Between 1851 and 1856 the hills, valleys and coastline of Southern Oregon witnessed one of the bloodiest conflicts between Native Americans and the combined forces of the U.S. Army and local militia west of the Mississippi. Fighting festered and flared up multiple times over those five years, a period marked by the sudden influx of miners chasing the gold discoveries of 1850, as well as pioneer settlers answering the call of the Donation Land Claim Act of that same year. The native groups who had lived here for hundreds of years naturally resented this sudden usurpation of their lands. They resisted with sporadic violence against isolated miners and settlers, who formed "volunteer militias" in defense, some openly bent on "exterminating" the local tribes. The U.S. Army tried to stay out of the conflict in the early years, but by 1855 enough whites were being killed the Army stepped in more forcefully in 1855. Despite a few embarrassing defeats, they forced the Takelma, Shasta Costa, Tututinis and other bands onto a newly formed reservation on the Central Coast in 1856.
The land has changed much in the 150+ years since those tragic events. Development and increased population have nearly obliterated many of the places made famous—or infamous—during the wars. Creeks have been rerouted, ridges blasted away for highways, fort sites paved over, and many places obscured by the fog of tales told and retold over time. But this project is not about definitively locating and marking specific historic places on a map. These photographs are not meant to be a record, but rather a reimagining of a landscape that played host to tragic events—and an appreciation of how the land endures. It is my response to the sublime landscapes I encountered as I explored the country, following on the trail of ghosts and putting myself in places whose history I could feel.
Keywords:indian, infrared, rogue
© Rich Bergeman Photography