"An Anxious Desire of Self Preservation": Colonialism, Transition, and Identity on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, 1860-1910
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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the United States government, in its relations with Native Americans, implemented a policy of assimilation designed to detribalize Indian peoples and absorb them into the dominant society. Subjected to this colonial agenda, the Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla tribes of Oregon's Umatilla Indian Reservation, as a matter of survival, endeavored to maintain community cohesion and retain their indigenous identity. In this context, I argue that the tribes confronted federal initiatives with a strategy of adaptive resistance that allowed them to approach these onerous impositions on their own terms. This study examines their diverse responses to assimilation and colonialism, specifically accommodation, adaptation, and diplomacy. Employing the investigative frameworks of education, religion, and economics reveals the variety of tactics applied within these categories, which range from incorporation to evasion. Through these actions and reactions, the tribes reaffirmed their capacity to assert native agency.