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As It Was: White Massacre of Takelma Indians Precipitates War

As settlers and miners rushed into Southern Oregon and Northern California in the early 1850s, violent clashes with Native Americans also increased.

On Sept. 10, 1853, Takelma Indian leader Joapserkahar, better known as “Chief Jo,” met with Oregon Territorial Gov. Joseph Lane, Oregon Indian Affairs Superintendent Joel Palmer, an Army commander, and others to negotiate a peace treaty between the U.S. government and three Rogue River Valley tribes.

The Indians agreed to relinquish most of valley to settlement in exchange for a temporary reservation on the north side of the Rogue River. It included the two Table Rocks, Sam’s Valley and the Sardine Creek and Evans Creek watersheds. The treaty promised to provide the Indians what they needed to farm and ranch, and to build Fort Lane to protect the Indians from the whites.

Two years later, a Jacksonville band of vigilantes who called themselves the “Exterminators” massacred a band of Takelma Indians near Upper Table Rock, rupturing the peace treaty and precipitating the final Rogue River war.

Fort Lane shut down, the Indians were shunted to the Grande Ronde Reservation west of Salem and the reservation was opened to white settlement.

LaLande, Jeff. "Council of Table Rock." The Oregon Encyclopedia.. Portland State University and Oregon Historical Society, 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/council_of_table_rock/#.VS2g_jd0ypo>.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.