, the few remaining Calapooya of the
treated with Palmer. When the treaty making was over, the
had turned over to the US 7.5 million acres in exchange for
having no other alternative at their disposal, had agreed to
a reservation. Signing treaties meant the loss of their land
since they had been unable to prevent its loss, they hoped that
to reservations would let them survive a little longer.
Of course, treaties did not mean the end of conflict. Klamath country was the scene of more troubles in 1855 and 1856 when holdout Rogues made two incursions against their Klamath foes. The latter continued fighting the Shasta and Rogues, stealing and selling them as slaves to tribes as far north as the Cayuse and Nez Percé. As was so often the case in the Pacific Northwest, such inter-tribal animosities hastened the demise of the contesting Indians at the hands of the military. The 147 Rogue warriors represented 523 of their people remaining in the valley, where two years earlier there had been an army of 406 out of a total nine-tribe population of 1,154. Instead of dissipating what strength they had left in fighting fraternal foes, they should have reserved it to fight the army and to harass the whites in general.
In the spring of 1855, after a miner was killed on Indian Creek near Klamath River—for which whites blamed the Rogues of the Illinois Valley—revenge-seeking soldiers crossed the Siskiyous, moving down Althouse Creek Canyon near the California border to the mining town of Kerbyville on Upper Illinois River succeeded in eliminating four Indian men and women. For their own safety several Indian families were hustled out of the area by their new Table Rock agent, Dr. George Ambrose.
Humbug War 1855
In July of that year conflict again
on the Klamath when Indians killed a dozen miners near the Scott
rivers and Humbug Creek in Northern California, which are
In retaliation a posse indiscriminately massacred 25 Indians in
throng called the Humbug War. Again volunteer companies formed
the natives into the mountains. In August, the Klamath on the
tried to run down members of the US
Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, who were
route to the Pacific Ocean. The Klamath met them yelling,
bows and arrows and their few guns. Finally, assured that the
meant no harm, they visited their camps, where they communicated
in Chinook jargon.
In June, Palmer attended a Walla Walla treaty council at which he joined Washington territorial governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs Gen. Isaac I. Stevens in dealing with interior tribes of the Washington and Northern Oregon territories. After that, he treated with the Confederated tribes of Central Oregon: the Shahaptian speaking Tenino (or Tenino Proper), Wyam (Wyams of Lower Deschutes), Tygh (Tygh and Upper Deschutes), and Dock-Spus (Tukspushe and or John Day River) and with Upper Chinook speaking Dalles Wasco (Wascos Proper), Hood River Wasco (Smock-Shop) and with some Cascade Wasco (Kigaltwalla).
Palmer Treats With Coastal Tribes 1855
He then went to the coast where he treated with the Alsea (Yakonan) on Alsea River and Alsea Bay, the Tututni, the Chastacosta (Shista-kwusta) (on the lower course of the Illinois, and both sides of the Rogue), Siuslaw, Lower Coquille (Miluk), and Chetco for half the frontage of the coast—five million acres—which those tribes grudgingly agreed to cede for $90,000 in a treaty that the senate never ratified. As prisoners of war, the Tillamook, Lower Coquille, Tututni, and Chetco were forced onto the Siletz Reservation.
Chapter 40: Fort Hoskins 1856
Data about most of the early military establishments in Oregon are neither plentiful nor accurate, but fortunately there is a good account of the history and physical facts of Fort Hoskins.
Fort Hoskins was established as a result of the concentration of Indians at Siletz Agency and was named in honor of 1st Lt. Charles Hoskins who was killed in the battle of Monterey, Mexico, September 21, 1846. Cpt. Christopher Colon Augur, 4th Infantry, and his command reached Kings Valley July 25, 1856, and according to army records, Fort Hoskins was established the next day. It was on the Lukiamute River near the mouth of what is now known as Bonner Creek, probably on land owned by Rowland Chambers, later by Cpt. Samuel P. Frantz (1823-? PA).
Sheridan Builds a Road From Kings Valley to the Siletz
When Phil Sheridan was a young officer here before the Civil War, he had the duty of finishing the construction of the fort which included building a blockhouse. Being the self-assured fellow who later won laurels in the Civil War, he also felt confident about building a road across the mountains from Kings Valley to the Siletz, a route he had explored:
...the ground was matted with huge logs from five to eight feet in diameter. These could not be chopped with axes nor sawed by any ordinary means, therefore we had to burn them into suitable lengths, and drag the sections to either side of the roadway with from four to six yoke of oxen.
This done, Sheridan wanted to demonstrate the value of the road and dispatched a government wagon over it loaded with about 1500 pounds of freight, drawn by six-yoke of oxen, escorted by soldiers. When it had gone no more than seven miles the sergeant came back to report trouble, so Sheridan hastened to the scene:
I found the wagon at the base of a steep hill, stalled. Taking up a whip myself, I directed the men to lay on their gads, for each man had supplied himself with a flexible hickory within the early stages of the trip, to start the team, but this course did not move the wagon nor have much effect on the demoralized oxen;, but following as a last resort an example I heard of on a former occasion, that brought into use the rough language of the country, I induced the oxen to move with alacrity, and the wagon and contents were speedily carried to the summit.
"The whole trouble," Sheridan summarized in his Memoirs:
...the oxen had been broken and trained by a man who, when they were in a pinch, had encouraged them by his frontier vocabulary, and they could not realize what was expected of them under extraordinary conditions until they heard familiar and possibly profane urgent phrases. I took the wagon to its destination, but as it was not brought back, even in all the time I was stationed in that country (1856-1861), I think comment on the success of my road is unnecessary.
Augur's selection of the site for the fort was not approved by Brig. Gen. John Ellis Wool, his superior, and there was a good deal of controversy. Augur stuck to his guns and the fort stayed where it was until it was evacuated April 13, 1865. A blockhouse was built in the Siletz country, but there was also a squabble about this, and it had to be moved. Col. Oscar W. Hoop has written entertainingly of the establishment of Fort Hoskins and the life there. The present community and post office of Hoskins are close to the site of the fort, but there is nothing left of the establishment. Hoop says that Sheridan left Fort Hoskins for Fort Jones in California, May 19, 1857, and "this is the last we hear of Sheridan in the valley of the Willamette." The implication is wrong for Sheridan was at Fort Yamhill in 1861 and was not ordered east until September of that year. Heitman's Historical Register says Fort Hoskins was on the Siletz and old Fort Hoskins was on the Willamette River six miles north of Corvallis. Neither of these statements, apparently based on official records, is correct. Fort Hoskins was actually about 15 miles airline northeast of Corvallis. Heitman's Fort Hoskins on the Siletz seems to have been the Siletz Blockhouse. The official records of the two forts may have been based on the notion that Gen. Wool had the post moved, but as a matter of fact Cpt. Augur refused to budge.
Wallis Nash Visits Fort Hoskins
We crossed the divide the next day,
the head of the Yaquina River, running to the Pacific. We passed
trail made by Gen. Sheridan in 1857, from Fort Hoskins to the Siletz
Agency. The path was overgrown; some beavers had
across the little stream that ran close by, and had overflowed
and turned it into swamp. Fort Hoskins has been long ago
wheat is growing on the parade ground. There is no hostile
hundreds of miles, and certainly no fear on the settlers' part
of the scattered tribes now settled on the Siletz Reservation,
at hay time and wheat harvest much needed help to the whites
Hoskins 1914 Hoskins Store 1963
Photos Courtesy of Julie Hendricks
The Fort's Dull Past
The remains of Fort Hoskins are
a hollow at the edge of the Coast Range, just where the
with the level flood plain of the Willamette River.
The fort was built to skirt the western edge of the newly created Coast Reservation. It was established on the Luckiamute River overlooking Kings Valley near the mouth of what is now Bonner Creek, on July 26, 1856. Fort Hoskins is about 22 miles from Corvallis.
The purpose of the fort was to guard the pass through the Coast Range between the Willamette Valley and the concentration of incarcerated Indians at the Siletz Agency.
There probably would have been no Siletz Reservation except for the efforts of Joel Palmer, territorial Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who in the mid-1800s, believed it was imperative to provide a reservation for "displaced" Indians to protect them from land grabbers.
A temporary reservation was set up in the Rogue River Valley to incarcerate the Indians, but didn’t work, and as trouble continued between the Rogues and land grabbing squatters and gold mongers, some solution had to be found. When the military finally conquered the Rogues, Palmer managed to secure the area for the prisoners of war to be known as the Siletz or Coast Reservation. Some 1,382,400 acres would be used for the combined Grand Ronde, Siletz and Alsea reservations, to warehouse anywhere from 800 to 3000 Indians from the Southern Oregon and other areas.
The reservation, which extended from the Grand Ronde-Valley Junction area south of the Umpqua, running in width from the Pacific Ocean into the Coast Range, was to be ringed with forts to keep the captives in and white intruders out.
During the first six months of the fort's existence, the post commanded an amount of attention which seemed to justify hopes for a glamorous future. The post was established by Company G, 4th Infantry on July 26, 1856 in Kings Valley, where the trail from the reservation opens through the central pass opens into the settlements. The early weeks were filled with lengthy dispute Wool and Augur over its location. The Fort Hoskins Letter Book Records faithfully the captain's eloquent arguments against removal to a site which the general favored, on the Upper Prairie of the Siletz.
While Augur’s military record during the early days of Fort Hoskins does not always match his later achievements in the battle of Cedar Mountain or the capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, his official correspondence is a compensation. His letters possess literary qualities which place them far above the routine reports of any officer stationed on the Coast Reservation. In his moment of triumph, when Wool capitulated and approved "what I had done up to that time," and authorized "me to determine, whether the post should be changed from its present location or not," his style is at its best. "I am confident," he informed his headquarters, "and he may rest assured that in doing so I shall be guided entirely by what I conceive to be the best of service." Such locutions, for which "military etiquette" usually allows only limited scope, reached even the surgeon general in Washington DC, when the captain attempted to justify “an account of Dr. D. G. Campbell of Corvallis... For medical services and medicines, furnished to the troops at this post” in August and September 1856. "When my command arrives here," he explained to Brig. Gen. Thomas Lawson, they had returned "from an arduous campaign in the Rogue River Country... and many of the men were very much broken down. A too familiar intercourse with some of the friendly Indians during a brief stay at the Grand Ronde had disabled others—so that medical attendance was imperatively required.
The argument over the location of Fort Hoskins evidently did less harm to the captain's career than to the practical value of the fort. Augur lived to be major general during the Civil War, though the public criticism of his decision as a captain remained a constant irritation for the army. In October 1862, B. R. Biddle, Indian agent at Siletz, still cited arguments against the location of the fort in Kings Valley almost identical with some that seasoned earlier quarrel. "Ill advised and unfortunate," J. Ross Browne, special agent for the Department of the Interior, called the choice. He "made diligent inquiry of the principal settlers" and found,
without exception, they regard it as a nuisance, and are opposed to its continuance there. As to any practical protection, they consider such an idea simply preposterous. Expensive quarters for the officers and men are now being built near the present site, which is upon a private claim. I beg most earnestly, in behalf of common sense, that this unnecessary expense may be discontinued, it be any way designed to benefit the Siletz Reservation. Each soul at the agency might be murdered a week before the tidings could reach Fort Hoskins.
Subsequently, Augur conducted a more
and found that Browne had interviewed the only one squatter
Augur's literary virtues are unacknowledged in Col. Hoop's History of Fort Hoskins. Through based on letters and post orders, Hoop's account lacks the color of the originals. Source material that evidently did not use furnishes further details of the life at Fort Hoskins. Sheridan, president of the council of administration, recorded in August 1856, the appropriation of $22.00 for subscriptions to the Daily New York Herald, Weekly Washington Star, Harper's Magazine, and Blackwood's Magazine & Review. The mutilated minutes of the council of administration do not indicate how long these subscriptions were maintained. Among the sources of revenue for the post treasury, the records mention "the proceeds from the sale of the effects of Cpl. Bartholomew Boland, Company G, 4th Infantry, deceased," and of "Pvt. Conrad late of Company B, 2nd Infantry, California Volunteers." The auctions brought $30.25 and $14.90.
Generally, Hoop’s history, the only chronicle that rescues one of the forgotten forts from oblivion, is acceptable, though it includes a handful of errors. It records the events down to April 10, according to the note of Cpt. Ephriam Palmer, Company B, First Oregon Infantry, on the last post return. A rather amusing mistake, in view of the fable which keeps Sheridan occupied for 24 hours per day in the Coast Range between 1855 and 1861, sends Sheridan to Fort Jones, California, on May 19, 1857, and adds: "This is the last we hear of Sheridan in the valley of the Willamette and on the Siletz." Hoop obviously places too much confidence in Augur's letter of the same date. Sheridan's Personal Memoirs (1888) and the post returns of Fort Yamhill tell a different story. The colonel's chronicle pays dutiful homage to Cpt. Frederick T. Dent, who was "casually at post with his company" in April 1857, and commanded it from July to November 1861. Though a brother of Julia Dent Grant (1826-1902) and aide-de-campe and military secretary to Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), Dent's role in the story of Oregon forts is rather fleeting.
If a military structure is needed to link Sheridan to the Coast Range, the Siletz Blockhouse should serve the purpose. The "gloomy place... 40 square feet, lighted by four small windows, 22 square inches... an excellent place to fat[ten] turkeys," as one of Bensell's comrades sums up the fortalice, came into existence through Sheridan’s initiative. Under his command, as acting assistant quartermaster, Sgt. John Hunter and 11 privates began building it at the end of August 1856, while Cpl. William Cox with nine privates set out to cut a road from Fort Hoskins to the Siletz. "About the last of August," Augur reported to Benicia, "I learned" that the Indian superintendent "had abandoned the idea of locating the Indians on the Siletz for the present" and declined "to furnish any assistance towards making" the road.
I determined... to push it through
put the entire force of the company upon it the first day of
and hired the necessary mechanics and workmen to put up the
and temporary quarters.
"If pleasant weather had continued this month," Cpt. Augur wrote in October, "I should have had everything completed over there [Siletz] for the winter. But the rains commenced here about the 7th of the present month and have continued most of the time up to the date [October]... All the lumber we started with is left on the road and is impossible to get either way. But the blockhouse is completed except for the roof and the floors... There are ample stores there for a portion of the command all winter so that I shall keep a small party there permanently."
Intended for the protection of the
on the Siletz Reservation before the agency buildings were
located, the blockhouse stood six miles from the spot where it
the army took the structure apart, floated the logs down the
assembled them "within 200 to 300 yards of the agency and
and protecting it."
Siletz Blockhouse was garrisoned by a detachment from Fort Hoskins and supplied by means of mule teams over a trail which Sheridan optimistically called a "road." An 1879 map of the Siletz Agency shows the trail from Kings Valley, along the south fork of Rock Creek, to the Upper Prairie of the Siletz. The change of the headquarters of Company D, 4th California Infantry to the camp at Grand Ronde linked the blockhouse with Fort Yamhill in October 1864.
First Oregon Cavalry
The plunge to Civil War exploded on
12, 1861, in the bombardment of Fort
Sumter in Charleston Harbor. When it became apparent
would not be short, the Army began removing regular soldiers
of Oregon. Because of the responsibility to guard the
maintain a military presence, especially in Central and Eastern
where gold discoveries generated a rapid influx of miners and
federal and state officials scrambled to find replacement
of the Pacific raised recruits and dispatched companies of
to Fort Yamhill, Fort Hoskins, and Siletz Blockhouse. The Army
Fort Umpqua in 1862. The First
Volunteer Cavalry and the First Washington Territory
went to central Oregon. During the Civil War, Oregon raised six
of cavalry. Known officially as the First Oregon Cavalry, they
Secessionist sympathizers surfaced in Oregon. The Knights of the Golden Circle, an anti-Union group, reportedly plotted the seizure of Fort Vancouver, military headquarters on the Columbia River. They did not act. When pro-Confederate partisans raised their flag in Jacksonville, they faced opposition and backed down. The Long Tom Rebellion was perhaps the most noteworthy outbreak of secessionist feeling. Emboldened by the assassination of President Lincoln, Philip Henry Mulkey walked the streets of Eugene on May 6, 1865, shouting: "Hurrah for Jeff Davis, and damn the man that won't!" The First Oregon Volunteer Infantry arrested Mulkey, who promptly grabbed a glass of water and toasted Jeff Davis, the Confederate president. A pro-Union mob, wanting to lynch Mulkey, broke down the jail door. Mulkey slashed one of the men with a hidden knife. Mulkey's supporters from the Long Tom district were ready to fight, but the infantry slipped Mulkey out of town under an armed guard, loaded him on a steamboat, and sent him off to three months in jail at Fort Vancouver. Mulkey sued for $10,000 for false arrest. After 14 court appearances over a two-year period, he settled for $200.
For many of the soldiers the Civil War in Oregon was a monotonous, numbing assignment. In their monthly post returns, officers recorded desertions, suicides, and bouts in the brig because of drunkenness and misbehavior. The Indians were quiet on the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations. The rain was predictable and depressing. "Nothing transpired of importance," recorded Royal A. Bensell, a soldier at Fort Yamhill. Too many days brought that refrain in his Civil War diary.
East of the Cascades the troops had active engagement. Gold discoveries at Canyon City and other diggings on the headwaters of the John Day River and in the Powder River country on the eastern slopes of the Blue Mountains had drawn thousands of miners. The Northern Paiute, disrupted in their seasonal round and tempted by the easy pickings of clothing, food, and horses, embarked on raids and conflicts that demanded military intervention. The Oregon Volunteer Infantry and Cavalry established Camp Watson (1864) after placing troops at temporary stations: Dahlgren, Currey, Gibbs, Henderson, and Maury. The forces engaged in lengthy and often fruitless explorations searching for the elusive Indians.
Realizing that the problems east of the Cascades were of long duration, the U.S. Army established Fort Klamath (1863), Camp Warner (1866), and Fort Harney (1867). During the summer of 1864 Captains John M. Drake and George B. Curry and Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Drew led troops on sweeps through Southeastern Oregon, Northern Nevada, and southwestern Idaho. They had little success in finding the "enemy." "These tribes can be gathered upon a reservation, controlled, subsisted for a short time, and afterwards be made to subsist themselves," commented the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, "for one-tenth the cost of supporting military forces in pursuit of them." In time that happened. The Klamath Reservation and the short-lived Malheur Reservation included various bands of Northern Paiute. The Civil War in Oregon mostly involved guarding reservations or pursuing native peoples who were masters of escape in their own homelands.
Chapter 41: Beyond Princess and Squaw
According to historian Sherry L.
barriers between army officers and Indian women existed,
officers’ beliefs in the superiority of their culture and in
to subdue Indian resistance to non-indian occupation of their
is evidence, however, that some army officers circumvented these
and created meaningful and genuine communication with Indian
some military men appreciated certain aspects of these women's
that occasionally officers and Indian women attained a measure
understanding that transcended assumptions about civilization
or the roles of conqueror and conquered.
Army officers traveled West laden with a good deal of cultural baggage. Schoolbook stories, captivity narratives, and James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) novels provided information, or sorts, about male and Femelle Indians, with two basic notions prevailing. First non-indians assumed it was possible to delineate general Indian characteristics without reference to tribal or cultural differences. Second, the dominant image of Indians was an ambivalent one, featuring both noble and ignoble qualities.
But contact and interaction with actual Indian women modified officers' attitudes. The women's reactions, responses, and relationships with officers, then, questioned prevailing images about Indian women and tried to record the reality, at least as they had experienced it.
Once on the frontier they learned that Indian women demonstrated friendliness, compassion, and affection. "In fact," Lt. Britton Davis wrote about Chiricahaua and Warm Springs Apache women and men, "we began to find them decidedly human." While they never dropped their concepts of savagery, civilization and "Indian character," these officers gradually discovered that Indian women's actual experiences were richer, more diverse, and simply more human than the conquest mythology allowed or then most of their less informed countrymen might suppose.
Yet officers, for the most part, did not understand the anthropological truth about these women. Their comments reveal more about non-indian civilization's ideas of culture, savagery, and, in this case, woman's sphere than they do about the realities of Indian women's lives and cultures. Nineteenth Century Americans, according to Roy Harvey Pearce, tended to define civilization in terms of savagery. This process
forced Americans to consider and reconsider what it was to be "civilized" and what it took to build a civilization. Studying the savage... in the end they had only studied themselves.
Consequently, officers seemed compelled to compare Indian women to white women. For many, their women's ways of life set the "civilized" standard by which they measured Indian women's ways.
Feminist Rosalind Miles comments on some of the differences between "civilization" and "savagery":
Men in hunter/gatherer societies do not command or exploit women's labor. They do not appropriate or control their produce, nor prevent their free movement. They exert little or no control over women's bodies or those of their children, making no fetish of virility or chastity, and making no demands of women's sexual exclusivity. The common stock of the tribe's knowledge is not reserved for men only, nor is female creativity repressed or denied. Today's civilized sisters of these primitive women could with some justice look wistfully at this substantial array of the basic rights of women.
They believed, for example, that Indian
tendency to work out-of-doors, at a time when the prescribed
sphere for women emphasized home and hearth, reflected the
state. On the other hand, a few praised the primitive virtues of
outdoor life and criticized white women’s customs.
In his book Stars and Stripes, written in 1855, Russian author Ivan Golovin made some interesting observations:
The Indian ladies well deserve the name given to them by the Indians of whites, their paleness being excessive indeed. This is owning to rocking chairs, to sexual excesses producing consumption, but particularly to absence of vegetation in the cities.
In either case, officers' comments about
women often served as vehicles through which they reflected on
and their women.
Typically, then, army officers looked at Indian women in relation to themselves. The result was ambiguity. The noble Indian woman was the archetypal Indian princess, a Pocahontas type who was virginal, yet passionate. As Ryna Green noted "Even Pocahontas [was] motivated by lust." The Indian "princess" was childlike, naturally innocent, beautiful, and inclined toward civilization, Christianization, and to helping and mating with non-indian men.
The Ignoble Squaw was a Squat, Haggard, Ugly, Pappose-Lugging Drudge
Conversely, the non-indian image of
squaw was of a squat, haggard, ugly, pappose-lugging drudge who
endlessly while her spouse sported in the hunting fields or
the lodge. She lived a most unfortunate, brutal life.
Furthermore, she fought enemies with a vengeance and thirst for blood unmatched by any man. Such widely accepted vengeance and thirst for blood made it difficult for officers to perceive them as real, individual humans. Both princess and squaw operated as depersonalized symbols, devoid of humanity.
Queens of the Forest
It comes as no surprise that army
accounts of Indian women included these images. They acted as
to the images of males as noble savage and fiendish barbarian.
officers discovered only occasional individuals who fit the
Lt. C. A. Woodward, for example, identified a Comanche chief's
as "one of the most comely Indian maids of the wild tribes I
noting she was beautifully garbed in bright colors and sat
horse "as only the queens of the forest can do."
Nash describes the colorful garb of the Yakonan Tyee Kaseeah and his wife:
A plum of white and magenta feathers rose high from a bead headdress, and another plume was bound on each arm, and he carried a plume in each hand. The black bands and vermilion patches on his face were freshly touched up.
The women had black stuff petticoats, and scarlet capes round their shoulders, with rows upon rows of large blue and white necklaces hung around their necks. They also carried feathers in their hands.
More typical was Lt. James W. Steele's description of the squaw—a repulsive, stoop-shouldered, wretched, toothless crone who "in all that is peculilary Indianesque excels her master."
In his book, Oregon: There And Back 1877, Wallis Nash describes the attire of the Indians at the Alsea and Siletz reservations:
[The squaw]... was a woman of medium height, broad, and strongly built, dressed in an old dirty print gown, and with two or three rows of large beads around her neck; and three broad bands of black paint from the corners and middle of the lips to the edges of the chin-bone, and a dab of vermilion on each cheek adorned her face.
He went on:
In cunning, hatred, and revenge, in the specialties of cruelty and the refinements of torture, she has no equal on earth or in Hades.
Though extreme, Steele's sentiments
many officers' reactions to Indian women. William E. Waters
the legendary beauty of Indian women was a myth, noting that he
to see an Indian woman who bore the slightest comparison to
Rather, he felt, most were homely, not because of inherent
because of their lives of drudgery.
While officers criticized Indian men for supposedly enslaving their women, such treatment, they argued, was an inevitable condition of the Indian's savage state. In their eyes society's treatment of its women served as an important indicator of its level of civilization.
In 1881, Suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage reflected "The prolonged slavery of women is the darkest page in human history." In their book, History of Woman Suffrage 1848-1861, they wrote:
It is the boast of America and Europe that woman holds a higher position in the world of work under Christianity than under pagandom. Heathen treatment of woman in this respect often points the moral and adorns the tale of returned missionaries, who are apparently forgetful that servile labor of the severest and most degrading character is performed by Christian women in highly Christian countries.
Civilized people pampered women; savage people mistreated them. Most officers agreed with Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson that
the higher the human family rises in the scale of civilization, the more deference is paid to women. Among educated and refined people in America she is queen, and all men bow to her as they should.
Among Indians, the officers found, woman was
In her 1989 book, The Women's History of the World, Rosalind Miles describes the drudgery of Indian women's lives:
...Women worldwide [were] saddled with
most degraded and disgusting occupations of their society. In
for instance, women chewed the raw pelts of dead birds to soften
wearing next to the skin. They also cured larger hides to
till the putrid blubber and hair could be scraped off easily,
in urine to clean them, then massaging them with animal brains
To observers, this seemed "The filthiest work in creation." It
seen to be "work which only women did."
Yet this work was vital to the tribe's survival. Without hides, there would be no boots, parkas, trousers, containers for food and water, kayaks or tents. None of these, however, have necessarily won status and respect for work performed by women.
More unusual were officers who
these images. Some even expressed thinly veiled doubts about
cultural superiority, asserting that Indian women had advantages
women. In fact, some claimed, the latter should emulate the
Even officers who emphasized the drudgery and degradation of Indian womanhood wrestled with a dilemma: Indian women did not despise their lives. Why were these women, living apparently brutal and desperate lives, happy? Why did they appear content with endless, wearisome servitude, and why did they submit to their fate without complaint? Admitting that "a happier, more light-hearted, more contented woman cannot be found," than an Indian woman, Col. Richard Dodge concluded her bliss was due either to ignorance of alternatives or to constant work, which kept her from reflecting on the horrors of her life. But Lt. Col. Albert Brackett offered a different explanation. While the Shoshoni and Ute women he met labored continually—pitching and packing tipis, carrying wood and water, cooking, and engaging in "all the drudgery of the camp"—he also declared their lives were "unquestionably far happier than the do-nothing, thankless, dyspeptic life led by a majority of American women." While one might be inclined to pity them for their lives of hard work, Brackett said, their health and happiness stemmed from living the outdoor life and taking plenty of exercise. These practices constituted the "main points in the pursuit of happiness."
