Siletz Reservation

This agency is occupied by the Indians remaining of 31 tribes, namely, the Tootootna, Mequonnoodon, Joshua, Cheteo, Coquille, Tillamook, Euchre, Klamath, Shasta, Costa, Klickitat, Alsea, California, Umpqua, Nahltanadon, Sixes, Smith River, Galice Creek, Thachundon, Applegate, Nestucca, Port Orford, Calapooya, Illinois, Shasta, Snake, Yaquina, Siletz, Coos, Salmon River, Chinook, and Rogue River Indians. The agency was located in 1855, and all the various tribes named above, or rather representatives of these tribes, were placed here in the fall of that year as prisoners of war, except the Yaquinas, the Alseas, the Siletz, and the Salmon Rivers, and they were found within the boundaries of the reservation as it was first established, settled along the coast at the mouth of the rivers bearing their names. The Indians are all from within the boundaries of Oregon, except the Californias; they are few in number and are from just across the line on the edge of the state. The Klamath, the Rogue River, the Coquille, and the Tootootnas were by far the most powerful tribes. There were a large number of the Joshuas, but they are very closely connected with the Tootootnas, the home, of the latter being on the south side and the Joshuas on the north at the mouth of Rogue River, both tribes being called. Salt Chucks by the Indians of the interior. The following gives the locations of the different bands or tribes at the time they were placed on the reservation:

  • The Klamaths are a band from a large and powerful tribe that inhabited the Klamath Lake and Klamath River country in southern Oregon, and one of the leading bands in number and importance on this reservation.
  • The Coquilles are next in number and their former home was well tip the Coquille River in Coos County, Oregon. The Rogue Rivers at an early day were the most powerful and warlike of any Indians in southern Oregon. Their home was well up on Rogue River in the mountains.
  • The Tootootnas and Joshuas are separate and distinct tribes, though their homes were close to each other, the Rogue River dividing them, the Joshua on the north and the Tootootna on the south. They are fish eaters and do not follow the chase like the Indians of the interior.
  • The Mequonnoodons lived on the Rogue River just above the Joshuas. The tribe is small.
  • The Thachundons, on the south side of the Rogue River, near and above the Tootootnas.
  • The Chetcos, on a stream of that name that empties into the Rogue River. A small tribe.
  • Euehres, on stream of that name on north side of Rogue River.
  • The Sixes, just north of the Euchres on Sixes River, were a small tribe.
  • ‘The Galice Creeks, north of the Rogue River, on a small stream bearing their name. A small tribe.
  • The Smith Rivers, on Smith River, Jackson County.
  • The Shastas, in the mountains on tributaries of Rogue River.
  • The Shasta Costa, on the ocean south of the mouth of Rogue River.
  • The Snakes are few in number. Their home was on Snake River, eastern Oregon.
  • The Nabltanadons lived on the ocean beach south of Port Orford.
  • The Californias, a small band, lived just over the line in California.
  • The Cooses, a tribe from Coos Bay, now almost extinct.
  • The Umpquas, a tribe from the Umpqua River, in Douglas County-. But few left.
  • The Calapooyas were located in the southern portion of the Willamette valley. But few left.
  • The Klickitats occupied the middle portion of the Willamette valley. But few are left.
  • The Chinooks, a once powerful but friendly tribe, occupied the north end of the Willamette valley and along the Columbia River. But few of them are left.
  • The Applegates lived on Applegate creek, in Douglas County. A small tribe.
  • The Tillamooks, a small tribe, lived at Tillamook Bay.
  • The Nestuccas, a small tribe, lived at the mouth of Nestucca River.
  • The Salmon Rivers, a small tribe, at the mouth of Salmon River.
  • The Siletz, It small tribe, at the mouth of Siletz River.
  • The Yaquinas, a small tribe, at Yaquina Bay.
  • The Alseas, at one time a large tribe, lived on the Alsea bay.

All these Indians are natives of Oregon except a few straggling California Indians, who were caught up in the war; they were all taken from their native homes and placed here at about the same time. They have now intermarried, and it is difficult to distinguish tribes, although when they were first placed here they drew the line very closely.–T. J. Buford, United States Indian. agent.

Siletz Reservation

Siletz Indians in Hop Yard
Siletz Indians in Hop Yard

The Siletz reservation is situated west of the coast range of mountains and just south of the forty-fifth parallel, being partly in Benton and partly in Tillamook County, Oregon. Its area is 225,000 acres. The climate is cool and moist, and early and late frosts are so prevalent that some of the garden vegetables seldom mature. The cereals do fairly well, especially oats, which is the crop on which the Indians depend. Wheat is successful in a few localities, but in many places it rusts so badly that it is seldom sown. The area that can be cultivated at little or no expense for clearing is, approximately, 25,000 acres; 100,000 acres more are covered with brush and timber. The soil is a rich sandy loam, derived from the disintegration of the miocene sandstones and shales and the basalt of the surrounding hills, which has been deposited along the bottoms by the waters of the Siletz and Salmon Rivers. The soil of the rolling hills along the coast is made up of the decomposed miocene rocks, which contain abundant remains of plants and mollusca, giving to it the constituents necessary to abundantly produce plant life, Coal is known to exist in several places, and large pieces of chalcopyrite, a sulphide of copper and iron, have been found in the bed of Mill creek, a small stream emptying into the Siletz River about a mile south of the agency. Gold in small quantities has been found in the gravel along the Siletz River.

