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Puyallup Lands and the 1873 Survey - Part 2

Written by Katura Hagerman, 2023 Museum Intern

Edited for publication by Holly Stewart, Program Manager

This is the second in a four-part series about the Puyallup Land Allotments.

You can find the first post about the Medicine Creek Treaty at this link.

You can find the third post about Puyallup Lands and Unlikely Alliances at this link.

You can find the fourth post about the Puyallup Act of 1893 at this link.

Surveying the Puyallup Reservation

A unique aspect to the Medicine Creek Treaty is found in Article VI. It allows for a survey of Puyallup lands, followed by a division of the reservation into individual allotments. This process began in 1873, leading to incredible land loss for the Puyallup people.

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1873 map of the Puyallup Indian Reservation - Plat of Townships 20-21 North, Ranges 3-7 East, Willamette Meridian. From the U.S. National Archives Catalog.

President Grant ordered the survey of the reservation, believing that it would break apart the communal living style of the Puyallup tribe. Government policies encouraged land be divided into plots for nuclear families in the hope that Native peoples would assimilate into Euro-American culture.

Another rationale for surveying the land came from the vast amounts of settlers moving onto Puyallup lands in the late 19th century and the disputes that inevitably arose. The arrival of the railroad and growing urbanization increased demand for land development.

The American government used the 1873 survey as a way to give certain people better plots of land and to determine the exact reservation boundary, resolving past disputes. Problems arose, however, when these new lines cut across land previously inhabited by both Native and non-Native people.

The government also employed the survey as a way to make tribal allotments as small as possible. In the end, the United States government created 167 allotments equating to 7,463 acres. Additional acreage was set aside for a school and farmlands.

The size of each family determined the amount of land they were allotted. Every Puyallup person over the age of 21 received an eighth section of 80 acres. Families of two received a fourth section. Families with three to five members received a half section, while those with 6-10 members receive a full section of 640 acres.

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1909 Portrait of Indian Agent Edwin Eells. From the archives of Whitman College

Eells was the son of Reverend Cushing Eells, founder of Whitman College. Edwin Eells was appointed Indian Agent of the Skokomish Indian Reservation in 1871. He later served as the Puyallup Indian Agent from 1883 to 1894. He wanted to protect them from the "corrupting" influence of Tacoma (drinking, gambling, etc.). Eells also pushed for patents on the reservation to better monitor the Puyallup population as he believed it would bring Puyallup members onto the reservation who had not yet moved.

Indian Agent Edwin Eells also carried out a census of the Puyallup population in order to aid the distribution of allotments. Eells decided that there were 161 "full-blooded" Natives, 31 mixed-race Natives, and 6 "foreigners." The racial status of Puyallup people during allotment was used to determine how the United States government would interfere with their patents. They believed that those who were "full-blooded" required more care; Native people would be incapable of handling their own lands and finances if given full control. This paternalism led some Puyallup people to resist by attempting to assert their property rights in the 1880s.

Later surveys of the Puyallup Reservation by Eells also looked at the economic state of the Puyallups living on the reservation and the relationship each allottee had with farming.

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1886 photo of a Native American family in acanoe on Commencement Bay. The Northern Pacific Railroad bridge is visible in
the background. From the image archives of the Tacoma Public Library.

Find out more about the next chapter in the history of Puyallup Land Allotments at this link.


Castile, George P. “Edwin Eells, U.S. Indian Agent,1871-1895.” The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 72, no. 2 (1981): 61–68.

Crawford O’Brien, Suzanne J. and Dennis F. Kelley. “AmericanIndian Religious Traditions: An Encyclopedia.” (2005).

Galacci, Caroline. “Planning the City of Destiny: An UrbanHistory of Tacoma to 1930.” Ph.D. dissertation (University of Washington, 1999).

Hirsch, Mark. “The Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854.”Smithsonian Voice, From the Smithsonian Museums, (March 23, 2017).

Hunt, Herbert. “Tacoma: Its History and Its Builders: A HalfCentury of Activity.” 3 vols. (Chicago, 1916).

Landry, Lena. “Peter C. Stanup: A Leader Among the GenerousPeople.” Interview by Daryne Reiter. (November 1998).

Schaefer, Kurt Kim. “A Bitter Pill: Indian Reform Policy,Indian Acculturation, and the Puyallup Act of 1893.” The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 102, no. 1 (2010): 14–28.

Schaefer, Kurt Kim. “ The Promise and the Price of Contact:Puyallup Indian Acculturation, Federal Indian Policy and the City of Tacoma, 1832-1909. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington (Seattle, 2016),

Peter C. Stanup. Woman’s Tribune, June 17, 1893, [105].Nineteenth Century Collections Online (accessed June 25, 2023)

White, M.H. “Puyallup Indian Reservation Showing AllotmentsPer US Patents.” Map. (1 centimeter is approximately 40 acres). Tacoma, 1886. (accessed 16 June 2023)

Wilma, David and Walt Crowley. “Tacoma – Thumbnail History.” Essay 5055.

About the Author

Katura Hagerman completed an internship with Job Carr Cabin Museum in Summer 2023. She was a senior at Illinois State University majoring in history education and minoring in Native American Studies.

Katura chose to intern with Job Carr Cabin Museum because "I like that they place a lot of focus on community outreach and make all of their events free so everyone is able to experience what they have to offer. I think it makes the cabin a really special place."

Her internship included a research project on the allotment of the Puyallup Reservation. She says that she learned a lot about that process and about the Puyallup tribe in general. She was able to compare and contrast the process with the her study of the Plains tribes.

After her internship, Katura returned to Illinois for a student teaching assignment. After graduation, she hoped to return to the Pacific Northwest.