Other officers echoed Brackett's favorable comparison of Indian women to white-women, particularly in matters of matrimony and maternity. In Southwestern tribes some women lived in permanent villages and men shared the agricultural work, more closely approximating the non-indian division of labor between sexes. Officers less frequently perceived these women as slaves and drudges. Beyond that, officers claimed, some southwestern Indian women had economic advantages, marital rights, and political privileges unknown to white women. Lt. William Woods Averell, for example, allowed that Navajo chief's wives' "voices were heard in the councils." Cpt. Bourke reported that Hopi women not only managed but owned their houses, and spouses could not sell household goods without their wives' permission. Even Steele spoke highly of Pueblo women as "Creatures... whose dignity would not suffer by comparison with some of the queens of civilization." Furthermore, he believed, unlike white-women who demanded rights but engaged in no productive labor, Pueblo women demonstrated that they had "rights all along" because they engaged in "manly labor" and so deserved them. He marveled at a Pueblo woman who sold pinions on an Albuquerque street corner while juggling her two-day-old cradle on her hip. "Such women as these are alone physically competent to maintain rights," Steele pronounced.
Outside the Southwest others reported that Indian women maintained marriage rights unknown to white women. Cpt. Randolph Marcy claimed that among the Shawnee and Delaware the marriage contract was binding only as long as husband and wife wanted it so. If a woman left her spouse she was authorized by tribal law to take all the personal property she possessed at the time of the marriage, and the spouse had no claim upon it. Marcy found this practice very just, for it made a woman somewhat independent of her spouse and probably deterred spouses from behaving tyrannically and abusing their wives.
Dodge believed Indian women were virtually owned like property, by spouses who could beat, even kill, them with impunity; yet, he wrote, "the domestic life of the Indian will bear comparison with that of the average civilized communities." Husbands were generally kind; wives generally faithful, obedient, and industrious. Moreover, Indian women could, according to Dodge, leave one spouse for another and suffer no social stigma in the process. Rather than viewing this separation and remarriage process as barbarous, he regarded it as beneficial—a practice that probably ameliorated the conditions of Indian women. They could simply leave cruel spouses for kindlier ones. Civilized women did not have this option, or at least it was obtained less easily and at greater social cost.
Army officers admired Indian women's vitality in childbirth and concluded, though with some hesitation, that the 'Indian way" of bringing children into the world was preferable to the "civilized" way. Admiring their stamina, physical endurance, and capacity to continue working right up to, and then almost immediately after, partuition, a few perceived Indian women's apparent ease with childbirth as animal-like. While some through white women should emulate Indian women on this matter, others feared it a sign of savagery, an indication they were closer to primitive nature than to the "refinements" of civilization.
Col. Philippe Régis de Trobiand, however, declared Indian women's childbirth practices "extraordinar." To him, working up to the onset of labor pains and returning to work the day after giving birth, was "natural" and appropriate. Civilization, he complained, had replaced this natural and easy process with "long torture, medical attendance, intervention of chloroform, puerperal fever, two weeks in bed, 30 days in the bedroom, and such precaution." Civilized people created artificial environments for themselves and their bodies and in the process, "physically and morally... corrupted the work of nature." As a result, white women weakened and often died, while Indian mothers gathered up their infants and vigorously went on their way.
William T. Parker, a soldier who later became a doctor, also praised Indian women's stamina, especially regarding "womanly functions." A great admirer of their "fortitude, perseverance and unflagging devotion to womanly duty," particularly maternal duties, Parker attributed their ease in childbirth to large hips, "capacious" pelvises, and robust conditions. Unfortunately, He added, Indian women were beginning to consult non-indian doctors and acquire non-indian methods of childbearing—all to their detriment.
From an out-of-door life of activity with plenty of fresh game and wholesome food and clear water, with a healthful tepee for home, the change had been made to log cabins with overheated close air.
The result was deteriorating health and
numbers of miscarriages and diseases.
Some military men praised women's physical endurance and capabilities in activities outside of "womanly functions"—in horseback riding, hunting, and even warfare. While these men were scandalized by white women riding astride mounts, rather than sidesaddle, they accepted, even admired, the practice among Indian women. Joseph Sladen thus rhapsodized about Apache women as the rode with their long hair dangling down their backs:
I have seldom seen a prettier picture than those of one of these young women sitting astride a horse and riding like the wind.
Marcy admired Plains women's equestrian
Riding with one leg on each side of their horse, they were every
skillful as their men, He claimed. He was notably impressed with
women who lassoed several antelope with "unerring precision"
Indian women in warfare provoked more mixed responses from officers. Army officers were stung by eastern humanitarians' charges that they were brutal, bloodthirsty, ruffians of the border, and resented insinuations they purposefully killed women and children. The officers insisted these deaths were accidental rather than intentional, and that no one deplored these incidents more than the troopers. Others argued that Indian women took up arms against soldiers and consequently became fair game for troopers' bullets.
In defending themselves from critics, officers frequently resorted to stereotype. Once a native woman became enraged, Cpt. R. G. Carter explained, "[n]ot a gleam of pity entered her feminine breast. She was a cold-blooded, thirsty vulture, only intent upon her prey, as good as the warrior himself." He acknowledged that love and fear for their children's safety motivated Indian women to pick up arms, and that white women would certainly share this instinct. Yet in an Indian woman, Carter insisted, maternal instinct partook more of "savage devotion and instinctive traits of the wild animals." When cornered, she fought with all the strength of her savage nature and with the "desperation of a tigress."
Yet other officers openly respected Indian women who defended their homes and families. During the Gila River Expedition of 1857, Col. John Van Duesen du Bois admired a aboriginal woman's valiant attempt to carry her wounded spouse off the battlefield and was sickened when the troops killed them both. Cochise's sister, a 50-year-old widow with "strongly marked, unprepossessing features giving evidence of a strong will," impressed Sladen. She was, he said, the "presiding genius" of an Apache outpost overlooking the road to Fort Bowie. While it was unusual for a woman to have such responsibility, Sladen wrote, Cochise had great confidence in his sister, and the army officer agreed that her "independence and force seemed to justify this faith in her ability." And Lt. Davis later recalled that while fighting Apache in 1882, he heard groans from a wounded enemy who was firing on troopers. Charging the sharp shooter's position, the soldiers discovered an Indian woman, shielding an infant. She drew her knife and fought the men until they overpowered her and disarmed her. She had a bullet-shattered leg, Davis remembered, but did not utter a single groan when her leg was amputated without anesthesia. "She stood it," he marveled, "without a murmur."
Banning Committee 1876 Investigates Immorality at Frontier Army Posts
Officers, then, found admirable
in the lives and characters of Indian women; some suggested that
women lived healthier lives and had more rights, powers, and
than white women. In addition, beyond making such
them, a few officers became friends, perhaps even intimates,
Indian women. The nature and frequency of these friendships,
or even sexual encounters is difficult to ascertain, however.
discussed friendships with Indian women but declined to
level of intimacy, being exceedingly discreet about sexual
miscegenation was not condoned, and officers were not inclined
any personal acquaintance with it.
There is evidence, however, that army officers and Indian women had romantic as well as sexual entanglements, although most official documents limit their remarks to these matters to enlisted men.
There was, for instance, an incident concerning the beautiful Indian maid and young Lt. H. H. Garber. On duty at Fort Hoskins near Kings Valley, he became acquainted with her in the early spring of 1850. She was soon visiting the reputedly "very handsome" officer in his quarters and then moving in, apparently tolerated by fellow officers until her parents complained, not so much on moral grounds as they needed her at home. Hoping to put an end to the affair, Cpt. Christopher Colon Augur sent Garber to Fort Vancouver to cool off, but reckoned without the persistence of the young squaw who walked all the way to the fort on the Columbia to rejoin her lover. Garber was returned to Fort Hoskins and brought before Augur for a dressing down and a warning to stop seeing her. This was supposed to end the matter but the Indian maid was again discovered in the lieutenant's rooms. Again sent for by Augur, tempers flared on both sides and Garber made some insubordinate remarks. He was sentenced to six months in the guardhouse but died of unstated causes on October 12, 1859. He was buried in the Kings Valley Cemetery, his grave identified only by the regular army marker for the time. Then his fellow soldiers contributed funds for a marble marker which was still standing in 1965. Ironically, as though pointing up his ill luck his name is misspelled.
Congress, disturbed over reports of miscegenation on the military frontier, convened the Banning Committee in 1876, to investigate the problem of "immorality" at frontier army posts. The committee assumed the problem existed between enlisted men and Indian women and remained silent on officers.
Exceptions to this official silence concerned officers who shamefully cavorted with prostitutes (White woman, Mexican, or Indian) in the presence of enlisted men and were consequently court-martialled. Officials preferred, however, to discourage documentation of such liaisons whenever possible. Cpt. Nicholas Nodt finally succeeded, after a four-year effort, in reporting an incident at Fort Fauntleroy that involved officers' "favorite squaws." According to historian Anne Butler, officers at that post kept Navajo mistresses as a matter of course, and their commanding officer not only knew about the relationships but used the women as emissaries to others in their tribe.
Perhaps the most infamous officer-Indian sexual relationship was the rumored affair between Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) and a Cheyenne woman named Monasetah. Retired Cpt. Frederick Benteen of the 7th Cavalry, who despised Custer, claimed that, following the Battle of Washita, Custer invited officers "desiring to avail themselves of the services of a captured squaw to come to the squaw Round Up Corral, and select one!" Custer, Benteen charged, took first choice, Monasetah, and lived with her during the winter and spring of 1868 and 1869. Benteen also maintained that army surgeon Renick had "seen him not only sleeping with that Indian girl all winter long, but [had] seen him many times in the act of copulating with her." Benteen"s obvious disregard for Custer, whom he labeled an "S.O.B... murderer, thief, and liar," certainly undermined his objectivity and perhaps even his reliability on this matter. Since many 19th Century men maintained, at least in public statements, that sexual relations with Indian women degraded non-indians, Benteen may have intended to slander Custer's memory by making these accusations. However, whether or not Custer and Monasetah were actually lovers, rumors as this one demonstrate such entanglements were not considered impossible.
Moreover, the potential for sexual intimacy between these men and women was clearly an issue of concern between officers and their wives. Several men mentioned Indian women in letters home, quickly adding that they had no interest in taking them as lovers. Lt. E. O. C. Ord, writing to his wife from Fort Walla Walla, Washington Territory, in 1858, said,
"...tell Mrs. Hardie the captain is looking extremely youthful and when any good looking squaws come along he looked toward them and sighs—for home... remember if Mrs. Hardie takes this too hard—tell her Hardie is as anxious to get home—home, home! as your affectionate and devoted husband."
Admiring the Crow at Fort
Phil Kearney, Col. Luther Bradley wrote his
"some of the women were even good looking." He hastened to add
attractiveness was rare and that she "need not fear my falling
with any of them, they are not my style." Cpt. Albert Barnitz
his wife that he would not "fall in love with any of their dirty
squaws," referring to Cheyenne and Arapahoe. In a demonstration
constancy, he claimed that, while he was at the 1867 Council at
Lodge, Kansas, an Arapahoe brought an Indian maid to be his
the night. Although she "was elegantly ornamented with
to have been especially gotten up for the occasion," Barnitz
offer. He showed the Arapahoe a picture of his wife and told him
Time and again officers replayed, in letters and memoirs, Barnitz's scenario of Indian men offering Indian women to officers, who firmly, though graciously, refused, thus maintaining the highest moral standards. Some admitted they found Indian women tempting, but resisted either because they could not quite overcome their scruples about mixing with Indians, or they did not want to risk alienating wives back home. Among the captives of the 1857 Gila River Expedition, Col. John du Bois was attracted to one woman—a Princes, of course. Gracefully clothed in buckskin, with a sweet voice, curling lip, flashing eyes, and small hands and feet, she was "haughty as an empress receiving homage... By Jove—I could marry such a wildcat," he exclaimed, "if she lived on 5th Avenue and owned half a county." Whether he pursued a relationship with her, he did not say, although he commented, "On it that the morals of the captives are not irreproachable."
At least one officer acknowledged that Indian women took advantage of officers' attentions and sentimental or romantic inclinations. After their own families were wiped out by war, several Apache women, according to Davis, "practically adopted" army officers. A seven-year-old Indian girl, with her mother's encouragement, became one of the officer's "special protéegée," acquiring finery at his expense:
These romantic friendships, Davis lamented, should have had the proper romantic ending—when the grateful Indian girl throws herself before the leveled rifles, a la Cpt. John Smith. But alas and alack! When the hostiles went out in the spring of 1885 the girl and the women went with them, seemingly not caring a trooper's damn whether I was filled full of lead or not.
Officers' comments about women
the romantic and ignored the more sordid implications of
against Custer. Most maintained, in public statements, that a
or a marriage between savagery and civilization threatened the
While the Indian women would be elevated by the match, the white
be lowered. One officer argued that white men were "naturally"
by such liaisons because their personal cleanliness suffered,
turned ragged, their self-respect was degraded, and they became
to civilized life. "The moral and intellectual level of these
by choice)," de Trobiand maintained, "is more that of a brute
man." Non-indian officials treated their Indian women like
not communicate with them since neither spoke the other's
had relationships "more bestial than human."
If marriage or public acknowledgement of sexual mingling with Indian women was out of the question for officers, however, romance was not. In his novel, An Apache princess, Cpt. Charles King examined this possibility. Princess Natzie—a "theoretical heathen, but a practical Christian"—fell in love with pale, genteel Lt. Neil Blakely. In Pocahontas-like fashion, for she saved his life, but then learned that her love for Blakely was unrequited, for he loved the captain's Eastern-educated daughter, Angela. While the genteel Blakely preferred hunting butterflies to drinking and gambling, his army friends believed he encouraged Natzie's attention in an ungentlemanly way. "Even women who could not find it possible to speak of her probable relations with Neil Blakely," King romanticized, "dwelt much in thought and word upon her superb devotion and her generosity. That he had "encouraged her passionate and almost savage love for him, there were few to doubt." As King's novel demonstrates, an Apache princess was a suitable companion for a frontier flirtation and even a passionate affair. But, in the end, confirming the impossibility of any permanent commitment between an officer and an Indian, Blakeley married Angela, and Natzie married a Chiracahua warrior.
King’s fiction mirrored frontier reality. Though rare, such romances did occur. Officers' accounts, while vague about the nature of these relationships, revealed they were warm and of some consequence. Marriages, of course, were almost unknown, although Lt. D. H. Rucker of the First Dragoons married a "civilized" Cherokee woman. For most, the idea of marriage apparently was not seriously entertained.
While never destined to achieve the respectability or sanctity of marriage, these relationships seemed to indicate that, if only for a short time, officers and Indian women could attain a level of communication, understanding, and affection that transcended concerns of savagery and civilization, of occupying army and overpowered the indigenous people. If one cuts through the imagery of hackneyed princess stereotypes, one can find indications of genuine human involvement.
For example, a Yuma beauty the soldiers named "Rose of the Colorado," charmed Lt. Thomas W. Sweeny. She had, according to Sweeny, beautiful black, dazzling eyes. Her face was soft and more intelligent, he believed, than any Indian faces he had ever seen. But most impressive to Sweeny was "her form, which was almost nude, was truly magnificent, and would have been a glory to a young sculptor." Clearly attracted to her, Sweeny approached and, in time, they became friends. In one touching exchange, the Yuma woman asked Sweeny if white women were beautiful. He answered they were, but assured her she was every bit as handsome, although white men did not like white women who painted themselves. Being painted, she looked rather sad at this and asked Sweeny if he felt the same way. He gently told her, it "is not wrong in you... for it is the practice of your people," but he added, "..believe me, you would look much handsomer without it."
Similar warmth and affection characterized William Woods Averell's relationship with Ah-tlan-tiz-pa, a Navajo, who, he said, followed him into Fort Defiance, New Mexico Territory (1850-1912). He found her "undoubtedly the prettiest Navajo woman in the country." Averell admitted only that she was friendly and valuable to the army post, but it appears his interest in Ah-tlan-tiz-pa was more than professional. Upon hearing that he was wounded during the Navajo War, Averell related, Ah-tlan-tiz-pa ran into his tent and threw herself on the ground. "It was not until repeated assurances that I was alive and not fatally hurt that she partly raised herself and crept toward my bed." He made arrangements for her to freely enter the garrison and, "so, to borrow the idiom of our ancient friend, J. Fenimore Cooper, the Indian maid occasionally brought the breezy vigor of the pinon-clad mountains and the ruddy glow of savage life, unfettered by any conventionalities, into the quiet and alive cabin of the wounded paleface." Averell had several lovers during his stay in the Southwest, and Ah-tlan-tiz-pa was probably among them. The Navajo woman clearly demonstrated considerable feeling for the officer, and the relationship was of some import to both.
The majority of officers uncritically adopted the myths and stereotypes that dominated Americans' ideas about Indian women. Yet a significant number of army officers in the trans-Mississippi West discovered that these stereotypes did not adequately describe the lives and experiences of Indian women. While they never abandoned their basic assumptions about savagery and civilization, they believed Indian women possessed admirable qualities and characteristics; these beliefs were grounded in reality rather than in the fanciful Pocahontas-princess image. These men discovered that Indian women had rights unknown to white-women, and, in praising Indian women, they conversely criticized their own culture's treatment of women, its institution of marriage, and its methods of childbirth.
Furthermore, a few officers demonstrated a capacity to penetrate beyond notions of civilization and savagery, conqueror and conquered, to achieve close, perhaps even intimate, friendships with individual Indian women, without fully abandoning these notions or even experiencing an erosion of their potency. Although officers resorted to princess mythology in their accounts of these friendships, the use of princess symbols does not necessarily invalidate the friendships or emotional involvements. In a culture that frowned upon racial mixing, perhaps these myths provided the only acceptable means by which such men could comfortably write about romance with Indian women. In addition, by relating their interactions with these women, officers conveyed some sense of the Indians' curiosity about non-indian culture, their generosity of spirit, devotion to family, courage under fire, and capacity for love, friendship, compassion, and forgiveness.
The result was that officers developed a more humanized view of Indians through examination of women. Why would women more than men elicit these reactions from officers? The officers may have been more inclined to see all women, regardless of race or culture, as more approachable, more emotional, and less inscrutable than men. Also, they defined Indian women in terms of their relations with others—husbands, children, the officers themselves—which reinforced concepts of the Indians as human. Further, although some women took up arms to defend home and family, officers did not seem to perceive them as the enemy, but believed their spouses, brothers, and fathers most directly threatened them. Finally, officers probably saw Indian women as more easily redeemed for civilization. Army men most likely accepted their culture's assumptions that white women were a civilizing influence on the frontier and perhaps assumed Indian women could play the same "gentle tamer" role in their own cultures.
Attitudes such as these, however, demonstrating some change in perception based on experiences with actual Indian women, did not alter officers' actions. To acknowledge Indian women's humanity and their personal relationships with individuals could make their tasks as soldiers even more complicated, or even render them ineffective. For most officers, then, Indians remained, in the final analysis, inferior beings who obstructed civilization's advance across the continent. The officers' ultimate purpose was not to understand, communicate, and care for Indians but to clear the countryside of these obstacles—through peaceful means, if possible, through violent means, if necessary.
In the East such groups as the Indian Aid Association wanted no more Indian blood on American hands. Others were just as certain that God sent Americans to destroy Indian foes like Israelites of old. Whites gradually elevated the role of the Almighty in the Indian demise to that of a force working through the relentless principles of Darwinism.
Custer and the Seventh's Little Queers (1868-1878)
Reviews of military accounts during the frontier era reveal few instances of soldiers being prosecuted for sodomy. This was not because sodomy was rarely practiced; the military brass chose to disguise such situations rather than admit that they occurred within a military post. This allowed the military to prevent such changes from going on the public record, reflecting both contemporary prejudice and reticence upon the part of the military to acknowledge that such situations existed. In the 1890s, an infantryman was charged in private military correspondence with the "sin of Oscar Wilde"; however, he was publicly drummed out of the 24th colored infantry on unrelated charges.
Only when sodomy became publicly
did the military find it necessary to enact an equally public
The 1878 death of a 7th Cavalry laundress caused a sensation
from New York to San Francisco. After ten years of loyal service
Cavalry, the wife of Cpl. John Noonan was discovered to be a
she was a popular employee, the exposure of her identity
series of homosexual relationships among cavalrymen on one of
well-known military posts, George
Custer's 7th Cavalry.
She was a New Mexican teamster that 7th Cavalry Cpt. Lewis McClean Hamilton met on the streets of Leavenworth City, Kansas, in 1868. "Their recognition was mutual," a confidant later recalled. In order to have a relationship, Hamilton brought her into his employ under the guise of a military laundress, appointing her to his company, Company A military laundresses served at the captain's prerogative, and the bullwhacker-turned-laundress faithfully followed Hamilton until his death eight months later in the Battle of Washita in November 1868.
The bullet that pierced Hamilton's heart that morning left behind an unusual widow. Remarkably, she remained in military employ. Her resolve in the matter is admirable, for in addition to developing a growing reputation as a superb laundress, she became known as a sometimes nurse, emergency midwife, excellent cook, and tailor. Elizabeth Bacon Custer (1842-1933), wife of Lt. Gen. George Custer, employed her in the early 1870s. She recalled that "when she brought the linen home, it was fluted and frilled so daintily that I considered her a treasure. She always came at night, and when I went out to pay her she was very shy, and kept a veil pinned about the lower part of her face." All of these domestic skills contributed financially to the laundress’s existing income and indicate that she was a very strong-willed and resourceful person. She was also very popular within social worlds of military society. Elizabeth Custer remembered her presence at military balls, wheeling about the barracks floor dressed in "pink tarletan and false curls, and not withstanding her height and colossal anatomy, she has constant partners."
Following Hamilton's death, the popular widow eventually married three more times. While the first two husbands deserted the Cavalry, Her third and final marriage was successful and endured. With the transfer of the 7th Cavalry toFort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory, in 1873, came Pvt. John Noonan, Company L. His commitment to professional soldiering, an "excellent character," and subsequent rise from private to sergeant showed Noonan to have been a superb soldier. His reputation was further enhanced by assignments as orderly to the Custer command. In about 1874, "Colonel Tom's own man," as Ms. Custer referred to Noonan, possessed sufficient merit to officially marry Ms. Noonan. Noonan reenlisted in January 1877, and by the following year had again worked his way up to the rank of corporal.
When his wife died on October 30, 1878, Noonan was on escort duty over 300 miles away. The success of her disguise had been thorough; the laundress who volunteered to prepare the body for burial was quite surprised, emerging from her duties shouting, "She's got balls as big as a bull; She's a man!" The news rapidly spread and the surrounding community was "plunged into a pleasurable curiosity to know the particulars." News of the "unnatural union and apparel" was telegraphed to newspapers from coast to coast. The accuracy of these sensational stories was confirmed by the official report of post surgeon W. D. Wolverton, who "found the body to be that of a fully developed male in all that makes the difference in sex, without any abnormal condition that would cause a doubt on the subject."
The enormous public attention paid to this matter led not only to Noonan's dishonorable discharge, but because of the public nature of his trespass against social convention and military "honor," it exacted an equally public punishment. Commanding Officer Sturgis wrote on November 23, 1878, that "if there is any law by which this man could be sent to the penitentiary I would respectfully suggest that it be called into requisition in his case." Military brass concurred and Sturgis was "instructed to bring the case to attention of the US District Attorney." However, Noonan committed suicide before prosecution could continue. He died in the company stables at the age of 30 on November 30, 1878. His death was noted by a local newspaper to have "relieved the regiment of the odium which the man's presence had cast them."
While Ms. Noonan had successfully eluded detection for some ten years, at least one officer was aware of her disguise. First Lt. Edward Settle Godfrey noted in 1868 that she was "tall and angular and had a coarse voice," and that "a stiff breeze whisked the veil off her face and revealed a bearded chin." Godfrey's suspicions were confirmed by Hamilton, who told him "the story of her employment." Until the news became public a decade later, Godfrey never spoke of the matter, believing discretion the better part of honor. The principles of decorum that ultimately destroyed John Noonan had conversely served to protect his wife's identity prior to her death.
Chapter 42: Battle of Hungry Hill 1855
On October 31 a party of Rogues near Leland,
ambushed Cpt. Smith and his regulars in an all-day fight known
as the Battle of Bloody Springs, Grave Creek Hills, or Hungry
Hill. With inferior smooth-bore, short-range
fired heavy, round bullets, the troops barely escaped the
Indians, who broke off action on November 1 after a four-hour
which 15 Indians and 31 whites were killed.
On December 2, in another theater of
the noncombatant Cow Creek Umpquas were defeated at Deer Creek.
day, troops were especially active, as though expecting victory
the occasion. On that day Jake's tribe from Butte Creek were
warning while they were encamped along Little Butte Creek, an
tributary. A number were murdered, and the rest captured or
Another camp four miles north of Rogue River was also fired
the shooting ended, a number of Indians were murdered, and 20
Five days before the new year arrived, soldiers attacked part of
John's tribe east of Williams Creek, killing three warriors and
others to flight. Another tribe sought shelter in miners' cabins
forks of the Applegate
and eluded a party of potential attackers.
The 314 Indians camped at Fort Lane and the 300 under an agent on the Umpqua were scarcely better off than those continuing the fight. Lacking food, clothing, and shelter, they suffered from malnutrition, tuberculosis, and measles.
Palmer hoped to get them removed to the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations. Before he could move defeated Indians under his control, combatant Umpqua attacked squatters' cabins in Douglas County in early December, stealing and killing livestock.
In the following week well-armed volunteers marched unsuccessfully to the Applegate, where they could not return the Indians' fire in an attack because the mules carrying their ammunition and a Howitzer had fallen off a cliff. The mules had drowned. Tyee John's Army escaped from a miners' cabin near the forks of the Applegate, where troops had pinned them down. On the night of January 4, 1856, before ammunition and a Howitzer replacement reached the besiegers, the natives escaped, after exchanging some shots. On January 21, when fired at by reinforced volunteers on Murphy Creek, they returned the fire and moved into the mountains.
Palmer and Wool Take "Soft Line" on Indian Policy
That January, the Oregon territorial legislature petitioned for Palmer's removal because he did not advocate an Indian extermination policy. It also asked for the recall of Gen. John Ellis Wool (1784-1869), who commanded the Department of the Pacific with headquarters in Benicia, California. Wool’s policies also clashed with those of officials and other citizens of Oregon Territory and Washington Territory (1853-1889) who believed the general favored a soft line against Indians. When Palmer was to be removed in August 1856, and replaced by Absalom F. Hedges, who served until May 1, 1857, Tyee Sam, puzzled by the rapid shifts in leadership, remarked,
With us [unlike you] we are born chiefs; once a chief we are a chief for life.
Umpqua, Molalla And Calapooya Removed to Grand Ronde 1856
After signing treaties with many of the tribes in Western Oregon, Palmer developed a plan to relocate some of the Indian bands and tribes on Grand Ronde Reservation in Polk and Yamhill counties. In a letter to Commissioner Manypenny dated January 21, 1856, Palmer wrote:
At least one section of land should be secured in the neighborhood of the Grand Ronde for the tribes included in each of the following treaties, to wit: Calapooya, Molalla and Clackama, Umpqua and Calapooya confederated with Molalla, and northern coast tribes, and the friendly bands of the Rogue River Valley, treated with on January 10, 1855 and November 19, 1854.
