Mapping Stolen Lands of Illahee : “Modern” Colonial Oregon and Visioning toward Truth & her Reconciliations

1852 map of oregon territory indian country
This is a very primitive map of the colonial minds perception of Indian Country in the Oregon Territory of 1852 (60 years into the arrival of the first English speakers – over 70 years into a series of pandemic colonial introduced diseases ) – A projection onto a cosmopolitan peoples who at the time lived in porous seasonal village rounds which were usually multi lingual, multi ethnic, multi spiritual autonomous communities with often frequent kinship and trade alliances / visitations extending from the Arctic to Patagonia – not to mention active long standing Pacific Rim alliances…. At the time this map represents, the USA Colonial mind had recently ceded land north of the 48th parallel to Britain (1846) and seized land below the Oregon border – Alta California was ceded by Mexico in settling the Mexican-American War (1848).
Oregon Indian Land Cessions according to the US Federal Government - Map 1
Charles C. Royce compiled The Schedule of Indian Land Cessions and 67 maps outlining those land cessions as the second part of the two-part Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1896-1897. Part two was also printed as House Document No. 736 of the U.S. Serial Set, 56th Congress, 1st Session. This is a world view as seen by the mind of land speculators and the colonial institutions which attempt to legitimize and normalize genocidal colonial activity with a sense of order. The National Park Service, it seems, curates this information and makes it available to relevant government agencies as needed.
Oregon Indian Land Cessions according to the US Feds - Map 2
The indigenous survivors of the genocide against native First Nations of the colonial Territory and subsequent State of Oregon have been dispersed into federally recognized nations whose reservations are now in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming and Oklahoma. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are unique in having peer to peer status with the federal government – a status which may be invoked in the current 2014-2024 Columbia River Treaty process with Canada, the USA and 25 recognized Columbia River Watershed First Nations. Current recognized federal status nations are coded by map zone number in the pdf file linked to below.

Been doing a lot of research and thinking about the origins of Land Title in Cascadia – here is some of what comes up in Illahee – known to contemporary English speaking colonial settlers – as Oregon these days…

Lands ceded in Oregon by Tribes pdf –

The link above is a pdf file that if opened next to these maps connects the mapped zones to the currently recognized tribes  the US Federal government claims ceded territory .