The rolling hills along the coast are covered with a luxuriant growth of native grasses, which, owing to the prevalent fogs, keep green the year round, furnishing abundant and nutritious food for sheep, cattle, and horses. Swine also do well on the range, feeding on grass, roots, and berries.

The Indians on this reservation are the remnants of 34 different tribes, but they are so intermarried that it is the exception to find a man, woman, or child under 35 years of age who can tell to which tribe he or she belongs. They are all well advanced in civilization, and many of them have good, comfortable, commodious houses, with well fenced fields and gardens. Some of them cultivate their lands as well as the white farmer, but many allow ferns, mustard, and thimble berries to grow in their gardens. The farming land in cultivation lies along the Siletz River, and is divided into 3 districts about 5 miles apart. At the upper farm, as the district highest up the river is known; there are several hundred acres in cultivation, upon which only oats are raised. Six miles below is what is known as the agency farm, where there are probably 2,000 acres of arable land. All the fields about the agency farm are foal with radishes, the seed and pods of which, mixing with the grain, greatly depreciate its value. Five miles below the agency farm is the lower farm, of which probably 1,000 acres are tillable. In addition to this, along the river between these different farms is a considerable body of bottomland covered with elder, vines, maple, cottonwood, and underbrush.

This season the 2 thrashing machines were in the hands of the Indians. The work was done thoroughly and expeditiously and would compare favorably with that of the whites. The yield in oats this year will average 30 bushels to the acre, which will sell for 40 cents per bushel. As fast as they finished thrashing they obtained passes for their families (excepting the children of school age, who were compelled by the agent to remain in school) and went oat to the Willamette valley to pick hops, at which work they are said to earn often $3 per day.

The distance from the agency to the lower farm by canoe about 30 miles. The bottomlands are covered with a heavy growth of underbrush and in some places are heavily timbered. Devils Lake is a body of water some 4 or 5 miles long and from a half to three-quarters of a mile wide, and lies about a Toile back from the beach and about 3 miles south of Salmon River.

Some of the land in this vicinity is well adapted to agriculture, but not above 40 acres is now in cultivation. Many whites from the towns in the Willamette valley encamp along the streams near the beach. The woods abound in game and the streams and lake in fish. The beach is excellent for surf bathing, and a natural drive of 12 miles extends along the beach at half-tide. The land along Salmon River for 8 or 10 miles above its mouth is of good quality, but very little of it is cultivated, the Indians in the vicinity relying on fish for food.

The Siletz Indians are anxious to have their lands allotted to them under the act of February 8, 1887. They are desirous that the balance of the reservation be thrown open to entry under the homestead and pre-emption laws, and the only reserve they ask is the exclusive right to catch salmon in Siletz and Salmon Rivers.

The allotment of land is what is most needed to advance these Indians, although the act under which these allotments must be made is faulty in many particulars. Its faults become readily apparent to the most casual observer who visits a, reservation where allotment exists and contemplates what the result will be when the Indian becomes a citizen of the United States, clothed with the right to vote. Allotment patent, and citizenship will follow in close succession. Citizenship, or at least right of suffrage, should not be granted until the title in fee is passed and that should not be earlier than the time specified in the act.

Another matter that needs correction is the allotment of land to old and infirm persons. Where such allotments have been made the result shows that none of the land so allotted is cultivated, and that the agent is obliged to furnish clothing, subsistence, and other necessaries in order to keep such Indians alive, for the children seldom or never look after their parents, and as the law stands there is nothing to induce them to do so save affection, which few of them possess. They know they will inherit the land of their parents, and that no will or other disposition of the property they may choose to make can deprive them of their inheritance. The act should be so amended that allotment be made only to those who are able to make some use of the land. A home for the old and infirm should be built by the government; and all such people placed therein under the charge of a competent physician. When a person dies without heirs before acquiring title in fee the lauds should revert to the general government.

Another thing that requires attention is the granting of allotments to Indians and half-breeds who have already had the benefit of the homestead and pre-emption laws, and who have exercised the right of suffrage for many years; but who recognize in the allotment act an. opportunity to acquire more land. They therefore visit a reservation where good land is to be had, claim that they are members of some tribe living on the reservation, and ask for the allotment of land to them and their children. If the agent refuses they appeal to Washington. The issuance of supplies, implements, and everything of every name and nature whatsoever should be discontinued where allotments have been made to Indians as well advanced in civilization, as are those at Siletz and Grande Ronde. Of course there are circumstances which should govern eases of Indians differently situated from these, where it will often be found necessary to issue farming implements, wagons, tools, and occasionally subsistence, but the sooner the practice is abolished the sooner will the Indian of necessity become self-supporting and turn his attention to the economical administration of his affairs. As the practice of the department is now carried on a premium is offered to laziness and roguery. One will do nothing to earn a living, or at most make but a scant pretense of doing so, while another will turn his crop into money, trade the new wagon or harness issued to him by the agent for an inferior wagon or harness, where he can get a few dollars “boot,” bringing the broken wagon to the agency blacksmith for repairs at government expense, and calling on the agent for subsistence to tide him through the winter, representing that he is unable to collect what is due for his crop, or that he has expended the money for improvements on his place or in the purchase of stock and other things.

The establishment of a home for the old and infirm, which I have already mentioned, has many things to recommend it. The government recognized that the old and decrepit Indians should be furnished with the necessaries of life, and such are therefore issued to them by the agents; but it is often the ease that younger members of the family or the ‘neighbors prevail on the old people to part with what has been issued to them for little or no consideration. The sick and afflicted should be provided for, and all persons suffering from a disease which requires constant treatment or certain sanitary conditions which are neglected at the home of the patient should be removed thereto.

In appearance the Indians at Siletz are entirely different from those at Klamath, being short in stature and made up of bone and muscle. They are all very light colored, many of the full bloods looking like half-breeds. There is a great deal of white blood mixed with the Indian blood of the Siletz people, and as a result they are more teachable and more industrious than those at Klamath. They all dress in citizens’ clothes, and on Sundays present a very good appearance, rigged out in their finest apparel, looking more like Spaniards than Indians.

The ravages of syphilis are apparent in the majority of the men and women, disclosed by hideous scars on the face and neck. The children show the taint in their blood by scrofulous sores and ophthalmia. This latter disease is quite prevalent. Although the Indians of Siletz, being nearer civilizing influences, are far in advance of the Klamaths in civilization, they still cling to the medicine man, who has been discarded by the latter. It is true they call in the physician, but they also procure the services of the medicine man, and when remonstrated with for doing so they say he can do no harm, that he doctors the spirit, while the white doctor treats the body.

The adjudication of difficulties between the Indians at Siletz is done by an Indian court, consisting of a judge and 2 assistant justices, selected from the police force. Punishment is meted out to offenders by fine or imprisonment, or both, the fine generally consisting of a number of days’ work on the government farm or about the agency buildings. Religious training influences them but little. The oath is administered by the judge to all witnesses examined, and they all understand the nature of it, hut few of them respect it.

Drunkenness, assaults, adultery, and perjury are too common crimes. These Indians comply with the state laws relating to marriage and divorce. Marriages are always performed by a justice of the peace or minister and license to wed is invariably obtained of the county clerk. Divorce proceedings can only be instituted in the circuit court.

On the Siletz River below the agency are 2 conical shaped rocks of amygdaloidal basalt, about 100 yards apart, projecting above the water 8 or 10 feet, 1 of which is known as “medicine rock”, the other being called a woman. It is supposed that the Tillamook Indians regarded these rocks with reverence, and whenever, they passed the place offered some tribute, such as a handkerchief, necktie, or, if nothing better was at hand, a rag torn from their clothing, and these were tied to bushes on the bank, and were supposed to insure the givers exemption, from sickness.

The deaths for a number of years have been greater, than the births.

The school and boarding hail at Siletz are pleasantly situated on rising ground about one-fourth of a mile east of the agency office. The dormitories and all the rooms about the boarding hall are neat and clean, but the grounds about the buildings are in a bad condition. The pupils at this school are well advanced in their studies, considering that the average age of the children is only 11 years.

The sawmill is located a short distance from the agency office, close to the Siletz river. Steam power is used to run the machinery. An Indian who desires lumber sawed delivers the logs at the mill and furnishes all the help necessary to cut the lumber, except the engineer, who is paid by the government.

The blacksmith shop is in charge of an Indian, who does his work well. The buildings about the agency are scattered. The houses occupied by the employ6s are old. The carpenters employed on the buildings are all Indians, and do some very good work. Several of the young men, who have completed their education at the Chemawa School, are flue workmen, although but few of them make any use of their learning.

The census at Siletz was taken by the agent, who visited each habitation, and the enumeration and replies to questions on the general schedule are as accurate as it is possible to get them. There are about 150 or 200 Indians scattered along the coast of Oregon, from the California line to Siuslaw bay, who really belong on the Siletz reservation.

General Remarks And Recommendations

Siletz And Grande Ronde Reservations

I urge that allotments be made at once on the Siletz and Grande Ronde reservations, and that patents issue as soon thereafter as possible; that the land remaining unallotted be sold or thrown open to settlement, arid that the agencies be abolished, as these Indians are ready for citizenship.

Siletz Reservation,

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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