Later testimony given to Oliver Applegate in 1905 by Peter Chafean, a member of the Wapato Lake band of Calapooya, verifies that Palmer's plan was implemented under the treaties soon after the reservation was established, as did the Umpqua, and their leader Solomon Riggs, the Shasta, and Rogue River from farther south. He stated,
There was a few stragglers of other tribes too that came in, Klickitat, Wasco, Paiute, Klamath, and Moat was, but they belonged on the other side of the Cascade Mountains and were not under our treaties.
By the second week of February nearly
Indians—Umpqua, Molalla, and Calapooya—had reached the Grand
hundred others trekked the long distance from Table Rock to the
through snowy countryside.
According to Indian census, the Umpqua and Kahla of the Umpqua Valley, all the Willamette Valley bands and Tyee Sam's band of Rogue River all permanently resided on the Grand Ronde reservation. Sam's band contained people from both the Shasta and Takelma. Parties to the treaty of September 10, 1854, and November 15, 1854, this was the only group which upheld the early promise of peace. As a result, they were removed to Grand Ronde. The rest of the Upper Rogue Siletz Agency, after the wars in Southern Oregon.
Palmer's plan to relocate "the northern coast tribes" on the Grand Ronde Reservation, never officially happened. Although a number of requests were made by palmer and various Indian agents, the Salmon River, Clatsop, Nestucca, Tillamook and Nehalem bands were allowed to remain on their homeland for many years. During that time, they traveled often to Grand Ronde to trade. In 1872, the Indian agent at Grand Ronde wrote the secretary of interior about these people. He stated:
There are five tribes of Indians living on the extremity of this reserve, to wit: Salmon River, Clatsop, Nestucca, Tillamook and Nehalem, who subsist entirely by hunting and fishing. There has been no treaty made by them, and it is rare that they leave their grounds. They are now anxious to participate in the advantages enjoyed by other Indians, and through their chief, have petitioned for land; also, that their children may receive the advantages of our school.
In 1883, Patrick B. Sinnott, Grand Ronde agent, wrote in his annual report:
I would respectfully call the attention of the department to the verified petition of the Indians located the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the date August 11, 1876, asking that they be attached to and form part of the Grand Ronde Reservation. When these Indians were moved to Salmon River from Nestucca by commissioner Simpson, and as an incentive to their removal, he promised them the benefit of the school at this agency; that they were to have the same privileges of the saw and grist mills as the Indians located here; that they were to have their troubles settled here by the same laws that govern the Indians of this agency; and that efforts would be made to have the Salmon River country attached to and form part of the Grand Ronde Reservation. These promises were made before their consent was obtained to their removal to their present location. The reasons calling forth these petitions are: first, their location at the mouth of the Salmon River is but six or eight hours journey from Grand Ronde over a good wagon road, while to reach Siletz Agency they have no road or trail, but two days journey, the greater part of which they have to cross Siletz Bay and up the Siletz River and during the winter is very perilous in an open canoe. Second, they have, since the establishment of this agency, been accustomed to visiting here, are acquainted and intermarried with the Indians at Grand Ronde, and have to come here to obtain supplies and find a market for their products. The only road leading in and out to Salmon River is through Grand Ronde agency, where the Nestucca, Salmon River, and Tillamook Indians are located. Under the circumstances their wishes are reasonable, and I see no reason why the promises made by the government should not be fulfilled.
Over on the coast, as word spread northward of the Indian-troop and miner-troop clashes on the Rogue, the gold seekers fled their sluices on Whiskey Run to Empire City on Coos Bay, abandoning forts there when Tututni, Chetco, and Lower Coquille seemed restrained. Although the Chetco retreated to the mountains, the Lower Coquille held out against the whites. They were smarting from the loss of the 15 warriors murdered and the women and children captured by volunteers the previous spring. On October 21, 1855, after the Lower Coquille burned a settler's cabin, troops organized the Coquille guard. Under such pressures the Lower Coquille agreed to follow the directions of David Hall, who was subagent under Ben Wright, and reluctantly moved onto a temporary reservation at Port Orford. They remembered, no doubt, the Casey expedition of November 1851, and the massacre of the Nasoma in 1854.
Agent Benjamin Wright Murdered and Eaten Near Gold Beach
In November and December of 1855, the
guard marched up- and downriver from its headquarters at Fort
skirmishing with Indians. They murdered four Indians and hung
After agent Wright had ridden into the camp of the Coquille
Eve, ordering them to disperse, they reluctantly disbanded in
1856. Near dawn on the night of February 22, when most miners
beaches from Cape Sebastian to Euchre Creek had gathered at Gold
to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, Roguess struck the
volunteer outfit, the Gold Beach guard, killing nine of its 14
also burned every building that they could find and then fanned
continue their pillage. Six miles up the coast from Gold Beach
they killed a German immigrant and his three sons and captured
and two daughters, who were later ransomed. At a cabin on the
where the guard was located, Enos, a half-blood Indian from back
a former Frémont guide, was reportedly tipped off by Ben
common law wife, Chetco
Jennie (Oscharwasha), and he laid Wright low with an
tradition, the Rogues ate his heart and mutilated his body as
retribution for his Modoc (Moatolni) killings.
In his book, Oregon There and Back 1877, railroad magnate Wallis Nash, who failed to mention Chetco Jennie was agent Wright's wife, observed:
Chetco Jennie had taken a leading part
the massacre of [Ben Wright], the Indian agent. [Kit] Abbey
it was true that she and her people had murdered the man, cut
and had cooked and eaten it.
"Yes," said she; "he was a very good man, and a brave."
"Then why treat him so?" he asked.
"Because," said she, "we knew that if we ate his heart we should get his courage and his goodness too."
They also killed an officer of the Gold
Beach guard and 23 other non-indians. The party
in a half-built structure, Fort Miner, on the north bank of the
its mouth, where the women helped their men to melt lead and
In hills east of Fort Miner, Enos harangued warriors to continue their attacks. Unable to take the offensive, the Rogues still managed to keep the non-indians at bay. Indians as far south as the Tolowa joined in the uprising, making lines of communication with California difficult for their non-indian aggressors. As troops moved north from California and south from Fort Vancouver to converge on their quarry, Rogues in sand dunes on the south bank of Pistol River ambushed volunteers from Crescent City, California, who were pushing ahead of the regulars on their way north. Back at Fort Miner white women and children were removed by schooner as most of their men remained with the regulars in hopes of annihilating their basket weaving foe.
With spring, 1856, the Indians of the Rogue River Valley, joined by others from the coast, formed a stronghold near the junction of the Rogue and Illinois rivers. There on March 19, after surviving the winter on such food as oxen taken from non-indians, the Chastacosta lost five warriors in a skirmish with Cpt. C. C. Augur and regulars from Fort Orford. On the 22nd the Rogues exchanged fire with troops of Cpt. A. J. Smith from Fort Lane, who were coming to rendezvous at the Illinois with those of Augur and Col. Robert Buchanan moving up from the south. In fighting Smith's troops, the Indians suffered two casualties. As the Indians up Rogue River discovered troops moving to meet them, they returned fire and fled. In close combat five of their number were slaughtered, and three others were drowned attempting to flee in a canoe. When the three military units failed to link up for a showdown against their red skinned foe, their troops disengaged and marched down to the coast.
As soldiers scoured Rogue River Valley, many Lower Coquilles left their temporary reservation at Port Orford. For the next month the Rogues moved about their valley, and some harassed non-indians beyond its confines. On April 27, under a heavy fog, Indians between Big and Little Meadows at the Big Bend of Rogue River (near Illahee) were surprised when attacked by volunteers concealed in brush across the river. From behind rocks and trees Indian troops returned the fire as women and children ran for cover. Reinforced, the volunteers continued the massacre until evening. When the firing ceased, over 20 Indians lay dead. Several times during the fight they had vainly sued for peace. On the next day, April 28, they fought for three hours, losing two of their number. The soldiers disengaged.
The Indians' request for peace was eventually accepted and a treaty council arranged. On May 15, Chetco and Rogue chiefs parleyed with Buchanan, who found them at Oak Flat on the Illinois. They agreed to negotiate there at council grounds surrounded by snow-covered mountains. When preliminary discussions were concluded, the Rogue chiefs, George and Limpy, met Buchanan on May 19 at the council grounds. On May 21 and 22, the chiefs were asked in council to surrender their arms and to assemble their people within the week at the meadows at Big Bend. Tyee John had expressed a willingness to cease fighting, but not to leave his homeland for the Siletz. Defiantly he addressed Buchanan:
You are a great chief; So am I. This is my country. I was in it when these large trees were very small not higher than my head. My heart is sick with fighting, but I want to live in my country. If the white people are willing, I will go back to Deer Creek and live among them as I used to do; they can visit my camp, and I will visit theirs; but I will not lay down my arms and go with you on the reserve. I will fight. Goodbye.
Indians Attacked on Way to Council Grounds
A detachment of infantry from Fort Lane under Smith marched upriver to receive the surrendering Indians at the Big Bend. Even getting to the council grounds was hazardous for the remaining Indians. One peace party who made their way there by canoe was raked by gunfire from reinforcing troops. Others were also fired upon as they hurried along trails.
Tyee John Attacks Soldiers May 26, 1856
In Tyee George's camp, where Applegate, Galice, and Cow Creek survivors prepared for the May 26 meeting, Indians desperate to free themselves from "white blight," plotted to attack the soldiers. John reportedly instigated the move. Some climbed steep slopes to attack, and other tauntingly dangled ropes in front of their palefaced foe, emulating the way whites hanged Indians. About an hour before noon they charged the ridge, only to be repulsed. From positions atop hills they kept up a withering day-long crossfire on Smith's company, killing four troops and wounding 16 others. The Indians continued firing until after dark. After a four-hour lull, they resumed the attack at daylight, continuing it until late afternoon. After several futile thrusts, the Rogues were repulsed to the riverbank and forced to surrender. The arrival of Augur's troops had sped their defeat.
Chiefs George and Limpy Surrender May 29, 1856
Chiefs George and Limpy surrendered May 29 at Big Bend. For several days Palmer conferred with the commanders-in-chief as Indians straggled in and soldiers flushed others from the hills. Later one company burned a Chastacosta village, murdering four men fishing. Others were murdered or captured as troops sought to tighten their net. Tyee John escaped that snare. His actions confirmed his defiant words to Buchanan.
Prisoners of War Force Marched to Siletz Reservation June 10, 1856
In hot summer weather on the 10th of
about 242 Rogue River captives set out with soldiers for Port
out, they wept and wailed at being forced to leave their sacred
without their tools and other properties, to live, die, and be
a hostile, strange new land. Although Palmer believed that the
of their destination, the Coast Reservation, would help protect
non-indians, there was no assurance of protection from the
natives of that place. At Port Orford, Enos unsuccessfully tried
them to resist. On June 20, about 600 Indians embarked on the
journey aboard the steamer Columbia. Because Tyee John had
his arms in May, he was the last commander of the Rogues to come
his tribesmen in surrender near Port Orford on June 29. As an
he and over 200 others were forced to walk 125 miles up the
reservation. A steamer carrying nearly another 600 Indians had
him. This experience did not break Tyee John's spirit. In May
authorities believed he had received emissaries from Tyee Sam to
general uprising, he and his son were sent to Fort
Vancouver. From there they were sent for
incarceration to the Presidio
at San Francisco, where the army detained and
Rogue River John and his son Adam are thought to have been the first Indians detained from punishment by the military at its installations in the San Francisco Bay area. The two were most likely confined in the guardhouse at the Presidio. Years later it was common practice for the army to take "difficult" Indians from their ancestral homelands for incarceration at Alcatraz. In 1858 the Presidio had the only guardhouse in the bay area and a garrison to supply the daily guard. At Alcatraz only an army engineer and a civilian labor force constructed the first set of fortification. The island was not garrisoned until December 1859, when barracks and officers' quarters were erected. John and Adam were released to the commanding officer of the Presidio, not to the commander of the island. When returned, John and Adam went to the Grand Ronde (although when they were sent from Oregon five years before they had been on the Siletz). On the Grand Ronde they served as "model Indians," exerting influence over other Indians to remain on the reservation.
The Indians of Southwestern Oregon had not been completely exterminated as some sinister whites had hoped. Yet warring and peaceful Indians alike had failed to hold their homelands inviolate. Abandoning large areas of ancestral lands, Indians of the Upper Umpqua were on the Grand Ronde Reservation along with those of the Willamette. Those of the southern coast and Rogue River Valley were on both the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations. There was little chance that the captives could successfully challenge the non-indian settlers and regain their lost lands.
Chapter 43: Klamath Basin
East of Oregon's Cascade Range stretch
lava plains and the desert, a land scorching in summer and so
that ranchers have trouble keeping a hole chopped in the river
their cattle can drink. Scanty precipitation totals only eight
per year—or so it is today. But go back to the last ice age and
basins from Central Oregon to Southeastern California held
Toward the end of that period small caves above the lakes sheltered men. Their tools have been found dating from at least 13,000 years ago and possibly longer: stone knives, projectile points, scrapers used in tanning hides, and stones for grinding seeds and roots. The tools indicate that these early men used a wide variety of resources, exploiting all that their environment permitted according to season and to type of habitat, whether the scattered lakes and wetlands or the grasslands and pine forests. To do so, they developed a great variety of tools and techniques which changed through the millennia as the climate and the land itself changed.
Evidence of this comes from several natural shelters eroded at the base of cliffs: Fort Rock, Table Rock, Cougar Mountain, Connley Caves, Medicine Rock Cave, and others. Each offered a good place to live or camp, and each had protected the evidence of man's presence better than is true out in the open. Even so, only a glimpse of the human past in this vast region is possible from the skimpy traces detectable today.
For example, deposits dated 8,000 to 12,000 years old in one of the caves at Cougar Mountain held an abundance of scrapers for skinning and preparing hides, whereas manos, metates, and mortars dominated in deposits 3,000 to 5,000 years old within the same cave. Perhaps the earlier men had more animals available, or perhaps they simply used the little cave primarily as a hunting camp. In a similar way, the grinding stones of the later men may point to an increased dependence on plant foods, or simply an increased preparation of seeds and roots by grinding and pulverizing.
At several sites where preservation is good, a lack of scrapers and knives large enough for butchering suggests that the people were adapted to hunting only small animals for food, at least at these particular spots. They may have been camping places never used for year-round residence. They may even have been camps for digging roots or picking berries, not for hunting at all. At Klamath Basin sites the earliest deposits suggest living patterns typical of all the northern Great Basin. Then in later deposits the presence of fishhooks and stones for grinding woca (water lily) seeds suggests a different, more specialized way of living. Each site can speak only for itself and for whatever particular time it represents, not for the whole region or all of the long centuries of prehistory. Preservation operates too selectively for the whole story ever to be known. Stone lasts. Wood and fiber ordinarily do not. Bone lies somewhere in between.
Even so, archaeologists decipher the record in remarkable detail. For example, immensely important discoveries 30 years apart have come from a single location about 55 miles east of Mount Mazama: Fort Rock Cave (which lies west of the remnant volcanic ring shown on maps as Fort Rock). There in 1938 archaeologists discovered nearly 100 sandals woven of sagebrush that had been shredded and twisted into strands. Many had mud baked into them and most were charred, for they lay beneath volcanic ash that apparently rained into the cave while still hot. At first the ash was identified as from an eruption of Mount Newberry (southeast of Bend); but now, with better methods of analysis, it is recognized as having come from Mount Mazama. This alone would indicate an age of at least 7,000 years.
Radiocarbon dating had not been developed at the time of the discovery, and even when it did become available the sandals could not be used. They had been sprayed with resin as a preservative and the radiocarbon method requires material absolutely free of contamination. There seemed to be no way to place the chronology of the sandals more precisely than sometime before the Mazama eruption. Then, by luck, someone digging about in Fort Rock Cave ten years after the original excavations found another sandal and some basketry. Radiocarbon dating of the sandals pushed the age back to 9,000 years.
The second remarkable discovery at the little cave came in the late 1960s. Artifacts were found lying with solid chunks of charcoal that dated at about 13,200 year old, one of the oldest reliable dates for man so far known not only in the Northwest but in all of the New World. Thousands of years of cultural development must lie behind these artifacts. These men already knew how to make tools and weapons from stone and bone; their techniques were as perfected then as they were ever to become. Perhaps the evidence of their earlier technology still lies somewhere in this region, or perhaps along whatever route men used in first coming here.
During the earliest period that man is known to have lived in South Central Oregon the climate was cooler and more moist than it is today, the environment more benign. Glaciers blanketed the continent to the north; but in the Great Basin, valleys were filled with lakes and hills were well forested. Water posed no crucial problem. Springs and lakes and rivers were everywhere. Simple hunting and gathering sufficed as a lifestyle.
Then somewhere around 11,000 years ago, temperatures began to rise and the environment grew harsher. The glaciers had already started to withdraw, and rivers in the north and lakes in the south gradually became focal points for man’s occupation. Slowly people developed specialized ways of wrestling a living from whatever particular situation they found themselves in, and for the first time culture became diversified according to region. This seems to hold true from about 11,000 to 8,000 years ago, and the greatest evidence of prehistoric man's presence in the Klamath Lake and Fort Rock area belongs to this period.
For the next millennium the caves indicate less use by man, then virtual abandonment for 2,000 years, followed by slowly increased occupation. Throughout the region the climate was changing. Pollen grains from what were surface layers during the abandonment point to an increased proportion of plants such as sagebrush and shadscale. Ponderosa pine took over from lodgepole, and white pine and grass became more prevalent. The presence of the grass is known from "opal phytoliths" (from phyto, plant, and lith, rock). These are minute particles of silica originally absorbed by living plants and deposited in cell walls, then left to accumulate in the soil when the plant dies. Grass forms phytoliths more readily than other types of plants do, so where there are lots of the opals today it can be assumed there was widespread grassland in the past. The vanished grassland, in turn, indicates a past climate midway between forest and desert.
As grassland spread, Oregon's lakes and marshes must have dwindled markedly, although a cache of basketry and letting including some made of tule means there were at least scattered springs and seeps. But clearly men did not leave the region as its climate changed. They simply abandoned the caves as water became a problem and dwelled instead close to the remaining springs. At least 85 archaeological sites have been identified at springs in South Central Oregon, and a recent study of 12 of them shows that human occupation continued.
New ideas seems to have entered during this warmer, drier period. Blades changed style, until flaking by pressure came to dominate over percussion as a method of manufacture. Also, the first mortar found so far belongs to this period, and although the old metates continue, the mortar suggests a new idea for food preparation. Seeds could be pounded and milled instead of simply ground on a flat stone (the metate). People must have been shifting about as the climate changed, seeking new places to live and in the process mixing and exchanging new techniques.
Mount Mazama's explosive eruption came during this time, abruptly and drastically affecting man. Suffocating ash blanketed Fort Rock. Some plants were totally buried; others died anyway from chemical attack and by having their branches overloaded and broken. Lakes and marshes became clogged. Fish in lowland waters surely died, and marsh birds and waterfowl disappeared along with the vanishing of their food sources. Ash probably clouded rivers for years as loose deposits eroded from the uplands. Animals returning to graze when plants again greened the land must have had their teeth worn away by the gritty ash, and their joints may have been affected by excess fluorine drawn into leaves and twigs from the volcanic soil.
Doubtless Mazama's outburst drove families from their homes, but the trend toward exodus had begun before the eruption, probably chiefly on account of the warming, semi desert conditions. Then, about 4,500 years ago conditions became much as they are now, and the stage was set for the development of man's living patterns that were present at the time Europeans and Yankees arrived and brought a swift end to the long continuum.
The Klamath, whose ancestors were probably contemporaries of the early Fort Rock inhabitants, occupied the area east of Crater Lake and southward along the shores of Klamath Lake. East and north of them were the Northern Paiute. At first the Klamath had been primarily hunters like their Great Basin neighbors, but gradually their culture shifted. Precipitation was greater along the base of the mountains than farther east in the rain shadow of the range. Even through the long arid period, 7,500 to 5,000 years ago, the Klamath region was little affected. Mussels lined the bottoms of streams; marshes teemed with geese and ducks; salmon and trout swarmed by the millions in the Klamath River and the lake.
The Klamaths’ major adaptation came to be toward the water, especially the rivers and marshes. Fishing supplied their main staple, and it required year round attention. By the time non-indian explorers and settlers began to make notes, catches of fish were being dried on scaffolds and pine saplings so laden they looked like a forest of poles curiously festooned with fish.
Geese and ducks were shot with arrows made from cane and fitted with a hard, wooden foreshaft. They also were taken with nets up to 60 feet long and three feet wide. These were set on edge in the water with the top barely breaking the surface and weights holding down the bottom. When birds dove, their necks got tangled in the nets: men watched day and night to retrieve the catch, even cooking and sleeping in canoes so as to stay close to the nets. Another method called for stretching nets horizontally above the surface of the water, then dropping them onto birds that flew or swam within reach.
Deer also were hunted at the marshes, driven onto a tongue of land where men could easily shoot them and women could paddle after any that tried to escape by swimming.
Plant food came from the marshes, too. Klamath Marsh alone held a probable 10,000 acres of wocus, which supplied a dependable crop of seeds each year. A woman would pick four to six bushels of pods in a day, although the yield of seeds amounted to only one quarter of this. Probably a full season's labor gave each woman between seven and ten sacks of ground seed—no more than 500 pounds at best. A Klamath tribal elder has described the harvest:
Long ago the Indians used to gather woca, with a canoe. And standing up on it they gathered woca. They bent down to pull them off, that woca. And they pulled off only the good ones, and some were unripe. And having punctured [with a fingernail] they saw [whether it was ripe]. And the picked the yellow ones.
These were dried in the sun or parched with
then ground and made into mush. In later years this was often
milk or sugar, following contact with non-indians.
In years of drought fear spread through the villages lest the wocus and other foods of the marsh should be lost. Men made pilgrimages to Crater Lake and other places known for powerful spirits. There they filled small skin sacks with water to pour ceremoniously onto the marsh and restore it to life.
Each year’s winter brought the possibility of starvation if the stored foods ran short. Snow piled deep from November until April or May, lakes and rivers and marshes froze. Sites as sheltered and sunny as possible were picked for winter villages, usually where a warm spring kept a stream free of ice at least a little way. Houses stretched along the Williamson River for five or six miles. They were earth lodges dug as circular pits three to five feet deep and ringed with a framework of radiating poles covered with old mats, brush, and earth. Such houses were snug, set as they were partially below ground. By varying the diameter and depth of the excavation, or the pitch of the roof poles, they could be of either modest or grand proportions.
Only these winter villages were permanent. The camps where fish and roots and berries were gathered shifted location from year to year, and houses there were thrown up fairly quickly using mats the women had woven the preceding winter. The winter settlement was the social and cultural hub, the place for stories and demonstrations of power by medicine men, or shamans. Various objects were made to appear and disappear, and stuffed animal skins moved above the lodge. Some shamans specialized in swallowing fire or arrowheads, abilities that came only after diligent quests for power. Swimming at night in Crater Lake often brought power. Or it might come from fasting and sleeping in the mountains without protective shelter. Always it came as a song, and often with an accompanying vision.
The shamans held the highest respect of the people and exercised the nearest thing to political leadership. They were the best talkers, had the biggest houses, and the most wives. They were influential but were not chiefs. Political organization as European and Asian cultures understand it probably was not even in a rudimentary stage here. More likely it was nonexistent. It held no particular relevance. Social solidarity did not depend on it. Punishment could be handled by the families directly involved. If raiding or defending was called for, men could rally around whatever seemed most appropriate at the time.
Arrival of the horse proved pivotal in changing the social and political structure, although it was 1840 before the Klamath and their close relatives, the Modoc, had any significant number of horses. Even so, the new mobility made possible by horses gave raiding an unprecedented feasibility and importance, and this in turn spurred respect for men skilled at war. Slaves captured from tribes in the south, especially the Pit Rivers, could be traded at The Dalles on the Columbia. War took on economic value: wealth could be built up. Two slave children equaled the value of about five horses, some beads, and several buffalo skins (this latter not available within Klamath Territory and therefore particularly valued).
The idea of keeping slaves for themselves even began to take root, and Klamath warriors stood in a better position to achieve this new status than shamans did. A shift in tribal organization began, soon strengthened by contact with non-indians since missionaries and pious citizens abhorred the practices of "witch doctors" and sought in every possible way to deal with other Indian spokesmen. No tribal chief, or even village chief, held real command, however—a point that caused great misunderstanding and unfairness as aboriginal culture made its forced surrender to the vigorous, new, alien culture.
Routes and Riches
It was not until the 1820s, 25 years
the Lewis and Clark Expedition, that the nation as a whole grew
of the value of Oregon, a term that in those days meant the
west of the Rocky Mountains, north of Spanish California, and
The land held promise for settlement and for a profitable trade with California, Hawaii, and Asia. By the 1840s, farms dotted the Willamette Valley, and Oregon City was a flourishing metropolis with almost 70 inhabitants. Portland had only a cluster of log cabins plus one or two farm buildings. The land east of the Cascades was known only as county to pass through en route to the growing communities along the Willamette River, and later, in the Umpqua and Rogue valleys.
Initially travel from the East tended to follow the Columbia, but by the mid-1840s additional routes were sought. The suffering of emigrant parties prompted hope for an easier road; and the mounting tension between the British Hudson's Bay Company and the growing number of American settlers called for a route well removed from Hudson's Bay Company posts. Each nation held formal right to the land under a joint occupancy treaty, and friction was inevitable. Consequently both the Oregon government and the federal government saw the advantages of a new road that would serve the needs of Oregonians and in case of difficulty could be used to move in troops.
With this spur, Jesse and Lindsay Applegate, established settlers, explored a way over the mountains that followed much the same course as today's road from Medford and Ashland to Klamath Falls. They arrived in the Klamath Valley only a few weeks after Cpt. John Freémont had gone through on his second expedition. Indians had attacked his party, killing three Indian scouts, and Fremont had gone permitted an avenging attack against the first big village he came upon, at the head of Upper Klamath Lake. Fourteen Indians were killed and the rest were driven from their homes. Houses and salmon-drying racks were set afire. Some historians feel that this bitter encounter set the tone of future Indian-white relations which culminated ultimately with the Modoc War of 1873.
Perhaps the Indians believed the Applegate party were bent on further vengeance. In any case, they made no contact with these non-indians or the emigrant party they led back from Fort Hall. No members of that wagontrain stayed in the Klamath Basin; they simply passed through.
Probably settlement would have gotten underway in 1848 with organization of the Klamath Commonwealth except for the news reverberating out from Sutter's Fort in California: gold! The very word turned men’s thoughts away from farming; and instead of bringing settlers, the Applegate route only led men through Klamath County on their way elsewhere. Women and children were left behind in the Willamette Valley to tend the fields and livestock while menfolk seized the chance to make quick cash. Soldiers deserted their posts to go to California. Carpenters, lawyers, and blacksmiths headed south. The Oregon legislature could not open: only four members were on hand. The rest had gone to California.
By 1850, gold fever had spread into the Rogue and Umpqua valleys. Towns and farms had sprung up and mule trains linked communities. Thirty to forty thousand emigrants per year were making their way to the Pacific by this time, most of them men seeking gold. The mines buoyed Oregon's economy. Before the boom no more than half a dozen American vessels entered the Columbia to trade each year, but now 50 were calling to load cargo. Merchants supplying California and Southern Oregon could double their money on potatoes or flour or pork or beef. Mill owners made enormous profits and laborers’ wages tripled. Men returning with gold dust and nuggets were able to improve their farms and pay their debts, although others left the mines "more broken down in constitution and with lighter pockets than when the commenced," as an army lieutenant wrote to his sister in 1860.
Jacksonville, a boom town near present-day Medford, had its beginnings in December 1851 when mule drivers spotted pay dirt while rounding up their stock. They staked claims, then went on to Yreka to buy tools and provisions. Three months later every square yard of Rich Gulch was staked. Boundaries other than those between the claims seem to have been considered inconsequential: miners are said to have voted in both California and Oregon and paid taxes in neither.
One of the original muleteers, James Cluggage, had applied for land under the Donation Land Act, which granted 640 acres to any married man who was a US citizen, provided he lived on it for four years with no absence of more than six months. Cluggage found himself the owner of the land that Jacksonville had sprung upon. He named the town Table Rock, but a mere landowner has little influence amid the passions of a booming town and the name was soon changed to honor Andrew Jackson in the hope that an illustrious name would influence the town's bid as a contender for county seat.
Fort Klamath 1863
Eastern Oregon remained land to travel
Much of it seemed too dry for non-indian settlement, at least so
more favorable locations remained, and Indians repeatedly made
that they did not welcome the intrusion of white men. In 1855,
Springs Reservation was established; but nearly a
before establishment of the Klamath Reservation; and the
settlement until 1871, and the last Oregon Indians to hold out
the Juggernaut of change.
Fort Klamath was located about eight miles north of Upper Klamath Lake and some 20 miles south of the Rogue River trail on the east side of Wood River. The Klamath Indian Agency was located some five miles to the south. The site was selected and the post established September 5, 1863 by Maj. Charles C. Drew, 1st Oregon Cavalry, by order of Brig. Gen. George Wright, commanding the department. The post was constructed under the supervision of Cpt. William Kelley, 1st Oregon Cavalry.
A sawmill was set up, officers' quarters and barracks soon followed, then a guardhouse, hospital, and stables—ultimately 40 buildings. Supplies came overland from Crescent City, California, via the Rogue Valley, or from Portland via The Dalles and then down the Deschutes River valley. Soldiers worked at improving these roads, as well as garrisoning the fort and pursuing renegade Indians and non-indians alike.
In large measure the post functioned as the social and economic center of the region, as well as a military base. Settlers contracted to supply the fort with beef, vegetables, flour, and hay. They also worked for wages as carpenters, saddlers, and millwrights. Indians served as interpreters, couriers, and packers.
In 1866, a sutler from the fort, George Nurse, founded Klamath Falls, then known as Linkville. Nurse built a log cabin and opened a store at the ferry landing on the east bank of the Link River. Nearly 1,000 emigrants had settled in the district by that time, most of them raising cattle. "We had plenty of grass and mosquitoes," an early-day letter comments. "Trout are abundant in the creek and game of all kinds appears to be plentiful."
Another early account tells of women using "the big hot springs" for their laundry. Today the volcanic heat deep within the ground is used to heat homes, schools, and businesses. Wells have been sunk from 100 to almost 2,000 feet deep, and cool surface water is piped into them for heating by the thermal water, then carried back up to taps and radiators.
The fort was strategically located near roads leading to both Idaho and California and was intended to control the Indians of the area. It was an important post during the Modoc, Snake and Paiute wars, and was at a point about a mile southeast of the present community.
It was here that the notorious Captain Jack (Keintpoos), leader in the Modoc War (1872-1873), Shonchin Jack, Black Jim and Boston "Scarfaced" Charley (Chikchikam Lupatuelatko) were hanged for the treacherous killing of Gen. Edward R. S. Canby and the Rev. E. Thomas, superintendent of Indian Affairs, and the wounding of Col. Alfred B. Meacham, the three peace commissioners who were advancing under the flag of truce, April 11, 1873, in an effort to reach peaceful settlement of the bloody and costly war. Other lives were saved by the intervention of Kaitchknoa or Winema, the Indian interpreter and the heroine of the Modoc Wars more commonly known to non-indians as Toby Riddle. Their graves on the parade grounds of the old fort are marked. For Klamath, located near Wood River about six miles north of Klamath Agency, post office was established January 6, 1879, with Jay Beach first postmaster. The military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on May 4, 1886, but steps to open the land to public sale were suspended. The garrison was withdrawn in July 1889, except for a small detachment which remained until 1890.
Klamath Falls 1871
Klamath Falls is situated at the falls of Link River, where that stream flows into Lake Ewauna. The place was originally known as Linkville and was named for Link River, a short stream that connects Upper Klamath Lake with Lake Ewana. Linkville post office was established December 11, 1871 and discontinued March 9, 1892 when the named was changed to Klamath Falls. George Nurse, the first postmaster, founded the town of Linkville in 1867, and a bronze memorial tablet commemorating the event is installed in one of the concrete columns of the Link River bridge, in the west part of Klamath Falls. Link River is within the city limits of Klamath Falls, formerly known as Linkville. The Klamath name for this stream was Yulalona, which meant to move back and forth, referring to the fact that during strong south winds the waters of Link River were blown back above the falls, leaving the bed of the stream, including the falls, partly dry. The name Yulalona was also used to refer to the settlement of Linkville near the falls. A condensed form of the name was Iuauna, which non-indians have adopted in the name Lake Ewauna. The Klamath name for the falls in Link River was Tiwishkeni, literally "rush of falling waters place."
Chapter 44: Modoc War 1872
Long before the westward expansion of
US, the Indians of the Southern Pacific Coast had been living
Spanish rulers of California. In many sections they had adopted
customs, and by the middle of the 19th Century conflict between
was almost unknown.
When gold was discovered in 1848, however, new trails were opened into California and Oregon from the northern states. Coastal Indians who had never seen whites now saw them for the first time. The Modoc, who lived along the shore of Tule Lake on the California-Oregon border, were so startled when they saw their first emigrant train that they ran for the hills. They thought the Great Spirit had sent evil messengers to punish them. Later when they lost their fear the Modoc were friendly, but a series of unfortunate incidents soon turned this small and peaceful tribe into as fierce a band of killers as ever fought in the West.
Shasta Ambush Wagontrain 1853
After a party of Shasta had ambushed a
near Alturas, California in 1853, the miners send a posse
countryside. These volunteers were out to kill every Indian they
find. Since the Shasta were hiding and the innocent Modoc were
no trouble, the latter were slain like rabbits in their camps.
For weeks after this raid, the Modoc held councils in the mountains, in the Lava Bed caverns, and among the thick tules of the nearby marshes. Some of the chiefs wanted to fight a war of revenge.
If we run every time we see the white people, they will chase us from mountain to valley, and kill us all. They will hunt us like we hunt the deer and antelope.
Chief Keintpoos was a Modoc leader whose people lived in the Lost River Valley of Southern Oregon. In the Modoc language, the chief's name meant "Man Who Suffers From Heartburn." White land-grabbers and gold-mongers in the area, however, knew Keintpoos by the nickname "Captain Jack." As the young son of old Tyee Combutwaush, Jack listened to this talk. He listened to his father say that he was going to kill the non-indians before they could kill him. Then Jack stood up in the council ring and spoke:
I am a Modoc. I am not afraid to die, but that is not it. We have not killed any white people yet, so let us not kill any. No one told the white men who fired on us that it was the Shasta and not the Modoc who made the attack on their wagons. I see that the white people are many. We are few. If we value ourselves or love our country, we must not fight the white men.
The words of Captain Jack were echoed by some of the Modoc leaders, but a few days later when an emigrant train came near the Lava Beds, the Indians attacked it. "The Massacre of ƒBloody Point," their palefaced foe called the affair, and a group of Oregon settlers led by Ben Wright, volunteered to hunt down the guilty Indians. By pretending that they were still friends of the Modoc, the volunteers lured old Tyee Combutwaush into a trap and killed him with many of his warriors.
Captain Ben Wright
In 1920, Geo. W. Riddle, pioneer of 1851, wrote, "Ben Wright inflicted a terrible punishment upon the Modocs." He disdainfully cites Francis Fuller Victor's History of Indian Wars of Oregon :
Ben Wright, a captain of a company of miners, volunteered to protect immigrants passing through the Modoc country, in which they rendered splendid service, but were not able to inflict what Wright thought adequate punishment.
Wright, says Riddle, was what might be termed an Indian killer. When the season's travel of immigrants of 1852 had passed, Wright returned to Yreka, secured a boat, and with 18 men well outfitted, returned to Modoc country. It was rumored and believed that there were two white women held as prisoners by the Indians. Wright, with his boat, was able to reach the islands in Tule Lake where the Indians made their homes. In these raids they captured four Modocs, whom they held as hostages. Wright hoped to find the white prisoners on these islands, but was disappointed. As to what he did find, history relates as follows:
That which Wright did find were the proofs that many, very many persons, including women and children, had been cruelly tortured and butchered. Here again the men of his company, some of whom had families 2,000 or 3,000 miles away, burst forth into tears of rage at the sight of women's dresses and babies' socks among the property plundered from the owners. Where now were the men and women who had toiled over these thousands of miles to meet fate at this place? Where the prattling babies whose innocent feet fitted the tiny socks? Even their bones were undiscovered, but the proofs that they had lived and died were heaped up in the Wickiups of these cruel slavers.
Wright, with his 18 men, after raiding
islands, camped on the high bank of Lost River near the natural
This so-called bridge was merely a ledge of rocks shoaling the
it passed over it. Lost River at this point is a deep, sluggish,
stream with high banks and no trees or brush along its banks. It
this point that Wright inflicted a terrible punishment upon the
Wright had held his four prisoners. With these he communicated,
son, who was part Modoc and spoke their language, as
One of the prisoners was released and instructed to tell the tribe that if they would bring the white prisoners and all property they had taken from the immigrants. Wright and his men would depart and leave their country alone.
The result was that 45 warriors appeared with a few old broken-down horses. The Modocs were insolent and told Wright "You have three Indian prisoners. We outnumber you and can hold your men prisoners."
The Modocs camped on the lower bank between Wright's camp and the river. Wright's position was critical. He felt that a net was spread for him and that only desperate measures would extricate him from his perilous situation. He resolved upon a surprise attack on the Indians at night.
He sent six men, by way of the stone bridge, to the opposite side of the river to await his direct attack at daylight. This arrangement was faithfully carried out and at daylight the next morning Wright himself walked down among the Indians and shot a young warrior dead and in 20 minutes the battle was over and 42 Indians lay dead.
Another story was that the beef given the Indians to feast upon had been impregnated with strychnine and that many of them were dead or paralyzed from the effects of the poison before they were shot. This version was vehemently denied by Wright's men, but these stories greatly dimmed the fame of Ben Wright. It seems incredible that 18 mean, armed with the old muzzle-loading rifle, could kill 42 our of 50 Indians in so short a time, considering what expert runners and dodgers the Indians were.
Captain Jack Assumes Leadership of Modocs
Captain Jack was now the leader of his
people, and he convinced some of the Modoc that they must make
their palefaced foe if they hoped to survive. A few
listened to a subchief, Schonchin, and his son, Schonchin John,
they should fight the invaders.
For two years, young Captain Jack sought the aid of the friendly freckle-faced settlers in Southern Oregon and in Northern California. Finally he received promises that the Modoc would not be harmed if they would remain in their Lost River country and not roam too widely afield. Elisha Settle, a lawyer in Yreka, California, proved to be their best friend. It was Steele who first gave Keintpoos the name of "Captain Jack," a name which was quickly adopted by both Indians and non-indians.
By the summer of 1864, however, the Lost River Valley was becoming so thickly settled that the government issued an order to the Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs instructing him to negotiate a treaty which would remove all the indigenous peoples in the Klamath and Modoc areas to a reservation. In the councils which followed, Captain Jack resisted all efforts of the commissioners to force the Modoc off their land. The clever government agents refused to recognize Jack as the Modoc commander, and Old Schonchin was declared the legal leader of the tribe. Schonchin of course signed the agreement immediately. To avoid violence, Jack reluctantly added his signature.
Life on the reservation proved difficult for Captain Jack's Modocs. The Klamath Indians—traditional enemies of the Modocs—demanded that the newly arrived Modocs pay rent for the land they settled on. They prevented Modoc women from gathering food, and forced Modoc men to work cutting timber, without pay, for the Klamath chiefs, and life soon became unbearable for the Modoc.
Jack complained about this treatment to the US Indian agent in charge of the reservation, but was told that he would have to adapt to his new circumstances as best he could. If the Modocs were unable to conform, the agent warned Jack, they would be "locked up where the Klamaths could not bother them any longer."
On the dark moonless night of April 26, 1870, Captain Jack led about 370 of his stalwarts and their families back to their old village in the Lost River, Valley just above Tule Lake. Another group under a Tyee Hooker Jim, followed and camped on the opposite side of the river.
When they arrived at their traditional hunting grounds, Captain Jack and his band found that non-indian settlers were establishing ranches there. The settlers were driving away the wild game which the Modoc men had previously hunted, and the white men's cattle were grazing on the food plants Indian women had once gathered.
Determined to return to their traditional way of life, Captain Jack and his tribe settled into two villages along Lost River. They tore down the fences of the insensitive settlers and raided their crops and herds for food.
The usual conferences, reports, and postponements of action followed until November 27, 1872, when the Indian agent at Fort Klamath received a telegram ordering him to proceed to Lost River and return the Modoc to the Klamath Reservation, but Jack refused to negotiate with several agents who visited his villages and tried to convince him to return to the reservation. "We are good people and will not kill or frighten anyone," Jack told one army officer. "We want peace and friendship... I do not want to live upon the reservation, for the Indians there are poorly clothed, [and] suffer from hunger... We are willing to have whites live in our country, but we do not want them to settle where we have sour winter camps... We do not want any white man to tell us what to do." Captain Jack was sustained in his plea by Brig. Gen. Edward Richard Sprigg Canby (1817-1873), who was then commanding the Department of the Pacific.
November 29, 1872: First attack on Modocs by the soldiers at Lost River. Number of Indian warriors: 15, on west side. Number of soldiers: 36, attack the Indians on the west side of Lost River. Citizens: 11, attack Indians on east side. John Thurber killed in fight. No Indians killed, except one woman and several wounded. Diary of Sam Case
Gen. Canby was overruled by higher
and at dawn on November 29, 1872, Maj. James Jackson led a
of 36 men into the Modoc camp with orders to force the Modoc to
The Indians' dogs were barking loudly as the soldiers rode directly up to the chief's lodge, halted, and dismounted. Captain Jack's commander, Scarface Charley, was ordered to bring the chief outside. When Jack appeared from his lodge, he was carrying his gun, and from out of the darkness his stalwarts appeared, also well-armed. But Jack was asleep in his bed when a few gunshots sounded outside his hut. He awoke to hear soldiers shouting his name, calling on him to surrender.
Maj. Jackson informed the Modoc that he had been sent to take them back to the reservation. "I will go," Captain Jack replied, "but why do you come to my camp when it is dark?"
The Cavalry commander assured Jack that he did not seek to do harm to his people. Then he added, pointing to a bunch of sagebrush: "Lay your gun down over there."
"What for?" asked Jack.
"You are the chief. You lay you gun down, all your men do the same."
After considering the order for a few moments, Captain Jack signaled to his warriors to disarm themselves. But when Scarface Charley refused to give up his pistol, an argument followed. In a few seconds, Indians and soldiers were firing at each other. Eight soldiers and 15 Modoc, including a woman, were killed in the close-range action.
Though he repeatedly said he was unwilling to fight the soldiers, he gathered the women and children of his band and fled from the Indian villages. The tribe's 50 warriors, led by an Indian named Hooker Jim, faced off against the American troops.
Jack led his party of women and children about ten miles to a rocky wasteland in Northern California known as the Modoc Lava Beds, a 100-square-mile expanse of ancient lava formations crisscrossed by a network of deep trenches, tunnels and caves. He was joined in this bleak landscape two days later by Hooker Jim and his warriors, who had been attacked by the army and militia in a bloodless skirmish on this side of the river. In retaliation, Hooker Jim's Modoc warriors had slain 18 whites on the flight to join Jack and the women at the Lava Beds.
They could have selected no better defensive position anywhere than among the caves and rocks and secret passages of this jagged volcanic mass. Feeling invulnerable to this natural fortress, Jack sent out raiding parties to harass nearby settlers and supply wagons, and dispatched messengers to aboriginal tribes across Oregon and Northern California, urging them to declare war against white settlers.
December 3, 1872: 19 Indians attacked the settlers at the Broteton House (Ivan and Oliver Applegate and nine Indians while they were gathering up the dead bodies). Diary of Sam Case
The war was on in earnest, and by the
week of January 1873, the US Army had mustered reinforcements to
and planned to drive the renegade Modocs out of the Lava Beds.
learned that a force of about 400 soldiers was massing to march
him, began to panic, because he had only about 50 warriors to
band, and 150 women and children. He suggested to his people
might be able to peacefully surrender to the soldiers, but his
was opposed by Hooker Jim and his warriors, who felt certain
would be hanged for their murders of the settlers. Jack decided
the question to a vote of the Modoc warriors. Fourteen men voted
Jack's advice and surrender. Thirty-seven, however, voted to
Jack prepared for the impending assault by calling on the services of a tribal shaman named Curly-Headed Doctor. The shaman promised the Modoc warriors that his magic could help them to prevail against the soldiers by making them impervious to bullets. He stretched a long red rope around the perimeter of the campsite, claiming that it would protect the stronghold from attack. Then he raised a tall pole, decorated with animal skins and hawk feathers, in the middle of the encampment, and led the Indians in a dance around it to ensure victory.
January 17, 1873: Troops attacked 180 Indians in the Lava Beds. Whole number of troops, 420. No. of Indians in the fight, Modoc, 43. Number of soldiers killed and wounded, 20. Number of Indians shot—one squaw shot in leg, 18 settlers murdered by the Indians. Diary of Sam Case
A few hours before dawn on the morning
January 17, 1873, Jack's scouts informed him that the US Army
on the Lava Beds. He positioned his warriors in strategic places
the craggy lava outcrops and waited for the soldiers to appear.
As the sun rose, a thick fog settled over the Lava Beds. The Indians tied bunches of sagebrush to their heads for camouflage and crouched in their hiding places.
Gen. Canby now took personal command, bringing in reinforcements, raising his strength to 1,000 men. When the soldiers came within range, the Modocs fired on them, and then scurried through the fog to new positions. These tactics proved effective against the soldiers, and by afternoon, the Modoc warriors had lost only one man, while the army suffered over 50 casualties. Canby had been striving to reach the Modoc with mortars when Tyee Washington suddenly ordered a halt to the costly fighting, and arrangements were begun for a peace parley. At sunset, the soldiers beat a disorganized retreat from the Lava Beds.
That night Captain Jack led a victory celebration in the Modoc encampment. Adding to the Indians' elation was the fact that they had captured 20 government-issue rifles and a thousand rounds of ammunition, which had been abandoned by the fleeing soldiers.
Jack’s feeling of triumph, however, diminished when Curly-Headed Doctor claimed full credit for the defeat of the army, insisting that supernatural spirits had sent the fog, at his bidding, to confuse the soldiers. The Modoc warriors, remembering that Jack had originally wanted to surrender, were full of praise for Curly-Headed Doctor.
Days passed without more fighting, but
scouts reported that the army had set up camps at the outskirts
Lava Beds, and that they were expecting reinforcements. Taking
his situation, Jack realized that the Modoc victory had been a
that the US Army was far from defeated.
On February 2, Jack decided to attempt to negotiate with the army. As he was about to leave the camp, he was stopped by Hooker Jim and Curly-Headed Doctor, who demanded to know what he was doing. He explained that he was going to meet with the soldiers. Curly-Headed Doctor angrily told Jack that if he left, he should not return, or he would be killed.
February 8, 1873: Left Salem south for Linkville. Arrived at Roseburg, enjoyed hearty supper, smoked cigar and retired.
February 7, 1873: We are informed that the secretary of the interior has named Sam Case, formerly subagent at the Alsea Reservation, and Jesse Applegate of Yoncalla, as commissioners to settle the Modoc troubles.
February 9, 1873: Passed over Roberts Hills. Came over Cow Creek Hills, thence along the south fork of the Umpqua River, then down north slope into Rogue River Valley.
February 11, 1873: Proceeded toward Linkville in company with Cpt. O. C. Applegate, subagent at Yainax. Road muddy and winding along the foot hills. Arrived at Ashland, a small hamlet. A fine seminary here with 100 students. School with about 40 pupils, marble shop, flouring mill, several stores, hotel.
February 13, 1873: Left Ashland and arrived at the Forest Hotel in the Cascades. Rode through snow and mud about two feet deep most of the way. The hotel is built of shakes, one room and large fireplace. Two bachelors constitute its inmates.
February 14, 1873: Came down through mud and snow on the Klamath River. Arrived at Walker's Ranch tired and hungry. Snowed during the day. We returned to rest on a bed made up on the floor, which was occupied by four of us. Arrived at Linkville about noon. Gen. Canby arrived at 4pm. Diary of Sam Case
Jack remained in the camp, but he refused to submit to Hooker Jim and the shaman, asserting that he was still the chief of the band, and that his decisions would determine their course of action. He then sent a messenger to arrange for a meeting at which he could make peace with the soldiers.
February 20, 1873: Camping at Fairchild's. Indian women started for Jack's camp to ascertain whether Jack would talk to the commissioners. Sunshine and warm. Food poor, consisting of beef and bread. Diary of Sam Case
On February 20, two Modoc women who had stayed at the reservation arrived at the Lava Beds as messengers from the army. They told Jack that the soldiers were willing to speak with him. Jack gave the woman this message for the soldiers: "We want no more war, and we are ready to wash our hands of blood... We were attacked by the military and the citizens while we were asleep [at Lost River]. We do not intend to trouble the citizens... The citizens should not have troubled us. We came to these rocks for safety, and the soldiers came and hunted us as if we were coyotes."
February 21, 1873: Messengers arrived from Jack's camp. Jack wants peace, is anxious to get out of the Lava Beds, but wants all his bloody work forgotten, for the soldiers to leave and all things to go on as they did before the trouble began. Wants peace on his own terms. Diary of Sam Case
The next day, a rancher named Robert Whittle, who was acting as an agent for the US Army, arrived in the Indian camp under a flag truce. Jack told Whittle that he was willing to stop fighting in exchange for a separate reservation, for Modocs only. He offered to move to a new reservation along a nearby stream called Hot Creek, or even in the inhospitable Lava Beds, where his tribe would settle peacefully. He asked to meet with army representatives and said that he wanted to bring witnesses to the meeting. After several more conferences with Whittle and other army agents, Jack agreed to meet with a formal "Peace Commission," led by US Gen. Edward R. S. Canby, on the outskirts of the Lava Beds on April 11.
February 23, 1873: Jack anxious for an interview. He apparently does not propose to give up any of the murderers. Diary of Sam Case
The night before the meeting was to take place, Jack assembled his band to explain that they were going to surrender and sue for peace. Almost immediately, Curly-Headed Doctor and his faction began to demand that Canby and the other members of the Peace Commission be killed at the meeting.
Princess Winema (1836-1920)
She was named Winema (Strong-Hearted Woman) when as a youngster she skillfully guided a canoe through turbulent waters and menacing rocks while her playmates watched in terror and awe. With the same skill and courage, Winema (Toby Riddle) maintained the delicate balance in relations between non-indians and the Indians as the cousin of Modoc commander, Tyee Schonchin John, and the wife of Frank Riddle. But war was inevitable as non-indians continued to force the Indians from their homelands. During the 1872-1873 Modoc uprising, Winema acted as interpreter for the Peace Commission, saving the life of Col. Alfred B. Meacham. For her "courageous and loyal service," Winema received a $25.00 monthly pension from Congress and was honored by Pres. U. S. Grant with a parade in Washington DC. She then toured the country, starring as the lead in a play about her life. A resident of a nearby town recalled,
Winema, because of her fame for bravery and sagacity, quite overshadowed... Frank. However, he seemed content to remain in the background, proud of the respect and recognition that she received from her own people as well as from the whites. She possessed a kind, strong face and a friendly reserved demeanor. To us children, she was a demigoddess and we regarded her with no little awe.
A plaque over her simple grave, where she was buried in 1920 at the age of 84, calls her a heroine.
February 25, 1873: Fairchild and company returned from Captain Jack's camp. Jack refuses to comply with our terms. Bogus Charley returned with Whittle. Smart looking Indian, talks good English, has fine form, six feet tall. Fairchild thinks there are about 50 Indians in the cave. They are suspicious of us all. Diary of Sam Case
Through Princess Winema, a relative
Jack, the government authorities were able to approach the
Winema had married Frank Riddle, a miner from Kentucky, and she
her husband's civilization, even changing her name to Toby
Riddles offered their services as intermediaries to Gen. Canby,
February 28 they went with Elisha Steele and two other old
Jack's to arrange a parley.
Although the Modoc were split into two factions, Hooker Jim and Schonchin John insisted on a war to the death, Captain Jack finally agreed to a discussion. Alfred B. Meacham, a Quaker who had a reputation for fairness to the Indians, was appointed head of the Peace Commission. With Gen. Canby and Rev. Eleazar Thomas, commissioner Meacham went to meet the Modoc in the Lava Beds on March 27. Very little was accomplished at this meeting. Captain Jack parried most of their remarks by continually referring to previous broken promises and ill-treatment of his people. "I am sorry to say I cannot trust these men that wear blue cloth and brass buttons," he said. The council was ended with handshakes, however, and Jack promised to talk with them again at a later date.
During the next two weeks, the breach between Captain Jack and Hooker Jim grew wider. Jack steadfastly refused to murder the commissioners. Hooker Jim then told Jack, "You will kill, or be killed by your own men." At Hooker Jim's signal, a dozen warriors seized Jack and threw him to the ground, putting a Modoc woman’s hat and shawl on him. They began to taunt him, "Woman! White faced squaw! You are not a Modoc! We disown you! Lie there, you woman, you fish-hearted squaw!"
Jack got up and ripped away the woman's clothing. Infuriated, he shouted, "I am a Modoc! I am your chief! I will do it. I will kill Canby. But hear me, my people. This day's work will cost the life of every Modoc brave. We will not live to see it ended. It is a coward's work. But I will do it."
