by Marya Kalugin & Tammy Bick Confederated Tribes Of Siletz

History, Tradition & Culture

They came from all over Western Oregon, these proud people who today make up the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon Siletz. The Tillamook, Alsea, Siuslaw, Coos, Coquille, Takelma Six, Joshua, Tutuini, Mackanotni, Shastacosta and the Cheteo tribes and bands whose roots go back thousands of years and whose ancestors represent the blending of many different cultures.

In 1856, and for many years after, the federal government forced these people out of their homes and livelihoods to come and live in a small part of the Oregon Coast known as the Siletz Reservation. The discovery of gold in the land of the Takelma in the rogue River Valley during the winter of 1851 brought white miners by the thousands. Because the Indians and the whites were hostile toward each other, the United States Government removed the Indians from their homelands in Western Oregon and placed them on the Siletz Reservation.

For the next 50 years the people of the Siletz Reservation were objects of "civilizing" by the United States Government. After years of becoming what the "whites" wanted them to become, the government gave them yet another blow. In 1956 through PL 588, the Western Oregon Termination Act, the government terminated the Siletz tribe, declaring they are not longer "Indians." The remaining Siletz lands were sold and Government Hill was given to the city of Siletz.

This meant that before the act, the reservation covered over 1 million acres along the Oregon coast. After termination, their reservation consisted of a 36 -acre tribal cemetery. Everything was basically taken away. Their subsistence fishing rights along the rivers, the hunting rights, everything that they knew for survival was now the governments. Their traditions were not only chipped away when the whites were "civilizing" them, now their livelihoods were taken away.

For the first time, they were subject to property taxes and few had the means to pay. "White" settlers who could afford to pay the meager fines, would come, pay off the debt and take the land away. Leaving the Indians out in the cold. All of their means for any kind of monetary funds were taken away by taking the land and animals of which they needed to sell in order to survive in the world of the "white man."

With no means for sustaining themselves, the Indians fell into deep poverty and despair. Many turned to alcohol for a small bit of relief. Others gradually "assimilated" themselves amongst the "white man."

The tribe set goals long ago to build a tribal cultural and community center to maintain its unique relationship with the land.  This place would maintain traditions and inspire cultural activities among the young and old.  This dream has come to light and Powwow's are held annually.  The winter and summer solstice are also cherished events among the Siletz Indian community.

"Tradition never changes, it is the ways of the people.  Culture changes, it is past, present, and future." by Craig Whitehead, Siletz Powwow Coordinator.  Why are traditions and culture important to the Native Americans?  They play a vital role in the identity of a person.  Tradition and culture have great impact on the family unit.  Respect is greatly admired among the native people.  It is a tradition passed throughout generations.  Through tradition and culture the native community thrives.  Spirituality is the glue that holds the native community together.  Conservation of tradition and culture is a must to ensure future generations of the Native American philosophies.

Through culture and tradition spirituality builds a positive atmosphere that embraces peace and a sense of strength.  Through culture and tradition the native people adapt ways to care for and maintain our forests, fish and wildlife systems.  Therefore preserving Native American history and ensuring our Native American future.

Siletz Indians History

Native American Culture