Tansey Point Treaties
“It will be impossible to remove the Indians of the Willamette and Lower Columbia valleys, without a resort to force, nor do we think it very desirable to do so. As before stated they are friendly and well disposed, they live almost entirely by fishing, and the wages they receive from the whites for their labor…To remove them from their fisheries and means of procuring labor from the whites would in our opinion insure their annihilation in a short time either by want or from the hands of their more warlike neighbors.”
— Oregon Indian Treaty Commissioner Anson Dart, and agents Henry Spalding, and Josiah L. Parrish to Commissioner of Indian Affairs Luke Lea, Feb 8, 1851.
Signature page of Tansey Point Treaty with the Lower Band of Chinook. Image courtesy Library of Congress, SEN 32B-C4_010_MA
Between August 5 and 9 1851, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon Territory, Anson Dart, camped at Tansey Point, near present day Hammond, Oregon. His instructions were to secure the title to Indian lands and prepare them for removal to a reservation east of the Cascade Mountains, far from their coastal villages. However, the United States failed to consider the Chinook attachment to their ancestral homelands.
In the Tansey Point Treaties that included the groups later known as the Lower Chinook, Wahkiakum, Willapa, Cathlamet, and Clatsop, the Chinook negotiated the right to remain on some of their traditional lands and be buried among their ancestors. They also secured hunting, fishing, farming, and gathering rights, as well as the removal of certain settlers in exchange for land.
Tansey Point Treaties and the Chinook | 1851
In negotiation the Clatsop refused to talk unless Dart agreed to stop ships from entering the Columbia and to destroy two mills that scared fish away. Dart noted his lack of authority in the matter, but agreed to allow the Clatsop to remain without removal to Eastern Oregon. The Clatsop stipulated that their reserve must include fishing sites, removal of three white homesteaders, and access to a Clatsop burial ground. Both sides agreed to compromise and treaty negotiations continued. The eleven men who signed were promised access to “their fishing grounds at the mouth of Neacoxsa Creek whenever they wish to do so for the purpose of fishing,” as well as free passage around Point Adams to pick up whales cast on the beach.
AUG. 8 | Waukikum Chinook (Wahkiakum)
Eight men representing the Waukikum Chinook were promised fishing rights to the Columbia River and two smaller tributaries, hunting on lands “not enclosed,” rights to cut timber for building and fuel, as well as annual payments in cash and goods.
Seven men representing the Konnaak were promised the right to occupy their village at Oak Point, protected hunting rights in their territory, as well as annual payments in cash and goods.
AUG. 9- Klatskania
Two men representing the Klatskania were promised the right of continued occupancy at their village and rights to fish and hunt on their ceded territory.
AUG. 9 | Kathlamet Chinook (Cathlamet)
Seven men representing the Kathlamet Chinook were promised retention of two islands, Woody and “Sky-lie-la,” in the Columbia River, the right to reside in “old Kathlamet town,” rights to cut timber for building and fuel, as well as annual payments in cash and goods.
AUG. 9 | Wheelappa Chinook (Willapa)
Four men representing the Willapa Chinook were promised a small reservation where the federal government would build a permanent Indian agency, a manual labor school, a blacksmith shop, and a farm operation. The reserved land was to be shared exclusively with Chinook and Chehalis Indians who gave up their occupied residences and moved onto the reserve. The treaty also stipulated annual payments in cash and goods.
Twenty men representing the Lower Chinook were promised annual payments in cash and goods in a expedited ten year period, in return for ceding most of what is now Pacific County in Washington State. They retained the right to fish, hunt, build and use their ancestral lands as they saw fit. Dart also agreed to remove the settler and land speculator, Washington Hall, from their lands.
Thousands of American settlers arrived before the establishment of U.S. governance in the Northwest, and many moved onto Chinook land prior to treaty negotiations. Some, like Washington Hall, made individual agreement with tribal leaders, deals that Native people expected to be honored. In 1848, Hall entered into a written understanding with the Chinook. He agreed that he would not sell liquor to tribal peoples, that he would allow the Chinook access to water, and that he would not sell their land until the government legally owned the region. He reneged on all counts. Thus, the Chinook, acting as one sovereign nation dealing with another, asked that the federal government remove Washington Hall.
Anson Dart forwarded the Tansey Point treaties to Superintendent Luke Lea of the Office of Indian Affairs (later the BIA). The following year, Dart complained about the slow ratification process, noting the need for payment and provisions for the tribes. President Fillmore had received the treaties and forwarded them to Congress, but the legislative branch took no action. The treaties had reached the Senate, but only gathered dust.
From the U.S. government’s standpoint, there were three problems with the Tansey Point Treaties:
- They did not specify Chinook removal to eastern Oregon;
- They created small reservations in proximity to American immigrants;
- Removing white settlers would have been both politically and practically difficult for the U.S. government.
The treaties were never ratified. No one has been able to explain conclusively the inaction. Some Chinook speculate that legislators simply thought the Chinook would die out.
Samuel V. Robinson. Image courtesy Friends of Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge
“It was my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Huckswelt, that signed that 1851 Anson Dart Treaties over here which would have us [at] Willapa Bay as our reservation. They took the treaty back to Washington DC, and they basically told the senators not to worry, that we would be gone–they [the Chinook] were so infected by smallpox and malaria.”
— Sam Robinson, Vice Chairman, Chinook Nation