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Broken Treaties, An Oregon Experience

Broadcasts: March 20, 9:00 p.m. [OPB TV], March 22, 2:00 a.m. [OPB TV], March 24, 11:00 p.m. [OPB TV], March 25, 7:00 p.m. [OPB TV], March 26, 9:00 a.m. [OPB TV], April 1, 11:00 p.m. [OPB TV]

Most non-Indian people in Oregon don’t seem to know much about the state’s Native American population.

“Yeah, that’s missing in our school system. It’s missing in public discourse and understanding. Most people know which casinos are where. So if it comes up in conversation that you’re Siletz — of something about the tribes — they’ll say, ‘Is your casino Spirit Mountain?’ or they’ll say, ‘Is your casino Chinook Winds?’

— Bud Lane, vice-chair of Tribal Council for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians

Northwest history is a popular subject these days. Bookstores have shelves filled with writings about the pioneers, the Astor party, the Lewis and Clark expedition and the history of Portland, Oregon. 

But what about the people who were already settled here when those pioneers arrived? 

What do folks today know about the earlier Oregonians who fished for salmon in the Willamette River and watched the late-day sun light up Mount Hood — thousands of years before Portland got its name?

“Broken Treaties” introduces OPB viewers to Oregon’s tribes and explores a thread of the story that isn’t told well in those shelves of history books.

From the early days of white settlement, the native people faced efforts to separate them from their traditional religions and to convert them to Christianity. Indians, especially Indian children, were also discouraged from speaking their ancestral languages and pressed to adopt Western clothing and culture.
For several years, the U.S. government assigned various dominations of Christian churches to the reservations. The churches were provided “captive audiences” to educate in the Christian ways and worked to assimilate the native people at little or no cost to the government.

For additional stories, videos, photos and maps, visit our “Broken Treaties” series page.

Resources and Information


  • Laura Berg, Editor, “The First Oregonians,” Oregon Council for the Humanities, 2007
  • Stephen Dow Beckham, “Oregon Indians: Voices from Two Centuries,” Oregon State University Press, 2006.
  • Robert J. Miller, “Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, and Manifest Destiny,” Bison Books, 200
  • Charles Wilkinson, “The People Are Dancing Again: The History of the Siletz Tribe of Western Oregon,” University of Washington Press, 2010
  • Loy, Allan, Buckley & Meacham, “Atlas of Oregon,” University of Oregon Press, 2001
  • Carl Waldman, “Atlas of The North American Indian,” Checkmark Books, 2000
  • Inmí Ititamatpamá Umatilla & Walla Walla, “My Counting Book
  • Eugene S. Hunn, E., Thomas Morning Owl, Phillip E. Cash Cash & Jennifer Karson Engum, “Čáw Pawá Láakni,” “They Are Not Forgotten: Sahaptian Place Names Atlas of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla

Articles and Essays

Tribe Websites

Tribe Wikipedia Pages

Descriptions From “Oregon Blue Book”


Funding Provided By: Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer, Oregon Cultural Trust, Clark Foundation, the Wyss Foundation

OREGON EXPERIENCE is a co-production of Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Oregon Historical Society.

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