III. A History of Treaty Making and Reservations on the Olympic Peninsula


The Washington Territory was carved out of the Oregon Territory in 1853, during the closing days of Millard Fillmore's administration. The appointment of the territorial governor then fell to the newly elected Democratic President Franklin Pierce. He chose Isaac I. Stevens, a military officer, veteran of the Mexican War, and a political supporter. Stevens was given a triple charge as governor, Indian agent, and chief surveyor for a possible route for a transcontinental railroad. It fell to Stevens to negotiate the treaties with the Indians in the territory, persuading them to transfer their lands to the federal government and move onto reservations. By the time he left office in August 1857 to represent the territory in Congress, Stevens had "negotiated ten treaties providing for the quieting of Indian title to some hundred thousand square miles of land." Among those treaties were two that covered the Indians on the Olympic peninsula north of Grays Harbor, including the Makah, Quileute, Hoh, Queets, and Quinault, and established two reservations: one at Neah Bay (the site of Spain's abortive attempt to build a fort and where John Meares first tried to trade with the Makah) and the other further south on the coast, north of Grays Harbor at Point Greenville.


The treaties marked a significant shift in the uneasy balance between whites and the Natives of the Olympic Peninsula, requiring that the Indians concentrate in two widely separated and very remote communities (the first road to Neah Bay was not completed until the 1930s) andopening the land tosettlement and exploitation by white immigrants who envisioned themselves as pioneers in a virgin wilderness. (For more on white settlement see the Northwest Homesteader curriculum packet about settlers on the Olympic Peninsula. To get an understanding of how one industry exploited the resources see Evergreen State: Exploring the History of Washington's Forests. Both packets are on the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest's website.) The treaties also highlighted some of the inherent paradoxes and contradictions within federal policies toward Native Americans and demonstrated how well-intentioned policies dictated from Washington, D.C., were often implemented in ways that did little to protect Indians. At the same time, the experiences of the Makah, Quileute, and Hoh demonstrate how the resiliency of Native cultures sometimes forced the government to make qualified amends for the actions of aggressive treaty negotiators: Within 50 years executive orders issued by the presidents of the United States expanded the Makah Reservation and recognized the integrity and independence of the Quileute and Hoh tribes by providing them with reservations in their traditional homelands (albeit tiny fragments of what had been surrendered under Steven's treaties). And, perhaps remarkably, in the case of the Makah and the Quileute, these reservation expansions came at the expense of whites who had settled on Indian lands.

Territorial Context

Steven's treaty negotiations should be understood in the context of the times and with an awareness of the circumstances-some unique to the region-that complicated Indian-white relations in Oregon and Washington. First, as noted above, federal policy toward Indians was undergoing a significant shift away from a policy of removal and toward a reservation policy. Just what that would look like, however, was not clear. Under the U.S. Constitution, Indian treaties had to be approved by Congress, and Stevens was aware that Congress was interested in limiting the number of reservations and had recently rejected treaties that had set up a series of small reservations in Western Oregon. Despite this, Stevens and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, George Manypenny, had agreed that some kind of reservation system would be appropriate for the territory but Manypenny left the final formulation of that up to Stevens, urging him to keep costs down and create as few reservations as possible. To help the governor draft acceptable treaties, Manypenny sent him copies of treaties that had recently been negotiated with several Plains Indian tribes, including one with the Omaha. (See Treaty with the Omaha, 1854.) Initially, Stevens envisioned two reservations in Washington, one east of the Cascades and one on Puget Sound. He planned to negotiate first with the Puget Sound Indians in the winter of 1854-55 and then move east of the Cascades in the spring, with negotiations on the remote Olympic Peninsula wedged between the two.

Stevens was also dealing with increasing demands from white American settlers to resolve growing conflicts with the Indians in the territory. Those conflicts ranged from personal and sometimes violent disputes between individual settlers and Native Americans to more administrative problems such as resolving questions of Indian land title. As Steven's noted in his first address to the territorial legislature on February 28, 1854:

The Indian title has not been extinguished, nor even a law passed to provide for its extinguishment east of the Cascade Mountains. Under the land law of Congress it is impossible to secure titles to the land, and thus the growth of towns and villages is obstructed, as well as the development of the resources of the Territory.

In the same address he categorized the Washington Indians as "for the most part a docile, harmless race, disposed to obey the laws and be good members of the State," but recommended "ample appropriations to actually extinguish their title throughout the Territory, reserving to them such portions as are indispensable to their comfort and subsistence." The demands to push the Indians off their lands to make way for whites were often tempered by the recognition that white settlers relied on inexpensive Indian labor. As historian Alexandra Harmon has noted, "None of the American [treaty] negotiators intended to cut off relations between white and red people; they simply wanted to limit and regulate relations." In fact, although the federal government sought to concentrate Indians in a few large reservations, many of the white settlers sought the opposite: more small reservations nearer their communities.

Oregon Donation Land Act

Some of the conflicts over land came from the workings of the Oregon Donation Land Act, approved by Congress and signed by President Millard Fillmore in 1850. This law contravened the most basic tenet of U.S. Indian policy-the requirement that Indian title to land must be extinguished before opening the land to settlement by whites. Stripped to its essence, the act gave away large tracts of land to any adult white male American citizen (and "American half-breed Indians") who settled in Oregon Territory prior to 1853-320 acres to those in residence in 1850, 160 acres to those who arrived between 1850 and 1853, with qualifying wives entitled to same-sized grants. When the law was extended until 1855 it was amended to require that land-seekers occupy the land for two years and then pay $1.25 an acre. Ethnologist George Gibbs, who was part of Stevens' railroad survey party in 1853 and later served as surveyor and secretary of his treaty commission, called the act "the great primary source of evil in Oregon and the western part of this Territory … in which, contrary to established usage and to natural right, the United States assumed to grant absolutely, the land of the Indians without previous purchase from them." The result, he said, was growing friction between whites and Indians because, "as settlers poured in, the Indians were unceremoniously thrust from their homes and driven forth to shift for themselves." Over its five-year life, the act granted about 8,000 claims covering nearly 3-million acres in Oregon and Washington; more than 500 of the claims were along the shores of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Often overlooked is that the Donation Land Act was not just something created by the federal government to promote migration to Oregon or to rob Indians of their land (although it did both). Rather, the measure also provided a way to affirm the land claims staked out by settlers before the Oregon Country had become an American territory. That it favored white settlers cannot be denied; however, the prospect of voiding their land claims and requiring them to refile was not politically palatable and apparently never seriously considered.

With the Indians of western Washington, Stevens also encountered another dilemma: Few of the tribes had a formal or extensive political organization with a leader who had the clear authority to negotiate and cede lands to the government. Stevens resolved this by anointing his own chiefs:

In making the reservations it seems desirable to adopt the policy of uniting small bands under a single head. The Indians are never so disposed to mischief as when scattered, and therefore beyond control. When they are collected in large bands it is always in the power of the government to secure the influence of the chiefs, and through them manage the people. (See Report of Governor Isaac I. Stevens, 1854.)

If Stevens seems to have displayed an arrogant assumption of power over the Indians, it should be remembered that he was a product of his age. The ethnocentric biases and beliefs common among nineteenth-century white Americans put them at the pinnacle of human development. In 1854 Darwin's revolutionary theory of evolution was still in the future and most educated Americans believed that all human societies followed identical paths of progression, moving up from savagery through barbarism to civilization. On this scale of development, Indians were always relegated to an inferior position. According to one of Steven's biographers, Kent D. Richards, the governor probably never questioned this way thinking:

To the extent that Stevens had a philosophy of Indian-white relations, he assumed the superiority of European civilization and the necessity of removing the Indian from its path. He hoped the removal could be accomplished peacefully and that, during a period of benevolent care, the Indians could be educated to cultivate the soil and become productive, valued members of white society.

Stevens made this clear when he made his first report to the commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1854:

It is obviously necessary that a few reservations of good lands should be set apart as permanent abodes for the tribes. These reservations should be large enough to give each Indian a homestead, and land sufficient to pasture their animals, of which land they should have the exclusive occupation. The location and extent of these reservations should be adapted to the peculiar wants and habits of the different tribes. Farms should be attached to each reservation under the charge of a farmer competent fully to instruct the Indians in agriculture, and the use of tools. (See Report of Governor Isaac I. Stevens, 1854.)

In the same report, the governor also made two other recommendations he believed would benefit the Indians. First, he advocated that Indians be allowed uninterrupted use of "their ancient fisheries." Next, Stevens recommended establishing a system binding Indian apprentices to white masters who would teach Native Americans farming and manual labor skills as well inculcate them with a regular work ethic. Such a system, he thought, "would prove of essential benefit to the Indians and of great convenience to the citizens."  

