By Paul Daquilante
However, for more than 60 years—1934 to 1995—the event was known as Phil Sheridan Days. The celebration was named for a career U.S. Army officer stationed in the area before going on to become a celebrated Civil War general.
In a return to its past, Phil Sheridan Days will be held Thursday, June 20, through Sunday, June 23. But not without a sharply worded rebuke from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which is asking organizers to reconsider on the grounds that Sheridan’s contempt for Native Americans was well-documented.
Reyn Leno, who chairs the Grand Ronde Tribal Council, termed the reversal of that decision this year a “sad commentary on the local community.” He said it showed a lack of respect for Sheridan’s neighboring tribal community.
“The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is seriously disappointed in the decision to rename Sheridan Days to Phil Sheridan Days,” he said. “While the general may be lauded for his role in the Civil War, his treatment of Native Americans was shameful.”
He said the tribe is asking the committee to reconsider honoring a man responsible for indiscriminate hanging of tribal ancestors and credited with uttering the infamous quote, “The only good Indian is a dead one.”
Leno said the tribe was a proactive partner in the original change from Phil Sheridan to Sheridan Days.
“We have supported this community celebration over the last few years,” he said, making the change a slap in the face.
Eventually the Indians returned to their designated reservations. Sheridan's department conducted the Red River War, the Ute War, and the Great Sioux War of 1876-77, which resulted in the death of a trusted subordinate, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. The Indian raids subsided during the 1870s and were almost over by the early 1880s, as Sheridan became the commanding general of the U.S. Army.
Comanche Chief Tosawi reputedly told Sheridan in 1869, "Me, Tosawi; me good Injun," to which Sheridan supposedly replied, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead." Biographer Roy Morris Jr. states that, nevertheless, history credits Sheridan with saying "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." This variation "has been used by friends and enemies ever since to characterize and castigate his Indian-fighting career."