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'No Treaties for North Oregon Coast' a Glimpse Into U.S. Betrayal of Local Tribes

Published 02/20/23 at 5:49 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

'No Treaties for North Oregon Coast' a Glimpse Into U.S. Betrayal of Local Tribes

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(Nehalem, Oregon) - Treaties between tribes of the north Oregon coast and regional white settlers became almost a dime a dozen, beginning in the 1850s, and then broken over and over again. Among them were those negotiated carefully by Anson Dart, the first superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Oregon Territory. What amounts to going through the motions on the part of the U.S. government turned to absolute betrayal, and Dart's treaties were quickly opposed by the Secretary of the Interior and then never ratified by Congress. It led to decades of confusion and heartache for regional tribes. (Above: Anson Dart)

This dark chapter in Oregon coast history will get some exposure to the light on March 4 in Nehalem, as Dr. David Lewis presents No Treaties for the North Coast, a history presentation given at the North County Recreation District (NCRD) at 3:30 p.m. you'll hear the story of these experiences, including forced removal from native lands.

Dr. Lewis is an Assistant Professor, School of Language, Culture and Society at Oregon State University, and conducts ethnohistory research. He is a member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, where he managed the Cultural Resources Department, and cultural archives and exhibits. He publishes Quartux, the Journal of Critical Indigenous Anthropology about Oregon Territory and north coast tribal history.

Oregon has at best a horrific past when it comes to native tribes throughout the state and along the coast. For thousands of years – perhaps tens of thousands – they lived in this area. There are even theories their great flood stories could be from the massive Missoula Flood in the last Ice Age, when an immense ice damn broke in what is now Montana and carved out the Columbia Gorge and many other features of coastal Oregon and near the coast.


The northwestern region – the Oregon coast, essentially – was populated from Astoria down to Gold Beach, and included the teeming Willamette Valley. As Europeans began trickling in during the early part of the 1800s, violent encounters grew. In the 1850s, the Oregon Donation Land Act was enacted, which began giving away 320-acre tracts of land to thousands of incoming settlers. It was a deed that started even before there were any treaties.

Among the standout encounters was a group of Cayuse warriors attacking the Whitman expedition in Walla Walla, blaming them for the various pandemics that wiped many tribes out.

Another occurred in what would become Bandon on the south Oregon coast, where a group of whites came barreling through, angry over some minor offense of one tribal man, attacking their village, burning everything down and even killing the children. The village of the Coquille was wiped out.

These random, fierce attacks on the part of whites became common throughout the territory.

The presentation is sponsored by Nehalem Valley Historical Society; $10 fee at the door supports NVHS educational programs. NCRD is located at 36155 9th Street, Nehalem. For more information, contact Tom Campbell, Executive Director at MORE NEHALEM / MANZANITA BELOW

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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