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Liberation Pathways Farms and Healing Space is located in the ancestral lands of Yoncalla Kalapuyans, the Southern Molalla, the Upper Umpqua, the Cow Creek Umpqua, and the Quuich, or Lower Umpua.


The people of the Umpqua River Basin lived peacefully with one another, not claiming land or territory. The subsisted from fishing, game hunting, and foraging on the abundant lands. When the settlers came they allowed them in and many befriended the White settlers, as in the case of the Yoncalla, building relationships with them and helping them on their homesteads.


Despite sharing the same region, all five tribes spoke different languages. The Cow Creek spoke Takelma and lived in the upper tributary of the Umpqua River. The Upper Umpqua lived in the center of the Basin and spoke Athapaskan. The Yoncalla Kalapuyans lived in the northern basin area and spoke Kalapuyan. The Lower Umpqua people (Quiich) spoke a language related to Siuslawan, with words borrowed from Coos, and lived below Elkton. The Molalla lived along the Cascade Range foothills and might have been related to the Klamath people.


Colonization took hold of the area when the Hudson Bay Company established a fur trading outpost – Fort Umpqua – which became the town now known as Elkton. This trading post became a hub of activity and commerce that made the fort a desirable stopping place for travelers. Eventually, the growing populations of settlers, claiming land for agriculture and logging, depleted food sources for the tribes of the Basin. With food scarcity and without understanding the concept of land ownership or the practice of not sharing large bounties of food with those who did not have any, some of the native people began to steal from the settlers, who already perceived them to be inferior, uncivilized, and lawless. These original peoples did not understand why the White settlers viewed them with such disdain, why they pushed them out the lands, and why they did not openly share their bounty.


During the Rogue River Wars, removal of Indian populations gained momentum in an effort to eliminate the recruitment of men to fight on the side of the Rogue River confederacy. Forced removal of Natives began with the creation of the Umpqua Reservation in 1853. The Cow Creek Reservation was established in 1854 and a third reservation, The Umpqua Reservation of the Coast, in 1856. By 1856 the Umpqua River basin was depopulated of its native peoples, except for a few families that managed to stay and work for White settlers.


Not having access to their traditional methods of obtaining sustenance, people in many reservations were forced to receive sustenance provided by the U.S. government or adopt the agricultural lifestyle of the White settlers – their ways of existing sustainably with the land for thousands of years were completely disrupted. The peoples in the coastal reservations still had access to traditional ways for sustenance. In 1856, White militant groups, determined to exterminate all native people, consistently attacked Indian reservations.


One of the reservations targeted was the Umpqua Reservation and its people, many who had already attempted to establish themselves by growing crops and owning livestock, were forced to take a 23 day journey in the harsh Oregon winter without proper attire, to the Grand Ronde Reservation in the Yamhill valley. Five  people are said to have died on this journey, including children. Other Oregon tribes were forced to move to the Grand Ronde reservation in the following years. White settler attacks on Grand Ronde continued and armed men were recruited to defend the reservation. Eventually, a fence was built around the reservation for protection.


The following excerpt from by Daniel G. Lewis, PhD:


“The details of the removal of the Umpquas are part of the history of the tribe and deserves to be known to the citizens of the Grand Ronde tribe. The conditions of the tribes and how they were treated by the settlers also deserves to be addressed in detailed and nuanced ways. There is a significant amount of benefits given to settlers who were able to gain free lands from the tribes while the tribe were subject to attempts at extermination and then forced into poverty conditions on the reservation. Further essays in the blog detail the horrid conditions of the reservation and the complete lack of responsibility of the United States towards the health and welfare of the tribes who sold more than 19 million acres of western Oregon lands in exchange for a reservation, services, and protection from violence. There were actions taken to protect tribes, but never was there an attempt to hold the settlers accountable for there racist and colonizing actions. The Americans broke numerous treaties and agreements for peace with the tribes and yet it was the tribes who paid the whole of the price, getting blamed in innumerable histories for the “Indian wars” and then cast into poverty for more than 100 years without any rights outside of what is given them by the federal government. There needs to be a full reckoning.”



All information for this land acknowledgement was gathered on the website of Daniel G. Lewis, PhD. Dr. Lewis is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Ethnic Studies & Indigenous Studies at OSU. He is a member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya. Professional consultant, educator and researcher. His website is a rich source of the history of the original inhabitants of the lands now known as Oregon. Click here to support Dr. Lewis’s work.


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