Monday, February 1, 2010

The Beaver Creek Incident Of 1832

I just finished reading a thoughtful and well-researched article that came out in 2008 in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, by R. Scott Byram called, “Colonial Power & Indigenous Justice: Fur Trade Violence and Its Aftermath in Yaquina Narrative.”
The author describes a series of incidents that occurred in the spring of 1832 of violence between fur trappers of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and the Yaquina & Alsea people at Yaquina Bay and Beaver Creek.  The resultant ripple effects became a major turning point for the Yaquina & Alsea tribes, leading to their decline & demise. 

Three main sources provide accounts of the conflict.  Coquelle Thompson gave the most detailed narrative of these events.  He was interviewed in 1942 by linguist & ethnographer, John P. Harrington.  [“Although Thompson acknowledged elsewhere that diseases such as small pox decimated some coastal Indian groups, he told Harrington that the Yaquina people were almost completely killed off in an attack by a large party of fur trappers.”]  The following is an excerpt of Coquelle Thompson’s account:
“The Yaquina tribe had been largely killed off, and [Yaquina John] told me how.  Two Indian men and one woman, maybe from the Columbia River, from the north, probably French people [French Canadian or Métis], came trapping to that lake inland of where Seal Rock is [Beaver Creek Marsh], and the party stayed there all winter, getting beaver skins, sea-otter skins, muskrat skins just piled up.  Alsea people did not know and Yaquina people did not know.  [How many] beaver hides they got, maybe 200 lbs, and fisher skins like sea-otter.”
While the two HBC men were away trapping, two Alsea men discovered the camp and talked to the woman, who told them that they had come from the Columbia River.  The Alsea men didn’t say anything, but went on towards Alsea Bay.  They talked among themselves and decided to go back and kill the three who were taking so many hides without permission.  They went back and killed the two men, but the woman escaped, and ran north.  She hailed for someone to bring her across Yaquina Bay and kept going north.  Later a large group of her people [called Chinooks in the narrative] came and massacred many Yaquina people in retaliation.  But it was two Alsea men who had done the killing without consulting their leaders.  The Yaquina knew nothing about it.  
Coquelle Thompson states:  “As soon as she got home she told [what happened]...She said Yaquina people did this.  She had not even learned enough while there to distinguish Alsea and Yaquina people--it was Alsea people who had done the killing.”
More of the story in a later post.
Posted by jackie.

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