Slide Show

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How the Peninsula was won

The milk cooling tower on Port Williams Road near Sequim, a remnant of the Dungeness Valley's dairy farming past.

With the signing of the Oregon Treaty of June15, 1846, the boundary between the United States and Canada extended westward along the 49th parallel to the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The treaty gave the Americans title to the Olympic Peninsula. Not that it mattered much at the time. This was a mountainous area covered with a thick growth of almost impenetrable timber that made travel by land extremely difficult. The rivers that came from the Olympic Mountains were short, violent streams that defied navigation by anyone but the Native Americans who had a long tradition of poling their cedar dugout canoes upstream to hunt, fish, gather food and trade with inland villages.
While some maintained that Native Americans did not venture inland because of their superstitions about the land being haunted by evil spirits, the evidence would suggest otherwise.
The earliest settlers mention lush prairies throughout Western Washington. These prairies were savannah grasslands that were maintained by the Native American practice of burning every three to five years. The fires kept the encroaching evergreens from taking over, attracted game and propagated a variety of plants that were used for food, fiber and medicine.
The first reference to a permanent European residents on the Olympic Peninsula was in 1849 when the Hudson Bay trappers John Everett and John Sutherland  paddled their canoe from Victoria to Crescent Beach where they were adopted by the Clallam. 
The Hudson Bay Company, aka, “ Here Before Christ” was a powerful British monopoly that was a force for law and order on the frontier. The HBC stopped the cutthroat competition in the fur trade by banning the sale of liquor to the Indians. Hudson Bay fur brigades routinely lived with the natives. It was often the only way to survive in a dangerous wilderness.
The company was in business for profit. It had no interest in taking Indian land or wrecking their culture. That would come later.
The settlers of Oregon Territory had formed a sort of government described as “week, transient and primitive” by the few settlers north of the Columbia River at the time. These were the future Washingtonians that were in turn described by the Oregonians as “the crudest elements of the frontier.”
By 1853 these crude elements in Washington were seeking independence from Oregon. Isaac Stevens, a West Point graduate who had risen to the rank of major general in the Mexican War was rewarded by being named Washington's Territorial Governor, Superintendent of Indian Affairs and leader of the Northern Pacific Railroad survey all at the same time.
Steven's political machine was described by his opponents as “perpetuating a political dynasty which stinks in the nostrils of all honest men.”
Stevens was in a hurry to make treaties with the tribes that would extinguish their title to the land so it could be legally homesteaded by white settlers. The Indians were not in the same hurry. 
Stevens speech to the Indians, a variation of the “trust the Great Father of the Americans” theme was translated into Chinook, a trade jargon of native French and English words, then translated into the individual tribal languages. The response from the tribe was translated back to English.
At the Point No Point Treaty negotiations, the tribes did not want to sell their land but a Clallam village had recently been destroyed in Dungeness Bay by cannon fire from a ship.
The tribes signed the treaty.
By then squatters had already started a settlement at Dungeness named “Whiskey Flats” for the towns only industry, selling liquor to the Indians.     

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