Elated at having coerced Jack into their plot, Schonchin John bragged that he would take it upon himself to kill Gen. Canby, and the militant warriors vied for a chance to take part in the next day's killing. Jack grudgingly picked five of the most vociferous men, including Hooker Jim, to accompany him to the peace conference. Three other Modocs were assigned to hide among the lava outcrops near the meeting place with rifles. Then the Modocs turned to Curly-Headed Doctor for supernatural aid. Gathering in the center of the camp, the Indians danced and sang into the night, invoking the spirits for another victory.
Winema warned Gen. Canby and commissioner Meacham not to return to the Lava Beds. She had heard that Captain Jack had agreed to participate in a plot to kill all the members of the commission. Gen. Canby, however, refused to believe that the Modoc would dare to do this, at least not while he had 1,000 soldiers drawn up around the Lava Beds.
At 11:30 on the morning of April 11, Jack sent two young Indians to the proposed meeting place, where they hid guns and ammunition among a cluster of rocks near a tent the army had erected for the meeting, and Gen. Canby, Meacham, Thomas, Toby and Frank Riddle, L. S. Dyer, the Klamath agent, all mounted horses and rode off for Captain Jack's camp. It was a bright spring day with the sun shining warmly when they started, but by the time they reached the Modoc outpost, snow was flurrying out of heavy clouds that had gathered over the rocky landscape.
Peace Talks Begin April 11, 1873
As soon as he reached Jack's campfire,
Indians rose to greet the commissioners, exchanging handshakes.
held out a box of cigars to the chief and his men. The gifts
with thanks, the Indians lighting them immediately with burning
of fire. After a few minutes of informal conversation, Canby
negotiations, saying, "My Modoc friends, my heart feels good
good because you are my friends. We will do good today." "It is
that we should talk over the peace treaty."
Jack puffed at his cigar. "Gen. Canby, your law is as crooked as this." He held up a sagebrush twig. "The agreements you made are as crooked as this." He drew a wavy line in the dirt with his fingertip. "Take away your soldiers. Take away you big guns, and then we can talk peace."
Canby glanced at Meacham, and the commissioner spoke quickly: "Gen. Canby can’t take the soldiers away without permission of the Great Father in Washington. If you will come out of the rocks and go with us, we promise to find a new home for the Modoc." Canby then began to tell Jack about the many successful treaties he had negotiated with other aboriginal tribes. He said that he had been a benefactor to many tribes, and that some of them had given him the name, "Friend of the Indians." He concluded, "I have no doubt that, some day, you Modoc people will receive me as kindly."
Rev. Thomas spoke next, saying "I believe the Great Spirit put it into the heart of the president to send us here to make peace. We are all brothers, and must live in peace together."
As Canby continued talking, Meacham noticed that Hooker Jim, who had been pacing nervously back and forth, had walked up to the commissioner's horse, had taken the overcoat from the saddle and was putting it on. Suddenly Jim turned toward the council circle, buttoning up the huge overcoat. "Me old man Meacham now," he said beating his breast and grinning.
Meacham, Canby, and the others laughed. The commissioner took off his hat and handed it to Jim. "You'd better take my hat, too, Jim," he said.
"No hurry," Hooker Jim replied slyly. "Will get hat by-'n-by."
Captain Jack, meanwhile, had not even smiled. He was scratching designs in the hard earth with the sagebrush twig. Becoming impatient, Jack stood up and said "I don't want to talk anymore." "Tell me what you will do, I am tired waiting for you to speak."
Meacham now realized that the situation was becoming dangerous. "Promise him something," he said in an undertone to the general.
Schonchin John glowered after his chief, then stepped into his place before the council fire. Then he suddenly shouted, "Take away your soldiers! We want Hot Creek for a home. Take away your soldiers, give us Hot Creek, or stop talking! I talk no more!"
As Schonchin John shouted out these words, without warning, Jack then spun around and cried in Modoc: "Ot-we-kau-tux-e (Let us do it, or All ready!)." "All ready!" Canby stared at Captain Jack, who was pointing a pistol directly at him. He pulled a revolver from his belt and aimed it at Gen. Canby. The hammer clicked on a dead cartridge. A second later, the trigger clicked again and this time Canby was hit below the left eye. He staggered to his feet and ran a few paces before falling, dead.
A Modoc named Boston Charley had shot Rev. Thomas at almost the same moment. Winema, meanwhile, had saved Meacham's life by knocking Schonchin John's pistol to one side. Meacham was wounded, and Boston Charley tried to scalp him, but Winema interceded and was able to help the commissioner escape to the army camp, a mile-and-a-half away. After firing a few stay shots at the fleeing agent, the Modocs scalped their victims and stripped them of their clothing and valuables. Frank Riddle and Dyer also escaped.
Jack turned to Winema, who had dropped to the ground when the shooting began and had not been harmed by the Modocs. "I have thrown myself and my life away today," he told her grimly. "I did something today that I never thought I would do, but I have done it. I killed an unarmed man. I know I will be killed, but when I fall there will be soldiers under me. Tell Gilliam [Gen. Canby's next-in-command], if he wants to find me to come right over yonder [to the Lava Beds]... I will be in my camp with my people... I am not afraid to die. I have committed a great wrong, I know, but I was forced to do it by my men, and also by Canby himself. He did not talk straight with me."
Captain Jack Captured May 31, 1873
Thus ended all hopes of peace. Jack
to the Lava Beds with his men, where Curly-Headed Doctor held
dance. The shaman tied Gen. Canby's scalp to his medicine pole
the spirits to protect the Modocs from further attack.
Jack fully expected that the army would immediately launch another assault on his stronghold, but the soldiers seemed afraid to attack at once. They waited for new reinforcements and artillery to arrive from California, before attacking the Modocs on April 15.
The commander of the Department of Columbia, Col. J. C. Davis, replaced Canby. This time, no fog intervened to give cover to the defending Modocs. Although Captain Jack's force of 50 warriors was able to temporarily hold back the 600 soldiers sent to subdue them, the Modocs were gradually forced to retreat. On April 17, fearing that Curly-Headed Doctor's magic could no longer protect them from days of terrific artillery bombardments, the Modocs decided to quit fighting and run for their lives.
Captain Jack and 160 men, women and children escaped through an unguarded trench and made their way deeper into the Lava Beds. Hooker Jim tried to flee in a different direction, but was captured by soldiers, who recruited him as a scout to lead them to Captain Jack. He agreed, hoping to escape punishment for his part in the war.
Pursued by Hooker Jim and the soldiers, Jack left the Lava Beds and fled in wild foot race across the rocks and through a thicket in Northern California for two months. He was finally captured May 31 and surrendered on June 1, 1873.
Captain Jack came out of the brush, brazenly wearing Gen. Canby's blue uniform, now dirty and in tatters. "Jack's legs gave out," he said. "I am ready to die." This was the end of the "most costly war in which the US ever engaged, considering the number of opponents," the end of what historian Hubert H. Bancroft (1832-1918) called
a brave and stubborn fight for native land and liberty—a war in some respects the most remarkable that ever occurred in the history of aboriginal extermination.
Captain Jack and five of the warriors
had attacked the Peace Commissioners were taken to Klamath
and placed in jail. In October, Captain Jack, Schonchin John,
and Boston Charley were tried and convicted of murder.
When asked if he understood that he was to be executed, Jack replied, "I have heard the sentence and I know what it means. When I look in my heart I see no crime. I was always in favor of peace. The young men were not ready for peace—they carried me with them... A long time ago, I was a good man, but the whites have made my heart black and I have been a bad man since, and have done bad things. I would like to be a good man again and have all forgotten."
During his last moments, a minister came to comfort Captain Jack. The chief received the visitor politely. "You say, mister preacher, that the place I am going to is a nice place. Do you like this place called heaven?"
The minister replied that heaven was a beautiful place.
"Well," Jack continued, without a change of tone or expression, "I tell you what I will do. I give you 500 ponies and both my wives if you take my place today, as you say heaven is such a nice place. Because I do not like to go right now."
The minister declined Captain Jack's offer.
In a grotesque tern of events, the heads of Captain Jack and the warriors who were hung with him were shipped to the army medical museum in Washington DC, where they were put on public display, admission ten cents. The government granted amnesty to Hooker Jim for his help in capturing Captain Jack. Curly-Headed Doctor was never charged with any crime. Along with the remaining 155 Modoc prisoners of war, one-third of whom were children, they were exiled to Indian Territory [Oklahoma].
Sergeant Sam Case
Mary Craigie Case was the daughter of James Craigie, a Scotsman who came to the US in 1835 to work for the Hudson's Bay Company. She was the wife of Samuel Case who settled Newport:
Father married an Indian princess, the
of Tyee Toya Pampe Boo, chief of the Bannocks.
When father came here, he took up a claim on Olalla Slough. Later, he took up a place on Yaquina River I was born in 1848 at Fort Boise, the old Hudson's Bay Company trading post, and later went to school at Walla Walla. My sister, now Ms. Thomas Ferr, and I went to school together. When we came to Yaquina Bay, we had to come over the old trail on horseback. We got our mail once a week. When summer visitors came to Newport in those days, it was a three days' trip from Portland, so they stayed for several weeks. Now it only takes a few hours to come.
When my spouse, Samuel Case, first came here, he started a hotel. He was born in Lubec, Maine, May 31, 1831. He went to college at Buckport, Maine. He came by ship to California in 1853. He taught school in California and prospected for gold for four years, and returned to Maine in 1857, but he found he could be happy there. It was too quiet; so he came back to California in 1858. He enlisted in Company D of the 4th California Infantry Volunteers when the Civil War broke out. He became an orderly sergeant. Instead of going East to fight in the war between the states, as he expected, the California Volunteers were sent to Oregon. My husband was located for a while on the Grand Ronde Reservation. He was mustered out of the service in November 1864, and was appointed farmer for the Alsea Reservation. He held this position for four years. While he was government farmer for the Alsea (Alsi), he took up the claim on which Newport is located. This was in 1866. My husband served as one of the three Peace Commissioners to treat with the Modoc Nation in 1873. He could not agree with the policy being pursued, so he resigned. Mary Craigie Case
Klamath Nation Terminated 1961
In 1961, the federal government was
its relationship with the Klamath, Modoc, and Snake (Walpapi),
a part of the Northern Paiute, in 1961. Removal of the federal
had been requested by bands of the tribe. At the time of
were 2,133 members, 862,662 acres of tribal land and 104,322
land. Much of the tribal land was forested and the tribal lands
were appraised at $90,791,123, for pro rata share of the
$43,500. Under the terms of the termination legislation, adults
the option of choosing for themselves and their children whether
their respective interests in the tribal assets to cash or
hold such interests in common under the state law. Seventy-eight
elected to withdraw from membership and take their pro rata
Twenty-two percent either chose to continue their membership or
no preference and were considered to have remained in the tribe.
cases, the Indians came under state law and no longer received
services from the federal government because of their Indian
A portion of the tribal properties was sold and the proceeds distributed to the withdrawing members. The terminal legislation provided for sale of timber and marsh at the appraised price. In the case of timberlands the sale of virtually all of those lands was to be conditioned on sustained yield management, under conditions prescribed by the secretaries of the interior and agriculture. The proportionate share of the timber area for the withdrawing members that was considered desirable to be retained in sustained yield production divided into 11 units. One of the 11 sustained yield units was purchased by a private company; the other ten units were acquired by the federal government (Agriculture). The marshlands were acquired by the federal government (Interior) for a wildlife refuge.
The title to the property of the remaining tribe (the 22 percent who chose to remain with the tribe and not sell their portion of the tribal assets) was transferred to a bank for operation in accordance with a management trust agreement, approved by the secretary of the interior.
The bank was to produce an income for the Indians from the management of these properties and pay out such income in annual dividend payments.
The management trust agreement provided that the beneficiaries may elect to terminate the trust at the end of each five year period. After the first five years they voted to continue. At the end of the second five years (1969) 57 percent favored termination.
The forest lands must first be offered for sale to the secretary of agriculture under the terms of the 1958 amendment to the act.
A BIA summary prepared in 1969 stated that a sampling survey made by the BIA early in 1966
indicated some slight improvement in certain economic and social areas. Termination did not create an exodus from the reservation. The Klamath, in general, either remained on their lands within the reservation area or moved to predominantly non-Indian communities or rural areas in the general vicinity of the reservation. Greater proximity to schools, churches and social activities was doubtless a factor in the change of residence. Assimilation in terms of participation in non-Indian social organization, such as PTA, civic groups, and service clubs, is not taking place at any discernible or significant rate. Inference is that the Klamath continue as an ethnic segment in these areas, particularly in the larger communities. Some members already live in some of the coastal and surrounding cities, had moved there for economic and social reasons. But, like others in our society, some were living in the slum or ghetto areas and the payment of their shares did not serve to improve their existing conditions. Some counties particularly those in the vicinity of the former reservation and some of the larger cities, have expressed the view that a goodly number of the withdrawing members have dissipated their funds and are now heavily dependent on welfare assistance.
The state’s congressional delegation was active in the Klamath legislation. The state legislature favored termination, but also wanted to protect the Indians, the forest, and the economy of the area.
Chapter 45: The Siletz Weavers
Just how do you go about determining
lifestyles and survival methods of long-past civilizations?
dig in the ground and recover what artifacts you can. But the
too, contributes to the past, as we read here from Archaeology
by C. Michael Aikens, head of the University of Oregon
and active in his field for more than 30 years.
"Interpretation of prehistoric artifacts, and definition of past societies, depends heavily upon analogies drawn from living groups," he writes. "Traditional customs, languages, and technology have been recorded in recent times from the testimony of people who still lived or still remembered the old ways of life... ancient flaked stone arrow points, knives, scrapers, and drills, or more perishable objects such as antler digging sticks, sheep horn wrenches, fish traps, and harpoons, can be identified because their counterparts were still made and used in recent times by descendants of America's original people."
This is the substance of ethnology, or descriptions of cultures. "Not only the tools but the traditional activities and movements of historic peoples are guides to understanding the past," Aikens writes. "Ethnographic accounts show how traditional groups scheduled their activities and movements to fit environmental and ecological facts."
But the archaeological evidence, too, can imply different activities from those indicated by ethnology. Other factors enter as well: landscape, climate, environmental change, even language. And a study of these interrelated elements can bring together much more than the past and present, Aikens writes. "The traditional Cultures of Oregon were varied and distinctive, reflecting the different environments they grew in and the particular social factors that channeled their own courses of development. In a broad way, however, the forces that shaped them have also shaped other cultures, both near and far.
The Empty Valley
It came close to being literally a
River." Biological and ecological catastrophes had almost
evidence of Siletz
Valley inhabitants by the 1830s. Reports of an early
devastating epidemics were written into the 1805 Lewis and Clark
which stated that they had found grim proof of wide-spread death
appeared to be smallpox.
The disease spread up the Columbia and southwards along inland rivers. One elderly man had told them that frightened Indians had deserted the affected areas and only a few of those had survived.
Previous epidemics had been referred to by the Indians as the "coldsick." Then in the winter of 1828-1829 another wave of pestilence was brought into Scappoose on Lower Columbia. It struck the susceptible Indians—again moving eastward and southward. Small tribal villages were destroyed along with a few non-indian settlers who lived nearby. Survivors said it was an unknown sickness and that it had appeared shortly after the 116 ton brig Owhyhee from the Sandwich Islands, had landed to pick up a load of salmon before going on to Boston. The ship took on a full cargo—but when it sailed away it had left death behind for the Indians who had traded with it.
Pestilence appeared again in 1833. It seems to have been similar to the prior epidemic and accounts of this plague ranged from theories of typhus, measles, smallpox and auge to a virulent form of malaria. By all later accounts the epidemics again followed trade routes from the Pacific Islands and then toward California. Fur trappers and missionaries found deserted dwellings along the fishing streams, and from the numerous ruins they estimated that the area must have been very populous before scourges had almost obliterated the aboriginal population.
A second form of disaster for the Siletz Valley resulted from the aboriginal custom of burning off giant bracken fern, underbrush and vines along the edges of the forests to provide greater hunting visibility and (incidentally) to release strong regrowth of brush shoots which the weavers of the tribes utilized. Unfortunately this practice literally "backfired" in 1846 and burned out of control. In 1848, when the season was again dangerously dry, flames raged along the western slope.
The two fires were catastrophic, erasing the environment as completely as disease had eradicated the inhabitants. Mature trees burned far beyond brushy prairie edges—leaving blackened stumps high on the hills, many of which are still found in the Coast Range. It was said that the heat grew so intense that fire brands had jumped Yaquina Bay and fire blackened earth extended down the coast as far as Smith River.
The searing flames purged the empty campsites—cremating any evidence of human occupants who had lived there. Within a few years rapidly growing alder, and lush grasses and fern, covered the scars. Other deciduous trees followed and countless young evergreens returned to the valley slopes and the dense rain forest reappeared.
The land-grabbing hordes who came later viewed the fire-caused open grassland through the appreciative eyes of stockmen, and timbermen among them speculated on the tall evergreen stands which slowly emerged unhampered by periodic brush fires. Fern and grasses were said to have grown "horse-high" prior to the arrival of grazing stock.
This then was the green valley to which Gen. Persifor F. Smith of Fort Vancouver had sent Lt. Theodore Talbot in 1849 with orders to carry out geological explorations for the US government and specifically to look for merchantable coal. As his exploration party journeyed towards Siletz River Basin they did not encounter any original people, or any evidence of villages along the river, although wandering fishermen had left canoes beside the stream. From Talbot's account the only Salishan-speaking survivors were a few nomadic fishermen, who were customarily free to fish any river in the area. When the Talbot party attempted to cross the wide mouth of the Siletz in an empty boat which they found hidden along the banks, they were aided by an Indian who approached them from the southeast and informed the lieutenant that he and one other man with their families were the "only people who were left in the bay area."
The First People and a Name for Their River
The aboriginal population of Siletz
Basin had been a Salishan-speaking sub-branch of the Tillamook
acknowledged as the southernmost of the Coastal
Salish. The sub-dialect used in the area has been
river on which they lived. There is no evidence of an effort
made to link these river people linguistically with their close
the Alsea (Yakonan), who are viewed as unique among coastal
Phillip Druüker's studies affirmed that there were numerous "minor dialectic variants" among the Coastal Salish, but the firmest tie of the inhabitants along the Siletz to the Northern Salish are references in Tillamook myths to specific locations on the Siletz.
By the time that the Indians occupied the new reservation in the mid-1800s only 21 Siletz dialect speaking Indians were reported. And by 1934, when Homer G. Barnett compiled anthropological data from the reservation, he did not list "Siletz" as a separate tribe. However he did place the Tillamook as representative of the Salish. He also listed the Alsea (apparently to represent Yakonan). It can be inferred from this that there were no available "Siletz" or Yakonan on the reservation for him to interview at that late date.
Alfred Louis Kroeber established an areal cohesion of all coastal people, listing them from north to south in this order: Tillamook, Yaquina, Alsea, and Siuslaw. Here again the "Siletz" was not separated from the Tillamook.
Present day descendants of the original people on the reservation say that those who had lived along the river were called "Salachees" by their Alsea neighbors.
Early maps of the region charted the river under a variety of spellings—when it was included at all—and pioneers entertained some romantic theories as to the source of the strange sounding name. One individual attempted to trace it to a fictitious Indian maid named "Celeste."
This was vigorously rebutted three days later in a February 5th article by James W. Nesmith who pointed out to the Oregonian that he had been with Gen. Lane's party when it traveled westward toward the coast lands. The party had asked their Klickitat guides about the name of the river which they were preparing to ford. They had been breaking trail through dense bracken fern which was chest high to a mounted rider, and they readily accepted the guides' explanation that it was named "Siletz-Chuck" which the Indians assured them was Chinook for "Fern River." However appropriate this must have seemed under trying circumstances, a more plausible answer lay in the Lakmuit word "Tsa Shna dsch." This difficult combination of consonants, when attempted in English, sounds very like the presently accepted anglicized "Siletz."
In 1950 a young Coquille historian from Siletz recorded that the river and the people who had lived along it were called Se-la-gees. However spelled it means "crooked river" which is a fitting name for the tightly meandering stream that stretches over 90 miles in length.
If a more accurate Salish name for the river was discovered within historic times, it does not seem to have been recorded. At any rate, the river and the Salishan-speaking people who lived near it have been given the same name; and the English adaptation of the original word is now solidly established. Most of the Indians in the area allow themselves to be called "Siletz."
The Weavers of the Ancient Tribes
The basket weavers of Siletz were people of many languages: Salishan, Chinookan, Shahaptian, Yakonan, Kusan, Athapascan, Takelman, Lutuamian (Tule Lake), Calapooya and Algonquin—and some as yet not satisfactorily identified. William Eugene Kent explains why:
Tribal identification was another vital statistic which received divergent opinions from the various [government] authorities. The great difficulty was that some of the tribes were divided into tribes which had their own names. The tribe was often used as a tribal designation BIA records and ethnographic studies indicate that at Siletz there were approximately 30 name designations. About half of the names listed are tribal divisions and the other half tribal names. The tribes were the Yakonan, Chasta Skoton, Coos, Coquille, Chetco, Nestucca, Rogue River (Takelma), Port Orford, Shasta, Siuslaw, Tillamook, Tututni, Umpqua, and Yaquina. Major tribal names were Cow Creek, Joshua (Tce’metun), Galice Creek (Taltushtuntude), Flores Creek (Kusu'me), Euchre (Yukichetunne), Applegate, Nehalem, Siletz, Chastacosta, Sixes (Kwatami), Noltnatnah, Mac-en-noot-e-way, Delwashe and Pistol River (Chetleschantunne).
Before the Rogue River War (1850-1856)—and
before they were moved onto the reservation—they had lived all
Western Oregon, from the Pacific sands at the Columbia's gaping
into the northwestern most rip of coastal California. Some came
banks of winding rivers which drained the Coast Range into the
had lived near inland lakes to the east and toward the central
A few were from scattered regions of Upper Umpqua, Rogue and
They belonged to numerous small family groups within each linguistic group called "bands" (a more accurate name than "tribes" as they were held together by common language rather than by a centralized government). Heads of each tribe acted as commanders or chiefs and there were sub chiefs in tribes which were large enough to support several ranks of prestige within an extended family unit. The principal role of a commander or chief was that of advisor-guardian to his people.
They were Indians of the Pacific Coast, and as such differed in culture and appearance from the Indians who lived east of the Rockies. They traveled through and traded with neighboring tribes of differing language affiliations all along the coastline (even Lutuamian speaking Indians of the far central interior traded with coastal clans by journeying through Klamath River Pass to the Pacific Ocean).
Chinook Jargon has its Roots in Fur Trade
In early historic times extensive
made use of Chinook
jargon (even though it was composed of only a few
and it became the trade language. When accompanied by occasional
it was an effective means of communications. In spite of feudal
tribes to obtain slaves or horses, or for the purpose of
the Indians enjoyed surprisingly peaceful relations with one
Coastal clans were not the only Indians who worried about "feudal raids among tribes to obtain slaves." John Upton Terrell wrote:
[Gen. James H.] Carlton notified the Navajo they had until July 20, 1863, to surrender or be hunted down like animals. Several Navajo leaders informed him of their willingness to capitulate but expressed the fear they would fall into the hands of slavers before they could reach military posts. Carlton made no effort to give them the protection they needed, and New Mexican slave traders swept through the country, preying on tribes attempting to surrender.
When war waged between tribes it was
Headmen led the expeditions but were not expected to fight; they
Even their conflicts differed from other native battle customs.
they did not try to kill enemy headmen as the leaders alone had
to recall warriors at any time; also it was not the custom to
in coastal warfare.
These relatively peaceful peoples shared a mild climate and plentiful foods from waters of the Pacific slope and uncrowded hunting and fishing locations. And they harvested similar root, nut and berry crops.
Northern tribes were more sharply conscious of prestige resulting from wealth than were Southerners.
Northern tribes supported a distinctive "three class" division which was an inherited status. Drüuker saw this as class flexible but acknowledged that the poor were discriminated against as "nothing-people"; or low-class, however the poor had more privileges than slaves—who were primarily war captives.
In the hierarchy of the tribes, shamans were not from a separate class but they were respected for their special function with the tribe and so held a high status. Chiefs and nobles were recognized upper-class and in many tribes their title was inherited. Most members of a tribe fit in a category between the nobles and the slaves—a flexible middle-class. A basket weaver could come from any level, but, like a shaman, her social prestige within the tribe depended to a great extent on her skill with her craft. And among her own class she held a slightly higher place than did a non weaver of the same tribe.
Ancient tribes had no taboos against intermarriage with other tribes or with another class in their own tribe, but there were some tribal variances. For instance, most weavers had prearranged marriages for their young people, providing that the couple were not related to one another on the paternal side of the family. (Coastal Athapascans and Lutuamian Klamath were patrilineal).
Athapascan Tribes Practiced Matrilineal Succession
A few northern interior Athapascan tribes had followed a so-called "gentile" (matrilineal) system of marriage whereby the tribe had a female ancestor at the head and the children bore their mother's name. In such cases men were forced to marry out of their own clan.
Slavery Common Among the Salish
In the north, Salish wives were
for a high price because a low price would result in children of
being laughed at and called slaves. Slavery was common and some
owned outright by the men.
Bensell wrote that the women were bought and sold like cattle:
...The daughters are loaned, hired, or sold at from 12 to 16 years of age, as inducements are offered, sometimes for one night, one month, a year, or a bona fide sale, the purchaser casting her off at pleasure, and when so cast off or divorced are seldom consulted... One of the worst features of this degrading system is, that it extends to the whites, who have been their teachers in many of these debasing vices.
Others were wives of low class men. Cast
was hazy but women of "low-class" men held higher status than
were sometimes abused, but low status did not necessarily equate
Basket weavers of the tribes were largely women, however hunters and fishermen of the tribes braided their own cording to make basketry traps for birds and weirs for fish; and in rare instances men wove basketry items for ceremonial dances.
Both men and women manufactured a type of two-ply cording by rolling long even fibers against their thighs. Sea grasses, the inner bark of willow and tule leaves were used. The product could then be twisted into strong ropes. Pounded and separated strands of the stringing nettle were used for very fine lines.
Older weavers trained young Indian women who were chosen to learn the craft. Usually mothers or grandmothers taught beginners, each instructor handing down the technical details of her skill, which she had received from her own mother or some maternal relative. Weavers discouraged sickly youths from attempting to learn; physical strength was essential to weaving. They also were convinced that only "smart" youths were capable of making baskets. This philosophy was reflected in everyday behavior toward the young Indian women. The 96-year-old matriarch of the Siletz weavers, Ida Bensell, told of her childhood with the elder weavers: she said that they were not eager to share their skills—"When I was a little girl, I sat on blanket in hot sun and watched elderly women make baskets. Then I made little baskets like theirs. They say, 'she's going to be good basket weaver.'" From her example it seems clear that an Indian girl's persistence had a great deal to do with the weaver's willingness to teacher her.
