An Uncommon Friendship
Friday May 6, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Thousands of native people were displaced as pioneers settled the west. Tipsu Tyee (tip-soo TIE-e), headman for a group of Shasta Indians living in what is now Ashland, Oregon was baffled by the "bad behavior" of miners and farmers who encroached upon his territory in the 1850s. In this violent and unsettled time, Tipsu worked toward peaceful settlements of disputes and established an uncommon friendship with a pioneer named Thomas Smith.
They met when Tipsu inquired about Smith's intentions as Smith and three partners planted vegetables and built a cabin on Tipsu's ancestral land. Smith later wrote that the two agreed "to be good people" and "not disturb one another." The whites should leave after one season and were "not to interfere with [Shasta] women and horses." The Shastas would make sure "no bad Indians" stole from the whites.
When other Indians from the south, stole Smith's guns and horses, Tipsu made amends by giving Smith the land the settler cultivated. When Tipsu was seriously injured he went to Smith who healed him. Tipsu saw Smith as a "good brave man" and a confident. As hostilities escalated, Tipsu told his people Smith "had a big heart and must not be killed."
Tipsu's people fled their home in 1853 while Smith stayed on Tipsu's land and raised a family.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
Hannon, Nan. "Tipsu Tyee: Last Chief of the Ashland Creek People," Southern Oregon Heritage Today, October 2001 Vol. 3, No. 10. pp. 4-12.