thumbnail of History of Oregon Indians
Transcript
Hide -
I I loved you all, I loved you all; crazy and brave in your young Indian arrogance in that young Indian arrogance and I love you still. When I see any of you, all these years later, all these years later often broken, and defeated by this reservation by alcohol and your own failed dreams. I love you. Still. We'll learn how to breathe this 20th century oxygen, from Twentieth Century oxygen and learn how to dance a new dance and learn how to dance a new dance with a rhythm only Indians possess, with that rhythm only Indians possess, with their rhythm. And make Practice beautiful, innate. Practice beautiful. We're rising from
Alleys and doorways, I'm rising from the alleys and doorways, rising from self-hatred and self pity. Rising up on horses of their own making. I'm rising up on a horse of my own making. Believe me the Warriors are coming back, singing those New songs that sound exactly like the old ones. Twentieth Century oxygen, maybe that is Indian poet Sherman Alexie's phrase for the deadly alchemy of Indian and White relations. For the clash of Indian and white values has been fatal to much Indian culture. Today whites remain largely ignorant of the history of Indian white contact while Indians learn to breathe 20th century oxygen and struggle to resolve the generations-old conflict. Listen.
[indigenous language speaking] This is a dead language. No one in the world can speak it. It is a dialect of the Coos tribe from the Oregon coast. We can hear this echo of the past because of a partnership between an Indian woman and a white man. It was in the 1930s, using the crude disc recording technology available. University of Washington linguist Melville Jacobs recorded this subject: [indigenous language speaking]. Her name was Annie Miner Peterson. She was a Coos Indian, and she was more than 70 years old. She recounted myths and sang songs from her childhood for Dr. Jacobs' microphone, and her story is a primmer of Indian-White relations of the time. She remembered at Jacob's urging the horrible events that befell her people when she was a little girl.
It is the 1850s, just before Annie Peterson's birth. The Coos people are peaceful, but the Army fears they will join forces with southern Oregon tribes, tribes that are at war with whites. The U.S. Army. Has forcibly removed the Coos tribe from its villages at Coos Bay. At length, the tribe has been marched up the coast here to Yachats where it is held against its will. In an early photograph taken at Fort Umpqua, south of Yachats, we see white guards at a coastal stockade. The vague image photographed by a crude 1858 process includes the prisoners, members of another tribe accused of fighting whites. They were eyewitnesses to the impact of Indian-White contact. They could give you many reasons for anger at the white world, but so could Annie Peterson.
[indigenous language speaking] [indigenous language speaking]. Annie Miner Peterson's testimony is that her people were given no food at Yachats. The Coos people were beaten by the Indian agents. From Mrs. Peterson and others, we know that the Indians suffered exposure from coastal storms. They tried to avoid starvation by tearing shellfish from the rocks among the waves. Death cut the Indian population in half at Yachats in just five years. [soft flute playing] But the survivors slowly began to make a life for themselves. They cleared the land and began raising food. In 1875 the Congress opened Yachats For white settlement. The settlers took the land from the Indians,
the Coos were displaced again. Anne Miner Peterson tells of the resulting alcoholism and ruthlessness among tribal people she knew. The names of people she watched suffer and die would have been lost, but for her account. Annie Miner Peterson's words are on file at the University of Washington archive on the original disk recording she made with Melville Jacobs. She was likely the last Indian living on the coast to remember the Coos way of life and how it was obliterated. Her people, once in possession of nearly a million and a half acres of land, today have a 6.1 acre reservation. No one in the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw can speak the Coos language now. Well, this hall was built in 1939. This is Bill Brainard, the Chief of the Confederated Tribes. Brainard is a
fighter, struggling to protect his little reservation from what he says is harassment from local governments. There have been bright spots; Brainard has enjoyed cooperation from whites. He is working with the Bureau of Land Management, the Chamber of Commerce and others on a Coos interpretive center. But, white settlers did the real damage to Indians long ago, he says. [Brainard speaking] They came they stayed they conquered. They took the land and then they divide up, set up, really what it was that the land was stolen from these tribes. At the tribal meeting hall the 500 members of the tribe practice their culture. They dance. They drum. They are free of the stares of what Chief Bill Brainard says are frequently unsympathetic townsfolk. Pictures on the walls commemorate elders like Annie Miner Peterson, Chief Tarheel, and others. History is important to Bill Brainard because it helps him understand the present. But he is not happy with the present, where his people are deprived of the life
