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A History of Treaty-Making and Reservations

A History of Treaty-Making and
    Reservations on the Olympic Peninsula

  •  A Suspicious Fire

Seven months after President Cleveland established the reservation, as most of the Quileute were away picking hops, someone burned the Indian village at La Push to the ground, destroying 25 or 26 Indian homes along with Indian canoes, all their fishing gear, and untold amounts of traditional tools, artwork and ceremonial regalia. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1890.) Indian Agent Wood implicated Pullen in the fire but stopped short of a full accusation, noting that "After the fire, Mr. Pullen, the settler, sowed grass-seed on the site of the burned homes, inclosed [sic] it with a barbed wire fence, and not satisfied with doing this, fenced them off from every other available [building] location by five strands of barbed wire." When the Quileute arrived home they were forced to rebuild their homes on the beach.

Figure 12. Quileute Village at Mouth of River, La Push, Washington, Ca. 1905
University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections, Albert Barnes Collection

The Indians, however, had few doubts that Pullen was behind the fire. In 1946, a tribal elder told Pettitt that an old man who had been unable to go hop picking had seen Pullen and two others setting the fire; others recalled that Pullen threatened to shoot anyone who tried to rebuild on the land. Pettitt also reported that Pullen's brother-in-law insisted the trader had nothing to do with the fire as his business relied on good relations with the Indians, but the anthropologist noted that Pullen continued his quest to gain title to the Quileutes' land.

The Quileutes' new Indian agent, John P. McGlinn, continued to press the government to resolve the problem in the Native's favor and finally reported, in 1893, that he had received authorization to evict Pullen from the reservation. (See Neah Bay Agency Report, 1893.) Pullen, however, responded by obtaining a restraining order and it took nearly five more years-until 1898-before the agent in charge could announce that the litigation was over, Pullen had lost, and the Quileutes' Reservation was theirs once again.

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