Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians

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Confederated Tribes of
Siletz Indians
Total population
5,100 (2011[1])
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( Oregon)
Related ethnic groups
Athabaskan peoples,
southern Interior Salish peoples

The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in the United States is a federally recognized confederation of more than 27 Native American tribes and bands who once inhabited a range from northern California to southwest Washington, and between the summit of the Cascades and the Pacific Ocean. The peoples removed to the Siletz or Coast Indian Reservation spoke 10 distinct languages, with Tillamook from the Coastal Salishan family but also including the Clatsop/Chinook/Clackamas, Kalapuya, Molalla, Yaquina/Alsea, Lower Umpqua/Siuslaw, Coos, Takelma, (Penutian family languages) Klickitat, (Sahaptin language family) Athabaskan language of the Tolowa, Tututni, Chetco, Coquelle, Upper Umpqua, Galice Creek, Euchre Creek, Applegate River peoples Shasta, (Hokan language family) of southern Oregon and northern California, more than 2700 of whom were removed here by the federal government after the Rogue River Wars.


The Confederated Tribes of Siletz emerged from the remnants of around 28 different tribes of coast Indians, who have intermarried and tribal distinctions were almost obliterated through the years.[2] In 1894, 551 individuals received federal allotments and at one point, the tribes occupied 225,000 acres of land that constituted the Siletz Reservation in Oregon. The reservation was established via an executive order, which entailed the relocation of the indigenous peoples of the coastal region of the Oregon Territory.

In 1954, however, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians was terminated through an act of Congress and all of the remaining Siletz lands were sold except for the 39 acres they own called Government Hill.[3] The proceeds of the sale of the timberland property were distributed to enrolled tribal members in two installments: $250 per person in December 1954, and a final payment of $542.50 per person in August 1956.[4] Other inherited allotments were held in trusts but were also sold off at the request of the owners.

During the 1960s, several members of the Siletz tribe began to organize and restore common bonds. Their initiatives included the restoration of the tribal cemetery on Government Hill and an aggressive lobbying of Congress and the office of the President to recognize Siletz as a federal Native American tribe.[3] In 1977, this was finally granted after the federal government restored tribal status, forming the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz anew. Today about 5,100 of their descendants are enrolled members of this tribe, which is based on the Siletz Reservation along the Siletz River in the Central Oregon Coast Range, about 15 miles northeast of Newport, Oregon.


The confederation is made up of the following tribes and bands.

Organization and location[edit]

The Siletz tribe has 5,100 enrolled members,[1] 70% of whom live in Oregon and only 8% of whom live near on the 3,900-acre (16 km2) reservation. An additional 6% live in the town of Siletz and 22.6% live in Lincoln County. There are 445 households in the city of Siletz and 143 households on the Siletz reservation.

The tribe owns and manages a 3,666-acre (14.84 km2) reservation located along the Siletz River in the Central Oregon Coast Range of central Lincoln County, Oregon, approximately 15 mi (24 km) northeast of Newport. In total, the Tribe owns a checkerboard of approximately 15,000 acres (61 km2) in and around the original 1.1 Million Acre Siletz Reservation, established Nov 9, 1855 - which was quickly whittled down to a very small, and the tribe terminated by act of Congress in 1956. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians became the second Tribes which had been terminated by an act of Congress to regain federal recognition as a Tribe by passage of the Siletz Restoration Act Nov 18, 1977.

The tribe owns and operates the Chinook Winds Casino and Convention Center, the Chinook Winds Golf Resort[6] in Lincoln City (including the Chinook Winds Resort hotel purchased from Mark Hemstreet of Shilo Inn hotels for $26 million in 2004), the $9.5 million undeveloped oceanfront Lot 57 north of Chinook Winds Casino, Hee Hee Illahee RV park in Salem, the Logan Road RV Park,[7] the Salem Flex Building where the Salem Area Offices currently exist, the $1.6 million Portland Stark Building which was purchased in August 2007, which is the site of the tribe's Portland Area Office, the Eugene Elks building which houses the Eugene Area Office, the Siletz Gas & Mini Mart, the old Toledo Mill site, and a commercial building in Depoe Bay.

The Tribe also owns and runs the Siletz Community Health Clinic. A $7.5 million plan is underway to expand the clinic.[8] $2 million of the funding will come from the Federal government's IHS Small Ambulatory Grant funding. The clinic is currently 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) but will grow to 45,000 square feet (4,200 m2) between 2006-2016.

The Siletz Tribal Police department was discontinued, but the Tribe now contracts with the nearby Lincoln County Sheriff's Office to provide law enforcement services to the Siletz area.

The Tribe is gradually accumulating additional property into the reservation, as part of a 2005-2015 Comprehensive Plan. This includes 3,851 acres (15.58 km2)[9] entrusted to the tribe in 2007 by the State and Federal governments as part of the New Carissa oil spill settlement, on the condition that the Siletz Tribe will manage it solely as a marbled murrelet habitat.

The tribal government is attempting to get old treaties recognized by referencing them[10] in the Tribe's Constitution, and also by mentioning the treaties in a work by Charles Wilkinson, who has been hired by the Tribal Council to write a history of the Siletz. There have also been attempts to retrieve the remains of tribal ancestors from the Smithsonian Institution, and to retrieve various other tribal artifacts distributed throughout the United States of America.

[11] Tribal Council Chairman Delores Pigsley

The current Tribal Council includes Chairman Delores Pigsley; Vice Chairman Bud Lane; Secretary Sharon Edenfield; Joseph Lane Jr.; Loraine Butler; Lillie Butler; Reggie Butler; Treasurer Robert Kentta; and Gloria Ingle.

The tribal government's Public Information Office publishes the monthly Siletz News.[12]

Cultural activities[edit]

Artifacts and historical documents are stored and displayed at the Siletz Tribal Cultural Center, located on Government Hill, under the care of Cultural Specialist Robert Kentta and Cultural Activities Coordinator Selene Rilatos.

Tolowa is taught as a common tribal language. Beginning Athabaskan language will be taught at the Siletz Valley Charter School, opening in the fall of 2006.

Many Native Americans gather around a drum, preparing for a powwow in 1900

The second weekend in August of every year the Tribe is host to its annual Nesika Illahee Pow-wow.

Every summer and winter solstice for hundreds if not thousands of years, a dance has been held, called, the Feather Dance (or Nee-dash), which would be held for 12 days at a place called "Yonkentonket," which means, "the center of the earth."

In recent years a new tradition has been started. During the winter solstice, dancers, singers, and tribal members from the Confederated Tribes of Siletz visit the Tolowa peoples' cedar plank dance house near Smith River, California. During the summer solstice, dancers, singers, and tribal members of the Tolowa tribe visit the peoples of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz's cedar plank dance house.



After the war of 1855-1856[edit]

After the Rogue River Wars of 1855-56, most of the peoples were forced onto the Coast Indian Reservation, which later split into the Siletz and Alsea reservations, where they were to form a single unified tribe. The Coast Reservation originally comprised 1.1 million acres (4,500 km2), which was established by the executive order of President Franklin Pierce on November 9, 1855, only weeks after the start of the Rogue River Wars.

Termination act of 1954[edit]

The Western Oregon Indian Termination Act of 1954, Public Law 588, came into effect on August 13, 1954. This new law severed Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) supervision of trust lands and BIA regulation of services to the Indian peoples.

Restoration bills[edit]

In June 1974, Rep. Wendell Wyatt introduced a first restoration bill, but it did not pass.

On December 17, 1975, Senator Mark Hatfield introduced restoration bill S. 2801. At the time Senator Hatfield presented his restoration bill he was quoted as saying that the Siletz People were "ill-prepared to cope with the realities of American society" when the Termination act went to effect and that they had been "tossed abruptly from a state of almost total dependency to a state of total independence ...[forcing them] to leave the only way of life they had known." The bill included wording to grant or restore hunting and fishing rights. This bill also did not pass.

Senator Hatfield and Senator Bob Packwood introduced a new bill, S. 1560, in the month of May 1977. Unlike its 1975 predecessor, it did not include that the hunting or fishing rights be restored (although a companion bill was sent by Rep. Les AuCoin to the United States House of Representatives, H.R. 7259, which the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission fought and helped to stall). On August 5, 1977, the United States Senate passed the restoration bill and on November 1, 1977, so did the House. The bill was then sent to President Jimmy Carter on November 3 and then approved November 18.

Important events in tribal history[edit]

A sign in front of Logan Road, owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians
  • November 9, 1855 Siletz Coast Reservation Established
  • On November 18, 1977, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz became the second tribe in the US. to have its federal status restored, and returned to being a sovereign government.
  • On June 2, 1979, tribal members adopted a constitution.
  • On November 1, 1979, people of the town of Siletz, voted 148 to 134 to give back to the Tribe approximately 36 acres (150,000 m2) of former tribal land, which was originally the site of the old Siletz Agency, "Government Hill". The tribe had given this land to the city at the time of termination.
  • In 1994, the Tribe voted to lower the blood quantum, to 1/16, which allowed new members to join.
  • In 1995, Artist Peggy O'Neal was commissioned to paint "Trail of Tears of the Rogue River Peoples."
  • In 1995 the first "Run to the Rogue" took place, in which tribal members took turns carrying an eagle flag staff from Government Hill in Siletz to Agness, Oregon (Located on the Rogue River) on foot.
  • In 1995 The Siletz Tribe opened up a 157,000-square-foot (14,600 m2) casino/convention center, called Chinook Winds Casino, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean from Lincoln City, Oregon.
  • In 2005 a 227-room hotel adjacent to Chinook Winds Casino was purchased and added to the casino.
  • December 6, 2016 S.817 Bill Passed in US House of Representatives Real Property located within Siletz original reservation boundaries lines is now deemed "on reservation."


The confederation takes its name from the Siletz River, which surrounds the reservation. The word "siletz" translates into "coiled like a snake," describing the route of the river winding around the land and mountains to the ocean. It includes remnants of the Siletz, a Coast Salish people who inhabited the area up until the middle 19th century but who are no longer counted separately in the larger confederation.


Finding records of the ethnic and cultural history of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz is somewhat difficult. A partial attempt at the tribal population makeup before it was forced on reservation lands in the mid-19th century is as follows:

  • Upper Rogue River or Shasta Tribe:
    • John's Band 172
    • George's Band 222
    • Joseph James's Band 160
  • Coastal Tribes:
    • Joshuas's Band 179
    • Choallie's Band 215
    • Totoem's Band 202
    • Macanotin's Band 129
    • Shasta Costa 110
    • Port Orford (a Qua-to-mah band) 242
    • Upper Coquille 313


Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians spoke 14 different languages:

-Oregon Athabaskan languages:

1) Lower Rogue River (or Tututni),
2) Upper Rogue River (or Galice-Applegate),
3) Upper Umpqua (or Etnemitane),
4) Tolowa-Chetco;

-Coast Oregon Penutian languages:

5) Alsea,
6) Siuslaw and
7) Coos;

-Takelman language:

8) Takelma;

-Kalapuyan language:

9) Kalapuya;

-Chinookan language:

10) Chinook;

-Plateau Penutian languages:

11) Mollala and
12) Sahaptin (Klickitat dialect);

-Shastan language:

13) Shasta; and

-Salishan language:

14) Tillamook.

Siletz Dee-ni (also known as Chetco-Tolowa and Tolowa) is a Oregon Athabaskan (also known as Tolowa-Galice) language, one of the Pacific Coast Athabaskan languages that were historically spoken by Native Americans on the Siletz Indian Reservation in Oregon. According to a report by the National Geographic Society and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, it is the last of many tribal languages spoken on the reservation. In 2007 only one living speaker remained.[13] However, according to a later report in The Economist, the language has since been at least partially revived thanks to an on-line dictionary project; in some areas, "many now text each other in Siletz Dee-ni."[14] The tribe has a language revival program with classes in three area offices and Siletz Valley school.[15]

Notable Siletz people[edit]

  • Peter "Last Walking Bear" DePoe, drummer for the band Redbone.
  • Sister Francella Mary Griggs, advocate for the restoration of federal recognition
  • Mary "Dolly" Fisher, activist to restore federal recognition of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians from 1974. She won the Nanwood Honeyman Award for significant contribution to the advancement of women in Oregon. She won The National Congress of American Indians award, honoring Indian and Native Women's leadership. Named tribal casino as "Chinook Winds."
  • Calvin Leroy Van Pelt (1924–2011), businessman and tribal elder

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Enrollment". Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. August 8, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  2. ^ U.S. House of Representatives (1895). United States Congressional Serial Set, Volume 3210. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. p. 269.
  3. ^ a b Disse, Diane; Weeber, Jodi; Harrison, Loretta (2010). Newport. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9781439640487.
  4. ^ Youst, Lionel; Seaburg, William (2002). Coquelle Thompson, Athabaskan Witness: A Cultural Biography. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 258. ISBN 0806134488.
  5. ^ "The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon: Tribal Government Operations". Native American Rights Fund. 1999. Archived from the original on April 28, 2003. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-06-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Logan Road RV Park | Lincoln City, OR
  8. ^
  9. ^ New Carissa Marbled Murrelet Restoration - New Carissa Oil Spill
  10. ^[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "ILA 2011 awardee Delores Pigsley". Flickr. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-06-18. Retrieved 2006-06-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Wilford, John Noble (September 19, 2007). "Languages Die, but Not Their Last Words". The New York Times. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  14. ^ 'Embracing the future', The Economist, 25 Feb 2012
  15. ^ "Our Language is as old as time itself." Siletz Tribal Language Program. 2010. Retrieved 16 December 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Kentta, Robert, Mr. "A Siletz Historical Timeline." Siletz Indian Tribe History, Tillamook Oregon, Multnomah County Oregon, Salishan - Part I - Introduction. STBC, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.