History
 

Alsea Sub-Agency cont.

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Beckham wrote of the reservation years that the Indians were not allowed to follow their traditions of gathering and hunting foods and were forced to take up farming. Planting of food staples close to the ocean lead to frequent crop failures and the Indian people starved,51

In 1930, Annie Minor Peterson was interviewed by Melville Jacobs. Peterson, a Coos Indian, reared at the Alsea Sub—Agency, was the last known living Coos who fluently spoke both the Hanis and Miluk dialects of the Coos language. About her early life in Ya ‘hatc, she related, ‘We lived poorly, we had nothing, we had no food, only just some Indian foods. That is how we lived at Yahatc. The Indian’s head man, the agent, [referring to Collins] did not look after us. We had no clothes, we had to wear any old thing. That is how I grew up.”52

Frank Drew related in Harrington’s Field Notes that one of the Indians on the reservation found a big gold nugget on the west side of Klickitat Mountain and took the nugget to Agent Collins. Collins refused to return the nugget and only wanted to know where it was found. “Old Collins was pretty crooked and he did not stand with the Indians. Shortly after the gold nugget discovery, [Collins] quit.”53

Reading Collins’ Annual Reports, one would think the Coos, Lower Umpqua, Siuslaw, and Alsea were leading idyllic lives.54 After Collins quit, an Army Lieutenant, F.A. Battey, was the temporary agent at the Alsea Sub-Agency (1869- 1870). He reported very different conditions. “Everything pertaining to the agency [is] in a dilapidated and worn-out condition.” He further reported births are few due to women being raped by a “degraded class of early settlers. . . .Many Indians were quite destitute.”55

Reviewing the annual Agent Reports, the following was discovered: During the 15 years of the Alsea Sub-Agency existence, many Indians died from starvation, exposure, and diseases as a result of their incarceration. In 1863, the Indian population was recorded at 521. Ten years later the population was 343. The 343 figure included an average yearly birth rate of 10 to 12. This figure also includes 30+ Indians who escaped and whose whereabouts were unknown.56 There were approximately 300 deaths in just 10 years. This could account for the large burial ground desecrated by Highway 101 construction.

Throughout the early 1930s in Yachats, Howard Howell and Chester Hays worked on Highway 101. They recounted skeletons and artifacts being uncovered during the excavation for the highway in Yacahts.57 Kentta and Whereat both believe these may have been burial grounds for the Lower Umpqua and Coos during the reservation years since the Coos and Lower Umpqua buried their dead underground and the Alsea’s practiced above ground interment. Some of the bodies and their belongings were taken for preservation or souvenirs. Most became part of the fill underneath Highway 101,58

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