People are Dancing Again : The History of the Siletz Tribe of Western Oregon
The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians--twenty-seven tribes speaking at least ten languages--were brought together on the Oregon Coast through treaties with the federal government in 1853-55. For decades after, the Siletz people lost many traditional practices, saw their languages almost wiped out, and experienced poverty, ill health, and humiliation. Again and again, the federal government took great chunks of the magnificent, timber-rich tribal homeland, reducing their reservation from the original allotment of 1.1 million acres--which reached a full 100 miles north to south on the Oregon Coast--to what is today several hundred acres of land near Siletz and 9,000 acres of forest. By 1956, the tribe had been "terminated" under the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act, selling off the remaining land, cutting off federal health and education benefits, and denying tribal status. Poverty worsened, and the sense of cultural loss deepened.
The Siletz people refused to give in. In 1977, after years of work and appeals to Congress, they became the second tribe in the nation to have its federal status, treaty rights, and sovereignty restored. With federal recognition of the tribe came a profound cultural revival among the Siletz people.
This remarkable account, written by one of the nation's most respected experts in tribal law and history, is rich in Indian voices and grounded in extensive research that includes oral tradition and personal interviews. It is a book that not only provides a deep and beautifully written account of the history of the Siletz, but reaches beyond region and tribe to tell a story that will inform the way all of us think about the past.
Charles Wilkinson is Distinguished University Professor and Moses Lasky Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School. He is the author of many books, including Messages from Frank's Landing: A Story of Salmon, Treaties, and the Indian Way and Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations.