Caruthers Park Naming

In 2010 a small parcel of land in the new SW Waterfront development area in Portland was named “Elizabeth Caruthers Park“, after a “pioneer” in the area. This didn’t sit too well with the local Native American Community, who thought it somewhat presumptuous to ignore the 10,000 year plus occupants of this land. The Portland Youth and Elder’s civic engagement team, along with other members of the Portland Native Community, jumped into action.  Here’s a couple of videos about this: [Read more…]

The People are Dancing Again

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.


Requiem for a People

Beckham, Stephen Dow. Requiem for a People: The Rogue Indians and the Frontiersmen. 1971.

Probably one of the first really depressing books I ever read. Part of the reason I became involved in “genocide awareness” work. This is a historical look at the Rogue Indian Wars in SW Oregon, and their forced, almost genocidal removal to a reservation that became Siletz, Oregon. The reservation, and the tribe, was “Terminated” by the U.S. Government in 1951. My mom made me read this in 1974, when I was in high school, during the time when she and many others were working to have the Siletz (confederated) Tribes restored. Restoration happened in 1977. This book has been superseded by E. A. Schwartz’s The Rogue River Indian War and Its Aftermath (1988) and Charles Wilkinson’s The People are Dancing Again (2010), which is the official history of the tribe.

Beckham still teaches and lives in the Portland area, I’ve talked to him by phone once or twice, and hope to catch up with him to do an interview about his works on Oregon Indians.