Honors College Thesis


Melee at the Edge of Empire: The Manifestation of the Reservation System in Southwest and Western Oregon 1850-1875 Public Deposited

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  • The purpose of this thesis is to explain why the reservation system manifested so disappointingly for the Native American groups of Southwest Oregon. It seeks to characterize the struggle that raged in Southwest Oregon from 1850 to 1856 between three main groups there: indigenous peoples, white squatters and miners, and Indian Office officials. It shows how rapidly changing demographics affected Indian-white relations in Oregon, especially with regard to the implementation of Indian Office reservation policy. This paper hopes to answer why the actual reservation system strayed so far from its ideological base, relying especially on letters and reports between Indian Office officials. It basically argues that the reasons for the Indian Office’s departure with its original theories are complex and multifold; they include the contradictory nature of Indian Office promises and the Land Donation Act, broken promises and treaties by white officials, local white neglect of dictates from distant bureaucratic bodies, and ultimately the escalation of racial and territorial hostilities into all-out violence and war. In short, this paper chronicles the relationship between federal reservation policy and the Native American peoples of Southwest Oregon from roughly 1850 through the second reduction of the Coast Reservation in 1875. It interrogates the changing nature of this relationship, and attempts to answer why it played out the way it did in Southwest and Western Oregon, as well as elsewhere throughout the West.
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