Burns Paiute Tribe

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Home Paiute History Treaties and Reservations Created

Treaties and Reservations Created

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Treaties and Reservations Created

In 1866, General Crook was appointed to the area to squash the resistance of the northern Paiute bands and to force them onto a reservation. For the next two years, he carried out a devastating and relentless campaign. He broke their usual circular migration pattern and harassed and killed them during the winter, their usual season of rest. By spring of 1868, the Indians had suffered a terrible winter, losing half their total population to starvation, freezing and fighting. General Crook then made an offer of "Peace or Death." That year Paiute Chiefs We-You-We-Wa, Gsha-Nee, Po-Nee, Chow-Wat-Na-Nee, E-He-Gant (Egan), Ow-Its (oits), and Tash-E-Go signed a treaty guaranteeing them a reservation in their homeland. Included were promises that raiding and hostilities toward the Whites would cease in return for army protection from the hostile, encroaching settlers. Unfortunately, the cutoff date for signing Indian treaties was passed before the treaty went before Congress, therefore, Congress never ratified this treaty.

Several attempts were made in the next four years to move and confine the various northern Paiute tribes to reservations outside their territory. Finally, however, the President signed into law the Malheur Reservation, taken from the larger area of Oregon's entire southeastern corner, which was the first set aside for that purpose. The 1,778,560 acres of reservation land included Castle Rock, Strawberry Butte, the Silvies River, Malheur Lake and the North and South Forks of the Malheur River within its boundaries. This area was reserved for all bands of Indians still "wandering" in eastern Oregon. Samuel Parrish was appointed Special Indian Agent in 1873. He was well liked by the Indians, treated them fairly, and went into debt in order to provide the food, shelter, education, and resources needed to begin farming. This did not make him popular with the local Whites, and he was replaced by Harrison Linville the next year. There was a great deal of corruption while Linville was in charge--rations were sold rather than handed over to the Indian people for whom they were intended. Finally, in July of 1874 Parrish was reinstated after Linville left fearing for his life.

The numbers of Indians on the reservation grew under Parrish as groups came down from the hills. By the fall of that year, there were over 800 on the rolls. Unfortunately, funds were not increased with the increase in population and they were having great difficulty surviving on the scarce resources, both federal and natural, available to them. Parrish wrote several letters to the President pleading for money and resources. He argued that this was a critical time for the tribe as they were eager to become self-sufficient. They only needed a bit of capital to start a cattle herd and other industries.
Treaties Broken

During the same period, the stockmen and ranchers were pressuring the government to turn over reservation lands for settlement and grazing of cattle. They were not even waiting for a federal mandate but began to run their livestock and even build ranch homes on the reservation. A particular area of dissention was the valley southeast of Fort Harney, an area important to the tribe for gathering camas. Ranchers fenced this location in order to run cattle there and did not allow Indians in. In January of 1876 President Grant, under pressure from settlers, ordered the northern shores of Malheur Lake open for settlement, an area important to the tribe for wada seeds. This was a blow to the Indians, as was the replacement of Agent Samuel Parrish that summer due to the urging of the settlers. His replacement, William Rinehart, had fought under General Crook and his derogatory attitudes toward Indians had not changed since the war.

Under Agent Rinehart, hostile settlers continued to invade reservation land and appropriations dwindled. Chief Egan gave an eloquent speech against Rinehart and the taking of the reservation by Whites. He said,

"Did the government tell you to come here and drive us off this reservation? Did the Big Father say, go and kill us all off, so you can have our land? Did he tell you to pull our children's ears off, and put handcuffs on them, and carry a pistol to shoot us with? We want to know how the government came by this land. Is the government mightier than our Spirit-Father, or is he our Spirit-Father? Oh, what have we done that he is to take all from us that he has given us? His white children have come and taken all our mountains, and all our valleys, and all our rivers; and now, because he has given us this little place without our asking him for it, he sends you here to tell us to go away. Do you see that high mountain away off there? There is nothing but rocks there. Is that where the Big Father wants me to go? If you scattered your seed and it should fall there, it would not grow, for it is all rocks there." (Hopkins, Life Among the Piutes, pages 133-34.)