This is the second in a two-part series looking into the history of Paiute Chief Paulina and exploring how that history is told from both the written historical perspective and the Native American historical perspective. You can watch and read Part One at this link.
From Paulina Peak to Lake Paulina to the town of Paulina in Crook County, Chief Paulina definitely made a name for himself in Central Oregon. But for many of the ranchers and miners in the 1800s that name was associated with fear, violence and death.
Paulina was aPaiute Indian chief who back in the day was considered a marauder and a murderer, but not by everyone. In fact, over the years, history has really revealed that during the time of the Indian wars in the 1800s, there really were no angels. And who the good guys were depends on what side of the fence you were on.
For this part of the story, we look at a man who was pushed beyond his limits and to tell his story, I want you to meet a descendent of Paulina.
“My name is Wilson Wewa Jr. I work for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. I’m a descendant of Weahwewa. And he had a brother — was Paulina.”
The Northern Paiute Tribe had been nomadically living in a large swath of the West for thousands of years, following the seasons and the animals in order to maintain their way of life. But eventually, some strangers appeared from the east and they just kept coming. And their view on land rights was very different than the Northern Paiute had been living with for generations.
“And so when fences were put up across trail systems that had been used for centuries, our people tore them down to access the resources that were on the other side of the fence, so to speak,” Wilson said.
With their resources dwindling and their people starving, several chiefs finally got together and said enough is enough.
“So our people were being pushed from one area to another area to another area and to another area,” Wilson said. “And so to defend the right to live on the land that we’ve always known at home, our people started fighting against the ranchers, against the miners, against the soldiers to maintain our way of life.”
Paulina developed a reputation with the non-natives as being a thief and a savage. But as I said before, there were no angels in this conflict. In fact, the U.S. Army started a skirmish with Paulina in which they abducted his wife and child and put them in prison as a way to try to force his hand to come to the table.
“Paulina, certainly as any husband or father would do when their wife and children are abducted, wanted his wife and child back,” Wilson said. “And so a negotiation was made that if he would come in and stop warring, that he could get his son and wife back, which he did. He gave up his arms and was reunited with his family.”
Paulina tried to settle into reservation life, but he encountered broken promises from the U.S. government and resentment from the Klamath Tribe whose lands the Paiutes were now living on.
“They signed the Klamath Treaty to go on their reservation, but like with many of the treaties, the United States government never fulfilled their promises to provide annuities to the leaders and to the people,” Wilson said.
So, Chief Paulina resumed his subsistence lifestyle and even resumed his raids against white settlers and other tribes. That is until one day he raided and burned down the ranch of James Clark. Clark grabbed Howard Maupin and a few other men and vowed revenge, which he got one early morning near Ashford, Oregon.
“That rancher scalped him with his own knife because the belief was that if he was scalped or killed with his own knife, that he wouldn’t make it into “Indian heaven.” That’s not true,” Wilson said. “Our belief is that if our people are killed by somebody else, that person inherits all the sins of the one they murder.”
In my many years of doing Little Did I Know, I’ve come across countless stories of innocent people who were killed either over mistaken identities or from retaliations of retaliations on both sides of the fence.
“When I was learning about the history of the United States and there were people like George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin that fought against the British to not become subjects of British rule. And they were called patriots,” Wilson said.
In this case, how you view Paulina all depends on who shoes you’re standing in.
“If that’s not a patriot, I don’t know what that is,” Wilson said. “And we’re still here.”
A special thanks to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs for their assistance in this story.
Send your Little Did I Know story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.