Sophia “Sissy” Johnson 1859-1932
Sophia “Sissy” Johnson was born in 1859, the daughter of Onatta, the great chief of the Tututni Tribe. Her tribe was one of the largest to be forced to the Coast Reservation the same year she was born. In 1887, the Dawes Act dissolved the Coast Reservation and tribal sovereignty and each tribal member was “allotted” 80 acres of land (the concept of land ownership was foreign to native people, and thus dismissed by many). Sissy and her husband Jakie’s combined allotments included most of the land that would become known as Taft, Oregon (Lincoln City).
They built a home and lived an isolated life until homesteaders began moving to the area in the early 20th century. They were known as warm, welcoming and helpful neighbors to all, despite the oppression that they suffered in their lives. They taught many early homesteaders survival skills, including where fresh water springs could be found, how to find and eat mussels and crab, and how to cross the bay with a team of horses. Sissy became a midwife and delivered many babies. She never failed to come to people’s aid when they were sick, as she knew of many medicinal herbs and remedies.
Sissy was a remarkable woman and exemplifies the spirit of independence, helpfulness and harmony with nature so valued by native people. She was respected and appreciated for her knowledge, traditions and values. Sissy and Jakie eventually sold their land and moved to Siletz to be with friends and family.
Photo from the archives of NLCHM. See and like our Facebook page for historic posts!