Current Government and Presence
Our Cow Creek ancestors managed to hold on, at the margins of settler society, into the early twentieth century. We occupied marginal land, hunted, fished, trapped and tended small out-of-the-way gardens. During this time our people continued to hold tribal councils just as we had since time immemorial.
In 1918, our Cow Creek Umpqua elders formalized our tribal government and began to lobby for federal services, especially for education services for our children. We also sought justice with the Government for the taking of our land as stipulated in the 1853 Treaty. The $12,000 that we were to have received, but didn’t, equates to the low price of 2.3 cents per acre. At that same time, settlers were paying the Government $1.25 per acre under the Donation Lands Claim Act.
Between 1918 and 1932, five bills were introduced in Congress on behalf of our Cow Creek people. One bill finally passed both the House and Senate in 1932, but was vetoed by President Hoover, who cited that the United States could not afford Indian claims litigation in the midst of the Great Depression. It was a very somber time for our people.
Then on August 13, 1954, Public Law 588, also known as the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act, was passed. This Act was advertised as legislation to “Set the Indians Free” and declared there were no more Indians left in western Oregon, effectively terminating relations with Tribes. The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians was listed as a terminated tribe.
Even after termination, our people continued to seek a land claims case with U.S. Court of Claims. In 1980 the lands claim bill was passed and by 1984 the case was subsequently litigated by the Tribe to a negotiated settlement of $1.5 million in an endowment from which the Tribe draws on an annual basis only the earned interest.
While the claims case proceeded in the court, our people pursued federal recognition and sought to overturn the termination law of 1954. As a result of legislation which passed both houses of Congress by “unanimous consent” on December 29, 1982, a “recognition” law was signed for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua. The Recognition Act confirmed what our Tribal members already knew for 129 years – that we are a sovereign tribal government.
Our Tribe never received the reservation our Treaty promised. Even without a reservation, our people remained in their homelands. Today, the Tribe is buying back its land and operating various business enterprises for the economic development of the Cow Creek Tribe and the communities in which we live.
Our Tribal Government Office located in Roseburg, Oregon houses our Tribal governing body, known as the Tribal Board of Directors, various Tribal Programs, and one of the Cow Creek Health and Wellness Centers.
The Tribal Board of Directors is responsible for establishing the policies and procedures for the administration of tribal programs, economic development ventures, and other governmental business. The Cow Creek Health and Wellness Centers, which include comprehensive medical staff, is provided for the benefit of not only tribal members and their families, but also for Cow Creek Tribe employees and their families.
The Tribe also has a Gaming Commission that is the regulatory body of the Tribe responsible for compliance with gaming rules and regulations as established by both the Tribal Government and the Tribal/State gaming compact.
The Tribal leadership maintains a long standing commitment to doing what is right for the Tribe and the community. Considerable efforts have been made to balance and provide economic development for the Tribe as well as with partners throughout the area. In 2011, the Tribe commissioned ECO Northwest, a well-respected firm in the Pacific Northwest, to conduct a “net economic benefit analysis” on 2010 figures to determine the impact of tribal businesses and activities on the economy of Douglas County.
The study concluded that the Douglas County economic output was $155 million greater due to the jobs and activities provided by Tribal Government. Additionally, small businesses and self-employed workers throughout the county were affected and earned $15.4 million due to the Tribe.
Further, the Tribal Government provided 1,804 more payroll jobs in Douglas County and paid $41 million in total payroll in the county. It was also determined that for every 10 Tribal employees, approximately twelve new jobs were created in other sectors of the Douglas County economy that could not have occurred but for the Tribe.
Another area analyzed by ECO Northwest was a comparison of all tax-exempt property in Douglas County. The real market and assessed taxable values of these properties is almost $7.5 billion of land, buildings, and other properties that are subject to full or partial property tax exemptions. This includes federal, state, and county property as well as properties owned by the cities within the county, school districts, cemeteries, enterprise zones, and specially assessed farm use and forest land properties. Of the total amount of full or partially exempt property in Douglas County, the tax exempt property under Tribal Government ownership accounts for only 2 percent of that total.
The study also takes note of tribal philanthropy. The tribe regularly donates money to schools, non-profits, charities, local governments, and other community needs. As of 2014 the Tribe has donated over $13 million in total giving to charitable, non-profit and local government causes in Douglas County and an additional $605,894 to similar entities in neighboring counties.
Visitors and Oregon natives who travel the I-5 interstate corridor cannot miss the presence of a Cow Creek business at Canyonville exits ninety-eight and ninety-nine: Seven Feathers Hotel & Casino Resort.
Not as visible are the other businesses the Tribe owns and operates: Anvil Northwest, Seven Feathers Truck and Travel Center, Canyonville Cubbyholes, Seven Feathers RV Resort, Rivers West RV Park, K Bar Ranches, Umpqua Indian Utility Cooperative and Umpqua Indian Development Corporation.
For more resources about Cow Creek Bank of Umpqua Indians:
The Native Americans were the first people to settle in the region. The Umpqua Basin was the ancestral territory of four tribes, the Lower Umpqua, the Upper Umpqua, the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua, and the Southern Mollala Indians. The Lower Umpqua Indians are a coastal tribe closely related to the Coos and Siuslaw Indians. The Upper Umpqua Indians lived in the interior of the basin, upstream from the head of tidewater along the valleys of the Umpqua river and streams. The Cow Creeks lived in the South Umpqua and Cow Creek drainages, and utilized much of the middle-elevation region of central and eastern portion of the basin. The Southern Mollala lived in the headwaters of the South Umpqua sub-basin.
Fur trading brought the first Euro-American visitors to the Umpqua Basin in 1791 and continued until the mid-1800s. California's Gold Rush in 1849, and the discovery of gold at Jackson Creek in Oregon in 1852, brought many permanent settlers to the Basin. Travelers on their way to the gold fields passed through the central Umpqua Basin. Many of these visitors observed the great potential for farming and raising stock and decided to settle in the Basin. As the number of settlers increased, the Native American population of the area decreased. Diseases, including malaria, measles, and smallpox, took a toll, as did the Indian Wars of the 1850s and the relocation of many tribes to the Grand Ronde Reservation.
The best agricultural lands were quickly claimed, but other settlers found opportunities mining for precious metals and mercury. Mining remained an important industry in the Umpqua until the second half of the 20th century. Currently, there are no large, active mines in the Basin.
As the West continued to grow, the demand for lumber increased making logging a profitable industry throughout the Umpqua Basin. The housing boom after World War II caused further expansion of the timber industry and associated sawmills and plywood mills. It was during this time that the Douglas County/Umpqua Basin area experienced its greatest population growth, jumping from around 22,000 in 1940 to around 50,000 in 1960. Currently, the forest products industry directly employs approximately one-fourth of the labor force in the Douglas County/Umpqua Basin area.
In recent history, highway construction has probably had the greatest impact on the Basin's economy and growth. The Pacific Highway (Highway 99) was completed in the 1920s. In 1966, the new interstate highway (I-5), was completed. I-5 was a windfall for cities along its path, such as Roseburg, but difficult for the bypassed cities of Yoncalla, Riddle, and Glendale. To this day, the cities along the I-5 corridor have growing populations and economies, while the populations of many of the bypassed cities are slowly declining.
History of the Umpqua Basin
The Cow Creek Tribe lived between the Cascade and Coast Ranges in Southwestern Oregon, along the South Umpqua River and its primary feeder stream, Cow Creek. This territory included the entire Umpqua watershed; however, the Tribe was very mobile. A vast area surrounding this watershed was known as their trade, hunting and gathering area. This area extended north into the Willamette Valley and to the east to Crater Lake and the Klamath Marsh area, as well as reaching as far west as the Coast Range and south through the Rogue River Watershed into the Siskiyous. Deer and elk were abundant as were summer runs of silver salmon and winter runs of steelhead. The Cow Creek Tribe made extensive use of the huckleberry patches along the Rogue-Umpqua Divide and the hunting areas and “medicine” trees in the watershed of Jackson Creek. There was more broad usage of the South Umpqua Falls and Big Rocks for fishing and general subsistence purposes. Their homeland was one of beauty, but it also demanded work from its occupants. Cow Creek men carried their arrows in a quiver made of the entire skin of a fox or otter. Cow Creek women wove baskets of wild-hazel bark, bear grass and maidenhair fern stems.
Plant life was also an important source of food.In addition to gathering huckleberries, blackberries and blackcaps, the Cow Creek Tribe gathered tarweed, hazel and chinquapin nuts, wild onions, Indian lettuce, acorns, camas, mushrooms and lambs quarters.
Plants served medicinal purposes as well. Snakeweed was used for burns, cuts and blood poisoning. Mullen leaves were steeped and made into cough syrup. Wild ginger teas cured fevers.
Cow Creek homes were designed in response to the seasons. The Cow Creek Tribe constructed their winter houses primarily of pine boards over shallow excavations in the earth. There are records that rock shelters, with animal hides, were also used for homes.
During the salmon runs, the Cow Creek Tribe built weirs across the streams and placed funnel-shaped basket traps made of hazel shoots in the narrow channels. According to pioneer settler, George Riddle (1851), “The salmon in great numbers would pass up by the side of the trap and, failing to get above the dam would be carried back into the open end of the trap, and the weight of the water would hold them.”
Survival for the Cow Creek Tribe was very difficult during the 1850s. When gold was discovered, the area was flooded with miners from California who filed claims on the local rivers and streams. Hydraulic mining filled rivers with dirt and debris, destroying salmon runs. The filing for land by settlers under the Donation Land Claims Act in 1850 set the stage for increasing tensions between Indians and the newcomers. Epidemics swept through their villages, killing members of the Tribe, including their chief, Miwaleta.
Efforts were made to remove the Cow Creek Tribe from the area to reservations in northern Oregon. Indian people were promised a wonderful life on the reservation. A young boy was sent to one of the relocation reservations to assess the condition of reservation life. He traveled during the night to avoid being captured. Once he arrived at the reservation, he was terrified by what he saw. Conditions on the reservation were deplorable. His first sight was of an infant sucking on its dead mother’s breast.
Given the young scout’s information, most of the Cow Creek Tribe resisted relocation efforts. In response to their deft avoidance of relocation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent exterminators to Oregon for the purpose of killing the Cow
Creek people. The Cow Creek Tribe remained in seclusion while maintaining their way of life. Eventually, many Cow Creek people married pioneers, miners and fur traders in the area. Names familiar to the south county area were Dumont, LaChance, Rainville, Pariseau, Rondeau and Thomason. Many of these names are still prevalent in the Cow Creek Tribe.
The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indian Government Office, Roseburg, OR
Ancestral Territory of the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe