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Indigenous Peoples in the Rogue Basin

For time immemorial the now-named Rogue River watersheds have been the homeland of the Athapascan,
Takelma, and Shasta peoples (comprised of many different tribal groups), whose descendants still live in the region and throughout Oregon today (Gray 1987; Wilkinson 2010).


Before the gold rush and settler influx, warfare, treaties, and removal, Indigenous people fostered an intimate and reciprocal network of relationships with the bounty offered by the landscape of the Rogue River and its major tributaries. Salmon was a staple partner in these relationships, and the overall maintained mosaic of cultural landscapes and seasonal nature of the environment saw families move with the seasons to also gather acorns, berries, camas, or other plant resources, to hunt for deer, elk, or other animals, or to procure bear grass for basketry or lithic material for flint knapping (Gray 1987; Tveskov and Cohen 2007; Tveskov 2007).

Native people, have always been wise stewards of their southwestern Oregon homelands, acting out a relationship of interdependence. Traditional Ecological Knowledge and practices such as wisely applied use of beneficial fire at appropriate seasons tended the landscape and promoted abundance, biodiversity, and protection from catastrophic fires. Ecosystem health was paramount to thriving Native communities. Deep forest, meadow, oak savanna, and riparian gardens provided all that was needed, and clean waterways teeming with fish, lamprey, and other aquatic species, valleys, and uplands filled with wildlife made for a sort of paradise. 


Tribes of the Rogue Valley first experienced non-Native people through sporadic Hudson Bay Company employee presence, a British chartered company, seeking primarily beaver pelts in the 1820s and 1830s. American colonization started slowly, accelerating dramatically in the early 1850s with the discovery of gold near Jacksonville. This sudden influx of miners and settlers resulted in the death and destruction of Native peoples, their lifeways, and that reciprocal relationship with the land interrupted. The mass immigration—fed by the ideology of Manifest Destiny—also spread disease among Indigenous people and led to massacre, war, and ultimately dislocation. 


The Rogue River Wars brewed and festered periodically from 1850-1856. In 1853 and 1854, Tribe diplomats signed treaties with the United States government that acknowledged their sovereign rights in the region, rights acknowledged to this day by the federal government and the State of Oregon. After the official end of the Rogue River Wars in 1856, the survivors were removed to the Siletz Reservation and the Grand Ronde Reservation. The descendants of Rogue Valley Tribes are today represented by the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde (Tveskov 2007; Wilkinson 2010).


Thank you to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Robert Kentta, Cultural Resources Director, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, and Mark Tveskov, Black Dog Archaeology for your assistance in developing this verbiage. 

We encourage you to learn more by exploring the official Tribe websites and other resources below.

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Altered fire regimes and loss of aboriginal fire
stewardship threatening upland areas

Among the diverse upland areas, Rogue River watersheds are home to some of the most extensive remaining oak ecosystems in the western United States. For time immemorial, these oak  ecosystems, have been stewarded
by Tribes of aboriginal North Americans.
oak associate
and oak dependent
vertebrate species
There are
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