Trail of Tears

Native peoples inhabited western Oregon for thousands of years before European settlers arrived. The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde are the proud peoples of the Umpqua, Molalla, Rogue River, Kalapuya, Chasta and many other Tribes and Bands whose roots go back thousands of years and whose ancestors represent the blending of many different cultures.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde were formed when the U.S. government forced member Tribes to cede their ancestral lands and created the 60,000-acre Grand Ronde Reservation in Oregon’s Coast Range. Beginning in February 1857, federal  troops forced native people to march from a temporary reservation at  Table Rock in southern Oregon 263 miles north across rough terrain to the newly created Grand Ronde Reservation.

Thus began Oregon’s “Trail of Tears.” The Rogue River and Chasta Tribes were the first to be removed from their aboriginal lands. They were joined by members of other Tribes and bands as the march passed other tribal homelands. The journey took 3 days and many died along the way.

George H. Ambrose was the Indian agent charged with carrying out the march. Historian Stephen Dow Beckham edited the agent’s 1856 diary “Trail of Tears.” He summarizes Ambrose’s writing saying the diary “hints at the dimensions of suffering and tragedy endured by the Indians of southwestern Oregon in the 1856 removals to the new reservations. Similar forced marches northward befell the natives of the Umpqua and Willamette valleys as well as several bands brought along the coastal trail from Port Orford to Siletz during the summer. ‘It almost makes me shed tears to listen to them as they totter along, observed Lt. E.O.C. Ord who witnessed one of these removals.

“Left behind were the bones of parents, grandparents, and ancestors, ages-old villages and fisheries, and a way of life well-tuned to the rhythms of a beautiful land.”