Weavers perpetuated their maternal heritage by using traditional designs in the baskets (in any combination that pleased them) and through the selection of fiber, color and structural detail which identified work from their own tribe. As the Indians are by nature conservative, changes within the work were minor unless stimulated by some great social or environmental change. Beginners in the art attempted to gain prestige as a good weaver. (A man was fortunate to have a good weaver for a wife).
At first glance weavers appeared to be uncomplicated women stolidly attending the daily needs of their families. Actually they had to assimilate a depth of knowledge far beyond the mundane to transmit the traditions of their handicrafts to their children.
Indian women differed somewhat from area to area in stature and facial features; and their social and religious lives were as varied as their colorful costumes. They were highly individualistic.
Trappers and traders who had first
Oregon Indians were seldom aware of cultural nuances and lumped
one category—"Flatheads." However, even the widespread practice
was not uniform among tribes. For instance, the Kusan did not
When the practice was abandoned in the late 1800s the resulting round heads of the succeeding generation revealed them as a very handsome people. They were small boned and had light brown skin; their eyes were round and either golden brown, brown or black; and their hair, which was sometimes wavy, was dark brown to black. The men were usually broad shouldered and muscular and the women’s even features and dainty hands set them apart from larger inland aborigines.
William Eugene Kent commented that among the more handsome of American Indians, at least by non-indian standards, were the Athapascan:
They were tall, round-headed and intelligent. With relatives ranging from the southwest to Canada, the Athapascans at Siletz were represented by the Chasta Skoton, Umpqua, Chetco and Tututni.
The women rarely went beyond the hut-fires except to forage for food or fiber. They gathered baskets full of nuts, roots, berries, seaweed and herbs, and dried them. They evaporated seawater into fine white sea-salt. Women from the south gathered acorns and steamed them in lined fire pots and then ground the cooked nut into meal. Later the meal was leached in water before being made into cakes. Northern coastal clans had no acorns to gather so their harvest time was centered around the digging of root foods and the smoking of seafoods.
The Klamath and Modoc cultures,
by the tules (reeds) and wocus (yellow water lily) of the
Lake marshes, presented a definite departure from the cultures
original peoples of Oregon. They have been termed "Pit Indians"
their dwellings were little more than roofed-over pits sunk
feet below the surface of the ground. These houses appeared as
earth about six feet high, with a circular pole two and a half
diameter at the top, from which a ladder led down into the
below. The interior was 20 feet across, with sleeping bunks and
for storing dried meats, seeds, acorns, and roots. The whole was
built, the roof being of poles covered with rushes and with
from the pit beneath. On hooks from the rush-lined ceiling hung
baskets, laden with such luxuries as dried grasshoppers and
the bunks hung the skins of deer and other game.
The dress of the women consisted of a shirt or deerskin thongs to a braided belt; the men wore breechclouts of deerskin, and the children went entirely naked.
Crickets and Mussels
Other Southern Oregon food harvests
small seed grains and the seed bulbs of an aquatic lily, the
ploysepala). From the central and northern marshes came a small
bulb, camas (Camassia quamash). When grasshoppers, crickets and
were abundant the Indians scoured the valleys, gathered insects
quantities by driving them into pits, and made preparations for
A fire was kindled in one of the pits, and after the latter had
heated the harvest was dropped in, covered with damp tules and
and baked. Prepared in this fashion the insects were eaten with
They were also powdered and mixed with wocus meal in a kind of
in the ashes, or ground and mixed with dried berries and animal
form a nutritious type of "pemmican."
The industrious women dug in the wet sands of river bays for shellfish and they pried salt water mussels and edible plants off the rocks with sharpened clam shells.
Shell tools were used to chop foods and scrape animal skins and the weavers used the sharpened clamshells to split basketry fiber into ribbon-like strands.
Weavers made all of their household utensils out of basketry as well as their rain capes, door coverings and floor and bedding mats. Everything that they needed was taken from the roots, shoots, bark, rushes, fern and grasses.
Indian Women in Leadership Roles
In spite of domestic drudgery, which
taken for granted, some Indian women found opportunities to
leaders. The female
berdache took on men's work and engaged in same-sex
hunters and warriors brought food for their families and
Lewis and Clark had observed that the Clatsop sought advice of their women in the matter of commerce. The status of women among the Pueblo is extraordinarily high. Descent is traced through the mother. The houses and garden patches are owned by the women. Husbands move into their wives' homes. Children are spoken of as "belonging to the mother." Such female status and influence had been rare among inland tribes—so they attributed it to the fact that Chinook women aided greatly in providing foods for their people.
Chief Hapantugharapha: Amazon of the Shasta
Indian women on the Oregon Coast held
liberated status. Occasionally they voiced strong public
went far beyond family problems. There were recorded instances
women being so persuasive concerning intratribal problems that
military leaders. Edward
Curtis reported that the Shasta had a female leader,
Hapantugharapha, whose primary role was to prevent
Jameson and Armitage discuss entrepreneurial Salish women:
Bilateral societies such as the
allowed women a certain latitude in roles as traders, warriors,
Women held their own property, controlled their own sexuality,
spoke in council.
Entrepreneurial high-status matrons of Salish tribes provided young women-for-hire for the traders from among the female captive slaves and the young women of the tribe who were allowed this latitude before “settling down” as married women. This point is interesting to note, since some writers argue that women lose the right to control their sexuality with the first signs of accumulated wealth and social stratification in a society. The Salish had both a highly stratified society and a similar sexual standard for women and men—at least before marriage.
The Shasta were people whose
headmen were decision makers, not war leaders. They were
urge their people—in the morning of each day and again in the
kindly deeds and industriousness.
However, the presence of strong female leaders among the Shasta did not alter the customary status of their women in general. These tribes were active in the slave trade (both adult and children) and wife purchase was common among them.
Keepers of Tribal Memory
Neighboring Takelma women were allowed to participate in war dances—a far step away from the traditional sex roles. And in at least one linguistic group, the Kusan, women were the record keepers who memorized their legends and everyday civil legal matters. All data was memorized for want of a written language and, as with the selection of potential weavers, only the foremost females were entrusted with such important material.
This is a healing ceremony. A child is going to be healed. You can heal one who is sick with the power of herbs or with the power of the spirit, the power of the eagle wing, the smoldering cedar, the sage. You can use certain stones for healing because they, too, have power. You can use the power of an animal—the buffalo, the coyote, the eagle, the bear, the elk. There are many ways of healing known to the pejuta ichasha (medicine men). ---Henry Crow Dog
Southern Oregon Indians consistently
women as shamans and the Athapascan Tolowa had more women
Shamans were spiritual leaders as well as medical healers. Animal life was believed to give spiritual aid to women; among the Calapooya, Wildcat was a sort of female hero figure—similar to Spider in the Southwest who was thought to be a women protector.
Indian maids of Northern Salish tribes sought the sacred power to become shamans by squatting on a large plank for several days—their heads covered with a basket. During this time they cooked their own food and performed ceremonial dances at night. An elaborate ritual followed this testing period to confirm the chosen career. Parents arranged prestigious dances in honor of their daughters and invited elderly shamans to conduct the ceremonials.
Anthropologist Edward S. Curtis wrote that, among the Tolowa and Tututini, very few shamans were men.
A young woman who dreamed that she was to become a shaman related the experience to her parents, and if she wished to follow the course indicated by the dream and become a shaman, they arranged with an old member of the profession to preside at a dance for their daughter.
Curtis further observed that many Hupa shamans were women
...and among their neighbors, the Yurok and the Karok, as well as among the more distant Wiyot on the coast, male shamans were rare. Hupa shamans acquired the power to cure disease by dreaming and dancing. They were credited with the ability to inflict mysterious sickness by sorcery, and only they could relieve the victim of such magic.
All Indian maids were aware that
ran the risk of being held rigidly accountable in the case of
a patient; unsuccessful practitioners were often murdered
Robert Ruby and John Brown wrote about this "deadly occupation" among the Chinook:
[In 1847] at [Chinookville, WA] some Chinooks tried to kill a medicine man who had treated a young girl. When she died they plied the doctor with as much liquor as he could hold, and when he passed out they stabbed him "in many places."
Women shamans sang of the old days and they sang of the supreme being while they made formulas for good health and long life, for fertility in the family and for strength on the hunt.
The Spirituality of Basket Making
The earth is a living thing. The mountains speak. The trees sing. Lakes can think. Pebbles have a soul. Rocks have power. Lame Deer
Indian basketry supplied spiritual
as well as utilitarian needs and the weavers of long ago sang
wisdom and they recited the magic of women who had knowledge of
which sprouted from the sacred earth. Baskets made by their
power in the old beliefs. Among Takelma shamans, special
were used to receive the aches and pains which were sucked out
Basket weavers were aware of their important contributions and they gave thanks for their special magic and expressed pride in their art as they sang an ancient prayer—a formula of magic medicine for making baskets. It concluded with a benediction for future weavers:
I wish long life for the woman who always has a basket in her hands—My experience will come to her mind—I don't do this for everyone. I did it only for smart women who shall come into existence. When the dawn comes my formula will come to her mind.
Aboriginal understandings of the
the deluge and the control of elemental forces all involved
baskets introduced magical elements in hero tales.
Otis T. Mason recorded the Yuki creation myth in which basketry was the heart of the story:
In the beginning there was no land—all was water. The Spirit On-Coye-To appeared in the form of a beautiful white feather which settled upon the face of the water.
The tale continues that it was dark and he
a star, Po-ko-lil-ey, where the world was bright. He was
allowed access to their sweathouse until he had suffered an
inside he was blinded by light radiating from baskets hanging
like many dazzling suns. He stole one and escaped back to the
he hung it in the East—moving it several times—further and
ancient people the sun was literally a magic basket.
The Hupa creation myth describes the creator, Yi-Mantu Win-yai, making baskets and giving them away. The narrator explains that this was why Klamath made baskets were best.
Mythological basketry descends below the spirit world to earth and the original people as the god Qu-wa-ne-ca made the first cradle early in the morning of the fifth day following the first birth.
The second major category of early myths featuring basketry had to do with the deluge. In one version a great flood came which covered the earth and, comfortably resting inside of a huge willow basket which floated atop the waters, rode Old Yoholmit the aunt of Olelbis the Great Siwash. "She was laughing and shouting." The story went on: after the flood receded the Old Ones needed solid earth to live upon and the supreme being sent two uncles to the West where the earth was located and instructed them to bring some of it back—in two large round baskets. A similar myth was more specific as it stated that 28 people were put into a huge Tus (water basket) for safety from the flood.
Among the Old Ones, fire was carried from campfire to campfire in a basket. A coil of twisted cedar bark was placed inside the basket and one loose end was lighted and allowed to dangle over the side where it smoldered in the open air.
Ancient basketry symbols fulfilled two purposes. The weavers used them for decorative color and the formation on the design itself constituted an act of protection or blessing. The act of magic was considered to be fulfilled when a basket was completed. Certain types transmitted protection: women's basket hats, shamens treasure baskets (which held amulets or notions) weaponry cases, wedding trays and prayer baskets.
Within historic times Indians held festival-like ceremonies involving a display of wealth centered around a "world renewal" affirmation. The dancing rites for the festival were especially colorful among "Acorn People." The women wore caps made bright with red feathers similar to those in the dance headdresses worn by the men.
Indian myths were laced with basketry magic. A Kusan transformation myth immortalized Ewauna, the daughter of a chief. She danced along the seashore carrying a small basketful of young raccoons and accompanied by her pet dog. The dog hit the evil ocean spirit, Seatka, to keep him from abducting his mistress. Her family feared that she would be taken from them, but the power of her basket changed Ewauna, her dog, the raccoons—and even her basket—into stones along the shoreline—forever safe from the troublesome spirit—who had also been turned into stone.
Tiny beings in baskets were believed to prevent old age and death. The spirit Ice became hungry in one story and seized such a basket.
A mythical maiden whose name meant "Woodchuck" was rescued by basket power. She escaped the powerful Trickster by placing her basket hat upon a pitchfork anchored upright in a shallow river bed. She then swam beyond this demarcation point to safety.
Basket Hat Magic
The beautifully decorative women's
much more than ornament. Among the Tillamook they were worn only
women: during their first menses ceremonial and for one year
In Southern tribes they signified adult status and were worn
Alsea Indian girls were allowed to work on basketry during their
first menarche (menstruation) confinement. This concession was
a Spirit Quest to obtain a Tamanowus. A Takelma maiden was
sleep with her head inside of a large funnel-shaped basket to
of the dead—a bad omen during that sensitive time in her life.
The depth of significance of basket hats for the Salish is measured in a myth about Blue Jay (a hero figure). He wanted to kill the wicked wild woman and was advised to "mash in the crown of her basket hat—for that is where her heart is."
Basket hat magic reached far back into ancient tales. A delightful myth has come down from the southland of the Acorn Maidens who were in the land before people appeared: they wore little hats (a reference to the cap-like petal tops of acorns) and were so shy that it is said when people came to earth they turned their faces inside of their hats—where they remained.
Basketry was woven into every phase of the original people's life. It cradled their children in babyhood and in some tribes the infant's naval was kept in a tiny basket.
In 1877, Wallis Nash said he saw a squaw with a baby
... about 12 months old tied into a wicker [basket] cradle, which had a band to pass across the mother's forehead when they moved.
toy-sized baskets were made and put into the
of babies along with a small digging stick. And there was a
held when an Indian girl collected her first basketful of roots
entirely by herself.
Aboriginal life was dependent upon utilitarian basketry. They harvested, carried, cooked, served or stored every kind of supply in baskets. Even the tumplines and head pads used to carry the burden baskets were woven of soft grasses. Men wove nets for fishing and sacks for their pipes and sometimes handsome lidded containers in which to hold dry tobacco.
The Indian equivalent to the non-indian's lightening rods was a basket. It was an old willow burden basket hung upside down atop a high pole set in the ground at the corners of a dwelling. Their spirit power was believed to protect the entire family from thunder storms.
Bereavement and Funerary Customs
Spirit power was invoked even more
at the end of a lifespan than at the beginning. When a Shasta
own burden baskets were pierced and hung on small sticks at the
of her grave or on a tall pole near the burial place. The Hupa
holes in the bottoms of baskets prior to staking them on the
of a grave. The Shasta, the Athapascan, Umpqua, and the Klamath
baskets on top of women's graves.
Among the Hupa as well as the Shasta it was customary for the nearest relative to excavate a grave with a digging stick and shallow baskets. And sand from a prayer basket was sprinkled inside of the grave.
Some tribes placed the corpse in a large basket, some wrapped the body in woven matting. Other tribes cremated their dead and wrapped them in basketry mats or furs before the ceremony. The Tillamook Salish buried their dead in canoes high above the ground; nevertheless they hung baskets onto the elaborately decorated burial canoes.
The baskets placed on the graves were often highly prized personal possessions of the deceased weaver or of someone close to her.
When a Hupa service was completed shamans put a purifying potion into a basket bowl of water and the grave diggers cleansed themselves by washing their hands in it.
The Karuk of Lower Klamath Lake protected mourners by setting a basket on a stake and hanging a coil of bear lily leaves inside of it, or by attaching a coil to the doorway, to keep the spirit of the dead away from the house. In similar manner the Hupa hung a Kust (basket-mill) in the doorway to prevent entry of the spirit.
Mourners of the Northwest wore braided basketry fiber neck strings to indicate their bereavement. Among some ancient Athapascan, formal mourning did not end with the funeral services: they commemorated the anniversary of a loved one's death by burning valuables, including elaborate ceremonial basketry, to publicly declare that the dead was still valued above their finest possessions.
The power value of each basket varied with the designs. Although some baskets held such strong Power that they were not disposed of except at a funeral, other baskets which did not contain sacred symbolism were freely bartered or sold. Bartering and gift giving was pleasant commerce and it was inevitable that this trade would cause a diffusion of cultural styles. While it is true that a chief might occasionally give away a superior artifact, loudly proclaiming that it was produced within his own tribe, this was an exception to the more common practice of causally passing along basketry which had previously been received from another tribe. And in that case the source of the work was hazy.
The Division of Labor
In everyday life the weavers searched
diligently for foods as the rest of the women, and the men
most of the fishing. Each new generation remained near the
they had learned how to prepare riverine foods or harvest the
It was a highly personalized education. Manual skills were
and memorized in the painstaking manner used to preserve legends
Aboriginal life was totally demanding.
Indian women were so accustomed to the time consuming pace of their lives that it was especially difficult for them to understand the impatience they saw in the strange non-indian immigrants who entered their land.
When the two races first met, the Indians were eager to barter for the puzzling possessions of the white men. These treasures were acquired for Indian foods, furs, horses—and wives. And it was Indian women who were the first to recognize that the fascinating light-skinned men were not the gods that old legends had led them to expect. To their surprise the newcomers had the same physical attributes and needs as their Indian lords—and it was clear to the women that the course of their personal lives would continue to be decided for them—by men. They understood that being traded or sold outright to white men was simply a variation of the ancient practice of wife-bartering. However, not all soldiers and government employees were looking for wives and the opportunity to establish families:
One employee named George bothered the Yaquina women. Many others were there for the consideration of dollars and cents. Being such an out-of-the-way place and in an area of recent frontier expansion, which attracted the rougher, opportunistic element of people, the BIA simply could not hire the best kind of employees.
Gold Mongers Uproot Natives
But an understanding of white men did
alter the harsh fact that successive waves of gold seeking
turned against the original people.
Small family tribes were completely uprooted and the unhappy Indian women were taken to a strange part of their land. Increasing numbers of white men had torn apart Indian families as completely as his magic weapons had overpowered the Indian warriors. And the new lords had overrun their land.
Passivism and fatalism were characteristic of captive Indian women but these were not their strongest traits; they were also keenly perceptive and flexible. They had watched white doctors heal ills where their own shamans had failed. This much was good. In addition to this the religion of white men seemed to have great power. Christian missionaries had acted as medical physicians while they taught new spiritual ideas. This dual service was easily acceptable to the Indians because their shamans also treated both body and spirit.
That TV interviewer, that woman with the orange-dyed hair, told me: "Lame Deer, don't put us on—being able to talk to animals. Come on. This is the 20th Century!" I told her: "Lady, in your Good Book a woman talks to a snake. I, at least, talk to hawks, and falcons, and eagles." ---Lame Deer, 1972
Hudson's Bay Company traders had been
to be harsh with the original people during the early 1800s and
because of this that the Indians had been eager to turn to some
incoming "Bostons" (missionaries). Non-indian nurses were
during the epidemics which had followed the settlers. The
non-indian doctors grew in such sorrowful times, and the power
As white women missionaries worked beside Indian women, they assured them that churchianity was for "everyone's" benefit. It was head encouragement, full of hope. The Indian women carefully considered the advantages which white women seemed to enjoy within their homes and society. They were inclined to weigh this against their negative first impressions of the white men—and found it bewildering—until open warfare set the Indians firmly against white men.
Soldiers Torch Indian Villages Following Rogue River Wars
Indian women fervently loved their
and when the long, bloody Rogue River Wars ended, those who
forced to watch soldiers burn their homes and the balance of
food supply. They lost their dried fish and meats, pounded berry
meal—everything. "We left behind many fine canoes, homes, tanned
and other belongings found in an Indian colony at that time. We
They were taken away from their land without comforting mats, robes or any of their basketsful of personal possessions. They were at the mercy of a raw spring which was only slightly less severe than the long bitter winter had been. Soldiers were instructed to leave only elderly women or the infirm behind in their huts. The remainder of the villages were systematically destroyed and the remnants of the aboriginal tribes were immediately moved northward.
The first movement of prisoners had been from Port Orford by boat up the coast and into the Columbia to the Willamette. From there they went south by ferry to Dayton and finally inland (on foot) to the Grand Ronde Agency which lay west of the Willamette. Other groups followed roughly the same route.
Another consignment of 600 were transported to Siletz July 1856 via Coquille Valley and Roseburg. A portion of the groups were accompanied by about 35 wagons. But for the most part captives went the distance on foot with few provisions of any kind. Tyee John's tribe of 592 walked nearly 125 miles up the coast.
The final tribe fared the worst—they were forced to walk the grueling distance directly up the coast to Yaquina Bay, wearing whatever clothing they happened to have had on their backs. Skimpy jackets, old blankets or mat-capes kept off only some of the chilling rains. Many were barefooted and only a few were fortunate enough to have a horse and wagon. The small basketry capes worn by some of the women appeared as a pitiful festive head-covering above sad brown-eyed faces. Bundles of mat bedding and some small baskets had been slipped in with infant cradles which hung heavily from tumplines across the women's foreheads.
Nothing else was allowed; comfort was sacrificed to faster travel; and the soldiers forbid taking larger baskets—even those filled with foodstuffs. The Indians had to forage along the route to supplement the inadequate food which was supplied by the army.
War-weary soldiers were dissatisfied with their military assignment and largely disinterested in their human consignments, and although their orders were "no baskets" they paid little attention to small treasure or medicine baskets which could be smuggled in at the last moment. military logic indicated that only large baskets could contain weapons. The only Indian basket of importance to them was the one used to transport drinking water.
In this manner the soldiers moved their charges northward, and the mourning weavers walked away from the lands of their beloved Old Ones, and the home of their mystical basketry. On those wretched April days each woman carried with her a heavy burden of despair.
They ended the hateful trek; their only objective was survival—and their only help was their own resourcefulness. Their ancient skills went with them and they kept a few tiny treasure baskets hidden from the soldiers. But they did not deceive themselves: they knew that if their basket magic was to again be part of their lives, it would have to be revived through their own hands.
Bypassed by Everything But War
Five years before the march to Siletz,
peace in the valley had seemed imminent as the army and the
had negotiated a treaty. The army had first made an attempt to
to the Santiam country and they had flatly said they would
A compromise was reached and the tribes had permitted themselves
placed on the Grand Ronde Reservation.
Local tension eased quickly and almost at once the Superintendent of Indian Affairs issued a placating announcement which praised "the Tuallaty" as being good farmers. This was the year that the Rogue River War began in earnest in the south.
In June of the same year a news release noted that three "Callapoah" youths were returning to the Pacific Coast after completing an English education at Westfield, Massachusetts.1 This was supposed to display progress toward "whitemanizing" Willamette Valley Indians. In retrospect it seemed incongruous, in view of the hostilities which were present in Southwestern Oregon. It is unlikely that formal education of three young natives of the interior had been reported to the troubled non-indians along the coast.
The Indians had not invited warfare; they had been helpful to the first non-indian travelers who seemed to return the friendship. Nor were all white officials anti-Indian, but the combination of unscrupulous white adventurers and vengeance seeking red skins eventually destroyed any well meant efforts toward peaceful relations. Both frightened settlers and unjustly attacked Indians were filled with deep distrust which fed on Native misunderstanding and official prejudice. Intermittent fighting persisted until the army resolved to destroy every Indian village within a given area, driving the original people away from protective terrain and reducing the chance of their return. The routing of the tribes was concentrated in the narrow river valleys. Supplies for the combatants came in over tortuous trails. Traffic away from the areas had to use the same route—there was no easy escape for either side.
Lewis and Clark Follow Indian Trails 1804
Lewis and Clark had discovered in 1804
travel south of the falls at Oregon City meant following Indian
up one mountainside and down the other. During the 1830s and
two main wagon trails crossed Oregon (one followed the Columbia
north and the other went south to California). The bulk of
Railroads were expensive and arduous to construct in the
horse drawn coach routes connecting Oregon with San Francisco
until 1860. Geographic location had kept the Coastal Indians
commercial trade routes, but it had only temporarily insulated
the heat of inland wars.
In 1850 a crucial push for "free gold" stimulated road building to provide access to gold fields. At about the same time, a military road was built from the headwaters of the Umpqua eastward, and then southward. To accomplish this as rapidly as possible the builders widened ancient aboriginal trade trails and inadvertently opened up a way for abrasive opportunists who pushed the original people aside on their own trade routes.
Old Oregon Trail Becomes Inviting Highways 1854
In addition to this the old Oregon
Trail was altered by 1854 into an inviting highway
number of squatters coming into Oregon. The newcomers sought
land for themselves and drove the Indians further toward the
The stage had been set for the tragic war.
As the retreating Indians were driven from the valleys, they were first sent to Fort Umpqua which had been turned into a collection agency for war prisoners who were on their way northward to Siletz. At a later time the fort was used to intercept fugitives who were escaping from the reservation.
Indians from the Northern Oregon Coast did not escape detention either, even though they were non warring. They too were put under the jurisdiction of the agency at Siletz. Since the boundaries for the huge reservation had been set between Tillamook County and the Umpqua, all original people in that area were brought in. The peaceful Tillamook Salish were among them.
In the beginning of life on the reservation, they were all assembled on the north side of Yaquina Bay. Housing allotments were so poorly planned that some prisoners were literally dumped into forested areas and had to erect brush or blanket huts for shelter.
In 1877, railroad promoter Wallis Nash visited the Siletz Reservation and noted:
We... spied little shanties hidden
the furze and brake. Dead bushes set in a row, a few long sticks
and tied together at the top, a mat or two of old, torn rugs and
carpet thrown over, made up the dwelling.
[We saw that] dirt was everywhere, on the persons of the Indians, their clothes, their hut, their food.
During this period of social upheaval,
minimum building was seen along the western slope, but by that
Rogue River Wars had ceased, inland railroads were being built
settlements in the Willamette Valley had become common.
The Siletz Indians had undergone three full years of captivity on the reservation by the time statehood had caught up with Oregon, in 1859; and the majority of the prisoners were unaware that they had been transferred out of the custody of a territorial agent, and into an agency of the state government. This was important information for the Indians to have according to Robert Ruby and John Brown:
To the Indians and the government alike the kingpin of the system was the agent. He was "just like a king, and he could do as he pleased," as an elderly Makah expressed it. The agent was the Indians' on-the-grounds representative, and he stood between them and a growing bureaucratic maze leading up to the president. By the 1860s the Indians had gotten a clearer picture of that important personage, the president, about whom they had heard so much. When agent J. Ross Browne was among the chiefs of the Siletz Reservation in October 1857, one of three matters uppermost on their minds was the identity of the "great white chief." Their other two concerns were the receipt of goods promised by treaty and the sickness raging among the people.
Political change, or "social progress" of any nature, was of no immediate interest to them, as they saw no material benefit from it in their daily lives. While they had been losing a bitter war, all other matters had slipped past them—unheeded.
Cross Purposes of Peace
The Weavers entered the strange valley
and hungry—filled only with discouragement. In addition to
they had been plagued with bumbling inaccurate names which had
to every member of their families by soldier escorts.
Names were assigned at the convenience of officials (who were under pressure to produce a census of sorts) and it was easiest for the military clerks to name the Indians after their river valley homelands (to which the clerks added any sort of first name that presented itself). Some of the Indians had already been named in this manner, and some had chosen an English surname after a friend or someone who had been an official of importance. "Made up" names were also common.
