Ten years of missionary work among the Indians at Skokomish, Washington Territory, 1874-1884

- By Myron Eells
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THE Indians are in our midst. Different solutions of the problem have been proposed. It is evident that we must either kill them, move them away, or let them remain with us. The civilization and Christianity of the United States, with all that is uncivilized and un-Christian, is not yet ready to kill them. One writer has proposed to move them to some good country which Americans do not want, and leave it to them. We have been trying to find such a place for a century-have moved the Indians from one reservation to another and from one State or Territory to another; but have failed to find the desired haven of rest for them. It is more difficult to find it now than it ever has been, as Americans have settled in every part of the United States and built towns, railroads, and telegraph-lines all over the country. Hence no such place has been found, and it never will be.
Therefore the Indians are with us to remain. They are to be our neighbors. The remaining question is, Shall they be good or bad ones? If{12} we are willing that they shall be bad, all that is necessary is for good people to neglect them; for were there no evil influences connected with civilization(!), they would not rise from their degradation, ignorance, and wickedness without help. When, however, we add to their native heathenism all the vices of intemperance, immorality, hate, and the like, which wicked men naturally carry to them, they will easily and quickly become very bad neighbors. Weeds will grow where nothing is cultivated.
If we wish them to become good neighbors, something must be done. Good seeds must be sown, watched, cultivated. People may call them savage, ignorant, treacherous, superstitious, and the like. I will not deny it. In the language of a popular writer of the day: "The remedy for ignorance is education;" likewise for heathenism, superstition, and treachery, it is the gospel. White people can not keep the civilization which they already have without the school and the church; and Indians are not so much abler and better that they can be raised to become good neighbors without the same.
Impressed with this belief, the writer has been engaged for the past ten years in missionary work{13} with a few of them in the region of Skokomish, and here presents a record of some of the experiences. In the account he has recorded failures as well as successes. In his earlier ministry, both among whites and Indians, he read the accounts of other similar workers, who often recorded only their success. It was good in its place, for something was learned of the causes of the success. But too much of this was discouraging. He was not always successful and sometimes wondered if these writers were ever disappointed as much as he was. Sometimes when he read the record of a failure it did him more good than a record of a success. He took courage because he felt that he was not the only one who sometimes failed. The Bible records failures as well as successes.
THE Skokomish Reservation is situated in the western part of Washington Territory, near the head of Hood's Canal, the western branch of Puget Sound. It is at the mouth of the Skokomish River. The name means "the river people," from kaw, a river, in the Twana language, which in the word has been changed to ko. It is the largest river which empties into Hood's Canal; hence, that band of the Twana tribe which originally lived here were called the river people. The Twana tribe was formerly composed of three bands: the Du-hlay-lips, who lived fourteen miles farther up the canal, at its extreme head; the Skokomish band, who lived about the mouth of the river, and the Kol-seeds, or Quilcenes, who lived thirty or forty miles farther down the canal. The dialects of these three bands vary slightly.
When the treaty was made by the United States in 1855, the land about the mouth of the Skokomish River was selected as the reservation; the other bands in time moved to it, and the post-office was given the same name; hence, the tribe came to be known more as the Skokomish Indians than by their original name of Tu-án-hu, a name which has been changed by whites to Twana, and so appears in government reports. The reservation is small, hardly three miles square, comprising about five thousand acres, nearly two thousand of which is excellent bottom land. As much more is hilly and gravelly, and the rest is swamp land. With the exception of the latter, it is covered with timber.
EVER since the Spanish traders and Vancouver in the latter part of the last century, and the Northwest Fur Company and Hudson's Bay Company in the early part of the present century, came to Puget Sound, these Indians have had some intercourse with the whites, and learned some things about the white man's ways, his Sabbath, his Bible, and his God. Fort Nisqually, one of the posts of the Hudson's Bay Company, was situated about fifty miles from Skokomish, so that these Indians were comparatively near to it.