Patterns of Negotiation

By December 1854, Stevens had assembled his treaty commission and was ready to get to work. His first stop, on Christmas Eve, was at the mouth of Medicine Creek on Puget Sound a few miles east of Olympia. There the commission met with the Nisqually and Puyallup Indians and established the pattern of negotiation it would use over the next three months as it worked its way around Puget Sound and then out to the Olympic Peninsula. Invitations were sent out to local Indians; then, as they arrived, advance parties for the commission set up the treaty grounds, stocking them with an abundant supply of food. The commissioners then arrived and the Indians were gathered together to listen to Stevens welcome them in paternalistic terms that portrayed them as the "children" of the "Great White Father" and then detailed the treaty offer. As Stevens did not speak any of the Indian languages in use in Washington and few Indians understood English, his speech and their responses went through a laborious chain of translation: His words were first translated into the Chinook Jargon-a blend of several Indian languages along with French and English that was developed to facilitate trade throughout the Pacific Northwest-and then it was translated into the language or languages used by the various Indian tribes at the councils. Indian comments and responses had to go through the same process in reverse. As many historians of the treaty process have observed, it is not clear how well the Indians understood Stevens' words or the provisions and meaning of the treaties. One twentieth-century writer noted, "Chinook jargon, a trade medium of limited vocabulary and simple grammar, was inadequate to express precisely the legal effects of the treaties, although the general meaning of the treaty language could be explained." George Gibbs, the ethnologist who was a member of the treaty commission, later compiled what he believed was a comprehensive Chinook Jargon dictionary. It contained fewer than 500 words. (See Chinook Dictionary.)

After Stevens' speech, the Indians were asked to comment, Stevens and other whites would respond, and the Native Americans adjourned to discuss the proposal among themselves. The two sides then reconvened, agreed to the treaty, held a solemn signing (the "chiefs" and "subchiefs" making their mark-an X-alongside the signatures of the white commissioners), and then Stevens and the others distributed gifts. While there might be some Indian objections or some bargaining-perhaps on the boundaries and size of the Indians' new reserves or the price of land-the councils with the Indians were unequal affairs where the Americans usually dictated, rather than negotiated, the terms. Of the seven treaty councils Stevens personally took part in, only one failed to end in a treaty-the Chehalis Council near Grays Harbor on February 25-30, 1855.

According to Kent Richards, Steven's biographer, the commissioners adopted and adhered to nine guiding principles in their negotiations:

A tenth principle, overlooked by Richards, was that each treaty needed to include a provision that unilaterally allowed the President of the United States to relocate the Indians to another reservation within the territory. As Richard notes, most of these principles were both enlightened for the time, in that they provided for a process of gradual assimilation, and at the same time incredibly naive. The guidelines assumed that converting Indians to citizen-agriculturists was the best thing to do for the Indians, that the federal government, its agents, and the Indians' white neighbors would fulfill their treaty obligations, and, finally, "that the Indian could be persuaded that all of the above were in his [sic] best interests."

On the Olympic Peninsula

Like many of the coastal Natives along Pacific, Straits of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound, the Makah, Quileute, and Hoh were organized in small autonomous bands, occupying individual villages-generally located at the mouth of waterways. Although all hunted land animals and gathered a variety of plants foods, all three cultures had strong links to their fisheries, both fresh and saltwater. All fished for salmon in the rivers and fished for halibut and other saltwater fish in the ocean, and they hunted whales, sea lions, and seals as well. While they might share a common language with their neighbors or come together for ceremonial purposes, they lacked any structured political organization although some historians have noted that many of the bands were linked together in a loose confederation connected through kinship and family ties. Those connections within and between Indian groups were often shattered by the impact of European diseases that killed an estimated 80 percent of the Native population along the Northwest Coast in the first 100 years of European contact. While all Indians in the Pacific Northwest had faced a series of epidemic disease outbreaks in the decades after the Spanish visited the coast in 1775, in 1853 smallpox ravaged the Natives along the Pacific coast of the Olympic Peninsula, killing an estimated 40 percent of the population. The result, as Carole Seeman has noted, was an amalgamation of the survivors that made it difficult to define tribes and tribal boundaries.

The remoteness of the Olympic peninsula-and the reputation the Makah, Quileute, and Hoh shared for fierceness-probably worked to the Indians' advantage. When Stevens arrived in Olympia he reported to Manypenny that a
number of tribes inhabited the outer coast of Washington, most of "whose names are still unknown, but who, by the vague rumors of those upon the sound, are both numerous and warlike." (See Report of Governor Isaac I. Stevens, 1854). In 1858, Indian Agent Michael T. Simmons reported that, while the Makah and the Quileute had been
decimated by smallpox, they remained "the most independent Indians in my district" and, much to Simmons's chagrin, did not acknowledge their "proper" position in the white man's world:

It has so happened that whenever these Indians have come in contact with the whites, they have had the latter in their power. In most cases ships have been wrecked on their coast. The consequence is, that they
do not appreciate our importance, and are very independent, and sometimes insolent. (See Report of M. T. Simmons, 1858.)

