When Briece Edwards, Principal Archaeologist for the Grand Ronde Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), mentioned the idea of archival research to develop our knowledge and differentiate between the many historical schools on or near the Grand Ronde reservation, I jumped at the chance. As part of the Field Methods of Indigenous Archaeology (FMIA) Field School we had been working on an excavation at one of the Grand Ronde schoolhouses, so it was an excellent opportunity for some research that aligned with the FMIA projects.
The Grand Ronde Reservation has been home to a number of schools, and those schools have went through changes in ownership, and location, some even being burned and rebuilt more than once. Understandably this can create confusion, when someone says that they “went to school at Grand Ronde” it could mean many different things.
The solution was to begin work on research using the THPO’s Laserfiche database. Laserfiche is a software to navigate a keyword searchable archive of digitized scanned documents. Among these documents were newspaper articles, transcribed interviews with tribal elders, and handwritten correspondence between the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents assigned to the reservation and the Department of Interior (DOI). Using all of these documents, I gathered a list of names used for Grand Ronde schools and the dates associated with each and created individual timelines for each name on a graphic.
The timelines can be found here: Timelines – Grand Ronde Schools
As you can see there are a lot of different school names, and many of the timelines are very fragmented. Further research, including the schools name in the search keywords, will hopefully fill gaps in the timeline. Some schools, such as Chemawa have had excellent records and are always named explicitly and are distinguished from the other schools in the area. There is also an extensive Catholic history in the area that is well recorded. However the Catholic histories were much more specific with regards to dates and names of individuals, such as Father Croquet, than they were with the names of the schools – this is evident in the many different names for schools in my timeline associated with the Catholic Church.
Doing the archival research for this project has been surprising. This was my first time doing research in an archive, rather than in a library catalog or peer-reviewed journal index. The database was a terrific source of personal correspondence between members of the BIA and DOI that provided a day to day, wonderfully mundane, account of life in the reservation schools. There were transcribed interviews with historically important members of the tribe that held excellent stories and personal experiences.
The database proved to be a surprisingly human source of information, which fit well into the community based framework of acknowledging the history and experiences of people in the tribe. A week prior to starting my research we had lunch with some of the elders, and they were kind enough to share their stories with us. Both experiences were very positive and will absolutely influence the way I will conduct research in the future, where I look, and what information I choose to privilege over others.
There is still a lot of work that can be done on the project, and I aim to continue working on it through the summer. The next step is to try to consolidate the many timelines using the personal stories and descriptions I can find in primary sources in the archives.
All documents accessed from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Archives using Laserfiche, August 2016.
“1851 November 7, Introduction To Treaties”. 1851. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“1863-1947 Preliminary Inventory Of Records”. 1925. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
Hurtado, Albert L and Peter Iverson. 2001. Major Problems In American Indian History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
“Interview With Gertrude Mercier”. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“Interview With Vincent Mercier”. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“Itemizer Observer – October 3, 1979”. 1979. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
Leavelle, Tracy Neal. 1998. “”We Will Make It Our Own Place”: Agriculture And Adaptation At The Grand Ronde Reservation, 1856-1887″. American Indian Quarterly 22 (4): 433. doi:10.2307/1184835.
“Letters To Superintendent Of Grand Ronde Indian School”. 1901. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
Munnick, Harriet. 1973. “Umpquas In Exile – Report From Grand Ronde”. Report. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“News Register – Willamina Middle School Closes It’s Doors”. 2016. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“Sheridan Sun – September 22, 2004”. 2004. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“Sisters Benedictine Grand Ronde History”. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“Smoke Signals – December, 1997”. 1997. Grand Ronde, OR. The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
“Smoke Signals – January, 1980”. 1980. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
“Smoke Signals – March, 1984”. 1984. Grand Ronde, OR. The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.