Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs

Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs

The Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs was an official position of the U.S. state of Oregon, and previously of the Oregon Territory, that existed from 1848–1873.[1]



The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was created in 1824 to regulate contacts between Native Americans and settlers.

Territorial governors often served as ex-officio superintendents of Indian affairs, and had a general responsibility for Indian affairs in a territory or other political region. In this capacity, they would help negotiate treaties and clear titles to land. A system of agencies was established under each superintendent where each agency was responsible for one or more tribes.[1]

Indian agents were appointed by the President with approval of the Senate. Most agents reported to superintendents, while other reported directly to the central office in Washington, D.C. and relied on local military posts for law enforcement as it related to Indians.[1]

Oregon Superintendency

In 1842, an Indian subagency for the "country West of the Rocky mountains" was established and located in Oregon City in the Willamette Valley.[1] The Oregon Superintendency was established in 1848, when the Oregon Territory was organized.[1] This was about the same time that the Donation Land Claim Act opened Oregon to settlement.[2] The superintendency had jurisdiction over the entire area west of the Rocky Mountains and north of the 42nd parallel.[1] The territorial governor, Joseph Lane, acted as the ex-officio superintendent until 1850, when a separate official was appointed.[1]

In 1851, the superintendency headquarters was moved from Oregon City to Milwaukie. Later moves included: 1853 to Dayton; 1856 back to Oregon City; 1857 to Salem; 1859 to Portland; and in 1861 back to Salem. When Washington Territory was established in 1853, a separate superintendency was established there with jurisdiction over the area north of the Columbia River and the 46th parallel.[1]


The first three regular agents were appointed to the Oregon Superintendency in 1850. They were assigned to geographical areas rather than to particular tribes. The agencies in Oregon Territory were Rogue River, Warm Springs, Puget Sound District, Southeastern District, Port Orford, Siletz, Grand Ronde, Umatilla, Klamath and Malheur. The agency structure in Oregon was complicated because of the removal of Indians from their original homes and the attempt to concentrate them on reservations. There were also many subagencies, special agencies and local agencies, especially after the wars of 1855.[1]


Tribes that were assigned to the Oregon Superintendency were the Cayuse, Chastacosta, Chetco, Clackamas, Joshua, Kalapuya, Klamath, Modoc, Molala, Nez Perce, Paiute, Rogue River, Shasta, Sixes (Kwatami), "Snake", Tenino, Umatilla, Umpqua, Wallawalla, Warm Springs, Wasco, and Yamel.[1]


From 1857 to 1861, the Oregon and Washington superintendencies were combined. The Oregon Superintendency was abolished in 1873—the agents in Oregon then reported directly to the BIA in Washington, D.C.[1]

List of superintendents

  • Anson Dart (June 21, 1850–1853)
  • Joel Palmer (March 17, 1853–1856)
  • Absalom F. Hedges (June 21, 1856-May 1, 1857)
  • James W. Nesmith (March 12, 1857–1859)
  • Edward R. Geary (March 22, 1859-?)
  • William H. Rector (June 13, 1861-?)
  • J. W. Perit Huntington (January 19, 1863-?)
  • Alfred B. Meacham (March 29, 1869–?)
  • T. B. Odeneal (January 8, 1872–?)



An incomplete list of Indian agents in Oregon includes:

See also


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