By 1854, however, few whites had penetrated into the interior of the peninsula-the first white resident of Neah Bay since the Spanish hastily abandoned their fort in the 18th-century arrived in 1851 and the Quileute may not have encountered an American other than infrequent traders and shipwrecked sailors until Simmons showed up to negotiate a treaty with them in 1855. As a result, the treaty negotiations were not complicated by land claims made by whites under the Oregon Land Donation Act nor was there yet a clamoring from whites for access to the resources-primarily timber and fish-of the peninsula.

Makah Treaty - 1855

Steven's treaty commission dropped anchor in Neah Bay on January 29, 1855-just three days after it had negotiated a treaty with the Clallam, Skokomish, and Chemakum. (See Report of Governor Isaac I. Stevens, 1854.) The commission immediately sent a messenger out to the outlying villages to invite them to the treaty negotiations and then established camp, setting up tents and stocking the camp for the Indians' arrival. On the 30th Stevens and Gibbs set out across Cape Flattery looking for the best place to locate a reservation. Returning to camp in the evening, Stevens invited the Makah leaders who had arrived onto the schooner for a pre-treaty meeting. Speaking through interpreters, he explained the proposed treaty to them.

When he finished, several of the Indians expressed their concerns, particularly about preserving their right to catch fish and take whales. Kal chote, a Makah leader, said "he thought he ought to have the right to fish, and take whales, and get food where he liked. He was afraid that if he could not take halibut where he wanted, he would become poor." Later Kal chote added "I want always to live on my old ground, and to die on it. I only want a small piece for a house, and will live as a friend to the whites, and they should fish together." Although, like Kal chote, most of the Makah were reluctant to give up their land, they indicated a willingness to share it with the whites and Stevens steered them toward the idea of living year-round in their winter villages and then dismissed them to think it over. Before they left, the governor asked them to choose a "head chief" and, when they didn't, Stevens chose one for them, picking Tse kwan wootl, a leader from the Ozette village on the Pacific coast.

The next morning, on January 31, about 600 Makah gathered to hear Stevens explain the treaty:

The Great Father has sent me to see you, and give you his mind. The whites are crowding in upon you. The Great Father wishes to give you your homes, to buy your land, and give a fair price for it, leaving you land enough to live on and raise potatoes. He knows what whalers you are, how far you go to sea to take whales. He will send you barrels in which to put your oil, kettles to try it out, lines and implements to fish with. The Great Father wants your children to go to school, and learn trades.

Then, "the treaty was ... read and interpreted and explained, clause by clause." Observers recalled that Stevens asked the Makah leaders if they were satisfied with the treaty or if they had any objections. In reply the Indians presented white flags to Stevens, and Kal chote responded by saying "What you have said is good, and what you have written is good."

The Neah Bay Treaty created a small reservation for the Makah at the far northwestern corner of the territory and expressed many of the key concepts of the nation's policy of Indian assimilation. While it required the Makah to move to the reservation within one year of the treaty ratification (the Senate did not approve it until 1859), it allowed the President of the United States to relocate other tribes onto the Makah reserve or, at his discretion, remove the Makah to another location. The treaty also contained provisions that allowed the Makah to continue fishing, sealing and whaling "at usual and accustomed grounds or stations," permitted hunting and gathering on "open and unclaimed lands," required that they "acknowledge their dependence on the Government of the United States," banned "ardent spirits," freed all slaves, and banned trading with the British on Vancouver Island. Finally, the treaty contained a clause that gave the government the option of dividing the communal lands into individual allotments at a future, unspecified date.

In return, the Natives were promised a $30,000 annuity to be paid out over 20 years along with a $3,000 payment to prepare the reservation for farming; free access to an agricultural and industrial training school that was to be established on Puget Sound; the hiring of a blacksmith, carpenter and farmer to "instruct the Indians in their respective occupations"; and the employment of a physician to look after their health and vaccinate them against epidemic diseases.

After three cheers from the gathered Indians, the 41 newly-minted chiefs and subchiefs put their marks--Xs--alongside Stevens' signature on the treaty. (See Treaty with the Makah, 1855.) The treaty was a complex document and it is nearly certain that language barriers and cultural differences prevented the Makah from understanding the terms of the agreement, let alone comprehending the long-term effects it would have on their lives and their communities. Immediately after it was signed, the treaty commission distributed presents, packed up, and sailed away.

