The Umatilla Indian Reservation, 1855-1975 : factors contributing to a diminished land resource base Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/rf55zb52h

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  • This dissertation is concerned with the diminution of Oregon's Umatilla Indian Reservation over a 120 year period (1855-1975). Its objective is to show that the transfer of land from Indian to non-Indian ownership was most attributable to four casual factors: (1) historical happenstance, including the passage of the Oregon Trail through Indian land and the development of agricultural communities on the fringes of the reservation; (2) cultural traits and attitudes of the Indians, especially those pertaining to land ownership and resource perception; (3) federal legislation, designed to Americanize the Indian or encourage settlement; and (4) transactions with public agencies to facilitate community expansion and the construction of transportation facilities. The significance of these factors is substantiated through the application of a geographical methodology known as sequent occupance study. Three periods of geographical significance provide the framework: 1855-1885 is a period of rapid cultural transition. The reservation was created in 1855 and diminished under the Slater Act of 1885. Indian land tenure was strongly influenced by cultural mores and pressures to diminish the size of the reservation. Although relegated to the land, most Indians were not psychologically or financially equipped to become successful farmers. Influential legislators maintained that the Indian would progress more rapidly on individual land allotments. After some deliberation, Indians on the Umatilla Reservation agreed to accept land allotments and sell surplus reservation land. 1886-1934 covers the land allotment period. The Slater Act of 1885 reduced the original 245,699 acre reservation to 157,982 acres. The inability of many tribes to progress under the land allotment system prompted remedial legislation, much of which proved to be detrimental. Parcels of Indian land were divided, rented, and sold. The result can be seen today on checkerboarded maps of the reservation depicting Indian and non-Indian ownership. Long overdue reformation of federal Indian policy came with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. 1935-1975 marked a new era in U.S. Indian affairs. Land allotment policy ended with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Although Indians residing on the reservation voted against the Act, much of it was accepted in principle. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation initiated land acquisition programs during this period and encouraged tribal members to retain land in Indian ownership. Plans to increase the tribal land base, however, was threatened by the prospect of a federal policy that would liquidate tribal land holdings. The policy, known as "termination," is still a threat.
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