Until recently, there was a general lack of accurate, comprehensive and readily available resources on the history, culture and lifeways of the members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and their ancestors. All, or nearly all of the past writing on western Oregon native history had definitely been written from a non-native perspective. Another common problem has been that content and chronology was often the subject of a convenient sort of fact-editing, so that ethnic bias and general historical mis-interpretation are the result of most earlier writings. With the release of the long-awaited book by Charles Wilkinson, “The People Are Dancing Again” and a few nice surprises, including M. Sue Van Laere’s “Fine Words and Promises” – well-rounded accounts of history and the continuing effects on our Siletz people are now in print and accessible. These examples also underline the correctness of our position in relation to historical and legal interpretive accuracy.
Prior to Wilkinson and Van Laere’s works, publications such as E.A. Schwartz’ “The Rogue River Indian War And Its Aftermath, 1850-1980” come a long way in describing the general conditions, personalities and politics that led up to: the Rogue River Wars; the establishment of the Coast Reservation; removal to the Coast Reservation; and the deliberate and unjustifiable reduction of the reservation without treaty agreement or compensation to the people for lands, waters, foods and other resources taken and/or withheld from them by those actions. However, one still needs to read a variety of sources, educate themselves on the issues & read in between the lines to gain any real clarity on these issues. There have been still, apparently, a few out there with unshakable positions on subjects like the creation of the reservation and its diminishment and who had right to the reservation or portions of it… though specific court decisions, federal Indian case law generally, and position statements (from the 1870’s to the present) by the Bureau of Indian Affairs themselves have been consistently in the favor of our CTSI position.
What follows, is a brief bibliography of books, articles, published reports and other resources that will give everyone from the casual reader to the most avid researcher a place to start, if just beginning to delve into the subject of Siletz Tribal History and Culture. Sometimes these books are out of print, or are hard to find. Some of the resources are in unpublished, raw fieldnote form. Many of these are available at the University of Oregon’s Knight Library, Special Collections: Southwest Oregon Research Project (SWORP) collection. We, at our program offices have copies of most of the books, articles and microfilm reels listed here, but if you live out of the Siletz area, and are not able to obtain copies through your local library’s inter-library loan program, or for those wanting to discuss additional resources, you are welcome to contact our Cultural Resources Director at:
The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
Attn: Robert Kentta, Cultural Programs
PO Box 549
Siletz, Oregon 97380
Phone: 541-444-8244 or 1-800-922-1399
“The People Are Dancing Again – The History of the Siletz Tribe of Western Oregon”
By: Charles Wilkinson
University of Washington Press, 2010
Charles first became acquainted with the CTSI by becoming our legal counsel ca 1974, while employed by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and teaching Federal Indian Law for the University of Oregon Law School in the 1970’s. After successfully helping us achieve Restoration of federal recognition as a Tribe (1977), he returned to Colorado and his work with University of Colorado Law School, NARF, and his many projects and pursuits. In the intervening years, he had written volumes on Federal Indian Case Law (including an update of the Felix Cohen handbook on Federal Indian Law), and eventually began writing on his experiences in working in Indian Country, and observances in working in the field, and became known as not only an important technical writer on Federal Indian Law, but also a popular writer on his life serving Indians, Tribes, and their communities. After being asked if he would consider writing about our Siletz people, he enthusiastically embarked on several years of research, and interviews, and discussions with Siletz people and others to come up with this title, which we are proud to promote here as the best writing available on the history of our Siletz people. Very readable, it is extensively footnoted for those wanting more details on particular subjects mentioned in the main text).
Tribal members who have not ordered a copy of this book can get a form on the Tribal History Book page.
“Fine Words & Promises – A History of Indian Policy and Its Impact on the Coast Reservation Tribes of Oregon in the Last Half of the Nineteenth Century”
By: M. Susan Van Laere
Serendip Historical Research, 2010
This gives an interesting background on the development of Indian Policy from first contact in the Americas forward, including religious doctrinal influences. Sue does a good job of pulling together some previously un-cited sources, and giving full accounts of various Indian Agents and other key players in the taking of Siletz lands. She also ties family histories into perspective – the three daughters of Robert Metcalfe (1st Siletz Agent), being the grandchildren of Tyee John, famous Shasta leader during Rogue River Wars, who brought his family and Tribe to the Siletz Reservation, then was arrested along with one son, and another son being shot dead. John and son Adam were tried at Ft. Vancouver and sent to Military prison at the Presidio, San Francisco for a few years. Robert Metcalfe was accused of leaving Oregon with many thousands of dollars in Treaty appropriations, removed the three daughters from their mother’s care, and paid three off-reservation white families to raise his girls, and give them an education, etc. as he was leaving.
