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Insights on the Alsea Sub-Agency (1859-1875)

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The Coast Reservation was established in fulfillment of a stipulation from ratified treaties that the Rogue, Umpqua, and Willamette Valley Tribes signed in 1853-55 which called for the President of the United States to select a permanent reservation. Even though the Coast Reservation was legally established in 1855, the Alsea Sub- Agency was not established until September, 1859. The Alsea Sub-Agency came into being only after the Coos-Umpqua were removed for the second time from a settlement in the south in order to open up lands for more homesteading. The Coos, Lower Umpqua, Alsea, and Siuslaw signed with the understanding that they would receive goods and services when they were moved to reservations. But the treaty was never ratified. Without ratification, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs was powerless to send the goods and services promised. What few goods and services these Indian people received were inferior.47

Conditions were particularly deplorable for the Coos and Lower Umpqua, who were marched from the Coos Bay area 80 miles north to the Yachats River. The Alsea and Siuslaw may have fared a bit better initially because they were left at their original locations, thereby preserving their sense of home and some of their traditions. However, in 1865, from two miles south of the Siletz Agency to the Alsea River, the Alsea Sub-Agency was opened to settlement and homesteading. The Alsea whose home was north of the Alsea River were forced to go south of the Alsea River.48

In his book, The Indians of Western Oregon, Dr. Stephen Beckham wrote, “If they had a pass, some Indian men could leave the reservation to chop wood or work for white settlers. Without a work pass, soldiers would come after them. Many times the soldiers and the agent set out for southern Oregon to recapture Indians and bring them back to the reservations, In April and May, 1864, soldiers from Fort Yamhill went with the agent to Coos (Coos Bay region) to round up Indians. They captured thirty-two people and headed them back to Yachats. Loyal A. Bensell, one of the soldiers, became very angry with the Alsea Sub-Agency Agent Amoss Harvey. Harvey did not have food for the Indians and pushed them on and on along the coast trail. Bensell finally wrote ‘ Harvey expects the blind to see, the lame to walk and all siwash (Indians) to subsist on nothing.”49 Like most Reservations, the Alsea Sub-Agency became a prison camp.

For those who know the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area and who may be aware of the proposed Amanda’s Trail, the following is how the trail got the name Amanda. From Beckham’s book, The Indians of Western Oregon, “Little pity was given to Indians who escaped the Reservation. An old Coos woman, Amanda, had a terrible time climbing around Cape Perpetua on the forced march in 1864. Bensell noted, ‘Amanda who is blind, tore her feet horribly over these ragged rocks, leaving blood sufficient to track her by. . .I cursed the Indian Agents generally, Harvey particularly.’5°

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