Cow Creek Band to sign Table Rocks agreement

Ceremony scheduled Saturday morning at TouVelle State Park

Nearly 160 years after they signed a treaty with Uncle Sam near the Table Rocks, the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians will again put pen to paper with the federal government within sight of the huge, rocky outcroppings.

Tribal chairman Daniel Courtney on Saturday will join BLM State Director Ed Shepard and Russell Hoeflich, Oregon director of The Nature Conservancy, in signing a memorandum of understanding to protect and manage Upper and Lower Table Rocks.

The signing ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at TouVelle State Park across the Rogue River from the iconic twin mesas.

Last fall, leaders of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde signed a similar agreement with the BLM and The Nature Conservancy. The ancestors of both Indian tribes regarded the Table Rocks as part of their original homeland.

The agreements reflect the BLM's interest in working with the tribes and others in helping to protect the cultural and natural resources of the Table Rocks, explained Jim Whittington, spokesman for the BLM's Medford District.

"With this, we are saying formally that we intend to cooperate with the tribes," he said of helping to preserve their ancestral roots.

Each group "agrees to participate in good faith to the best of its abilities and resources" to work together for the preservation of the Table Rocks, according to the document.

The BLM now manages about 1,280 acres of the Upper and Lower Table Rocks, while the conservancy has 2,789 acres of preserves on the rocks, with conservation easements on nearly 800 more adjacent acres.

The BLM has designated its acreage as areas of environmental concern because of the rare plants and creatures found only there. The unique plants and animals found in the area include dwarf woolly meadowfoam and vernal pool fairy shrimp.

For more than 25 years, the BLM and The Nature Conservancy have provided guided tours atop the Table Rocks, which are now visited by some 45,000 people annually.

The document to be signed Saturday will seek tribal input on everything from using traditional tribal fire-management practices to exploring the potential for ceremonial hunting on BLM-managed lands.

It also establishes a Table Rocks management committee that will include the partners and other interested stakeholders. The committee is charged with working collaboratively to implement long-term management, education and restoration efforts.

Ancestors of both the Cow Creek Band and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde originally signed a treaty with the United States on Sept. 19, 1853.

Unfortunately, the hoped-for peace did not come. In February and March of 1856, the Indians were forced to march from their temporary reservation at the Table Rocks to the new Grand Ronde reservation. At least eight people died during the 263-mile journey.

However, many Indians resisted relocation efforts. Members of the Cow Creeks found refuge near the Umpqua River headwaters, where they maintained their way of life, according to tribal records.

The Table Rocks are the remnants of a volcanic eruption some 7.5 million years ago, according to geologists. Both plateaus rise about 750 feet from the valley floor to some 2,050 feet above sea level.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at

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