Another Trail of Tears

Trails of Tears

The Tillamook Indians, cordial hosts and friends to the visiting Americans in 1806, may have numbered about 2,200 persons at that time. By 1841 sexually transmitted diseases, smallpox, measles, and influenza epidemics contracted from white traders reduced them to about 400 souls. As immigrant settlement increased, the Indians were even attacked by self-styled white "exterminators."

Early in the 1850s most of the survivors,along with the remnants of about 15 other Indian nations in northwestern Oregon, were marched from their homes to a 69,000-acre Coastal Reservation on Oregon's Salmon River, 60 miles south of the Columbia and 20 miles inland.

The General Allotment (Dawes) Act of 1887, which gave 160 acres of land to the head of each Indian household, was intended to ease the River Indians into the American mainstream as middle class farmers and, in the time-honored conservative catch-phrase, "get the government out of their lives." However, it also required that "surplus" reservation land be surrendered to the U.S. Government. By the early 1950s there were only 597 acres left in their reservation and so, in the spirit of economy, a government-appointed trustee was directed to dispose of them. That he did—to private interests, for $1.10 per acre; the income was distributed to tribal members at $35 per person. In 1970, tribal property consisted of 2.5 acres and a tool shed next to the tribal cemetery.

In a gesture of reconciliation, the Restoration Act of 1983 restored recognition to the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. In 1988 the Grand Ronde Reservation Act gave back to the tribe 9,811 acres of public timberland, on three conditions: First, that the tribes refrain from competing with the local timber market for 20 years; second, that 30 percent of any income from the timber be used for tribal economic development; and third, that the tribe pay 20 years' worth of back taxes to the two counties in which the timberland lay.

For Further Reading:

Jan Halliday & Gail Chehak, Native Peoples of the Northwest (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1986), pp. 140-42.

William Canby, Jr., American Indian Law (2nd ed., St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1991).

Sharon Malinowski, et al., eds., The Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes (4 vols., Detroit: Gale Research, 1998).