A Treaty with the Quileute

Stevens had one more treaty to negotiate on the coast before he turned inland and that was with the several tribes that lived along the ocean south of the Makah. So, on February 24, 1855, Stevens arrived on the banks of the Chehalis River about ten miles from Grays Harbor to meet with representatives from the Quinault, Queets, Satsop, Lower Chehalis, Upper Chehalis, Cowlitz, and Chinook Indians (one scholar has suggested that members of the Copalis or the Wynooche also attended). Missing from the negotiations, however, were the Quileute. Apparently, from haste, "incomplete knowledge" or language barriers, the treaty commission had overlooked the tribe that occupied the stretch of the coast between the Makah and the Quinault. Stevens, however, saw no reason to delay the negotiations with the tribes that had gathered at the treaty council (although he did wait two days for representatives of the Chinook and the Cowlitz to arrive) and opened talks on February 27 without the Quileute. In the end it didn't matter. The Indians gathered on the Chehalis River handed Stevens his first failure in treaty negotiations. Opposed to giving up their land and being forced to relocate to an undefined reservation in the Quinault homeland, several of the tribal leaders refused Stevens' increasingly strident requests for cooperation and, in a fit of pique, the governor abruptly ended the negotiations on March 2.

Four months later, as Stevens was on his way to the Bitterroot Valley to negotiate with the Flathead, Kootenay, and Pend Oreille Indians, his agent Michael T. Simmons met with the Quinault, Queets, Quileute, and Hoh on the Quinault River and successfully salvaged some of the work from the earlier failed negotiations by getting leaders from those tribes to sign a treaty. He later wrote, "July 1 made a treaty with the Kwillehyute and Kwinaiatl tribes and Huh and Quielts band of the later." As anthropologist George A. Pettitt observed, Simmons was a trifle confused: "It is clear that even after this visit the relationship between the tribes was not understood, for the Hoh are a band of the Quileute and the Queets a subdivision of the Quinault." Early the next year, several of the Indian signatories traveled to Olympia to witness Stevens adding his signature to the treaty on January 25, 1856.

The treaty Simmons negotiated was almost identical with that made earlier with the Makah. If differed in the amount of the annuity the tribes would receive over twenty years ($25,000 rather than $30,000), how much they would receive to prepare the reservation for farming ($2,500), dropped any requirement that the four tribes would have to share their reservation with others, and, curiously, added passages regulating the pasturing and upkeep of Indian horses. (See Treaty with the Quinaielt, 1855.) Like each of the treaties negotiated under Stevens' guidance, the treaty with the Quileute and the Hoh provided that the Indians move to the reservation within a year of the treaty's ratification by the U.S. Senate. This presented two problems for the Quileute. First, the treaty was not ratified until 1859. Next, the treaty was deliberately vague on just where and how large the reservation would be, noting only that "There shall … be reserved … a tract or tracts of land sufficient for their wants within the Territory of Washington … and hereafter surveyed or located and set apart for their exclusive use." Until those reservation lands were selected, surveyed, and established by presidential order, the Indians were allowed to remain in their homes. As it turned out, the reservation lands were not selected until 1861 and another 12 years passed before President Ulysses S. Grant issued the executive order establishing the Quinault Reservation-although work on developing the reservation began more than a decade earlier. (See Executive Orders.)

The Quileute Stay Put

Quileute doubts about the treaty, however, had begun almost immediately-one recent account asserts that tribal leaders said in 1856 that they had been tricked into selling their lands. Those doubts were evident in 1872 when R. H. Milroy, the superintendent of Indian Affairs for Washington Territory, provided a brief synopsis of them in his annual report to the commissioner of Indian Affairs:

The Quileutes, Hohs, and Quits reside at different points and distances from the coast north of the [Quinault] reservation, and say they never agreed to sell their country, nor did they, to their knowledge, sign any treaty disposing of their right to it. That they were present at the time the treaty with them is alleged to have been made, but that the paper that they signed was explained to them to be an agreement to keep the peace with citizens of the United States, and to accord them the same rights to come into their country and trade for furs, &c. as had previously been accorded to the Hudson Bay Company, and that the presents and payments in goods that they then received, and have since been receiving, were believed by them to be in consideration of their observance of that agreement, They therefore refuse to leave their homes and localities in which they then and still reside, and move on the reservation which they (the Quileutes, Hohs, and Quits) regard as the homes and property of the Quinaielts. (See Report of the Washington Superintendency, 1872.)

