The People Are Dancing Again
The History of the Siletz Tribe of Western Oregon
- PUBLISHED: October 2010
- SUBJECT LISTING: Native American and Indigenous Studies, History / Western History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 580 Pages, 7 x 10 in, 100 illus.
- ISBN: 9780295990668
The history of the Siletz is in many ways the history of all Indian tribes in America: a story of heartache, perseverance, survival, and revival. It began in a resource-rich homeland thousands of years ago and today finds a vibrant, modern community with a deeply held commitment to tradition.
The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians—twenty-seven tribes speaking at least ten languages—were brought together on the Oregon Coast through treaties with the federal government in 1853–55. For decades after, the Siletz people lost many traditional customs, saw their languages almost wiped out, and experienced poverty, killing diseases, and humiliation. Again and again, the federal government took great chunks of the magnificent, timber-rich tribal homeland, a reservation of 1.1 million acres reaching a full 100 miles north to south on the Oregon Coast. By 1956, the tribe had been “terminated” under the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act, selling off the remaining land, cutting off federal health and education benefits, and denying tribal status. Poverty worsened, and the sense of cultural loss deepened.
The Siletz people refused to give in. In 1977, after years of work and appeals to Congress, they became the second tribe in the nation to have its federal status, its treaty rights, and its sovereignty restored. Hand-in-glove with this federal recognition of the tribe has come a recovery of some land--several hundred acres near Siletz and 9,000 acres of forest--and a profound cultural revival.
This remarkable account, written by one of the nation’s most respected experts in tribal law and history, is rich in Indian voices and grounded in extensive research that includes oral tradition and personal interviews. It is a book that not only provides a deep and beautifully written account of the history of the Siletz, but reaches beyond region and tribe to tell a story that will inform the way all of us think about the past.
Watch the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEtAIGxp6pc
Authors & Contributors
Charles Wilkinson is Distinguished University Professor and Moses Lasky Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School. He is the author of many books, including Messages from Frank's Landing: A Story of Salmon, Treaties, and the Indian Way and Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations.
Former tribal attorney Wilkinson has written the definitive history of four centuries of Siletz life by relying on official documents and over 100 interviews with tribal members. Summing up: Recommended.- Choice
Wilkinson begins this process [integrating the perspectives of many tribes] by presenting a multidimensional perspective of Siletz history in a style that may become a new standard for the field in the future.- David G. Lewis, Pacific Northwest Quarterly
A meticulously researched history of the Siletz people, who had asked Charles Wilkinson to write their story. It's also the story of every terminated tribe that has to fight to regain its culture, language, land and place in American society.- Cherie Newman, High Country News
[Wilkinson] weaves statements from tribal leaders and traditional accounts of group experiences into the story repeatedly, so the reader gets a clear picture of how the Indians interpreted their experiences. . . This interesting book combines broad research, years of experience with the events being discussed, and a strong personal commitment to the Siletz people.- Oregon Historical Quarterly
Wilkinson makes strong arguments that decisions to terminate the various tribes were poorly thought-out.- Klamath Falls Herald and News
This book is well researched and beautifully documented, and is most accessible to the general reading public. It is, in many respects, a picture of the entire history of Native American policy.- Rennard Strickland (Osage/Cherokee), author of Tonto's Revenge: Reflections on American Indian Culture and Policy
Charles Wilkinson captures the Siletz people's long journey of betrayal and rejuvenation with such warmth, insight, and engagement that a reader feels privileged to share in it.- Frank Pommersheim, author of Broken Landscape: Indians, Indian Tribes, and the Constitution
In this beautifully written masterpiece, Charles Wilkinson breathes life into these pages, re—creating the inner experience of being Siletz. Absolutely brilliant!- Donald L. Fixico, (Shawnee/Sac & Fox/Muscogee Creek/Seminole), author of Treaties with American Indians
In this magnificent collaborative enterprise, Charles Wilkinson blends Native memory with the documented record to trace the Siletz story from aboriginal homeland to removal, the trials of reservation life, termination, and restoration.- William G. Robbins, author of the Oregon histories Landscapes of Promise and Landscapes of Conflict
The People Are Dancing Again is simultaneously one of the best tribal histories as well as a testament to the resilient spirit of the Siletz Nation. A wonderful contribution.- Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone), author of Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West