Mrs. He Dog, a Parmalee of the Rosebud Reservation said:
I was born long before they had a census. So I never got a Christian name. I's just Mrs. He Dog. I don't even know how old I am. Over 100, at any rate. You should have taken my picture 80 years ago when I was still pretty. Yes, I was very pretty. A lot of fine young men were courting me. Now I have a face as if somebody had deep-plowed it. That's okay. Old age has been good to me.
Under other circumstances name
have been amusing to the prisoners. Did not non-indians know
names changed often from birth throughout old age? Adult status
name titles, as had great visions or deeds of courage, or even
Among the Klamath and the Shasta, it was common to use the
of some physical or behavioral irregularity as a name. These
were sometimes made into a song which made the personal remark
Following the 30 day post partum period, Beverly Hungry Wolf, a Blackfeet, describes the naming process:
Usually the father took care of the
ceremony. If he was an outstanding man, or a holy man, he might
own children. But most men brought their babies to noted elders.
were persons who had lived long and well, and whose prayers were
to be strong. The father always gave the elder some king of
payment—maybe a horse, some blankets, or some money—sometimes
if he really wanted his child to have a good name at the start.
The chosen elder begins the naming ceremony by praying. He will take some sacred earth paint and he will paint the baby's face while he is praying. That becomes the child's first blessing after it is born. That blessing goes to the parents, too, during the ceremony. As part of the prayer the elder announces the name that has been chosen for the child. The name is called aloud so that all may hear, and it is followed by wishes of good luck and long life.
A number of Indians took the name of a
parent (which could with propriety be taken from either parent
were not all patrilineal); a few took names as they took their
their mother's people. Among the Yakonan a child assumed a
upon reaching puberty from a living ancestor or another
then take another name.
Beverly Hungry Wolf discusses the "nicknaming" habits of the Bloods:
Mothers usually give their children nicknames, by which they are known in their young days. This is often a description of the child's notable features, like Round-Faced Girl, Long-Haired Girl, or Plump Girl. Usually when the child gets a little older these names are dropped.
Hungry Wolf further comments that while men most often carry an inherited name,
Women were usually named for famous war deeds. Old warriors and chiefs were asked to give these names to little girls in order to bless them with the good luck and success of the war trails. Common names are Stabbed-in-the-Water Woman, Shot-Close Woman, and Medicine-Capture Woman. One thing we all have in common is that our names end with "woman." That's strange, since not so many men’s names end with "man."
To add to the confusion, Indian
the name of the deceased taboo. To refer to the dead by name
allow the spirit to rest. The taboo was common to all linguistic
in Oregon and it is still being honored to some extent.
All Indian name words were confusing to white settlers. For instance, a white woman might inquire as to the native name of a pretty infant cradle and receive several different answers from as many Indian women—and conclude that somehow her friendly overture had offended. In all probability the Indians were neither offended nor being evasive; it would simply not have occurred to them that white women did not realize that many languages and dialects were spoken within a small area. The persistent density of non-indians on this subject was noted by the Indians—and shrugged off as unimportant.
Case of the Obscene Lunch Box
Indian children loved to take
the newcomers' ignorance. A story is told of a schoolmarm who
Siletz children how to say "lunch box" in their own tongue. One
boy supplied a name which was then passed around the reservation
laughter before the schoolmarm discovered than an obscenity had
for "lunch box." A similar situation arose in the 1950s over the
of the word "Yakona"—a local writer had left out the "Y" and the
result was roared over—especially since he was not informed of
and it had appeared in print.
In 1975, Ida Bensell and Archie Ben discussed the spelling and meaning of Takelma words with Capitol Journal correspondent, Celia Smith:
"Like sassas, try to spell 'sassas.'"
you know what 'sassas' means?" There's some fun going on in the
tonight. Ida Bensell, age 95, the oldest living member of the
is 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.
Incorrect Name Data Given to Protect Fugitives
Incorrect name data created a wide
of problems; identification was essential for census roles and
proper recording of lands and livestock which was being assigned
new farmers on the reservation. Some "confusion" was calculated;
feared that names might be used by officials to trace fugitive
of tribes, and they deliberately misrepresented data concerning
They also continued to obscure the names of those who had died,
that at least the spirits should remain undisturbed.
William Eugene Kent discusses the problem of a census taking on the Siletz Reservation:
In September of 1857, James W. Nesmith, the third Superintendent of Indian Affairs, listed the population of Siletz at 2,049.373 This was not a complete total since Indians were still being brought to the reservation. The highest number of people who resided at Siletz is not exactly known. The highest official estimate given was made by agent Ben Simpson in 1865, claiming a population of 2,800. Simpson's estimate was far different from that made by J. W. Perit Huntington, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, who listed for the same year a population of 2,068, but he did not include all Siletz tribes, however. It is simply safe to assume that the population averaged around 2,500 to 2,600 and declined throughout the reservation. Deaths, runaways, and new arrivals also caused the population figures to fluctuate.
The Tututini Were Haughty, Insolent
One of the larger tribes and most dissatisfied were the Rogues. They were to cause the government the most trouble at the reservation. The tribe had been involved in a bitter war with the government and the squatters and they were very angry and resentful. There was nothing that they liked about Siletz, including the other Indians. "They openly boasted to the other Indians that they could whip the soldiers, and that they did not wish to follow the white man's ways."
They were haughty, insolent, and
life and property. Not only did they cause trouble for the army
government employees but they terrorized the other tribes. The
were greatly discontented and troubled by the fact that they
of the Rogues. Problems arose over which they had a "fight every
so." Some Rogues under Tyee John murdered some other Indians in
of 1857, causing much excitement among the rest of the tribes.
forced them to turn in all remaining weapons, which included 20
eight revolvers, and seven single-barreled pistols. They also
the Siletz people for a person they killed on one occasion.
worst incident the Rogues had with other Indians occurred at
D River. The Yaquina claimed this area as their
and when they saw some Tututni fishing there, a battle ensued,
all night, with many deaths on both sides.
The Tututni also quarreled with other Indians because they all needed the same forest materials and although they had been placed closely together, they did not like to share their source supplies. They were hard pressed to begin as early as practicable after winter—time to search for root foods and basketry fibers. They even cut brush shoots without waiting for them to mature in their eagerness for supplies. Each found, and jealously protected, the own basketry fibers. Baskets were the one treasure which they had lost and could eventually regain, and they guarded their craft carefully.
Although the Tututni were the most non-cooperative tribe that first season—they were simply too busy to help government officials with paper records or anything else that was demanded of them. In a deeper sense they believed that the official meddling was useless—they believed that basketry symbols were the only significant kind of record of their Tilecums—they had no faith in lists set down on pieces of paper.
Culturally, the Tututnis also did not fit well into reservation life, particularly because of their basketry mysticism.
By 1859, more than 100 shamans had been murdered. It was custom of the Tututni to kill the doctor if his or her patient died and unfortunately many Indians, especially young ones, died at Siletz. Another custom relating to spirits was the burning of all their property at the time of death or if they moved. Thus the supplies the government issued them were frequently destroyed and as a result they created further hardships. Before the majority of them left Grand Ronde, they burned down the houses the government built for them and their children, demolished the school furnishings and broke out all of the windows.
Ruby and Brown wrote more about the perfidious nature of this practice:
During the summer of 1872, Indians of the Siletz Reservation opposing surveys for allotting purposes tore up corner posts, burned bearing trees, and leveled mounds, so that a new survey was required. As a result allotments were not made there until about 20 years later.
The tribe was also addicted to
the older youths gambled away the clothes they were supposed to
school. They felt that they were doing the agent a favor for
as they saw no benefits for themselves.
As a people, they did not endear themselves to anyone else, and, being at Siletz against their will, they did not see any reason why they had to do anything other than what they wanted to, and escape was the only definite thing on their minds. Because they were viewed as "troublemakers," they were placed under tight security. Except for the first two years, the security was unfortunately not needed because the climate, poor diets, poor sanitation, fighting, and lung disease contracted during the war, killed 205 of them the first year, cutting their population from 590 to 385.
Nash commented on the reduction of the reservation population due to these factors:
An idea has spread that the number of the Indians is rapidly decreasing now that their nomadic habits are checked, and that they are confined to the limits of the reserve. The doctor told us, however, that this was a mistake, and that the births exceed the deaths now that the purchase of spirits is impossible for them, and that their children are properly attended to in sickness.
By 1865, there were only 121 of them left. Thus came the downfall of a proud people.
Short Rations on the Siletz Reservation
As for the army, their records of food
caused them continual embarrassment. Beef and bread were issued
agency, but there was never enough and the hunter on the
that even the game was scarce.
Sheridan made this entry in his Personal Memoirs (1888):
Having brought with me over the mountains a few head of cattle for the hungry Indians, without thinking of running any great personal risk. I had six beef killed some little distance from my camp, guarding the meat with four soldiers. The Indians soon formed a circle about the sentinels, and, impelled by starvation before it could be equally divided. This was of course restricted, when they drew their knives—their guns having previously been taken from them—and some of the inferior chiefs gave the signal to attack.
In 1864, Bensell made a similar entry in his Journal:
March 28, 1864: Rains more or less all day. After dinner we kill a beef. This constitutes a rare scene. Old, dirty, filthy squaws collect near the slaughter as soon as the boys commence butchering. Anon, we shall see for what purpose! The beef is now mid-air, the circle of anxious crones is narrowed. One dexterous stroke with the knife and the animal's intestines fall to the earth! No, not so, for ere they reach the ground 20 filthy hands are busy, tearing, pulling, cutting, dragging away this uncleaned offal. Such screaming as someone more fortunate than the rest rushes off "trailing" a "gut," you never heard from woman before!
In their Personal Memoirs, Clara Howard Mears and Morella Parish recalled starving reservation Indians begging for food:
[The squaws] also begged for food. Mother said she was frying doughnuts one day when in stalked a squaw with a papoose at her back. She pointed to the doughnuts [and] when mother offered her one she held up the corner of her blanket and emptied the panful into it.
I remember one day grandmother and I were both in the pantry and I turned to go out and there stood an Indian squaw in the door, and no other way to get out only by her. Grandmother gave her a pan of sour milk and motioned for her to go out.
Flour was an immediate need to feed
and it tragically became an item of controversy and scandal. The
obtained the four from an Oregon City mill owned by former
Abernethy (1845-1849) and Robert Penland. The
was $20 per barrel for good quality flour. After the Indians had
carried it over the mountains, they became sick upon eating it,
did just the same because no more could be immediately secured.
quality" flour turned out to be "shorts and sweeps" or what was
as cattle feed. No mention of the second received consignment of
is on record but the third cargo of 48,394 pounds was of the
of mill sweeps" and it was bought from Rowland Chamber's
Valley. Special commissioner Brown tracked down the flour
Portland, who claimed that he himself had been swindled by
and Company. However, he agreed to a "fair arbitration."
Not only was the quality of supplies poor, but often out of necessity, Indians were often used to help haul supplies to the reservation. One hundred of them at a time came to Fort Hoskins for flour. They had to
Pack it out on their backs a distance of over 50 miles over an almost impracticable mountain trail. They are almost naked, too. This after repeated promises, too, that they should be supplied with all that they require, is well calculated to cause dissatisfactions.
When the army supplied fuel, cloth or
for shelter it was welcomed—but never adequate.
The agents at Grand Ronde and Siletz blamed starvation, disease and "bad whiskey" for the high loss of life.
One Pacific Northwest traveler noted the Puget Sound Indians subsisted partly on fish and partly on the government,
moving around town in cheap, ill-fitting garments, sleeping in the streets by day and sitting motionless on sidewalks for hours "like so many bundles of rags." They were, he believed, the victims of "whiskey and the law of the survival of the fittest."
The protests and denunciations of a famous Black Robe, Pierre-Jean De Smet, (1801-1873) were censored by his superiors, who feared that they "savored too much of hostile criticism of the government." The following is one of many scathing letters De Smet wrote directly to the Indian Department cursing the sale of liquor to Indians:
They quarrel and fight from morning to
their bodies become veritable furnaces, full of foul humors,
them all sorts of maladies. Their love for liquor is really
It is a regular tarantula to them; as soon as they are bitten by
of their blood flames in their veins, and they are crazy for
More! is their war cry, until, as the flames consume them, they
and when the fumes of drink evaporate from their brains their
only cry is "Whiskey! Whiskey!" as if it was a matter of life
The other day I counted nine bitten-off noses in a single group of Indians. In their rage, this little member is the principal object of their attack, and a drunken Indian who deprives a comrade of his nose, boasts of it as much as a brave soldier of having carried off a flag from the enemy.
When they are sober, no one would recognize them; they are mild, civil, quiet and attentive; but there is no safety in the presence of a drunken savage. Several times our lives have been in the greatest danger; but fortunately by gentle and moderate words we have managed to appease the rage of these barbarous drunkards, who were breathing only blood.
The subagent at Tillamook complained to officials that the four tribes south of the Columbia had received very little support. The base of this iceberg of human misery was exposed when the Indian agent, J. B. Lane, was accused of misusing large governmental funds which had been earmarked for the needs of the Indians.
Agent Lane Affair 1887
In 1887 J. B. Lane became the Siletz
In his two-year term of office he managed to create an
would soon forget. Although he was an observant person with much
into Indian Affairs, he soon found himself in several
In his second year gossip soon spread throughout the Siletz
finally reaching the BIA, about the fact that he and the
Hansell, were engaged in suspicious activities. Not only was Ms.
reportedly a poor schoolmarm but she "neither eats nor sleeps in
building but patronizes or looks after the agent's household
and sleeping there."
The BIA also found out that Lane was using a great amount of government property for personal use, such as bedsteads, blankets, comforts, mattresses, tubs, chairs, pillows, sheets and many more items. He was also using the milk of a government cow. Lane had bureaucratic problems, too. Many of his requests were turned down by the BIA, and his record keeping and correspondence procedures were continually being criticized. There were also conflicts with some of the employees.
A schoolmarm, Ruth Gaither, and an Indian hauler, Scott I. Lane (1858-1921), claimed that he failed to pay them, and another teacher, Franklin M. Carter, wrote the BIA stating that he was relieved of his duties and Lane was going to close the school, having all students sent to Chemawa. That was too much, and the BIA reprimanded Lane.
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
in which everything is done by indirect and circuitous methods.”
examinations of agencies by government inspectors, which perhaps
three times yearly, did little to improve their workers. The
that permitted agency personnel great leeway in the conduct of
drove many from the service. Those who remained bickered with
with each other; the ramifications of their quarrels sometimes
the national capital.
It was obvious to the Rogues that traditional sources were more reliable for their necessities. Babies needed beds, and the forests provided mosses and cradle materials as well as material for pallets, door coverings, capes and rain cloaks. Doors of wood, and wool clothing eventually replaced the versatile reed matting, but during the first critical months, practical basketry products were as available as the land—and the hands of the Rogues.
The soldiers who had brought the Indians to the reservations, and were responsible for their care, had difficulty persuading them to stay. Some Kusans had been moved 70 miles on foot as far as the sub-agency at Yachats and they had promptly walked the full distance back again. All of the other tribes were restless also—but the Athapascan-speaking Tututni were the hardest to pacify. They were homesick; they had been told that the move north would be "temporary," and in addition to being deceived, they had been so poorly fed en route that many were already ill before they had reached Siletz. Extra wagons of provisions were brought in only after the situation was unbearable for the captives.
William Eugene Kent wrote that They all wanted to return to their old homes:
The more sensitive died from a "depression of spirits..." Coming from warm and dry parts of the state, the Tututni found Siletz to be "cold, sickly and destitute of game." They were forced out of necessity sometimes to eat oysters, clams, crab and fish, which they did not like but were relished by the coastal tribes.
During the first winter there was
housing provided and the Indians had to provide their own
Wallis Nash visited the Siletz Reservation in 1877 and described the squalid living conditions of the captives:
We... spied little shanties hidden
the furze and brake. Dead bushes set in a row, a few long sticks
and tied together at the top, a mat or two of old, torn rugs and
carpet thrown over, made up the dwelling.
[We saw that] dirt was everywhere, on the persons of the Indians, their clothes, their hut, their food.
They sometimes received little sympathy and
For example, once Tyee Washington, a Coquille, asked an army
housing; the captain replied, "You Indians don't know how to
so what do you want with a house?" The Coquille, like the
a long-house and small huts for shelter and lived off the land.
Another instance of white insensitivity to cultural differences resulted in rejection of the temporary cots which had been provided for the Indians. They complied to a direct order to "not sleep on the ground," only to desert the cots for woven mats on the earthen floor as soon as the soldiers had left the doorways of the huts. Beds were strange devices and confining, and the original people were not convinced that they held magic to make people healthy.
The Indians felt certain that their housing woes would vanish if only they could return south. Escapees who successfully reached the Rogue were hidden by the same older women who had been left behind by the army as too weak to travel and too ineffectual to cause trouble. In 1857 a report stated that Umpqua and Tututni were "still at large."
The agent turned to the pressing need
housing for those who remained. Local logs and lumber seemed the
solution as he scanned the forests and confidently stated that
and a few whites could do it."
But a housing impasse had already taken form on the older reservation at Grand Ronde as the Indians there were being readied for relocation to Siletz. Just before the transfer they set fire to their log houses, some 70 or 80. They did this to bring "good luck," but their action made the army decide against building similar houses for them at Siletz.
It was a slowdown caused by mutual misdirection, but it was minor compared to a series of badly administered governmental building programs. A full four years passed under the resident agent during which the Indians found little shelter arising from the sums of money allotted by the government for their rehabilitation. A large complex of public buildings took priority: government headquarters, infirmary, school, livestock, sheds and several workshops—all of which foretold economic and social progress; but to the unsettled Indians the long delay in housing weighed heavily against future benefits from the new governmental structures.
Physical hardships increased for the Indians as the cold wet weather continued to cause widespread illness. And it worsened as the sick natives resisted white men's medicines. When a few agreed to accept medical care they would not remain in the infirmary. They donned the clothing issued to them and returned to the camps where some of them gambled away the clothing. As a result they contacted respiratory infections which complicated their initial ailments. So many had died by September of 1857 that it was reported that more Indians were lost from illness during the first winter than in the previous ten months of active warfare.
William Eugene Kent wrote of the horror:
Several hundred Indians died that first winter from measles, poor diets, weather exposure and various diseases. The Coos, Coquille and Port Orford many times sought to escape by sending small parties of women and children down the coast in two's and three's. Almost none of the parties were successful, being caught by the army.
Frances Fuller Victor's grave account
only 385 Rogue River and Cow Creek survivors of the 600 assigned
in 1856. Respiratory illnesses continued for several years and
at Siletz declared "It is your peace that is killing us!"
William Eugene Kent reported that the general health of the Indians remained poor,
but not as critical as in prior years. In 1863 over 1,000 people were treated during the year. Two main causes were unhealthy, damp dwellings and improper cooking of agency-grown food. More serious were the diseases brought by the whites, which continued to kill some of the residents. A special health concern was the location of the Coquille village, which happened to be near a marsh. Some of the Indians, when given medicine, did not use it properly and thus had to be watched to see how they administered it. A hospital was greatly desired during this period.
He noted that by 1892, the general health of the Indians had not improved:
One unfortunate problem still with the
in 1892 was disease. Although there were 27 births that year,
also 24 deaths. Dr. Eugene Clark treated 382 patients for such
as bronchitis, fever, syphilis, neuralgia, tuberculosis,
various diseases of they eye and ear. The reservation had no
the old one was no longer used, but did have two infirmaries
girls assisting in the care of patients. There were two known
some of the problems. One was that some of the children would
at night and would thus get chilled in the cool, damp climate.
factor noted was the Indians' love of pork, of which they
quantity. Pork caused glandular trouble and the doctor
they raise more sheep for meat.
The school that year reached 77 students and Dr. Clark taught anatomy, physiology and hygiene to them.
Shamans attempted to heal the Indians; but in cases where the shamans tried to collect payment for a cure they were killed by their own people. After six shamans had been executed in a two and a half year period the army stopped the practice.
Greedy Businessmen Exploit Yaquina Bay Oyster Beds 1869
A few years later, while the lack of
still harried the Indians, a tussle developed over an important
of seafood at Yaquina Bay. White businessmen had seen commercial
in the fertile oyster beds of Yaquina Bay and they chose not to
the wisdom of a governmental proposal to control seafood
According to Oregon historian Terence O'Donnell:
The first bite out of these Indian lands was taken in 1865 at what is now Newport. The year before, oysters, for which there was a ravenous market in the grill rooms and saloons of San Francisco, had been found in great numbers in Yaquina Bay.
Robert Ruby and John Brown further comment on the depletion of Yaquina Bay oyster beds:
The Americans sold oysters, as others did logs and pilings, to a booming San Francisco market. In their urge to supply that market, armed oyster poachers along the Oregon Coast at Yaquina Bay defied orders of the Siletz agent in 1863 and 1864 to desist from their illegal activity. At the time of his treaty making Stevens noted that Indians were sending as much as 10,000 pounds of fish daily to the Seattle market.
By 1869 so many oysters had been taken from
bay that the businessmen themselves were forced into an
the preservation of the beds from their own greediness.
Benton County historian David D. Fagan wrote that the value of the oyster trade at Yaquina Bay
had been already adverted to, but as it was suffering in the month of March 1869, for the oystermen to form themselves into a protective association for the better preservation of the beds. As a means of securing greater benefits to the public, the following officers and members were enrolled to carry out the purposes of the association: Newton Pool, president; Joseph B. Lewis, secretary; William McCaffrey, treasurer; Norman McCullen, Charles G. Hagmer, William H. Anderson, Christian Baker, John E. Ford, W. Baker, Celestine Jaguan, R. Starkey, James Brown, Thomas Ferr.
In the meantime other white promoters
vigorously campaigning for a wide roadway and reliable rail
to connect Yaquina Bay with the Willamette Valley. And all of
interests wanted the Indians removed—again—away from Yaquina Bay
to the north.
Robert Ruby and John Brown had this to say about the Indians' removal:
"Alas!" wrote Frances Fuller Victor,
of one race is sacred to another..." The lines of a poem
the word "cedar" for "birch") seemed appropriate on the West
had in other parts of America which succumbed to white men:
Frances Auretta Fuller Victor (1826-1902)
Frances Fuller Victor came
Portland from San Francisco with her husband, a naval
She was captivated by the novelty, grandeur and romance of the Pacific Northwest.
Traveling extensively, she met many Northwest notables, plying them with questions,
and becoming one of the West Coast's finest historians. Many volumes would flow from her pen.
Colonel Joseph L. Meek, the notorious mountain man, supplied her stories
that would end up in The River of the West (1870). After her husband died and needing money, Victor worked at
Hubert Howe Bancroft's publishing house. She was offered a 10-year contract but had to turn over
her extensive collections and research.
There, she helped produce and publish monumental work such as the first 2 volumes of Bancroft's History of the West.
After quitting Bancroft in 1890, Frances returned to Oregon, living in Salem and Portland.
To pay the bills she sold face cream and other articles door-to-door.
A dreary end for an important literary figure. Oregonians ought to re-discover her.
light birth canoe,
The steamer rocks and raves;
And city lots are staked for sale
Above old Indian graves.
The inept Indians were manipulated against
will once more, and in any other area it might have been "the
But they were being forced toward an unusually long (and
stream; and permanent winter quarters away from the windy bay
preference. They could utilize the river and still travel the
overland to Yaquina Bay for shellfish when they chose. Their
toward the prairie did not, however, cover the bold fact that
by white men had been accomplished.
Another type of disruption was caused by the educational policy of the reservation. Officials had place all children from the numerous tribes together, hoping that complete linguistic integration would weaken individual tribal influences and make the children more amenable to non-indian teachers. Instead of docility, the plan fomented a rash of small bickering tribes, and the daily maintenance of order had to take precedence over education.
Missionaries Urge Indians Abandon Up Old Ways
Men were meant to live in tipis, not
you call apartments. You have changed men into time-clock
women into housewives—truly fearful creatures.
You live in prisons you have built for yourselves, calling them "homes, offices, factories." You know what that culture deprivation is that anthros always talk about? It's being a white middle-class kid living in a split level apartment with color TV. I'd exchange such a no-good apartment any time for one of our beautiful Lakota tipis. --Lame Deer
When social tensions of any type had
missionaries continued to offer the Indians comfort through
religion. They urged the original people to forsake Old Ways—and
officials had been happy to encourage the missionaries.
The Indians carefully examined the examples set for them by the Christian leaders. They reasoned that white religion might possibly be as strong as their medicine. Missionaries had magic medical potions in glass bottles in their large houses (and too, the people inside of the houses had abundant food and clothing). Their inventory continued: white men owned steel tools—as well as guns—and machines with many wheels which made hard work easier. White men also enjoyed bright colored carriages pulled by fine horses which were admired by everyone. This impressive evidence had been convincing and they began to listen more closely to the missionaries.
But they held to their own beliefs and did not divulge to "outsiders" their private ideas about the spirits of the earth and sea, and of the fish and birds and animals, that lived with humankind. Above all they did not relinquish their reverence for the spirits of their dead. Missionaries had been aware of this and had tried to discourage young women from becoming shamans—hoping to loosen the old ties. But they had not recognized that the quiet weavers were a more lasting threat to the white's form of "churchianity" that the magic of the colorful women shamens whom the missionaries feared.
They had fallen to realize, for instance, that triangular burden baskets, old and dingy with use, still held a place of reverence at native graves. The weavers had known that the deceased may have prayed to the god of the whites—as many weavers themselves had done—but when the dead friend was no longer able to pray for himself, the women had offered the ancient power of basketry from storm spirits in the same manner that the Old Ones had always been protected. They would obey white leaders—but they would go their own way.
Indian Men had followed this same tact when they were relocated away from Yaquina Bay to the prairie; they circumvented problems whenever possible. When they had grievances they negotiated through the regular army under the command of Gen. Wood; or by way of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs (they at least knew and trusted Joel Palmer); or, on occasion, they dealt with the Oregon Volunteers (the "black hats" who were habitually at odds with the regulars).
These three differing authorities presented a maze of solutions—it is small wonder that the original people were confused. In 1974, Arthur Bensell, mayor of the City of Siletz, summed up the predicament: "Well—the Indians were prisoners of war."
As for the territorial "keepers-of-the-peace" (army and volunteer), they had stumbled miserably in their efforts for the actual cessation of declared warfare with the Indians; and that had been accomplished only by means of their superior weaponry.
Chapter 46: Siletz Reservation 1855
In 1887, Benton County historian David. D. Fagan wrote that the Siletz Reservation, established by executive order November 9, 1855,
is a small, romantic, isolated country—an oasis enclosed by a beautifully carved rim of high mountains—containing a great variety of hills, valleys and forests, glades and prairies—watered by pure springs, purling brooks, rushing creeks and the bright, sparkling Siletz River, clear as crystal, charmingly ornamented by a super-artistic arrangement of landscapes, and a luxuriant profusion of rich and variegated flora—enriched by valuable timbers, the most fertile arable and grazing lands, and an abundance of fishes, wild game and wild fruits—hence it is peculiarly adapted to the purpose designated by the government.
However, in 1864, superintendent Huntington wrote that the Coast Reservation was selected by the late Superintendent Joel Palmer in 1855, at a time when the Western slope of the Coast Mountains had been but partially explored, and was supposed to be nearly or quite worthless:
The only valleys suitable for human habitation then known to exist were needed for occupancy of the Indians, and those best informed believed that the rugged nature of the Coast Range of mountains would forever debar the population of the Willamette Valley from using the harbors which were found at the estuaries of the Sinselaw (Siuslaw), Alsea, Tillamook, and Yaquina rivers. Under this belief it was quite natural that little regard should be paid to economy in appropriating territory which was considered so valueless, and consequently the Coast Reservation was very large, extending north and south about 100 miles, and averaging in breadth about 20.
In his book, All Quiet on the Yamhill, Cpl. Royal A. Bensell describes the Siletz Agency:
There is on this agency [Siletz],
subagencies Alsea, Robert Hill's, and George Meggison's, 800
and small. The Siletz agent plants about 75 acres of wheat and
potatoes. From this meager amount of poorly tilled land the
about 600 bushels of wheat and 200 bushels of potatoes. This
supposed to supply all demands for subsistence. Meat, if they
is obtained by hunting. Fish are plenty in the spring only.
and for want of forage unserviceable. Farming implements, there
enough, though the government has annual appropriations
every farm well in all respects, and pays annually a carpenter
good wages to keep things in repair! Wagons there are none, but
carts are used in lieu.
A sawmill costing an extravagant sum is unable or has so far been unable to furnish sufficient lumber to keep the agency buildings in repair. This mill built in the heart of the forest on excellent water power is useless, yet government hires and pays a millwright. The poor Indians were to receive lumber for building comfortable houses, but a log or "shake" hut answers their purpose at present.
The agency is centrally and
on a heart-shaped peninsular prairie, in the bend of the Siletz
of a number of fine buildings such as: a boardinghouse for
the main portion being 53 feet by 44 feet, with two wings two
height and 20 feet by 52 feet in dimensions; a fine schoolhouse
by 51 feet and containing ten rooms; a barn and commissary store
by 60 feet, with all the necessary appurtenances; an agent's
in course of construction, 30 feet by 30 feet, with wings and
match; offices of the agent, commissary, and medical officer, 30
40 feet, and two stories high; and several houses occupied by
The number of Indians originally brought to the Siletz Reservation was 2,600; there are now, 1885, about 900 all told. As a general rule these are industrious and try to make a living for themselves; they no more live in tribes as separate tribes, but have nearly all of them, or at least the heads of families, taken their land as surveyed, have built houses on the same and are making, some more, some less, use of the ground. These residences range from 12 to 14 feet square, many larger, with a kitchen running back, and a woodshed. Quite a number have good barns, with granaries to hold their crops. Some of them still make their beds on the floor, while perhaps one half have bedsteads and tables and perhaps one third of them have cooking stoves; and, indeed, some of their houses would loose nothing by comparison with many of the whites. As a general rule they go decently dressed, many of them being extravagant in the matter of costume, wearing clothes that are more costly than their circumstances would justify, being in this respect not unlike white people.
The Indian School and Boardinghouse at Siletz
You force us to send our toddlers away to
schools where they're taught to despise their traditions. Forbid
languages, then further say that American history really began
set sail out of Europe! And stress that the nation of leeches
this land are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best.
The school is in a prosperous condition—for a Indian School—an average attendance of 75 scholars, some of these being white-children belonging to employees.
As for their progress, all things considered, it is all that can be expected. In order to obviate the difficulty arising from the distance that many of these have to come to school, provision is made to furnish them their dinner. They are also, to some extent, supplied with clothing, the Indian girls being taught to make their own dresses. The boardinghouse is used as a manual labor school, where the Indian girls are educated in all the arts of housekeeping, while the Indian boys are required to work on the farm, or at trades, all, however, being kept at the school, and away from the influence of their former Indian habits.
There is also a well organized church under efficient and zealous labor, aided and sustained by most of the anglo attachés.
Terrell wrote that to the great chagrin and embarrassment of the various religious denominations given jurisdiction "on a regional basis,"
many of the [Indian] agents they appointed,
of whom were reputed to be honorable and devout, proved to be
Not a few of them quickly established records as the most
in government service. Cases in which these men appointed by
missionary groups stole as much as $50,000 in goods and money
for the relief of Indians were commonplace.
The opening of reservations to missionary organizations was one of the greatest injuries inflicted on Indians. Religious zealots were thereby given sanction by the federal government to force their beliefs on captive audiences by any means, intellectual or physical, they chose to employ, not excluding chicanery, bribery and threats. As a result the Indians suffered an emotional trauma from which they have never recovered, and which still appears to be irremediable.
Once the door had been officially opened to them, many denominations built mission schools, staffed them with fiery-eyed bigots, and hammered their creeds into the heads of the Indian children they lured or forced into their sanctums, under the pretense of giving them an education.
Indeed, as a whole, the Indians are as
in their deportment as the whites, and as sincere in their
To our mind there is not but one standard by which we can judge
genuineness of any person's religion, and the standard was not
us. "Judge the tree by its fruits" is the only rule we know of,
by this formula, the Indians on the reservation lose nothing by
with the average pallid person. In the application of every rule
ever bear in mind that "Where little is given, little is
for the progress in industrial pursuits it is certainly onward,
will be transmitted under the decree that each employer is
take a certain number of apprentices to be instructed in the
departments of labor.
To keep the reservation in order a police force is established, the domain being into districts, each of which is assigned to one policeman who reports to the chief of police, a white man, the remainder being Indians.
This scheme works admirably, and has a good effect in checking crime on the reservation, as well as having beneficial effect on certain classes of white, as for example:
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 an squaw for a wife and live among the Indians; that he had one squaw wife and wanted another.
With all these civilizing influences
them there is one spot that still proclaims their
ground. In these days they coffin their dead, but above them are
the personal property of the deceased, while pennons of tattered
float gaily from the surrounding pickets. When ready for burial
warrior sleeps calmly with a knife in one hand and a twenty
piece in the other—prepared, apparently, to either pay his
cut his way through to the promised land, as circumstances might
Turning from these savage graves, with their wild symbolism of a
life, who can do more than quote that sad line of Moore: "The
each is but what each desires."
Siletz was in the earlier days of its occupancy the scene of many bloody frays. There is still shown the spot where Robert B. Metcalfe, the first agent, leaned cross his saddle bow and shot the Indian desperado Rogue River Jim (Tyee Jim or Anachaharah), who was also amusing himself by shooting at the bold and ready agent. Metcalfe and his men were walking armories in those times, and it was necessary too, for the Wild tribes of Southern Oregon were careless with their guns. The Rogues and Shasta once entered into a plot to capture the garrison at the agency, and were only frustrated by the friendliness of Klamath Joe, an elderly chief who divulged the bloody secret of the officer in charge. Their plan of attack was
to secrete themselves in the woods near the blockhouse until the dinner call was sounded and then rush in upon the defenseless soldiers who were accustomed to dine in the basement, leaving their arms in the room above. They were welcomed by a row of grinning muskets and concluded to postpone the entertainment.
The Siletz Reservation extends along
Pacific Ocean, one mile and a half north of Cape Foulweather and
northwards 25 miles to the mouth of Salmon River, Tillamook
resident agents have been messrs. Robert B. Metcalfe
Newcomb (1860-1862), B. R. Biddle (1862-1863), Benjamin F.
Gen. Joel Palmer, J. H. Fairchild (1873-1875), William Bagley
Edmund A. Swan (1879-1882), and F. M. Wadsworth (1883-1886), the
able and efficient incumbent. The officers are, C. N. Corson,
M. Stanton, farmer; Franklin M. Carter, physician.
There are 12 policemen, an interpreter, a carpenter and a teamster among its employees, while the supply depot is at Toledo, eight miles distant. The number of acres in cultivation is 973; under fence, 2,600; rods of fence made during the year 1884-1885, 2,401; bushels of oats grown by Indians, 22, 130; potatoes, 26, 250; hay, 500 tons.
Change and a New Community
Indian families faced experiences on
reservation which strained even their natural flexibility. The
thrown so many linguistic groups into close contact that it
for disaster until an attempt was made toward settling only
Agency officials backed off from an early position that cultural strength worked against white administration and recognized the wisdom of judicious grouping. They divided the big reservation into three parts. The first was an area near Logsden which was called "Upper Farm." The Umpqua and Shasta were located there upon their own request. They were of different linguistic groups but were friendly towards each other. However, both tribes had quarreled with the Klamath. Along with them were a few others including the Takelma.
On November 5, 1858, Gen. W. S. Harney wrote that from the different languages, interests, and jealousies existing among so many different tribes,
a coalition of all of them in one common cause is impossible. It is not too much to predict that the red skins of America will gradually disappear about the same time from the different sections of the country.
In a similar vein another wrote that their inexhaustible resources
have been taken from them, their bows are unstrung, and from "lords of the soil," they have sunk to the degradation of slaves.
Another, who traveled across the plains to Olympia in 1862, opined,
With a sure certainty their sun is declining; they are gradually passing away; a few decades more and the Indians will only be known in story.
The Takelma of the interior mountains
Southern Oregon were aggressive by nature and highly
were slave-owners and because they fought a war against the US,
better known than the other Siletz people, that is, to the
The second division was termed the “Lower Farm” and lay westward
the present site of Siletz downriver to Yaquina Bay at
here that the culturally similar Alsea, Yakonan, Tillamook, and
(or Selagee) took up residence.
The third section was the "Central Prairie," loosely defined as the broad area between the first two. It was assigned to less tightly related tribes; the most numerous were the Tututini who spoke several dialects of the Athapascan language. Some of the Klamath were also assigned to the prairie along with a few Takelma and peoples of inland areas.
Another Takelma tribe remained behind at Grand Ronde a safe distance from their enemies the Shasta (Wuth). A number of the more peaceful Rogues stayed there too, near the friendly Umpqua Calapooya.
The situation was sensitive and tribal "juggling" had to be handled as discreetly as possible. Cultural identities weakened as tribes were deprived of neutral isolation space between them. Some families adjusted with little resistance but others rebelled and were again shifted to another part of the reservation.
Quarreling among factions was inevitable but those first voluntary withdrawals had averted frictions and strengthened social structure of the sprawling community. This constructive action outweighed the complaints of officials who sent reports to the BIA, such as the early one from superintendent James W. Nesmith in 1867, which had grumbled, "....the Chetco and Pistol River are still creating difficulty."
Agent Robert B. Metcalfe Murders Rogue River Jim 1867
The greatest problem lay in tension smoldered as the army manipulated antagonistic groups in the face of the still unratified treaties. Occasionally the resentment flared into violence. The first agent, Robert B. Metcalfe, murdered Rogue River Jim (Cultus Jim) after Jim had attempted to shoot him. Because of this explosive incident, a party of Rogues and a few Shasta plotted against the garrison at the agency. Further bloodshed was averted when Klamath Joe, who was friendly towards Metcalfe, reported an ingenious plot of the Rogues and Shasta to hide near the blockhouse until mealtime and then strike the soldiers as they dined in the basement—while their arms were in the dining hall above, but they were "welcomed by a row of grinning muskets and concluded to postpone the entertainment."
Rumors of Revolt 1861
In 1861 fresh rumors of revolt again
Biddle (1862-1863) reported that Indians had quivers
guns—"in wigwams." He feared a plot to seize Fort Hoskins and
but it did not materialize.
Secessionist activity within the state tended to minimize some anxiety over the remainder of the Civil War. Individual Indians were sometimes jailed by the military who disliked wartime police duty and from time to time runaways were brought back to Siletz. At one time in 1865, 40 captives were returned to the reservation.
Indian census decreased for several years until about 1874 when an upturn appeared on the official records. By 1885 most of the original people were on small farms and it was noted that they no longer lived as "distinct tribes" or wore native attire.
Klickitat Horseback Traders
Through the years of unrest the
horseback traders were usually neutral and traded from well
until the steam locomotive made their market obsolete and all
to the valley to carry on their own trading.
When the tribes separated into geographic areas the large multi-family groups were split up into individual living units. This has been acknowledged to be the first major social adjustment for the aboriginal population. Literal portioning of family members into non supportive small units had been completely unacceptable to those who were accustomed to living in large communal houses, namely, the original people of the Columbia, the Coastal Salish, and to some extent the Yakonan. They reacted by complaining to the agent and squabbling among themselves. These Indians traditionally constructed small summer huts near food harvesting areas, but in winter they moved together into large permanent structures.
The Garden Spot of Lincoln County
The loss of power of chiefs under
conditions and the disruption of traditional labor roles had
in degeneration of the role of Indian men within their tribes.
this distractive phenomena was minimized by active assistance
owning livestock and toward farming or logging enterprises. Many
80 acre farms. As a result the stereotyped reports from Grand
the first chaotic year were contradicted. The agent there had
captive Indians who resisted the non-indian's manual labor as
to a warrior. However, being a livestock owner elevated a man’s
West Coast Indians had not been tiller of the soil except as harvesters of woca, wapato, camas and other edible roots. In later years they saw vegetables being cultivated in the gardens of non-indian squatters. Potatoes especially intrigued them. In fact, a battle had been fought over potatoes during the Rogue River Wars. The Indian knowledge of gardening was hazy however, and they dug up and ate their first potato crop before it was mature.
Livestock farming was a different matter. All Western Indians admired domesticated animals; and when they were given farm animals for their acreages (as well as tools and mechanical instruction in their use) they were enthusiastic. They became skilled livestock farmers.
Some Indian men preferred to work in the woods as part of the logging industry and some went to sea on the clumsy, but effective, boats of the fishermen.
The first early report (1857) had praised the quality of Indian labor. The Indian affairs agent declared that "although destitute in worldly possessions they were in general industrious and adaptive." He listed "whip-sawing, chopping, ploughing, driving teams, riveting, shingle-shaving and rail-making" among their accomplishments, and said,
They learned to use tools more readily than any people I have ever seen—many are better than half the white men employed.
The Indians advanced rapidly in
and in 1862 attention was called to "well fenced plots filled
potatoes and vegetables."
In 1877 Wallis Nash visited the Siletz Reservation and recalled:
Passing between two log fences, which divided the road from the little farms of some of the Indians, we soon came in sight of the agency—five or six wooden, one-storied houses grouped together on a little green knoll.
Bensell’s recollections of the reservation did not include "well fenced plots":
Fences are old, rotten, and broken down in many places. Not a single improvement of any kind can we find to illustrate energy or interest in the Indians welfare. A gristmill, built several years ago, stands unkempt, molding and moss-covered, the bolting sieves rotten and rat-eaten. The whole affairs betoken neglect. This mill is supposed to grind wheat for the Indians, sad supposition indeed!
A few years later two state officials
skills and living habits and pointed out further labor
Bay commerce and fisheries.
Responsive work performances continued in the early gristmills, sawmills, and later in the cheese factories at Tillamook and the salmon cannery at Kernville.
William Eugene Kent wrote that in the 1890s Chinese labor was employed in coastal canneries:
Hardly surprising, it was whites who profited from these natural resources. J. H. Kern and Brothers of Portland in the late 1890s leased land from the reservation for lumber mills and canneries. One of their canneries was built in 1896 five miles from the bar of the Siletz. The Kern Brothers Company did not hire Indians, but, instead, like other canneries of the time, used Chinese labor. The Siletz people probably would not have worked for the low wages the Chinese received anyway, but the Indians did sell salmon for 25 cents each and silversides at ten cents each to the cannery.
Small dairy farmers, both Indian and
were encouraged to help meet a growing demand for cheddar
for Indian labor continued and in 1918 the area was called "The
Spot of Lincoln County" by the local press.
Robert Ruby and John Brown wrote that the Indian farm program proved less feasible than government officials had hoped:
The American government hoped that, besides subsisting on the reservations, the Indians could sell their surplus products to whites. This proved less feasible than officials had hoped. Some reservations were unsuited to agriculture, and were often too far from markets. Although separated from Willamette Valley markets by the Coast Range, the produce of the remote Siletz Reservation could be shipped by steamer up the coast and thence up the Columbia and Willamette rivers. Still there were other problems. In 1861 little grain was raised, and the potato crop that was scheduled for export rotted in the ground. On the Alsea Reservation, the Yakonan, Siuslaw, and Umpqua tribes fared little better at agriculture. The tribes were parties to an as-yet-unratified treaty and were barely able to survive on "Presents, provisions and subsistence" from a fund for Indians in that situation.
Siletz Blockhouse Erected
Pioneers settlements had a spotty growth around the edges of the reservation. The Coast Range effectively screened the Indians from both squatters and other Willamette Valley Indians dubbed "sticks" by their coastal counterparts. In addition to geographic isolation they were separated from non-indians by an army garrison which professed that it was maintained for the purpose of "protecting" Indians from the non-indianss. This was still the case even in the 1920s when whites were not allowed inside the reservation at night. A blockhouse had been removed from inland and reerected by the military at Siletz. Originally, the blockhouse protected construction workers, but later "closing hours" were set to keep out the non-indians.
Mecca by the Seashore
Cultural insulation on the north of
was taken away as a railroad was built to reach from Portland to
during the first decade of the 1900s. Promoters had hoped to
to, and perhaps beyond, Yaquina Bay. The railroad never reached
Bay, but it enabled a horde of squatters to move in from
It was the beginning of a mecca by the seashore. Additionally,
moved into the area, including Oriental and European immigrants
hired by the railroad. A branch line of the Southern Pacific,
Corvallis and Newport, was well used by the Siletz settlement.
From the time that Indian guides first brought squatters into the Yaquina Bay region in 1861, their land grabbing neighbors spread over the Indian Reservation land. The Pacific Ocean provided boundary and boulevard for commercial trade and social exchange for white and Indian alike. This traffic led to an early establishment of trade fairs at Newport.
Indian Trade Fairs at Yainax and Newport
Western Indians had enjoyed their
trade fairs in Yainax and attended all festivals of any nature
reach. It is reported that they watched with great interest the
of July celebration in Newport in 1866. At such festivals the
their costumes, their artifacts and their ancient weaponry, and
proud of an exotic appearance. They were never so completely
wearing their colorful flummery.
Traditional fairs had included ceremonial parades, dancing, horse racing and contests of physical strength. At the Newport festivities old games were found and gambling was especially popular.
A game called Kho-ho was popular. It was played with a club and a maple burl ball. The people of Siletz often played against those at Alsea and on a few occasions a "free-for-all" resulted. Gambling festivals were popular and were played with the Grand Ronde Indians. They bet horses, cattle, saddles and other personal belongings. These festivals involved a fasting by young men, and the actual betting was done with bundles of sticks. One stick was stained with the blood of a young man and it was the "lucky" stick, or what in cards would be an ace. Their festivals were often held at Boiler Bay.
At the end of a day of exciting activity, they gathered around the bonfires reliving past fairs in story and song.
Some aspects of the old fairs were subdued at the Newport fairs. Only one or two jolting displays of dried human hearts and scalps reminded white fairgoers of grisly aboriginal rites.
John Wooden Legs, tribal chairman of the Northern Cheyenne comments proudly on the scalp that has come to him through the generations:
My grandfather, Wooden Legs, was still a teenager when he fought against Custer, way back in 1876. He took a funny scalp—one of the mutton chops, they also call them dundrearies, off Cpt. Cook. I still have it hanging somewhere. It looks like a ratty fox tail.
The gambling sticks and stones no longer involved wife-waging. Nose quills (dentalia) and tightly bound ankle bands had already disappeared into the past and only a few face and wrist tattoos recalled Old Ways.
Weavers Sell Baskets at Trade Fairs
Small booths along the waterfront
fresh and dried sea foods, vegetables and fruit. The weavers
baskets on tables or stands or heaped them on mats near the
weavers entered their finest work in keen competition with one
and enjoyed the attention of their skill and bright ribbon
them. The trade fairs encouraged friendly rivalry among the
the good humor did not extend to sharing secrets or private
weaving material! Best of all, the basket trade created a warm
for understanding between white customers and Indian weavers.
crumbled and lasting friendships were formed.
These fairs elevated Indian crafts into economic importance. (Trade baskets had not assumed economic importance during the early decades because the baskets were essential to aboriginal households). As the demand for basketry grew it became obvious that fiber harvesting must be increased to satisfy the market. Men further ignored traditional roles and stepped up their assistance in fiber harvesting in order to give the Weavers more time for weaving. (It had been their custom to help to some extent.) This did not lessen the social standing of the men which had been strengthened by private land ownership. After a tentative skirting around the idea of "property-within-a-fence" (a foreign concept to any Indian) they had welcomed land ownership. In some cases the weavers were given land and that possession gave them the same instant status that it afforded men.
Land ownership was not an unmixed blessing. Dairying and truck farming became too arduous for some Indians who sold their land, preferring money in the hand to land-based restrictions. They had adopted the white attitude which viewed land as a profitable possession; no longer viewing it as an open territory which had lost freedom. By the time that the agency disbanded in 1925, less than 70 years after its formation, a large number of Indians had remained land owners or town merchants and were committed to private ownership. As such, they could both work their holdings and enjoy local hunting and fishing.
Oregon Legislature Prohibits Interracial Marriage 1983
Confinement on any reservation was
but Siletz Indians were in a superior position when compared to
Valley or Eastern Oregon tribes during the same period. Intra
had not disappeared but adjustments had been made and intra
was accelerated through unhampered marriage customs with "alien"
as well as with other races.
William Eugene Kent wrote that aside from the policies of the Siletz agents and the adaptiveness of most of the people,
one other factor significantly reinforced changes taking place in the late 1870s and early 1880s, and that was inter-tribal marriage. Recalling that Siletz had originally 14 different tribes, it stands to reason that marriages among the tribes would occur sooner or later. With the decline of population, young people almost had to marry outside of their tribe. Ms. William Smith, for example, was half Lower Umpqua (Kuitsh) and half Siuslaw, and her husband was an Alsea. Other examples were Leo and Elmer Lane, orphaned brothers who lived at the Siletz Boarding School. The Lane brothers were half Rogue River, one-fourth Alsea, and one-fourth Tillamook. The children of mixed heritage usually do not perpetuate any tribal characteristics to any extent, and, coupled with a white education, the Indian cultures were disappearing. Some tribes by now had as few as five members and most no more than 50. There was in fact hardly any tribe in which to perpetuate traditions.
Aboriginal tribes had restricted themselves in different ways towards intermarriage. Alsea preferred to marry Yakonan or Siuslaw who were culturally akin, a though they had no taboo against others. Similarly, Athapascan women did not discourage their daughters from marrying into other tribes or into other races (but they did warn against the practice of polygamy). Takelma intermarried with Shasta or Galice Creek (Taltushtuntude) whose cultural customs were somewhat similar.
Slave Trade Continues 1864
Slave trade had not been easily
ancient practice stood in the way of Indian acceptance of
customs. Slavers did move in and out of Siletz, but "alerts" to
the raids were maintained as late as 1864.
Siletz did not suffer as many raids as Grand Ronde because of the latter's elected commander, Tyee Qu'Yagats', a Tualatin Calapooya. He was a powerful leader, thought to have eagle dream power, and was known to have acquired much property; horses, cattle, and, more pertinent to the issue, many personal slaves and several wives. Missionaries were especially anxious to bring about monogamous family units as legitimized by state laws when Indian women married into the white community. However, when Indian men took wives from their own tribes, tribal wedding rites were observed but the rites were in addition to formalities according to non-indian laws. In this the missionaries strongest allies were Athapascan women.
Christian teachers had a profound effect on Indian women who had been introduced to the faith while still in the southland. As the missionaries relieved the misery of epidemic illnesses they had little difficulty convincing the Indians that non-indians could be "good." When foodstuffs promised by the government failed to materialize, the food and friendship offered by some compassionate non-indians needed no official stamp to be appreciated.
Yaquina Bay "Red Dawn" Threat 1868
According to Benton County historian,
D. Fagan, the night of September 11, 1868, is one to be
inhabitants of the Yaquina Bay country, being that of a supposed
Indian Massacre at the Siletz Reservation, when all of the
to be murdered in cold blood and the agency buildings burned to
The people at the Premier Sawmill were awakened from their peaceful slumbers in the dead of night and an express messenger started to alarm all squatters along the bay. The house of William Mackey presented the most favorable locality for defense, the women and children along the Depot Slough and in the immediate neighborhood were taken to that place for protection, while the men stood guard around the house to protect them from the merciless foe.
The express continued on its mission down the bay, to Newport, alarming everybody on its way, arriving at the town at break of day and ringing a note of danger. Men, women and children flocked to the Ocean House prepared to meet the "painted savages" in all the horrors of Indian warfare. Day at last dawned upon the scene, as the orb of day advanced and showed with resplendent beauty upon—what? The "bloodthirsty warriors" from Siletz? No! But upon the placid waters of the Yaquina wind peacefully to the ever-lasting bosom of the ocean.
Some of the most daring men started for the reservation where they arrived at 4pm in the afternoon, to find—not as they had supposed, all the white people murdered, their homes plundered and their dwellings in smoldering ruins—but all in good health, yet somewhat crest-fallen; some "elderly Indian women," with their mystical baskets gathered firewood; and a few of the braves sitting in circles, talking over the events of the day and wondering what could have brought so many "Bostons" to the agency.
The whole of this sensation arose from the murder of a Indian near Corvallis by a man named Ballard, for which he was arrested and tried.
Ballard vs. Indian Frank
It is interesting to watch the effect
act had upon the Indians.
In a letter to the Corvallis Gazette, dated September 29, 1868, agent Benjamin Simpson, explained his actions, which appear to have been conducted with much skill and ability. He said that when he found the Indians very much excited both in consequence of the Indian that had been killed and in seeing so many whites around,
...I proceeded immediately to explain the whole affair to them. I told them that the man who killed Indian, Frank was in the Skookum House (jail) in Corvallis and that he would remain there until he could be tried by the law. They seemed to think that I should have killed him at once, as Gen. Palmer told them, when he made the treaty with them, that after that time, if a white killed an Indian, that he would be killed immediately. I told them that was true, that if a white man killed an Indian without cause he would be hanged. They of course then wanted to know why I did not hang him. I explained to them that the man had to be tried before the Great Tyee (chief) of the law and if he found he should have it done. They seemed to doubt this, as they said that several of their Tilecums (people) had been killed by white men, and that none of them have been hanged, or even tried. I let them know that this was before I had charge, and that now they would find I would have the man tried and that if he had killed the Indian without cause, that my opinion was, that he would be sent to the penitentiary for life. This seemed to satisfy them, and they wanted to know if I would let them go and see him tried and hanged, if he hanged. I told them that the chiefs might go with me and see all that was done. I then told them to go to their houses and say no more about it until I informed them of the trial, and if they wanted to fight at any time, to let me know and I would take a hand in it. They promised to obey my orders strictly, which I am happy to say they have done.
But this was not the only "Indian scare" experienced by the residents of Yaquina Bay; indeed they were of very frequent occurrence dating back from the time the Indians were harshly uprooted and forced onto the reservations at Siletz and Alsea.
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