Save TV Butte

Land harbors irreplaceable Indigenous history

Old Hazeldell Quarry, an investment of Ed King (King Estate Winery), has applied to Lane County to change the zoning of a place in Oakridge known as “TV Butte.” The area, which is outside Oakridge’s urban growth boundary, is currently zoned F1 and F2 forestlands. If the zone change is granted, the property would be open to quarry mining.

TV Butte is the center of an irreplaceable and endangered piece of local pioneer and Indigenous history.

At 7 pm April 19, the first public comment took place at the Lane County Customer Service building in Eugene. The Lane County Planning Commission was overwhelmed with the opposition that filled the room. Representatives of the project included Kuper Consulting, a geological survey company established in Montana; noise control and economic teams hired by Old Hazeldell were given 45 minutes to present to the planning commission.

The archaeological and cultural “expert” was conveniently unavailable.

Linda McMahon, resident of Oakridge, requested and was granted 45 minutes equal time to present a rebuttal. Once the presenters were finished, at 9:40 pm, public comment officially began. A passionate and bold opposition presented itself from the residents of Oakridge. Many valid concerns were raised from environmental damages to water, land and wildlife to historical and cultural desecration.

Residents of Oakridge did not have time to complete public comment, so the 45-minute presentation granted to McMahon and citizens will continue at the next meeting May 10 at 5:30 pm, same location.

In a time when immigrant lifestyles were obliterating ancient Indigenous cultures in the Oregon territory, our Molalla family from Oakridge area, rather than defer to conflict, did our best to cooperate with our new neighbors despite the devastating circumstances.

There were no great Indian wars on the Upper Willamette, unlike the Southern and Eastern parts of the Oregon Territory. This is of extreme historical significance.

The following excerpt is from Scott McAleer’s U.S. Forest Service report, “Charlie Tufti and the Molalla of the Middle Fork”:

“Kwis-Kwis became an orphan because of the diseases that wiped out much of the Indian population. He had an artificially flattened head, which signified that he was an offspring of a noble family, and he may have been a chief’s son.

His aunt attempted to take on the responsibility of providing for the child’s care, but she had a family of her own and the burden became too cumbersome.

In desperation, she took him to Fred Warner, a friendly settler who bought Kwis-Kwis for a pumpkin and a pan of flour. The Warners renamed him Charlie Tufti.”

Charlie Tufti was our great-great grandpa, one of the last of the Chakgeenkni-Tufti Molalla Band of the Oakridge area. Our head woman was Indian Mary, known for her beaded and tanned deerskin gloves. Our head man was Old Mose, documented to have led a band of approximately 20 Molalla people in to the late 1800s, periodically residing at the Dunning’s Ranch in Hazeldell, post pioneer settlement.

The oldest living descendant of Charlie Tufti is George Aguilar Sr., who celebrated his 86th birthday this year. Born Feb. 22 of 1930 in The Dalles, Aguilar resides on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Central Oregon.

In 2005, When the River Ran Wild! was published. It was authored by Aguilar and is a thorough documentation of the life and work of Charlie Tufti among other Warm Springs tribal historical and cultural personalities:

“On April 21 1884, Charlie Tufti was awarded legal claim to public domain at the General Land Office in Roseburg. The land on the deed was as follows: 160 acres of township number 21, on the south range R3E, Section 1421 of the Willamette Meridian.”

Another Molalla named Jim Chuck Chuck also managed to homestead land in Big Prairie, later called Hazeldell, and today known as Oakridge.

In order to homestead an applicant had to be white. Therefore it was illegal for an Indian to own land outside the reservation.

Feb. 22 of 1889, Tufti sold the property to A.C. McClane for $640, 25 cents per acre. Tufti married Lucy, a prominent Wasco leader from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and moved thereafter.

There are seven known Indian graves documented in the TV Butte area. Tufti had two wives and children who died of tuberculosis. It is absolutely probable there are more that were not documented due to dangers of grave robbers. Indigenous people of this area were always buried with their finest possessions.

Warm Springs Tribal Code chapter 490 — Protection and Management of Archaeological, Historical and Cultural Resources states: “These cultural sites and materials include those associated with traditional foods, other natural resources, other sacred sites as designated by the Tribes, habitations and historical events and personalities. It is recognized that these are an invaluable, irreplaceable and endangered tribal resource.”

Go to Save TV Butte on Facebook for more information: The next opportunity for comment is 5:30 pm May 10 at the Lane County Customer Service Building, 3050 N. Delta Hwy. in Eugene. If you cannot attend the meeting, I strongly encourage submitting written comment to the Lane County Planning Commission and the Lane County Board of Commissioners.

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