Last modified: 2012-11-17 by rick wyatt
Keywords: confederated tribes of siletz indians | siletz | oregon | native american |
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image by Donald Healy, 30 December 2007
map image by Peter Orenski based on input from Don Healy
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians - Oregon
Some two hundred years ago, the United States Corps of Discovery, under the leadership of Captains Lewis and Clark, reached the mouth of the Columbia River, the modern boundary between the states of Oregon and Washington. Until that event, the Native population of the area had had minimal contact with Europeans and European-Americans. An occasional ship would anchor at the mouth of the Columbia to trade and take on supplies, and a rare visit from the forces of Imperial Spain or a British trading company might venture into that remote region of North America. After the Lewis and Clark expedition, a constant and ever-increasing stream of trappers, traders and others hoping to strike it rich with the most valuable resource the region had to offer - the beaver pelt.
While the "pelt rush" was on, it brought to the Indian population other aspects of the white man's culture - most devastatingly, smallpox. Within twenty years, thousands of coastal Indians had died from the disease against which they had no immunity. In fifty years so many of the coastal people had been killed, that many tribes were forcibly "confederated" because their populations had shrunk to such sad numbers.
It should be noted that the term "tribe" as usually employed to describe large amalgams of closely related clans with a common language, culture and heritage does not always work when referring to the tribes in the northwestern United States. According to Robert Keatta of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians (CTSI), there are differing opinions on "what constitutes a tribe" and whether politically autonomous villages should be listed separately, or whether they should be grouped together by linguistic affiliation.
In 1855 the Siletz or "Coast" reservation was established for all Tribes and bands of western Oregon, according to Mr. Kentta. Today the Siletz still have represented amongst their tribal membership all - or virtually all - tribes, bands and villages that existed in western Oregon at the time of removal. One common count is that the Siletz have 27 distinct tribal entities, including some linguistically related northern California groups like the Shasta and Tolowa. There are even a few Klickitat families represented on the reservation, descendants of Klickitats who began living in the Willamette Valley in the 1820's. The Siletz number about 2,000 and under 1,000 actually live on the reservation that is located along the northwest coast of Oregon.
Below is the most commonly accepted list of Tribes (with bands in parentheses) that were removed to the Coast Reservation and whose descendants are today members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians:
© Donald Healy 2008
The CTSI have a flag designed around 1995 or 1996 by two tribal members, Robert Simmons and Sharon Edenfield. It was formally adopted by a tribal resolution at about the same time. That flag is white and it bears the tribal seal in the center. Along the upper and lower borders it is edged with designs inspired by the basketry of the Siletz people. According to Natasha Kavanaugh from the CTSI Office of Public Information, Ms. Edenfield is credited with incorporating the black basket design elements.
The seal that dominates the center of the flag pictures a salmon, the main source of sustenance for the Siletz people over the centuries. The salmon seems to "float" over a sandy beach, through which a small blue creek meanders. Behind the salmon lie the ubiquitous conifer forests of the northwest, over which towers the snow-capped Uchre Mountain. The seal is confined by a narrow black band, outside of which appears the Tribe's official name "Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians" in dark-blue letters.
Ms. Kavanaugh reports that the originally approved logo had the circle appearing on a staff. "The one we have now is a recent rendition of that original design".
[Thanks to Robert Kentta of the Siletz Tribe and to Diane Rodriquez and Natasha Kavanaugh from the Office of Public Information at the CTSI.]
© Donald Healy 2008
information provided by Peter Orenski, 1 January 2008