Our Cow Creek ancestors managed to hold on, at the margins of settler society, into the early twentieth century. We occupied marginal land, hunted, fished, trapped, and tended small out-of-the-way gardens. During this time, our people continued to hold Tribal councils just as we had since time immemorial.
In 1918, our Cow Creek Umpqua Elders formalized our Tribal government and began to lobby for federal services, especially for education services for our children. We also sought justice with the Government for the taking of our land as stipulated in the 1853 Treaty. The $12,000 that we were to have received, but didn’t, equates to the low price of 2.3 cents per acre. At that same time, settlers were paying the Government $1.25 per acre under the Donation Lands Claim Act.
Between 1918 and 1932, five bills were introduced in Congress on behalf of our Cow Creek people. One bill finally passed both the House and Senate in 1932, but was vetoed by President Hoover, who cited that the United States could not afford Indian claims litigation in the midst of the Great Depression. It was a very somber time for our people.
Then on August 13, 1954, Public Law 588, also known as the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act, was passed. This Act was advertised as legislation to “Set the Indians Free” and declared there were no more Indians left in western Oregon, effectively terminating relations with Tribes. The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians was listed as a terminated tribe.
Even after termination, our people continued to seek a land claims case with U.S. Court of Claims. In 1980 the lands claim bill was passed and by 1984 the case was subsequently litigated by the Tribe to a negotiated settlement of $1.5 million in an endowment from which the Tribe draws on an annual basis only the earned interest.
While the claims case proceeded in the court, our people pursued federal recognition and sought to overturn the termination law of 1954. As a result of legislation which passed both houses of Congress by “unanimous consent” on December 29, 1982, a “recognition” law was signed for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua. The Recognition Act confirmed what our Tribal members already knew for 129 years – that we are a sovereign Tribal government.
Our Tribe never received the reservation our Treaty promised. Even without a reservation, our people remained in their homelands. Today, the Tribe is buying back its land and operating various business enterprises for the economic development of the Cow Creek Tribe and the communities in which we live.
Our Tribal Government Office – located in Roseburg, Oregon – houses our Tribal governing body, known as the Tribal Board of Directors, as well as various Tribal Programs, and one of the Cow Creek Health and Wellness Centers.
The Tribal Board of Directors is responsible for establishing the policies and procedures for the administration of tribal programs, economic development ventures, and other governmental business. The Cow Creek Health and Wellness Centers, which include comprehensive medical staff, is provided for the benefit of not only tribal members and their families, but also for Cow Creek Tribe employees and their families.
The Tribe also has a Gaming Commission that is the regulatory body of the Tribe responsible for compliance with gaming rules and regulations as established by both the Tribal Government and the Tribal/State gaming compact.
The Tribal leadership maintains a long standing commitment to doing what is right for the Tribe and the community. Considerable efforts have been made to balance and provide economic development for the Tribe with that of partners throughout the area. In 2011, the Tribe commissioned ECO Northwest, a well-respected firm in the Pacific Northwest, to conduct a “net economic benefit analysis” on 2010 figures to determine the impact of tribal businesses and activities on the economy of Douglas County.
The study concluded that the Douglas County economic output was $155 million greater due to the jobs and activities provided by Tribal Government. Additionally, small businesses and self-employed workers throughout the county were affected and earned $15.4 million due to the Tribe.
Further, the Tribal Government provided 1,804 more payroll jobs in Douglas County and paid $41 million in total payroll in the county. It was also determined that for every 10 Tribal employees, approximately twelve new jobs were created in other sectors of the Douglas County economy that could not have occurred but for the Tribe.
Another area analyzed by ECO Northwest was a comparison of all tax-exempt property in Douglas County. The real market and assessed taxable values of these properties is almost $7.5 billion of land, buildings, and other properties that are subject to full or partial property tax exemptions. This includes federal, state, and county property, as well as properties owned by the cities within the county, school districts, cemeteries, enterprise zones, and specially assessed farm use and forest land properties. Of the total amount of full or partially exempt property in Douglas County, the tax exempt property under Tribal Government ownership accounts for only 2 percent of that total.
The study also takes note of tribal philanthropy. The tribe regularly donates money to schools, non-profits, charities, local governments, and other community needs. As of 2014, the Tribe has donated over $13 million in total giving to charitable, non-profit and local government causes in Douglas County and an additional $605,894 to similar entities in neighboring counties.
Visitors and Oregon natives who travel the I-5 interstate corridor cannot miss the presence of a Cow Creek business at Canyonville exits ninety-eight and ninety-nine: Seven Feathers Hotel & Casino Resort.
Not as visible are the other businesses the Tribe owns and operates: Anvil Northwest, Seven Feathers Truck and Travel Center, Canyonville Cubbyholes, Seven Feathers RV Resort, Rivers West RV Park, K Bar Ranches, Umpqua Indian Utility Cooperative and Umpqua Indian Development Corporation. For more information on these businesses, please follow this link.