they valued above all else. We're stuck basically with the six acres and living like a white person. We have no place to go ever, like on the north spit, for example, of what it was, which was all ours. They made part into a national dunes. The port has some of it, they... people buy and sell it. They killed the dunes by stabilizing it. The Indians couldn't go out there and say we want a piece of ground or [inaudible] but other than that your trespassing. [flute playing] The events that were to have such impact on the Coos, the Siuslaw, Lower Umpqua, and many other Oregon tribes began here. This is the Willamette Valley, where Indians have lived for perhaps 10,000 years. But on the fertile banks of the Yamhill river southwest of Newburg, white immigrants established early settlements by the mid 1830s. [music plays]
The settlers cleared the land and built fences and killed the available game to feed their families. At Dayton, one of the first towns established in the valley, there is a decaying relic of those early decades of settlement. An Army block house from old Fort Yamhill stands in the municipal park. It was moved there by patriotic Dayton residents in 1910. [music plays] [birds chirp] Perhaps 30 miles southwest of Dayton in the low foothills of the Coast
Range is the original site of the blockhouse. It is the now forgotten site of Fort Yamhill. Fort Yamhill and its twin Fort Umpqua below Yachats were combined centers for white control of Indians. White America moved in and like I said they came they stayed they conquered and we lost and so it's never been bought and paid for and then, plum up to this day, and there's never been a conversation of any kind given [inaudible] Indians, Congress had said in 1848, held title to their land. Congress said the United States could take possession of Indian land, but only through legal action such as by treaty. And yet, two years later in 1850, without the backing of any treaty, Congress passed the Oregon Donation Act. The Act provided grants of up to three hundred
twenty acres of land to quote: "every white settler or occupant of the public lands, American half-breed Indians included, above the age of 18 years, being a citizen of the United States, or having made a declaration according to law of his intention to become a citizen," end quote. Indians were not U.S. citizens and they were not eligible for the land grant. Within five years of the Donation Act, white settlers had taken 2.8 million acres of land in western Oregon. The government enforced whites' claim to the land, though no treaties with the Indians had been ratified. [flute playing] On the northern boundary of old Fort Yamhill is a narrow path. That is all that remains of the old military road to the coast many miles away.
Indians were marched along this road between the Grand Ronde reservation at Fort Yamhill and the Siletz reservation near the coast. The government's solution to settler fear of Indians was to round up and confine more and more Indians. And Indians, particularly in southern Oregon, under pressure from increasing settlement, were resorting to war. In 1853, The Oregonian, in an article written before Southern Oregon Indians were forced onto reservation land, reflected white fear. It was on September 3rd. The paper's correspondent in the area wrote to quote: "the whole Indian race in southern Oregon will be exterminated. Indeed this seems to be the only alternative left. Self-styled philanthropists at a distance may prate about the cruelty and wickedness of such a course, but were they in the position of our citizens, subjected to the ruthless hand of
savages, they too would be in favor of exterminating the race," end quote. It was this kind of attitude, of course, that produced so much suffering for Bill Brainard's ancestors and others, and the suffering had really only started. [Brainard speaking] That's my grandmother and here's the Brainard boys. There's Jim and Amel and Roy and my father. She had four boys. They took them all away from her except Jimmy and they went to Chemawa and then to Greenville because in those days an Indian lady was not capable of raising her children so they just picked them up and took 'em. [Host speaking] Chemawa, Greenville, are familiar names to the Indian people, for Chemawa and Greenville were two of the many Indian boarding schools established in the U.S. from the 1870s onwards. The government had taken the land that had sustained Indians for thousands of years but the now displaced Indians were still around. The government moved to
break the social bonds that gave Indians a cultural identity. The government intended ,more or less, to turn Indians who were clearly not going to disappear, into white people. [flute plays] Students like these, photographed at Chemawa in the 1870s, were taken from their families and placed in schools when very young. The schools work to replace Indian tradition in the minds of the youngsters with white ideals. [Woman speaking] Of course we'd whisper on in Indian and they'd say no, no you cannot, You know you don't talk Indian here. Verbena Green and Bernice Mitchell are sisters, they are both elders of the Warm Springs Indian reservation. They were both educated at Chemawa Indian school at Salem. Each attended the school more than 50 years
