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An Oregon Story:
Cottage Grove & the Willamette River

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The Kalapuya & the U.S. Government

The Indians everywhere are willing to sell the larger portion of their countries, if they may be permitted to reserve small, detached portions for future residence. They have an indescribable dread of being removed East of the Cascades.
-- H.H. Spaulding in regards to the Champoeg treaty negotiations, 1851

Click here to get a full size map of the Indians of the Willamette Valley.

White settlers pressured the federal government to remove Indians from productive land by the 1850s. The first round of treaty negotiations took place in the spring of 1851 at Champoeg (now a state park) near Salem. John Gaines, A.A. Skinner, and Colonel Beverly Allen sought to remove valley Indians east of the Cascade Mountains. Negotiators from the Santiam, Tualatin, Yamhill, Molalla, and Luckiamiute bands hoped for small reserves in their traditional homelands. Alquema (Santiam) reminded the U.S. negotiators that

we have been willing to throw away the rest of our country, and reserve the land lying between the forks of the Santiam! You thought it was too much. Then we agreed to take only half of it, and take in the people south of us, if they are willing. You thought it was too much! Then we agreed to take this small piece between the Creek and the North Branch. You want us still to take less. We can't do it. It is tieing us up in too small a place.

Finally, with few alternatives, the Indians signed the treaties at Champoeg. But Congress never ratified them. In 1855, Indian agent Joel Palmer negotiated a reservation on the west side of the Cascades which became official by Executive Order in 1857. The location of the reservation continued to be controversial to white settlers who complained to President Franklin Pierce and threatened violence. Palmer warned the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that

The threatening attitude of the community led me to apprehend a general and combined attack upon the camp of friendly Indians, located at the Grand Ronde, and the slaughtering or driving into hostile position all who might be residing in the valley. I accordingly deemed it necessary to organize a force of armed citizens and place them on the eastern line of the reservation, cutting off all communication between settlements and the Indians. And whilst engaged in this line, to construct a fence from mountain to mountain, as a line of demarcation, across which no one could pass.

While the bands who signed the 1855 agreements with Palmer were eventually located on a reservation within the Willamette Valley, the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887 and successful efforts to terminate the confederated tribes of the Grand Ronde in the 1950s dispossessed the Indians of their meager holdings. Efforts to remove the Grand Ronde people from the valley finally abated with the passage of legislation that overturned termination in 1983. Today, the Grand Ronde own the most successful casino in Oregon, a venture that has allowed them to purchase land and donate funds to the larger state community.

Executive Order, 1857