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Klamath Management Specialist papers

Identifier: Bx 125

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of records created and maintained by T.B. Watters, one of the management specialists contracted by the federal government to oversee the termination of federal recognition of the Klamath Tribes. Included are such documents and files as: copies of Public Law 587, which officially terminated federal recognition of the Tribes; the official report filed by the management specialists with the federal government, titled, "Recommendation for Amendment of Section 5 of Public Law 587"; several volumes of reference material gathered and organized by Watters and his colleagues over the course of their work; reports and summary statements written by the management specialists; program audits conducted by an outside agency; Klamath Tribal Council statements and limited records of minutes from council meetings; reports on tribal members' elections to take lump-sum payments or establish a trust relationship with a national bank; correspondence; newspaper clippings; and essays, reports, and newsletters with position statements.


  • Creation: 1954-1961


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Following the Second World War and in a reversal of policies established under Indian Commissioner John Collier during the 1930s, the United States government made aggressive efforts to “get out of the Indian business” early in the 1950s, setting in motion a termination of the relationship between tribes and the federal government.

In 1953, House Concurrent Resolution 108 was passed, directing the federal government to end its "special the earliest possible time." Legislation was designed to remove federal supervision over trust property. Whereas John Collier's policies had strengthened tribes as social and legal entities, new policy initiatives mandated an end to tribal communities' status as wards of the United States and to assimilate members into white American society.

Public Law 587, passed August 13, 1954, called for "the termination of Federal supervision over the property of the Klamath Tribe of Indians," in Oregon. Section 5 of the Law provided for the creation of "management specialists," maintained by government contract and paid for by the Klamath Tribe, to oversee and arrange for orderly termination. T.B. Waters, W.L. Phillips, and Eugene G. Favell were hired as the Klamath Management Specialists.

Prior to termination, the Klamath Tribes were one of the wealthiest tribes in the nation, judiciously managed for long term yield the largest remaining stand of Ponderosa pine in the west, and were among the only tribes in the United States that paid for all the federal, state and private services used by its members. The elected Tribal Council consistently voted against termination, and multiple reports were issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and others indicating the the tribe was not ready for termination.

The management specialist program itself came to similar conclusions, arguing that immediate sale of timber after termination would depreciate and depress the timber market. In a scathing report by John Collier against termination, Collier noted that the government had assumed that "non-Indian timber interests would welcome this dumping of Indian assets into non-Indian ownership at one-half to one-fourth of their permanent value," but that "the anticipated welcome from the White community was not forthcoming." The reason, Collier noted, was that the sudden influx of land and lumber would "mutilate the economy of a considerable region of Oregon, not only in relation to timber assets but to water resources and wild life, not to mention human assets."

"Of less material but equal human importance," Collier went on to ask, "Shall treaties be torn to scraps; shall human groups be forcibly dismembered; and shall Indian children born after 1954 be cast out utterly from their people's heritage and institutional protections and nurtures (a provisio of the Klamath 'termination' act)?" While many of the arguments against termination were economic in nature, Collier's question highlights some of the human impacts of termination as well. Having lived in their own community for generations, following their own ways of life, the Klamath Tribes and others throughout the United States who faced a similar fate, were ill-prepared for sudden and forced assimliation into larger American society. When presented with options in the context of termination of federal recognition, tribal members were essentially given a choice between two complete unknowns, with one of those unknowns coming with a large cash payment.

The Klamath Termination Act of 1954 authorized the sale of reservation lands and established procedures for terminating the federal government's relationship with the Klamath Tribes. Enrolled tribal members were given the choice between giving up their tribal affiliation and accepting cash payments for their share of the land, and retaining their shares in the former reservation, their association with the Klamath Tribe, and participation in a management plan established by the federal government. By 1961, about 78% of tribal members had elected to receive lump-sum cash payments; 22% chose to have their shares managed by the U.S. National Bank of Oregon, which acted as a trustee for these reamining tribal memebrs.

In 1973, the U.S. National Bank decided to discontinue its trust relationship, selling the remaining reservation land and giving lump-sum payments to the shareholders. Lengthy Congressional review and testimony ensued, resulting in a bill turning 700,000 acres of Klamath forest into the Winema National Forest. In 1974 a Federal Court ruled that the Klamath Indians had retained treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather, and to be consulted in land management decisions when those decisions affected said treaty rights.

Overall, termination was an abysmal failure. Many Klamath people were ill prepared to manage their windfall payments, and Klamath County experienced some of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Alcoholism increased, welfare rolls expanded, health conditions spiraled downward, Indians died at a young age, and few Klamaths had access to educational opportunities. In a report on terminated tribes to the American Indian Policy Review Commission in 1976, a survey of the Klamath noted that few people owned land or were otherwise economically independent: “In general the Klamaths lost their land and have nothing to show for that loss.”

Beginning in 1973, a slow reversal in termination policy began with the federal recognition of Wisconsin’s terminated Menominee Tribe. In the following years, after many hearings before Congress, lawmakers granted federal recognition to the Klamath, Siletz, Grand Ronde, Cow Creek, Coquile, and Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw tribes in Oregon. The Klamath Tribes were successful in regaining restoration of federal recognition in 1986.

Sources include: "Our History," Klamath Tribes, accessed May 2023; William G. Robbins, "This Land, Oregon," Oregon History Project, a program of the Oregon Historical Society, accessed May 2023; John Collier, "The Menominee of Wisconsin and the Klamath of Oregon Cases: How to make rich indians poor; and why; and how to destroy established conservation practices; and why. And the immediate issue before Congress," April 1957.


2 linear feet (2 containers) : 1 records storage box, 1 half-manuscript box

Language of Materials



Public Law 587, passed in August 1954, called for the termination of the Klamath Tribes, and the creation of Management Specialist position to study and oversee the transition. This collection contains the files of the office of the Specialist and includes such records as correspondence, studies, reports, and audits.


Where identified, original order was maintained.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Evalyn Watters, 1969.

Processing Information note

This collection was processed by Mahala Ruddell in May 2023.

Guide to the Klamath Management Specialist papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by University of Oregon Libraries, Archivists' Toolkit Project Team
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA