Wilkinson, Charles. The People are Dancing Again: The History of the Siletz Tribe of Western Oregon (2010)
I first met Wilkinson at an Oregon History Lecture where he was talking at a “Mark O. Hatfield” Distinguished Historians Forum on the history of the Siletz Tribe. Of course, as a Siletz member, I was rather interested, and also not quite sure why this law professor from Colorado was speaking about Oregon Tribe. Turns out that he was the lawyer who helped the tribe active Restoration in the 1970’s, and had been asked by the Tribe to write the official their (our!) official history. This is that history! While the tribes’ history is rooted in genocide and assimilation, which this book does chronicle, it also covers the rebirth of the Tribe (Restoration – 1977) and the continued growth of the tribe as it re-discovers it’s traditions and moves forward. That’s why the People are Dancing Again – quite literally – as the “Feather Dance” was – after being surprised by the U.S. government in the 1880’s.
I did ask Wilkinson if what happened to the Tutuni People (who later became one of the “confederated” tribes of Siletz could be considered “genocide”. He didn’t want to answer the question, and, instead, asked me if I thought it could be. That answer was the impetus for my upcoming documentary on this history of the Tututni side of my family!
I think it is very important to note – that while I do feel this was a genocide, much work as been done by non-indians such as Wilkinson to heal the past. I felt closest to this the night Wilkinson was invited to speak when the Commemorative “Run to the Rogue” reached “Battle Rock” in Port Orford, Oregon. Wilkinson spoke to the assembled crowd of tribal members and supporters, acknowledging what has happened, and talking about his work with the tribe to move ahead. This attitude is also beautifully reflected in the welcoming potluck and feast the Town of Port Orford holds for the Tribe each year when the Run passes through on Highway 101.