The Siletz Indian Reservation 1855-1900 by William Eugene Kent

Published by Lincoln County Historical Society, 1977, this 53 page volume is the story of the removal of Native Americans from the Willamette Valley beyond the “Coast Range barrier” to 1.3 million acres on the coast, an area that was “nearly or quite worthless.” Twenty-five hundred (2500) people, representing at least 22 distinct tribes, were placed on the land. They were held there forcibly by the army for ten years.

Quotes by several chiefs from a diary and letters of white men involved describe the Indians’ experience of the removal. A Shasta chief, John: “…many of my people have died since they came here; many are still dying. There will soon be none left of us…We have no game; we are sick at heart; we are sad when we look on the graves of our families…”

Based on annual reports to the Bureau of Indian Affairs by the agent [chief administrator], physician, or teacher, much of the book details the efforts of white men and women to “civilize” Native Americans, or bring their dress, behavior, and customs in line with agrarian and Victorian values. The book also details the decline of the Native American population to less than 500 people due to starvation and new illnesses, and it describes the “melting away” of more than 80% of reservation land for settlement by whites. This land grabbing began only 10 years after the removal when marketable oysters were found in Yaquina Bay.

For anyone interested in Oregon history, Oregon trail history, Native American history, place names in Oregon,or the land upon which you are currently living, this is a worthwhile read.

Reviewed by Lily

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