“The Rogue River Indian War and Its Aftermath 1850-1980”
By: E.A. Schwartz
A very good detailed history of the Rogue River Wars & how early political climates in Oregon effected Indian Affairs. Also covers the removal to Coast/Siletz Reservation period, reductions of the reservation, termination of tribal status, restoration of federal recognition, etc. A well-written, balanced perspective.
“Oregon Historical Quarterly – Winter 2010”
Oregon Historical Society publication
A number of articles written by Charles Wilkinson, Robert Kentta, and others about a variety of subjects including: the reasons for, and process of writing “The People Are Dancing Again” from both Charles’ and Robert Kentta’s perspective; also a “dueling article” section on Siletz vs Grand Ronde perspectives on the creation of the Coast/Siletz Reservation, and a Western Oregon Reservations timeline, summarizing the history of treaty ratification calling for temp and permanent reservation(s), and the actual establishment of the Siletz (1855) and the Grand Ronde (1857) under treaties and approved federal Indian policy directives.
“Oregon Indians – Voices From Two Centuries”
By: Stephen Dow Beckham
An impressive compilation of early contact accounts by non-Indians, quotes from Tribal leaders and individual Indians regarding treatment by government, etc. Many of them are otherwise hard to find writings. Each is prefaced by an introductory statement, some of which contain clumsy, and glaring factual errors as to the tribal/linguistic affiliation of the Indian being quoted, and some mis-statement of historical facts, and some contradictory statements within – when comparing various statements [examples being his skewed and inconsistent statements regarding the history of our Siletz Reservation]. Mr. Beckham has worked as a historian for hire for many years, and shows bias towards those he had contractual relations with previously, and shows other biases by asking other academics questions about Indian language translation, rather than the Indian community the quote comes from, making sloppily researched guesses at linguistic affiliation – when a call to the Tribe the person was a member of would have cleared it all up, etc.
“The Indians of Western Oregon – This Land Was Theirs”
By: Steven Dow Beckham
A generally good history of the native people of western Oregon, from contact to treaties, warfare, reservations, reduction of the reservations, termination and restoration.
“A Plea For The Indians Of Oregon”
By: John Beeson
Reprinted By: Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, WA
An amazing book written in the 1850’s by a man chased out of the Rogue River Valley for speaking out against the mistreatment of our Indian people. His wife and child stayed at the farm, while he traveled back east, trying to raise general awareness about what was happening to Indian people. Contains many graphic descriptions of atrocities.
“Requiem For A People”
By: Steven Dow Beckham
Reprinted By: OSU Press, Corvallis, OR
A good general History of the Rogue River Wars. A good early attempt to swing the written historical perspective into balance.
“The Siletz Indian Reservation 1855-1900”
By: William Eugene Kent
Printed By: Lincoln County Historical Society, Newport, Oregon
Written as a Thesis, this is generally good, has some good information especially about conditions on the reservation in the early days. However, there is some incorrect information, such as the reservation boundary maps, etc.
“The Northwest Salmon Crisis – A Documentary History”
Edited By: Joseph Cone and Sandy Ridlington
Printed By: OSU Press
Chapter IV has an article written by Robert Kentta, that explains the history of the reservation and how the lands and resources were (and continue to be) systematically withheld from the Siletz people. Many other articles on the history of salmon run declines in the northwest.
“An Arrow in the Earth”
By: Terrence O’Donnell
Printed By: the Oregon Historical Society Press
A good biography of the life of Joel Palmer [Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon from 1853 -1856 and Siletz Indian Agent from 1871 – 1873]. He was a major player in getting ratified treaties in western Oregon, and selecting the Coast [Siletz] Reservation. His influence and motivation must have diminished after being Superintendent of Indian Affairs, because he stood by and watched the reservation he created get dismantled and taken away from the Siletz people – in violation of the treaties he drafted – without stepping forward. In spite of this, he was generally liked and respected, probably as a man “less bad” than the majority.
“Survival For An Artifact” – Siletz Indian Basketry
By: Leona Letson Kasner
Printed by the Lincoln County Historical Society
579 SW 9th
Newport, Oregon 97365
Good for describing the materials & techniques of classic Siletz spruce and hazel basketry.
“American Indian Basketry and Other Native Arts”
“Traditional Arts of the Indians of Western Oregon”
Vol. IV No. 2 (whole issue No. 14 in the series)
John M. Gogol, Editor and Publisher
American Indian Basketry
PO Box 66124
Portland, Oregon 97266
Good for a general description of pre and post-contact lifeways, especially as it relates to basketry, also mentions other traditional arts. Lots of good early photos.