About 1850, Americans began to settle on Puget Sound. In 1853 Washington was set off from Oregon and organized into a territory, and in 1855 the treaty was made with these Indians. Governor I. I. Stevens and Colonel M. C. Simmons represented the government, and the three tribes of the Twanas, Chemakums, and S'klallams were the parties of the other part. The Chemakums were a small tribe, lived near where Port Townsend{18} now is, and are now extinct. The S'klallams, or Clallams (as the name has since become), lived on the south side of the Straits of Fuca, from Port Townsend westward almost to Neah Bay, and were by far the largest and strongest tribe of the three. It was expected that all the tribes would be removed to the reservation. The government, however, was to furnish the means for doing so, but it was never done, and as the Clallams and Twanas were never on very friendly terms, there having been many murders between them in early days, the Clallams have not come voluntarily to it, but remain in different places in the region of their old homes. The reservation, about three miles square, also was too small for all of the tribes, it having been said that twenty-eight hundred Indians belonged to them when the treaty was made. There were certainly no more.
The treaty has been known as that of Point-No-Point, it having been made at that place, a few miles north of the mouth of Hood's Canal on the main sound, in 1855. It was, however, four years later when it was ratified, and another year before the machinery was put in motion, so that government employees were sent to the reservation to teach the Indians. In the meantime the Yakama{19} War took place, the most wide-spread Indian war which ever occurred on this north-west coast, it having begun almost simultaneously in Southern Oregon, Eastern Oregon, and Washington, and on Puget Sound. The Indians on the eastern side of the sound were engaged in it, but the Clallams and Twanas as tribes did not do so, and never have been engaged in any war with the whites. They were related by marriage with some of the tribes who were hostile, and a few individuals from one or both of these tribes went to the eastern side of the sound and joined the hostiles, but as tribes they remained peaceable.
The Clallams were a strong tribe, and large numbers of them lived at an early day about Port Townsend. Here, too, was the Duke of York, who was for many years their head chief and a noted friend of the Americans. About 1850, he went to San Francisco on a sailing-vessel, and saw the numbers, and realized something of the power, of the whites. After his return the Indians became very much enraged at the residents of Port Townsend, who were few in numbers, and the savages were almost all ready to{20} engage in war with them. Had they done so, they could easily have wiped out the place, and the white people knew it. The Indians were ready to do so, but the Duke of York stood between the Indians and the whites. For hours the savage mass surged to and fro, hungry for blood, the Duke of York's brother being among the number. For as many hours the Duke of York alone held them from going any farther, by his eloquence, telling them of the numbers and power of the whites; and that if the Indians should kill these whites, others would come and wipe them out. At last they yielded to him. He saved Port Townsend and saved his tribe from a war with the whites.
In 1860 the first government employees were sent to Skokomish, and civilizing influences of a kind were brought more closely to the Indians. With one or two exceptions, very little religious influence was brought to bear upon them. Of one of their agents, Mr. J. Knox, the Indians speak in terms of gratitude and praise. He set out a large orchard, and did considerable to improve them. In 1870, when all the Indians were put under the military, these Indians were put under Lieutenant Kelley. The Indians do not speak well of military rule. It was too tyrannical.

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Word Lists:

Reservation : the action of reserving something

Immorality : the state or quality of being immoral; wickedness

Tyrannical : exercising power in a cruel or arbitrary way

Civilization : the stage of human social and cultural development and organization that is considered most advanced

Enraged : very angry; furious

Treaty : a formally concluded and ratified agreement between countries

Voluntarily : of one's own free will


Additional Information:

Rating: B

Words: 1625

Unique Words : 517

Sentences : 86

Reading Time : 7:13

Noun : 425

Conjunction : 177

Adverb : 103

Interjection : 0

Adjective : 112

Pronoun : 92

Verb : 269

Preposition : 202

Letter Count : 7,148

Sentiment : Positive

Tone : Formal

Difficult Words : 263

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