Although Milroy had noted earlier in his report that whites were beginning to stake out homesteads on the lands that the Quileutes still claimed, he now recommended that, as the land the Quileute, Hoh, and Queet occupied had "no attractions for white settlers," that the Quinault Reservation be expanded to include their homelands. There is no indication that his recommendation was seriously considered.

If the Quileute and the Hoh questioned the legitimacy of the treaty, white settlers found the Native inhabitants largely accommodating. Special Indian Agent G. A. Heney reported in 1874 that:

The tribes of Hohs and Quillehutes are still living upon lands north of the limits of the reservation. I have conversed frequently with them upon the subject of residing on the reserve. Although they express themselves friendly, and willing that the whites should occupy their land, or so much of it as is fit for settlement, they did not understand when they signed the treaty that they were giving up their homes. They are very peaceable, and in several instances have been of great assistance to individuals who have been wrecked and cast upon their coast, always treating them kindly.

There are but few settlers in that country, not more than five families, and letters from them assure me that the Indians are not troublesome, but in many ways are of assistance to them. (See Quinaielt Agency Report, 1874.)

Three years later Indian Agent C. A. Huntington, stationed at Neah Bay, noted the same Native resistance and advocated leaving the Quileute alone-for now. "I do not expect they can be induced to come to the reservation to reside permanently," he reported. "They are much attached to their ancient home." (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1877.) Huntington's successor, Charles Willoughby, foresaw the day when the Quileute would need to be forced onto to the reservation but, until then, he urged that they be allowed to stay where they were as "the settlers need their services, and have no difficulty in obtaining them; in fact it is in the settlers best interests that these people remain." (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1879.)

Tensions with Whites

If relations between the Quileute and the whites began well, by the early 1880s the Quileute were increasingly in conflict with a settlers who sought to dispossess the Indians of their land and homes in La Push, the Quileute village at the mouth of the Quillayute River. The most notable of these clashes involved Dan Pullen, a white trader. In 1882, a Quileute medicine man named Doctor Obi clashed with Pullen. According to the version of the story recorded by Willoughby, Obi and Pullen fought over a fence that Pullen had put up. Obi apparently tore the fence down and, when Pullen confronted him, the Indian began hitting Pullen with a club and threatened to kill him until Clakishka, a Quileute leader, separated the two men.

But, more than 60 years later, Obi's daughter recalled a different sequence of events, one that may seem more credible given Pullen's subsequent activities in La Push. Julia Obi Bennett Lee told anthropologist George A. Pettitt that Pullen had provoked the fight by trying to force Obi off Obi's land so Pullen could homestead it-something she said that Pullen had already done with other Indians at La Push. When Obi refused, Pullen grabbed Obi and the two began to struggle. As Obi's family members worked to separate the two, Obi picked up the club and began hitting Pullen. Obi was then arrested by his son, an Indian policeman in La Push, and spent most of the next year in jail, probably at Neah Bay.

There is little doubt that Pullen was trying to gain control of La Push. In 1885, Indian Agent Oliver Wood reported that Pullen was creating "a great deal of dissatisfaction" among the Quileute by trying to force them off the land so he could establish a clear claim to it:

The Indians make frequent complaints of the acts of Pullen, but as they are off the reserve I am powerless to give them such protection as they should have. They have occupied this land from before the knowledge of the oldest Indian on the coast or any of their traditions. They have built some very comfortable frame houses and have several very large buildings built in Indian style from lumber manufactured by themselves, and they feel it would be a great hardship to be driven off and lose all their buildings and improvements, and all fair-minded will agree with them. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1885)

Two years later Wood's successor, Neah Bay Indian Agent W. L. Powell, warned of the Quileutes growing discontent over Pullen's claims and urged his superiors to resolve the conflict by establishing a Quileute Reservation at La Push and evicting the white settlers. On February 19, 1889, he got his wish: President Grover Cleveland issued an executive order withdrawing the land-about one square mile at the mouth of the Quillayute River-from sale and making it available for the Quileutes' "permanent use." There was only one hitch: The order exempted any existing legal claims. (See Executive Orders.) "This last proviso," Powell complained, "has had the effect of leaving the Indians just was they were before; for their village, which has been occupied them from time immemorial, has been pre-empted by a settler, and no steps have as yet been taken to have him evicted." (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1889.)

A Suspicious Fire

Seven months after President Cleveland established the reservation, as most of the Quileute were away picking hops, someone burned the Indian village at La Push to the ground, destroying 25 or 26 Indian homes along with Indian canoes, all their fishing gear, and untold amounts of traditional tools, artwork and ceremonial regalia. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1890.) Indian Agent Wood implicated Pullen in the fire but stopped short of a full accusation, noting that "After the fire, Mr. Pullen, the settler, sowed grass-seed on the site of the burned homes, inclosed [sic] it with a barbed wire fence, and not satisfied with doing this, fenced them off from every other available [building] location by five strands of barbed wire." When the Quileute arrived home they were forced to rebuild their homes on the beach.

