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Historian Says Indians Traded Women for Guns

Before the Rogue Valley Indian Wars began in 1855, tension between natives and settlers foreshadowed trouble.  The local tribes knew they were poorly equipped for battle, so when the Oregon Territorial Legislature prohibited the sale of guns and ammunition to Indians in1854, they quietly gathered an arsenal through theft, trade and, according to historian A.G. Walling, by bartering their women.

White men were mainly the purchasers, Walling said in his History of Southern Oregon published in 1884.  Sometimes women ran away from their purchasers, so renegotiation for a second gun was not uncommon, according to Walling. 

Walling said guns for women caught on, and some Indian men camped near mining communities and rented out young women for a price, the lowest being a plug of tobacco.  Tribal chiefs were happy with the arrangement because trading women for arms was much easier than theft, Walling said.  And, providing women, he said, kept the white men busy while the tribes prepared for war.


Source:  Victor, Frances Fuller. Early Indian Wars of Oregon, From the Oregon Archives and Other Original Sources with Muster Rolls (1894): 74-75. Print.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.