after it opened. But Chemawa was still trying very hard to erase Indian culture. Bernice and Verbena were pressured at Chemawa to forsake their Indian ways. There was to be no dancing, no drumming, no Indian language. Bernice recalls the school in winter, 1927 and a peculiar punishment students suffered for practicing their culture. The punishment involved a frozen propane pipe. [Bernice Mitchell speaking] If we were caught talking Indian, we stood by that pipe. It was propane pipe and boy, they put our lips right on that pipe. We did not learn to talk in our tongue. And so My leaves the scene burned up many times from that Indian school. [crows cawing] [indigenous language speaking]
[Host speaking] But the sisters still speak the Sahaptin dialect of the Warm Springs tribe. They still practice their culture. It is the middle of February, the two women say we are six weeks away from the root gathering time in spring. [Woman speaking] This year, it's our Indian celery, you have to pick the medicine kind of 'round the hill where, you know, nobody else lays eyes on it. That's how it's always been. [Host speaking again] The sisters grew up here at the far end of Dry Creek Valley Canyon. The Canyon is a place of vision quests and spirits and the women have memories of encountering spirits making their vision quests here as girls. But Verbena and Bernice say they had still another shield against Chemawa's demands. [Woman speaking] The culture is to live like our ancestors did, the Cleanliness of your body, mind and
soul. [Second woman speaking] Every morning you would wake up to the old folks or your mother or your father singing a song. Either the worship song or one of the dancing songs. Every morning, that's what you woke up to. [Host speaking] Bernice and Verbena had the strength to weather Indian boarding school without losing their cultural values. Many of their contemporaries were not so fortunate. [Woman speaking] They come up here and drink and many times I've had to chase them off. [Host speaking] Experts believe alcohol and drug addiction among Indians today results partly from boarding school disruption of Indian families. Here is Terry Cross of the Northwest Indian Child Welfare Association. [Cross speaking] But when you have
generations of children growing up in institutions, that natural process where you learn to parent from your parents is interrupted. And the boarding schools taught our people how to be abusive, how to be cold and, and institutional. Certainly it didn't pass on to them ways of nurturing and caring. About half of all Indian people alive today were either reared in boarding schools themselves or are children of people who were reared in boarding schools. And that impact on our families has been tremendous. [Woman speaking] If I was not a strong person in culture, if my people were very weak, probably I'd have turned out to be an alcoholic or I'd turned out to get frustrated and probably turned to drugs and everything else that everyone else does. 'Cause Today's children who do not live this way and is
hungry for it, and they find very few of us who've believe this culture. There isn't enough of us to go around to teach everyone. [flute plays] [Host speaking] Indian boarding schools tried to erase Indian language and culture for 60 years and longer. But he believes he too has suffered from his father's painful Indian school
years. [Man speaking] He used to be taken down stairs in the basement and whipped with a rubber hose when he spoke the Wasco language. And ah, and that was kind of brought down into our family as kind of his history. And so when his, when him and my mom got together they had decided as individuals that they wouldn't teach their children that language. So that always stayed behind me. And so they raised the five of us as, ah, in the Western culture type of household and we didn't learn the traditional, and so I spent 35- 39 years of my life denying who I was, a Wasco Indian here, and in time I began to realize that, that I was losing myself because of that, so I returned here to Warm Springs and I began to take an interest in my people. [Host speaking] The Siletz reservation boasts about twenty four hundred members and a modern
tribal hall. To the Siletz Indians, the hall is a symbol of their capacity to survive federal policy. In 1954 the US government decided the Siletz tribe no longer existed. 61 tribes, in fact, mostly in Oregon, were terminated, declared to no longer exist by a congressional termination act. Chief Bill Brainard's tribes: the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw were also affected. [Brainard speaking] It's just plain right down terrible because the government says you're not Indians any longer so there were certain programs that the government worked with Indians on that we could, prior to termination, that we could work through. Well when we were terminated, That said the federal government didn't recognize but all the laws they said they want us in the mainstream USA. [Host speaking] Under termination policy developed by former Oregon Governor Douglas Mackay, then secretary of the interior, Indians had no rights as Indians. Indians, secretary Mackay said, had
already assimilated into wight society and were just like everybody else. [Brainard speaking] I believe Douglas Mackay was one of the biggest damn liars out and I think that they wanted that little bit of land that was left. I believe they they they just wanted it for their own use. [Hose speaking] Siletz reservation had originally been established to confine Indians, get them out of the way when the first settlers arrived in Oregon. But Siletz reservation, the scene of much starvation and suffering in early days, had become home to Indians. [Voice answering phone] Siletz Tribe [inaudible] [Host speaking] At termination, the Siletz people scattered, looking for jobs in Alaska or California or Portland. In 1977, the Siletz Indians won a reversal of termination. They are now trying to bring their tribal members home. [Seagulls calling] At Coos Bay, termination transferred what little tribal land remained to individual tribal members and put it on the tax rolls. Bill Brainard
says that was a cynical government ploy to steal Indian land. And indeed, the land was lost to foreclosure when unemployed tribe members couldn't afford the property taxes. But the tribes tried to stay together, using their former reservation hall as a meeting place. [Brainard speaking] The government said they didn't recognize us and probably most people in town didn't recognize us but we recognized ourselves and so we just, we just done our thing, kept coming down and having our meetings and like I said right on like business is forever. [Host speaking] Like all terminated tribes, the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw had to appeal to Congress to be restored. The tribes were restored in 1984. [music plays] The
The pioneers who came west over the Oregon Trail are celebrated in history books. The settlement of the Willamette Valley was more than a century ago, but sweeping appropriation of Indian land and livelihood still marks U.S. government policy toward the Indians. It is now 1957. Celilo Falls, a plateau Indian fishing ground on the Columbia River for thousands of years, is about to be flooded. It will be drowned in the back waters from the newly constructed Dalles Dam, eliminating forever an Indian spiritual center. Payment to certain adjacent Indian tribes has been arranged, for the falls is on Indian property. But the buyout includes nothing for Indians at Celilo who are not members of the local tribes. But their lives, too, are disrupted. This is Ed Edmo and he is strolling through a former residence of his, the
streets of Portland. Ed is an Indian who was raised at Celilo. His family was affiliated with an Idaho tribe which did not qualify for reparations from the flooding of Celilo. After the falls were submerged, the community broke up. Ed it was still a boy then. Had the Celilo community remained intact, He might have been a fisherman like many of his neighbors. As it was, Ed drifted to the city of Portland when he was 16. He lived on the streets for 10 years. Some of his friends are still there. [Voices shouting] [Edmo speaking] Yeah. How you doing? [inaudible] [Another voice speaking] Long time no see. [Edmo speaking] Yeah, long time. [inaudible] I'm working, I'm teaching a lot. Yeah. [inaudible voices] [Host speaking] Ed is a storyteller these days. It is a skill passed down from his father. For a living, he visits schools throughout the state.
He recites the myths and legends of his people for the young students. Ed is also a writer. [Edmo speaking] I used to drink underneath the Burnside Bridge, on the stairs, I'd go get a bottle of wine and sit on the stairs and drink. Back in the 70s, the mid 70s. [Host speaking] He slept under bridges. He says an alcoholic on the street can get injured easily from falling down, and suffer abrasions and broken bones. [Edmo speaking] I seen this one guy's Facebook, I can't think of his name, he drowned in the river here. Yeah. And Gator, not Gator, Gator, yeah, that man's dead. Stan, Wally, and Brian Jackson. [Host speaking] Ed has transformed those years on the street into short stories and poems and he doesn't regret having lived through them now. [Edmo speaking] Yeah I would sit here and drink. When we'd get done, we'd throw the bottle in. Yeah, we'd spent a lot of time down here. [Host speaking] And he is very clear that what happened to his life when Celilo Falls was drowned
was devastating. [Edmo speaking] So you're not a fisherman, you're going to do something else. We're going to move you out of your house. [inaudible] [inaudible] and displacement really has a toll on a person. you know. And then how do you deal with the anger, the grief. You know, I didn't say goodbye to my friends, we just [inaudible] burned the house and moved, you know, so It's nothing that people get prepared for, you know it's almost like a war. [Host speaking] Ed Edmo is a Shishone-Bannock Indian. He never lived on a reservation. Celilo was a fishing community and the town site now lies under the pavement of I-84. But he found himself and a way to celebrate his culture on the city streets. [Edmo speaking] There's been something. Sometimes it is a song, sometimes a whisper. Sometimes weeping, I hear it. There's been something that has disappeared from my mother earth. I'm not sure of what it was but sometimes at night I can hear it in the wind. Or it comes to me in my dreams,
like the smell of salmon cooking. [flute music] [Host speaking] Portland is many miles from Celilo and many miles from the nearest reservation. But because the city often offers the only prospect for a job, there are perhaps 7,000 Indian people living in the Portland area. Here in the city, as on the reservation, statistics show alcohol is a terrible threat to Indian people. At least one in every nine Indians in Oregon dies of alcoholism directly and alcohol may have broader impact. Indians are much more likely to be murder victims, too, and to die young, than our non-Indians in the state. The infant mortality rate is much higher than average for Indians and so is the accidental death rate.
This is Doni Wilder of the Northwest Indian Health Board. Based in Portland, the board helps 40 Northwest tribes provide health care for tribal members. Doni says the tribes no longer simply take without question whatever financial help the federal government gives them. Like other groups with critical political interests, tribal governments now lobby the federal government for what their people need and the resulting increase in influence, she says, can mean more federal money for alcohol treatment or for family counseling. A developing capacity by Indians to live between two cultures is the source of the tribes' new political power. [Wilder speaking] They may be a religious leader on their reservation or you know a medicine person or something but can still be on the tribal council and travel to Washington D.C. and be walking in the halls of Congress and talking to Congressmen and senators and go home and feel very comfortable with their
religion. I mean there have always been people like that but I think it's much easier for people to live in both worlds now. [Voice in background] [Host speaking] Tribal Unity, nurtured by the Northwest Indian Health Board allows far flung reservations to speak as one. There are Indians perhaps of more than 95 tribal backgrounds living in Portland
today. Kiowa, Tlingit, Sioux, Navajo, Paiute. Each tribe has its own traditions. But at the Bow and Arrow Club, another group allied with the Indian Association of Portland, they share a common connection. [Singing in background] This is a Lutheran church basement in Northeast Portland. Sometimes in street clothes, sometimes in regalia of individual tribes, the Indians celebrate amid the trappings of another culture. [Indigenous ceremonial sounds] Once, Indian agencies in Portland competed for government support. Dissension was fierce and there was no unity. Now they know they must combine their forces. Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and the Black Civil Rights movement opened up education opportunities for Indians, Doni Wilder says. The result is a more sophisticated leadership. They may be college students, they may be program managers. They may love their culture, but they know how to use the system.
[Wilder speaking] Bodes wonderfully well for the future. We have people that are successful in both worlds. That's what we want people to be. I mean that's what we have to be in this country. It's finding a way to live in the other world and not losing your Indian-ness and your self esteem as being Indian. That's what Education and time has done. [Man's voice speaking] And we're going to talk about a larger rattler, a large rattlesnake, [indigenous language] [Host speaking] At the Warm Springs reservation, on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, Education is restoring an aspect of Indian-ness. The Wasco language came perilously close to disappearing. In fact, when this Wasco language class started, there were only four elders still alive who could speak Wasco. [indigenous language speaking]
[indigenous language speaking] [indigenous language speaking] [Man speaking] Bitterroot. [Host speaking] Warm Springs reservation is a confederation of three tribes. There are three native languages spoken on the reservation. It is of course the descendants of the Wasco speakers who are seeking to retrieve that language from the brink of oblivion. Class member Garland Bruno, we met earlier. He is learning Wasco to recover the heritage taken from his father at Indian school. [Bruno speaking] It gives me an identity, the universities had done a study in the United States of people that live to be 70 years
old and older. And there were three common things that they found in the individuals. One of them was these people tend to be flexible. They could change with things that was happening around their environment and they were good in one or two things and the third one was that they had a positive self-esteem. And I could understand that and relate to that with what's going in learning how to speak Wasco and identifying with my people. [music playing] [Host speaking] The Warm Springs reservation owns three radio stations. Two of the stations simulcast rock n roll and together they comprise the top rated radio programming in Central Oregon. But the most popular radio station on the reservation broadcast to a different audience. [radio announcer speaking]
[Host speaking] Like the speaking of native languages, other aspects of Indian culture are uniting Indian people today. For many hours each day, KWSO radio airs a program called Talking Drum. It features local and national performers. Each group or team is called a drum. Black Lodge, Dancing Eagle, The Boys, Wasco Nation, the Mitchell Singers are among the popular drummers. Ken Miller, known on the air as Ken Mann, is delighted at the response the show gets and he shares the public enthusiasm for the Talking Drum. [radio announcer speaking] [Miller speaking] A lot of people call and request favorite songs that they have like what you heard me play are all my favorites, you know, that I like to listen to, I tap my toes and when nobody's here you know I'll sing along you know.
[indigenous drumming and singing] [Host speaking] Drumming and dancing are part of eons old traditions and many tribal members, as we have seen, were separated from those traditions in recent generations. But on the radio and at pow-wows, there is the chance to be a part of them once again. [Man speaking] When the drum beats, that resounding of the drum, brings back the life to everything, to the people, to the animals, to the trees, everything. And these songs were made so that the people can remember their past and look forward to the future. And to try to cope with the things that we do today. And if you have that song in your heart, as long as that song is in your heart, all our people is gonna live. And I really believe that's true. [drumming]
[Host speaking] For some Indians, the dancing and singing have no religious, only recreational significance, but for most Indians, perhaps, as for Warm Springs member Wilson Wewa, ceremony is a source of unity with the people. [Wewa speaking] Different tribes, Canada, United States, the West Coast, the East Coast, Central United States. Whenever the drums come together you have people from all over come into that one place. We're glad to see our friends from long ways. We're glad to be sitting [inaudible] by the people from our own community. Sometimes we're from the same community, we don't see people 'til maybe the pow-wow's on. Then we sit by them and visit with them. And we really feel good when those things happen. [Host speaking] The Indian community is small in the US. No more than 1 percent of the population is classified as American Indian, and though tribal differences abound, dance, drumming, the sweat lodge, the pipe, allow
Indians across the country to share an identity. With fax machines, phones and easy travel, tribes stay in touch reinforcing their sense of mutual values. Indians may be more united and potentially more influential nowadays than ever before. At Sea-Tac, a municipality bordering the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians are meeting. A shared goal of the 22 tribes gathered here is increased economic development on the reservations. Antone Minthorn is tribal council chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton. At the conference, Minthorn talks legislative strategy and administrative
efficiencies that can improve reservation services. {Minthorn speaking] Thank you Dale. Good morning. [Host speaking] Minthorn is always on the go. There are countless meetings and conferences like this. Last week he was in Washington, D.C. trying to connect with the Clinton administration, always his purpose is more economic power for the reservation. This morning he must temporarily abandon the Affiliated Tribes Conference to attend another meeting in the same hotel before the Pacific Fisheries Legislative Taskforce. He becomes the Umatilla Tribal Government Ambassador. Here, he asserts the tribe's treaty protected fishing rights, careful to couch his appeal in a tactful call to consensus. [Minthorn speaking] When the tribes signed the treaty of 1855 then they signed away all those resources. Yet it retained treaty rights, the right to the exclusive fisheries.
Because of the complexity of the situation, I think that if tribes have the competent staff, a competent personnel, then we can work better together, build a model that's going to work best for us. [flute playing] [Host speaking] It is winter at Umatilla. The panoramic Blue Mountains and the wheat fields around the reservation at Mission Oregon suggest to Minthorn a recreational playground. And much of his harried travel schedule is dedicated to promoting tourism on the reservation. If he has his way, tourists will flock here one day with dollars to erase years of despair and generations of joblessness. [children laughing] Indian youngsters in Oregon today may face trouble as they reach
adolescence. Indians 15 to 44 years old are 12 times more likely to die of alcoholism than non-Indians the same age. [Minthorn speaking] And it hurts because the population of Indian tribes are small the pool is not great and we need all the people, all the children, they have to be healthy, otherwise then it's going to affect us, the next generation. [Host speaking] Minthorn believes his people have been too willing to accept government handouts, but he says the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the federal government, after years of tinkering, have not solved Indian problems. Indians must gain the financial power to heal themselves, according to Minthorn. [Minthorn speaking] The people need to begin to realize that money is not an end in itself. Money is the means to
achieve things to get things with. And I think if we can learn that and learn how to, how to use money then we will certainly be more successful and the people will fulfill their needs on a more permanent basis, not only now but in the future. [Host speaking] The anticipated key to Umatilla's financial independence is the Oregon Trail interpretive Institute. The 40 million dollar project incorporates an interpretive center, a motel, a golf course, and a casino. This wheat field might then be transformed into a foundation of freedom for Umatilla, freedom from dependence on federal programs. Profits from the complex might pay for the tribe's own education and counseling programs to break the cycle of poverty and addiction. Years of history
have shown Indians, after all, the federal government has its own interests at heart, not those of Indian people. [Minthorn speaking] The main point of all this is that the tribes have never had the opportunity to develop their resources, to build a viable economy. And as long as the Bureau of Indian Affairs has the trust responsibilities and the federal government has a say in the management of the affairs of the Indians, it's never going to happen. I mean, I don't know how much louder the facts can speak. So what that means is that the tribes must take a leadership role and must take a ownership role over their own destiny. And it means that if they want a viable economy or an economy that's going to help them, that's going to help our people, then they're going to have to do it. [Host speaking] The Umatilla tribes own a grain elevator and leased farm land for additional
income. Much of the Umatilla's available resources and a good portion of those projected from future enterprises are to be invested here. The Yellow Hawk Health Center is, in a sense, at the core of healing for the reservation. [Woman speaking] Yeah. I know. Thank you, I know. Tessie Williams is a community health representative at the Yellow Hawk Center. [Woman speaking] For 25 years, she has traveled the reservation, sometimes a thousand miles a month. Her destination may be the home of a pregnant teenager or that of an ailing elder. Indians of all ages are sometimes reluctant to seek medical care, she says. Especially if it means leaving the reservation. Indians would rather deny themselves medical treatment, she says, than face the prejudice they sense from white doctors and nurses. But the tribe must rely on hospitals as far away as Portland for services that aren't available at
Umatilla. [Williams speaking] Well, how are you feeling today? [Man speaking] Oh, kinda sad today... [Williams speaking] Are you? [Man speaking] Yeah, maybe you might have to pick me up tomorrow and take me down, I need to have some tests... [Host speaking] Tessie becomes the patient's trusted companion at distant hospitals and at the reservation clinic. She says that many of the families she counsels were disrupted if not destroyed after white-Indian contact. But she advises her clients to focus away from the past and the resentment that Indians often feel toward the dominant culture. [Williams speaking] We're dealing with a lot of children that run away. Why do children run away?
Because there is something happening in their home that doesn't make them feel good. So in order to heal the child, you heal the mother or the family that is affecting the hurt in this child. And so you take in the whole family to try to heal them, and sometimes that's pretty hard. [Host speaking] Tessie Williams was on the board of the Northwest Indian Child Welfare Association. She appears with one of her granddaughters on an educational poster the Indian Child Welfare Association produced. Tessie and the association have been developing materials that teach traditional Indian child rearing methods. Indians, before Indian boarding schools, apparently had a very different philosophy toward youngsters than does white culture. Physical punishment, for example, was unheard of. Terry Cross directs the Child Welfare
Association. He worked with Tessie reclaiming Indian teaching methods from before the time of wholesale abuses at the early boarding schools. [Cross speaking] So prior to That era in most tribes the traditions said you didn't hurt children. They, there were teachings that, in many tribes, that children were gifts of the Creator and should they be mistreated the Creator would take them back. And there were teachings that childrens' spirits were loosely connected to their bodies and unless he really made that spirit want to stay here, it would leave. And so in order to make it stay here you had to hold that child, and rock them and sing to them and nurture them... [Host speaking] Such gentle behavior toward children, Cross says, is very healing. Healing is particularly important, he says, because there is still a residue of pain left in Indian families from boarding school times. [Cross speaking] Parenting problems may not simply be a matter of something wrong with you but
a matter of having been deprived the right of learning positive ways that would have been handed down had they not been interrupted. [Host speaking] With demand so great on a reservation the size of Umatilla, Tessie Williams needs more help than she has. There is no money to hire more community health representatives at present. Indian leaders would like to see the federal government channel much more money directly to reservations. Most social service money from federal programs is distributed through the state. Indians say it never reaches the people on the reservation who may need it most. [flute music] In 1855, pressured by the army, the Indian tribes at Umatilla
gave up 6.5 million acres. Much of it was land the settlers wanted for farming. White people now own much of the valuable land within reservation boundaries. The Indians believe there is a recurring pattern of government behavior toward their people and they believe that pattern is formed from the dominant society's long term quest to take what Indian people possess. Verbena Green and her sister Bernice Mitchell, Ed EdMo, Annie Peterson, are a few of the survivors of this process of taking. So Indians fight for federal social service dollars and work to educate to heal their people. They believe they must be ready. They believe Indian land and Indian well-being could be challenged by the dominant society again.
This is the Chemawa Indian School in Salem. Chemawa's attractive new campus does not at all resemble old Chemawa's assemblage of government issue brick buildings at the same site. The broad plaza and pleasing architecture seem instead to reflect the enlightened policies of its current administration, and indeed many students are here in part because the school lets them explore their Indian culture. [Man speaking] "They're very proud of where they're from, their heritage." [Host speaking] Chemawa residential department head Ben Lobert is a big advocate of the varieties of Indian culture represented at the school. [Lobert speaking] We have sweat lodges and we have all types of things. Up in the dormitories, we hire all Indians and... like the parents of the, of the students. [Host speaking] These students are in fact growing up in a time of apparently unprecedented acceptance of Indians by the general public.
And too, there seem to be Indian wannabes, non-Indians claiming native bloodlines that are imagined or impossibly remote. Wannabes have created a ready market for Indian culture and today that market is enthusiastically exploited by groups calling themselves tribes. The Bear tribe, for example, markets Indian spirituality to whites or anyone else willing to pay. A seminar
called "working with the pipe" costs up to $500 from Bear tribe instructors. Now in Indian tradition, responsibility of pipe carrying is conferred after a lifetime commitment to the pipe's principles. Those principles include selflessness, generosity. To offer non-Indians the pipe in five days as the Bear tribe seems to do, Indians say it degrades Indian culture. [Man speaking] I imagine the possibilities for some good Indian humor and sadness mixed all together. I imagine that Lester Falls, a part of full blood Spokane, made a small fortune when he gathered glass fragments and shouted reservation car wreck windshields and sold them to the New Age bookstores as healing crystals. [Host speaking] Poet Sherman Alexie fears that, as in the past ,when whites today want what Indians have, they will just try to take it. Portland State University student Indira Sampson Dawson is a Sioux
from the Lower Brule Reservation in South Dakota. She has lived in Portland for four years. Indira has a daughter and she is expecting another child soon. She believes Indian people have had a thorough education in white culture in the last century and a half. [Woman speaking] "Hi, how ya doin'?" [Host speaking] Her assessment is that Indian culture could offer much to the white world. But she says because of white acquisitiveness, it may be very hard for most whites to learn what Indians have to teach. [Dawson speaking] Just don't come in and say, you know, take me to your spiritual leader. You have to come in and listen and learn. And, you know have, come with an open heart and open mind. And, and they will learn and they do learn. But it's a different process than pulling out your Visa card and, and buying a drum and payin' for a sweat, and all a sudden being spiritual.
[Man speaking] Last year on the local television news I watched a short feature on a meeting of the confused white man chapter of Spokane Washington. They were all wearing war bonnets and beating drums, more or less. A few of the drums looked as if they might have come from K-Mart and one or two men just beat their chests. It's not just the drum, the leader of the group said, it's the idea of a drum. I was amazed at the lack of rhythm, laughed, even though I knew I supported a stereotype but it's true. White men can't drum. [Dawson speaking] It's really frustrating for me because European Americans have taken our land, you know, they've taken our resources, you know they've taken our children into boarding schools and taught them to assimilate, you know, and and now they want the thing that's nearest and dearest to us that's in our heart which is our spirituality and I don't, I'm hard-pressed to let that go so easily because I think it's so, I think it's one of the last things that we have, or that I have as an
Indian person. [crow cawing] [Host speaking] On a cliff overlooking the Columbia River, there is an ancient pictograph called by the Indians "She Who Watches." From "She Who Watches," southern exposure, wagon trains would have been visible working the last miles to The Dalles. The Indians say she will see a time when Indian people transcend the arrival of those immigrants. [Man speaking] The Indian mother walks into the hills followed by generations of need. Can this pine tree substitute for a pickup truck? Do the small stones taste anything like hard candy? Will the bank accept deer tracks as collateral toward a home loan? The Indian mother is afraid she is not afraid. At night, she sits by the window and watches for her children, sometimes they are bats flapping at street lights or stray dogs howling in the dark. Once her oldest son dressed up like a bear and slept on the roof of the Catholic Church.
The Indian mother sings while she cooks, she sings while she cooks, in a voice sharp enough to pull roots from the ground. She pours her whole life for children. Her children's children, into the stewpot, it simmers all over open flame. She pours her whole life, her children, her children's children into the stewpot and simmers all over open flame. After years of this slow cooking, after years of the slow cooking, she still waits to serve the last. Good. Meal.
Program
History of Oregon Indians
Contributing Organization
Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland, Oregon)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/153-36h18gx5
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/153-36h18gx5).
Description
Program Description
This program is a documentary exploring the history of the relationship between white Americans and Oregon Native American tribes. This relationship has had a negative impact on the local natives, erasing their culture and agency; this negativity is relayed through historical photographs, interviews with tribal government officials, and audio recordings from older natives who remember being imprisoned, killed and otherwise suppressed.
Created Date
1990-00-00
Asset type
Program
Genres
Documentary
Topics
History
Race and Ethnicity
Religion
Politics and Government
Rights
No copyright statement in content
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
01:00:40
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Credits
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB)
Identifier: 115814.0 (Unique ID)
Format: Betacam
Generation: Original
Duration: 01:00:00:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Citations
Chicago: “History of Oregon Indians,” 1990-00-00, Oregon Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 19, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-153-36h18gx5.
MLA: “History of Oregon Indians.” 1990-00-00. Oregon Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 19, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-153-36h18gx5>.
APA: History of Oregon Indians. Boston, MA: Oregon Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-153-36h18gx5