The Indians, however, had few doubts that Pullen was behind the fire. In 1946, a tribal elder told Pettitt that an old man who had been unable to go hop picking had seen Pullen and two others setting the fire; others recalled that Pullen threatened to shoot anyone who tried to rebuild on the land. Pettitt also reported that Pullen's brother-in-law insisted the trader had nothing to do with the fire as his business relied on good relations with the Indians, but the anthropologist noted that Pullen continued his quest to gain title to the Quileutes' land.

The Quileutes' new Indian agent, John P. McGlinn, continued to press the government to resolve the problem in the Native's favor and finally reported, in 1893, that he had received authorization to evict Pullen from the reservation. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1893.) Pullen, however, responded by obtaining a restraining order and it took nearly five more years-until 1898-before the agent in charge could announce that the litigation was over, Pullen had lost, and the Quileutes' Reservation was theirs once again.

A Reservation for the Hoh

Like their close neighbors the Quileute, the Hoh also, as noted above, refused to move off their lands and onto the reservation, remaining in their village at the mouth of the Hoh River-with a settlement on Destruction Island as well-as perhaps the most isolated group of Indians on the Olympic Peninsula. (See Report of the Washington Superintendency, 1872.) Indian Agent Charles Willoughby described the Hoh as good neighbors to both the Quileute and white settlers, noting that the Hoh were "a decidedly peace-loving people, and hospitable towards their white brother
at all times." (See Quinaielt Agency Report, 1886.)

At the same time efforts were being made to secure the Quileute a reservation of their own, a similar effort was being made on behalf of the Hoh until, on September 11, 1893, President Grover Cleveland signed the order establishing the Hoh Reservation-approximately one-square mile of land on the south side of the Hoh River. (See Executive Orders.)

More Land for the Makah

One of the things that struck the first Indian agents assigned to the Makah Reservation at Neah Bay was the lack of arable land needed to make the reservation self-supporting or provide a training ground for potential Makah farmers. As early as 1862 C. H. Hale, the superintendent of Indian Affairs for Washington Territory, reported that the Makahs' reservation was "little more than a rocky promontory":

It contains no agricultural land, and it would seem to have been the intention at the time of the treaty was made to studiously avoid enclosing any such land within its limits, or neglecting to do so was the most wilful [sic] ignorance.

Hale ordered the agent in charge of the reservation to "temporarily" extend the boundaries of the reservation to take in adjacent unclaimed lands "until the pleasure of the President could be known." (See Report of the Washington Superintendency, 1862.) The president at the time was Abraham Lincoln and, a month before Hale put pen to paper in Olympia, the bloodiest day in the Civil War had been fought at Antietam, Maryland. The pleasure of officially extending those Makah Reservation boundaries would have to wait. It would eventually go to another president - Ulysses S. Grant - in 1872.

In the meantime, the Indian Agent at Neah Bay, Henry A. Webster, drew up lines that significantly expanded the reservation and encompassed nearly all the existing Makah villages. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1862.) The one village not included in the redrawn boundaries was Ozette and it received its own reservation in 1893 by order of President Grover Cleveland. (See Executive Orders.) It was eventually folded into the Makah Reservation in 1970. Webster and his successors also began to make improvements on the unapproved reservation extension, building most of the agency buildings there, clearing fields for farming, and fencing in pastures. In 1869, realizing that the government had never finished the process of removing the land from the public domain and setting it aside for the reservation, Neah Bay Indian Agent J. H. Hays called the situation to the attention of his superiors. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1869.) But it was too late, by 1871 Hays's successor, E. M. Gibson, was struggling with settlers who said that Hays had given them permission to claim the land:

The Indians claim this land, and most of them live upon it, and they will not relinquish it willingly; it is very embarrassing to me, as I have no authority to order them [the whites] away, and they are encroaching upon what has always been considered part of the reservation. It is a matter of actual and pressing necessity that the Government should settle the question as to whether this land, upon which most of the money appropriated for these Indians have been expended, is or is not to be part of the reservation. Nearly all the arable land of the reserve is upon this addition, and without it nothing can ever be done by these Indians in the way of farming. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1871.)