Included in the federal governments recognized nations: Cayuse, Nez Perce, Paiute, Shoshone, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Calapooia, Confederated Bands of Willamette Valley , Coos, Lower Umpqua, Siuslaw, Coast Tribes of Oregon, Coquille, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz, Confederated Tribes of Middle Oregon, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Klamath, Modoc, Snake, Yahooskin Band, Chasta, Scoton, Woll pah pe, Rogue River.  This is an incredibly abbreviated and often misrepresentation of a much more deeply nuanced reality that exists of ethnicity and identity in Indian Country. Our apologies.  We will give this attention in really trying to represent this story. For example, the Klickitat peoples occupied much of the lower Willamette Valley after the epidemics of the 1830’s and are not represented in this federal list.  The Chinook people (many officially a “terminated” people) and many other nations are grouped in the Confederations – as are the Wyam people of Celilo or Cascades and Wascopum of Hood River and the Dalles areas and the Clackamas who occupied what is now east Portland, Milwaukee and Oregon City.
It is important to note that many peoples holding aboriginal title were not represented in treaty negotiations and some have even maintained occupation of aboriginal sites and continue to hold presence with these places to this day. The right to traditional hunting, fishing and gathering places, ceremonial and burial places was never ceded in the minds and hearts of first people. The right to an indigenous diet is fundamental to existence and it’s ongoing denial is ongoing physical genocide.Many in the native food sovereignty movement are working to reverse this. For some of these people the federally recognized tribes have become obstacles as revealed in the historic David Sohappy civil disobedience against the Yakama Nation.  The intransient  legacies of white supremacist  “manifest destiny” folk colonialism which empowered the imperial imagination of the small group of property owning white males, that operated the USA as their enterprise, at the time of most of these cessions, remains a largely unreconciled history and socio/political institutional force on the landscape.
It is also important to note that the rights of colonial state citizens arise from First Nations. Even the US Supreme Court has stated in it’s rulings that despite colonial arrogance to the contrary, it is first people’s who legally have elder rights – as has recently been ruled with the Klamath Nations water rights – hopefully leading to Klamath River Dam removals – and that these rights are primary.  All peoples in this landscape are treaty peoples and there has been active repression of the nature and responsibility of all peoples as treaty citizens. We need treaty history, rights and responsibility education in our schools. The rights of nature herself – typically recognized in traditional indigenous law – such as the supervision of protocols in the salmon harvest – requiring ceremony and subsistence supersede commerce – were never ceded and remain informally articulated in ways that currently are violated by trespasses on the fundamentals of life processes -through colonial commerce and property so called “rights”. Colonial constitutions must be revised to recognize indigenous law and rights of nature if we are to make illegal these ongoing trespasses against the fundamental ecological and community processes of life.
In just attempting  to comprehend the repressed story lines of land title in Western Oregon… Western Oregon First Nations originally assertively negotiated treaties that left them on their historic ancestral lands (occupied over the last 14,000 + years)… with access to traditional harvest sites (though these had been largely over hunted or cattle compromised by the time Oregon officially became a US Territory) intending to share their historic homelands…  and then vigilante militias started a mass murder campaign… and the treaties were never ratified   … and on a forced second round of treaty negotiations the tribes agreed to go onto reservations in hopes of a federal military defense from the folk colonialism profiteering driven massacres…  the newspapers of the time discussed the militia murder campaigns as early war profiteering speculation schemes based on false lies about Indian integrity… Congress paid these murderous militias (after the fact – but the first such payment set off an exponential increase in vigilante militia massacres) for their “work”, making the murderers wealthy…  once on reservations little or no food was supplied (unfunded congressional mandates and corruption) and the death rates were so high people were starving (double digit initial annual death rates) and had to leave in hopes of survival food (and traditional hunting / gathering sites were never ceded in the minds of first peoples despite federal interpretations to the contrary)… where they were being murdered openly…  gold was found and the reservations were unilaterally shrunken before eventually being completely terminated in the 1950’s  (tiny reinstatements began in 1977) … homesteaders would routinely claim land with Indians on site or where seasonal historic use  (fish drying sites, camas meadows etc) was obvious…  and there are several documented cases of massacres committed by claimants.  In the courts of the time surviving witness Indians were not legally allowed to testify – only children of white men could…  and so could not defend themselves in the courts… and the murderers successfully received their claims…
Western Oregon is about 19 million acres… by 1856 all but 1,440,000 acres were forcibly ceded – reduced unilaterally to 293,000 by 1875 – 80,000 by 1910 and to 0 by 1956. Many of the first peoples never signed onto the treaty process – and by international law retain their aboriginal title to much of the Columbia and Willamette… and Oregon…and so there are Shadow Tribes still among us here… The price paid to some Indians as “just compensation” (as little as $145  after “fee” takeaways) for the 1957 flooding of the Celilo fishery would not even pay for a whole chinook salmon today – let alone compensate for destruction of a primary source of regional culture and economy of the last 14,000 + years. Ancient ceremonial songs sung to this day recall the time of the Great Missoula floods that occurred that long ago.
There has never been a truth and reconciliation process for one of the most murderous colonial land grabbing campaigns in the history of the United States in what lives on as the colonial State of Oregon… What would it look like to have a transparent open truth and reconciliation process? What would it take to be ready – without it being another layer of colonial violence?  Who could hold such a space for all of us? How might land titles be corrected without inducing unnecessary trauma? This is traumatic history still actively repressed… what parts of this story did you learn in school? The University of Oregon just initiated an undergraduate Native American Studies minor this year 2013/14 – revealing an ongoing underfunding of scholarship to study these histories and their living legacies!…  and similar processes are being repeated on all of us by the energy, military, education, media  and gmo corporations …through legalizing ecocide & purchasing privileged access to “governance” and court room lawyers (corporate law $3000 an hour billing rates). Exploring these histories disables me at times… but how long do we keep pretending it isn’t real? Or buying into the “I didn’t do it” inheritances of a white supremacist imposed genocidal “manifest destiny” process – remember only the sons of white men could claim title or inherit title to land (in the first half of the states history)… Isn’t all US recognized land title delegitimized by this history?
As people  born into this landscape, or migrated into this landscape with these unreconciled inheritances,  how do we make peace with this?…  We have to face it… And we have to make right the inheritances of genocide. Where are examples of people who have done this work (Twisp)? Our destinies are fused together yet the dishonesty and violence is perpetuated by silence. We have to discover and face the inner states that drove ancestors to participate with these choices and to believe in delusional “manifest destiny” racial constructs… and we need to heal in the light of love and conscious understanding. We need to commit to the care of all life and end the legitimacy of such violence that exists in the forms of the colonial/corporate state. This is work that will leave us uncomfortable and unresolved along the way. It will also recover our humanity. We do this or we pass it on to our children and grandchildren and it only gets more difficult.
Unconscious repressed intergenerational trauma is the most stubborn in being repeated. Somehow we need to learn how to do this work together. There are songs we have yet to sing together. Beautiful healing songs.  Among the most sacred of traditional native gatherings in this landscape – are and continue to be – the work of healing ancestral wounds – the singing and dancing and giveaways of the winter ceremonials. Our ancestors left unfinished work for us. Perhaps there are healing seeds waiting to be revealed by the spiritual elders of the landscape – once enough of us are ready to face this together.  Each people in the landscape carry wounds they must face.  Who are our people and how are we taking responsibility for our wounds – as victims, as perpetrators and as both – for among all peoples betrayal has been internal as well as between peoples. There are poverties of soul that led to these violations – and they return inviting us to realign in new ways.  In listening to one another we may find seeds of renewal and vision for a healing path. Our hearts are bigger than all these wounds.  Indian grandmothers and grandfathers that have prayed on me have taught me that much. Our hearts are bigger than all this.
As a current resident of the Willamette Valley, Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary, who is doing work on the African American – Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, which is also a part of the American landscape has asked – How are the children?
What are we passing forward to the children? They teach us – with their trust – to grow into the magnitude of their trust.  How will we do the work? How have we begun? I feel the pain… and know we will grow stronger in learning how to do this together. Again…
How are the children? What are we passing forward to the children?


Add yours →

  1. Harold Rhenisch June 19, 2014 — 10:35 am

    Well, well, well, this is the British Columbia story, too, except here the land title issue is amplified. This is also the Illahie, and also the Oregon of 1848. I’m going to meditate on the connections and get back to you. Thanks, Harold

  2. Yes we are connected… British Columbia waters are feeding and nourishing and washing along the shores of our homelands… wolves and bears are coming down trying to set trophic levels aright… and we have built all these damn dams which are stopping up the ability of the ocean to keep it’s connections with your waters and soils through the salmon… to sustain the ecological communications of sea and inland wonders….

    In Canada you seem to be capable of actual public conversation about these issues… despite Harpers war against science and earth… down here it is my sense that the Federal Government is so intransigent and most citizens have been so indoctrinated into a legitimacy of the “manifest destiny” doctrines washed up without emphasizing the white supremacist profiteering genocidal legacies of supposedly legitimate land title that it simply is often non starter conversation – just depresses and turns folks off… A friend in a Bellingham choir which chose to represent Lummi musical perspectives reported people actually quiting the choir because they couldn’t deal with the stress in their feelings of white guilt… it requires creating socio / political theatre of some kind which speaks to this inner discomfort… and it seems Native Rights attorneys are often slow to go into the courts where so often decisions could be made that close off potential openings toward reconciliation… despite virtually every treaty that has been made having multiple deeply broken outcomes… just opening the conversation is often perceived as hopeless axe grinding… which makes one enter into thinking about choices between self censorship or going deeper into artistic story… in story there are openings which leave us all free… going deeper into the territories of the soul… the guardian wolves at the door of this opening are strong in their testing of sincerity… and yet one can sense vistas of free spirit energy awaiting release from all the hearts of the region… there is a cost to denial and I think a greater one than most realize…

  3. Thank you for such thorough information and story behind the stories.

    • You are welcome… glad you can appreciate… such tragic unresolved reality to it… that needs good scholarship I have been humbled by my own ignorance, and my communities ignorance… and it is good to feel like the story is coming out more clearly… looking for the balancings of past & future in the fullness of our present!

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