There is a series of four books by Hilary Stewart that describe and illustrate traditional tools and survival technologies. The subjects are directed at British Columbia and SE Alaska people, but most of the shapes, styles and materials of objects and nearly all the technologies apply to the majority of Oregon Coast cultures, if not all of western Oregon.
“Artifacts of the Northwest Coast Indians”, “Stone, Bone, Antler & Shell – Artifacts of the Northwest Coast”, “ Indian Fishing – Early Methods on the Northwest Coast”, “Cedar”
All but the first one should be able to be provided through the University of Washington Press, Seattle. “Artifacts of the Northwest Coast Indians” is published by Hancock House Publishers, LTD., North Vancouver, BC Canada.
Lifeways, Belief Systems
“Handbook of the North American Indians”
Vol. 7 (Northwest Coast), Vol. 8 (California) and Vol. 12 (Plateau) Smithsonian Institution
The back end of the Northwest Volume has a good series of brief articles that cover the tribes and language groups from all parts of CTSI aboriginal territory, except the Shasta & Tolowa groups and the Molalla, which are in the California and Plateau Volumes respectively. There are also good articles on general topics such as regional traits in: Mythology [roles of certain beings and animals in the creation stories, etc]; Arts [although it mostly focuses on the people farther north], A history of the Shaker Church in the Northwest, etc.
“The First Oregonians”
Published by the Oregon Council for the Humanities (revised edition being published in 2006)
Various authors wrote articles on general introductions to the cultural regions of aboriginal Oregon and each of the Oregon Tribes submitted an article about their own tribal history and culture.
Biographies of Siletz Ancestors
“She’s Tricky Like Coyote” The life of Annie Miner Petersen
By: Lionel Youst
Annie was a major contributor to the bulk of information known about both Hanis and Miluk dialects of the Coos Language. She was half Coos and spoke both dialects of Coos Language fluently. She was an expert storyteller, and knew much about traditional Coos culture. She lived at the Yachats Sub-Agency of the Siletz Reservation in the early days, and married a full blooded Alsea man [Andrew Jackson]. They lived at Siletz Agency for a few years after the Yachats Sub-Agency was closed, her husband was a Siletz Tribal Policeman. Eventually, she moved back to the Coos Bay country with her and Andrew’s daughter Nellie (Jackson) Aason, re-married, and lived out her later years in Coos Bay area. Her descendants are enrolled Siletz members.
“Coquelle Thompson Athabaskan Witness”
By: Lionel Youst and William Seaburg
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Coquelle Thompson Sr. was born on the Coquille River, the son of a Coquelle headman. His father (Washington Tom) signed the 1855 Coast Treaty as a representative of his people. At the close of the Rogue River Wars in 1856, Coquelle and all his father’s people joined many other bands in being removed to the Siletz Reservation. Coquelle was only a half grown boy, but remembered many details of the early struggles of not only his own band, but many others who shared the Siletz Reservation. He lived a long life and carried the memory of many historical, cultural and linguistic details to pass on to the next generations and to share with the many anthropologists who interviewed him from the 1880’s to the 1940’s.
Both available through the Public Information Office of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.
“The People Are Dancing Again” is remastered from the original 1976 film made as a public relations film to introduce the Siletz people to the public and to promote support of the Siletz people’s restoration as a federally recognized tribe. The film aided in the Siletz Restoration Act being passed by Congress and signed into Law in November 1977. This short film is the source of the inspiration for the title of Charles Wilkinson’s book.
“Skookum Tillicum – The Strong People of Siletz”
By: The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, 2002
Produced by: Pacific Media Productions, Newport, Oregon: Dave and Julia Terry
A 34 minute introduction to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, its history, culture and contemporary challenges resulting from bad federal policy applied to the Siletz Reservation since it was established in 1855. This film is intended to correct many mis-conceptions about the Siletz Tribes and Western Oregon Tribal history generally. It is a strong statement of identity from the Siletz Tribal perspective.
Microfilmed copies of the handwritten “Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs – letters sent and letters received”, “Siletz Agency Records and Correspondence”, “Alsea Subagency records and Correspondence”, etc. We also have a good amount of historical documents, reports, etc. as well as large amounts of anthropological fieldnotes recorded in Siletz and around western Oregon by JP Harrington, Homer Barnett, Frachtenburg, Waterman, Drucker, Dorsey, etc. These can be seen only by calling ahead of time and making an appointment with Robert Kentta. Please give as much advance request time as possible. Some materials have been transcribed for easier readability and access.