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Oregon in the 1840s


Rogue River valley
Rogue River valley

At first the Native Americans accepted the presence of Europeans in the region. However, an exception was a massacre at the Whitman mission near Walla Walla in 1847 by a band of Cayuse people. The Cayuse did not trust the Whitmans because a large number of Cayuse died in an outbreak of the measles while the white people survived. The measles epidemic added to the pressure the Cayuse felt from the increasing white population. The massacre created a great deal of distrust and fear among settlers. In 1851 a group of three United States Indian Oregon Treaty commissioners negotiated six treaties with the Native Americans in the Willamette Valley, but Congress never ratified them.

Later Anson Dart, Oregon’s first Superintendent of Indian Affairs, negotiated a number of treaties with Native Americans, granting them special fishing and grazing rights, but these treaties were also never ratified by Congress.

Joel Palmer, appointed as Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1853, managed to obtain treaties from a large number of Native American peoples by 1855. These treaties were designed to reduce white contact with Native Americans and to place Native Americans on reservations. In exchange for ceded land, Native Americans were granted money and annuities. These treaties, however, did not reduce the tension between American settlers and Native Americans.

In the 1850s, after whites in the Rogue River valley massacred some of his people and destroyed their villages, Chief John of the Rogue River people waged war. He surrendered in 1856 and was imprisoned; his people were moved to a reservation. The Modoc War of 1872 and 1873 broke out when a band of Modoc, led by Captain Jack, refused to stay on the Klamath Reservation. Hiding in the lava beds of northern California, about 50 Native Americans fought off more than 1,000 U.S. troops until they were forced to surrender.

In 1877 Oregon settlers tried to move the Nez Perce from their land in the Wallowa Valley to a reservation allocated to them in a treaty. Led by Chief Joseph, Looking Glass, and others, the Nez Perce retreated through Idaho and Montana, inflicting a number of defeats on pursuing U.S. troops before surrendering a short distance away from Canadian territory. "Oregon" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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