His superior, writing to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, stressed that these white settlers knew they were settling on lands earmarked for the reservation. Indian Superintendent T. J. McKenny noted, "The parties taking these claims cannot plead ignorance, for nearly all of them have been employed on the reservation, and are now attempting to appropriate to their own use the improvements that they have been paid by Government in times past to make." (See Report of the Washington Superintendency, 1871.) Gibson subsequently underscored the "unpleasant state" the squatters' intransigence was creating among the Makah by comparing the situation to a recent Indian war in Northern California where about 150 Indians had fled their reservation and refused to return until forced to surrender by the army. Gibson asserted that only "very prudent management" had prevented "another Modoc war." (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1873.)

On October 26, 1872, the federal government moved to clearly define the reservation's boundaries when President Grant signed the order withdrawing additional property-about 3,500 acres-from the public domain (the description of the boundaries were clarified twice in 1873 in executive orders that superseded the first). (See Executive Orders.) The squatters, however, refused to budge, even after being offered compensation for the "improvements" they had made to the land. According to Agent Gibson, three of the settlers denied that the president had the authority to enlarge the reservation, prompting the agent to appeal to Washington, D. C., for instructions. Most remarkably, he was given authorization to use military force to evict the settlers.

In the last week of June 1873, a detachment of 25 soldiers under the command of Lt. James A. Houghey arrived at Neah Bay. Gibson reported that, even then, two of the settlers were unwilling to leave:

After again advising McCollum and Colby [the settlers] to peaceably abandon the reservation, and even offering to assist them in removing their effects, which they still declined to do, Lieutenant Houghey had a sergeant and four men placed in each one of their homes, and sent McCollum under guard to the outer limits of the reservation. Colby left without further trouble. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1873.)

That still left one settler who had won a reprieve and had a full year before he had to remove his cattle from the Makahs' land, but even then Gibson could write, "The Indians are highly pleased at the result, and seem much better satisfied, since they now feel that their homes are secured to them forever where they can live in peace and enjoy the fruits and blessings of their own labor." (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1873.)


The patterns that played out on the Olympic Peninsula in the second half of the nineteenth century reflected fundamental shifts of an American Indian policy that was rooted in traditions first developed by the English colonists. What was new at the time the treaties were being negotiated in Washington Territory was the decision to concentrate Indians on reservations. That paternalistic policy, the latest in a series of unilateral actions by the U.S. government, was designed in part to protect Indians from white depredations and provide an environment where the Indians could be "civilized" through education and agricultural and industrial training. It was hoped that once Indians were civilized-a process that required Indians to surrender their cultural systems and spiritual beliefs and adopt Euroamerican cultural models and Christian beliefs-they would be ready for assimilation into American society as citizens. The reservation policy replaced Indian removal or barrier policies that saw the solution to the "Indian problem" as merely a matter of pushing the Indians further west. That removal policy became clearly inadequate when the United States became a transcontinental nation through the acquisition of Oregon (which then included Washington Territory) and California in the 1840s.

The creation and administration of Indian reservations was often a highly charged political process that could pit national, local, and political party interests against one another in determining the existence, size, and location of Indian reservations. It was a process in which Native voices often counted for very little-particularly as the nineteenth century progressed and whites demanded more and more land for settlement and exploitation. As a result there was often a huge gulf between the sometimes surprisingly well-meaning intentions of official policy and how those policies were implemented in the field.

The narrative of treaty making on the Olympic Peninsula coupled with the issuance of presidential orders explains how the individual reservations for the Makah, Quileute, and Hoh were created. It positions that process in the larger context of Indian affairs in Washington Territory, particularly the kinds of treaty negotiations that took place west of the Cascades. In retrospect, these treaty negotiations seem highly suspect: They were carried out in a language that was understood by few of the participants and inadequate to convey the complexities of the treaties; they were held between two cultures that had conflicting ideas about land ownership, contractual obligations, and even basic social courtesies; and, ultimately, the terms were virtually dictated by Americans negotiators who had little inclination to bargain. In the end it is never clear whether the whites or the Indians ever understood the other during these negotiations.

This history of Indian-white relations on the Olympic Peninsula also details some of the conflicts that informed and complicated the establishment of tribal reservations in the region. Not unexpectedly, some white settlers sought to deprive the local Native Americans of the tiny fragments of the homelands the Indians had been allowed to retain after the treaties were approved. What is more surprising is that the Quileute, Makah, and the Hoh found ready allies among some of the federal officials. Through a steadfast refusal to surrender to white pressure, the three tribes eventually succeeded in holding on to their remaining lands and establishing reservations that their descendants still call home.

Main Section II Section IV Section V Section VI Section VII Section VIII
Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest