Learning Center: Oregon Studies: Pacific Northwest History
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Pacific Northwest: General Works
Blair, Karen. Northwest Women: An Annotated Bibliography of Sources on the History of Oregon and Washington Women, 1787-1970. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1997. This bibliography is the best reference volume on the history of women in the Pacific Northwest. Blair has produced annotations on both full-length studies and journal articles that cover a wide range of topics and present a cross-cultural view of women’s experiences. The author has also annotated volumes that while not focusing on women specifically, do document their place in the region’s history.
Blair, Karen, ed. Women in Pacific Northwest History. Rev. ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001. This work is an edited a collection of essays that documents the lives of notable individuals and women’s communities. Some of the topics explored by the contributors include suffrage, work, ethnicity, and future prospects for women’s history in the Pacific Northwest. Blair also presents a useful bibliography on further readings.
Dietrich, William. Northwest Passage: The Great Columbia River. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995. Northwest Passage provides readers with a good introduction to Columbia River history from the era of Euro-American exploration in the late eighteenth century through the late twentieth century. Dietrich relates how Native Americans and later emigrant groups conceived of and utilized the river for economic as well as ceremonial and recreational purposes. This long view follows the changes in the river’s course through the development of hydroelectric dams and the decline of fish stocks. Dietrich also includes a useful chronology of Columbia River history.
Halliday, Jan. and Gail Chehak. Native Peoples of the Northwest: A Traveler’s Guide to Land, Art, and Culture. 2nd ed. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2000. This guidebook, produced in cooperation with the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, is a useful volume on Canadian and American communities of the present-day. The authors have divided the larger region into several geographic sub-regions, including southeast Alaska, British Columbia, western Washington, western Oregon, the Columbia River, Idaho and western Montana. Each section provides information on opportunities for visiting Native communities. The authors have also included passages on the cultures, histories, geographies, and present circumstances of the local communities.
Schwantes, Carlos A. The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History. Rev. Ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996. Influenced by developments in western American history during the latter decades of the twentieth century, Carlos Schwantes produced a history of the Pacific Northwest that is broader in scope than earlier texts. While the earlier works focused primarily on political and economic developments, Schwantes fleshes out social, cultural, and geographic changes. As a result, Schwantes presents more information on the experiences of women, ethnic minorities, and the laboring classes than texts published in the early decades of the twentieth century.
Pacific Northwest: Euro-American Exploration & Cultural Encounters
Boyd, Robert T. The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline Among Northwest Coast Indians, 1774-1874. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1999. Anthropologist Robert Boyd presents a comprehensive account of the history of infectious disease epidemics in the Pacific Northwest through the early reservation period. Relying on historical documents, anthropological sources, as well as research in the hard sciences, Boyd carefully traces the development and spread of foreign diseases amongst the region’s Native peoples and the effects of these diseases on local populations. Although this subject is a difficult one, it is nonetheless an essential component for understanding the history of the early contact period.
Boyd, Robert, ed. Indians, Fire, and the Land in the Pacific Northwest. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1999. The essays in this collection trace the history and culture of large-scale landscape management practiced by the region’s Native peoples through the early contact period. From the Willamette Valley to southwestern Oregon to British Columbia, Native peoples annually burned portions of their traditional lands. The purpose behind this large-scale landscape management was to retain the various ecological niches that supported the plant and animal life crucial to the Indians’ seasonal rounds. As a result, these studies challenge the notion that early Euro-American settlers encountered an “edenic” landscape untouched by human hands.
Cook, Warren. Flood Tide of Empire: Spain and the Pacific Northwest, 1543-1819. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973. From the mid sixteenth century through early nineteenth century, the Spanish not only explored the Pacific Northwest Coast, but also made several attempts to gain territorial rights in the region. In this volume, Warren Cook traces the diplomatic and political history of the Spaniards’ attempts to gain the upper-hand in an international struggle that involved Russia, France, the United States and Great Britain. The appendixes in this volume are noteworthy, for they include Michael Lok’s account of Juan de Fuca’s 1592 voyage to the Pacific Northwest, and listings of the various European and American ships to visit the region in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Gough, Barry. The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and Discoveries to 1812. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1992. For those more familiar with American maritime voyages to the Pacific Northwest, Gough provides a useful overview of British activity in the region from the sixteenth century and the Voyages of Sir Francis Drake through the early nineteenth and the debut of the overland fur trade. The author discusses such diverse topics as British naval power, the maritime fur trade, territorial claims, trade rights, and the search for the illusive Northwest Passage.
Henry, John Frazier. Early Maritime Artists of the Pacific Northwest Coast, 1741-1841. Seattle: 1984. Early Maritime Artists is a handsomely illustrated volume that explores the lives and works of artists from the countries exploring the Northwest Coast during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: Russia, Great Britain, France, Spain, and the United States. Henry provides descriptions of the exploring expeditions and short biographies of the artists, in addition to reproductions of the artists’ works.
Leland, Donald. Aboriginal Slavery in the Northwest Coast of North America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Leland’s study of Native slavery in the Pacific Northwest is the most comprehensive treatment to date. His aim is to present an analysis that is both anthropological and historical in nature. Thus, Leland outlines the culture and economics of the slave system as well as its change over time, especially after contact with Euro-Americans in the late eighteenth century. Of particular note is Leland’s attention to class or status differences with Northwest Coast Native cultures.
Mackie, Richard. Trading Beyond the Mountains: The British Fur Trade on the Pacific, 1793- 1843. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 1997. Adding to a modest but growing field of study, Richard Mackie has produced a comprehensive account of the overland fur trade pursued by British and Canadians in the Pacific Northwest during the first half of the nineteenth century. Focusing on international, continental, and regional aspects of the trade, Mackie demonstrates how a complex mixture of logistics, business acumen, diplomacy, military might, and social relations ensured the British and Canadians a long tenure in the region until the Oregon Treaty of 1846.
Ruby, Robert and John Brown. The Chinook Indians: Traders of the Lower Columbia. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976. Ruby and Brown’s work is the standard text on the Chinook Indians, a Lower Chinookan group whose traditional territory was the north shore of the lower Columbia River estuary. The Chinook held a prominent place in the Pacific Northwest during the pre-contact period (mid-1700s) and the early contact period (1780s-1830s). Their social and economic influence stemmed from a strategic geographic position at the mouth of the Columbia, which offered them a role as middlemen in aboriginal trade networks as well as the later maritime and overland fur trades.
Vaughan, Thomas and Bill Holm. Soft Gold: The Fur Trade and Cultural Exchange on the Northwest Coast of America. 2nd ed. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990. In the early 1980s, the Oregon Historical Society museum hosted an exhibit featuring a myriad of artistic and ceremonial artifacts and trade goods collected in the Pacific Northwest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This illustrated volume reproduces the exhibit for readers to enjoy. It includes an introductory essay by Thomas Vaughan on the history of the maritime fur trade, plus maps, illustrations, and photographs of the items used in the exhibit. Ethnographic annotations by Bill Holm accompany the photographs of the artifacts. As such, this volume is a unique resource for educating students about Native-newcomer encounters during the fur trade era and the material culture of Northwest Indian peoples.
Pacific Northwest: Immigration and Re-settlement
Bunting, Robert. The Pacific Raincoast: Environmental and Culture in an American Eden, 1778-1900. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1997. Bunting challenges the founding mythology of Pacific Northwest history—that the re-settlement of the region was a heroic tale of Euro-American civilization triumphing in a pristine eden. Instead, the author demonstrates that Native peoples had intensively manipulated the natural landscape long before the arrival of Euro-Americans. Non-Indian colonization and re-settlement greatly altered the environment in complex, often destructive ways. Throughout the study, Bunting explores both the biological and social consequences of this re-settlement process.
Gibson, James R. Farming the Frontier: The Agricultural Opening of the Oregon Country, 1786 – 1846. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1985. Farming the Frontier is less a historical narrative than an economic geography of Oregon Country agriculture. Gibson’s study is focused on the introduction of non-native, domesticated species into the Northwest’s landscapes, largely through agents of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the ways in which agricultural developments helped non-Indian communities survive and grow in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Haarsager, Sandra. Organized Womanhood: Cultural Politics in the Pacific Northwest, 1840-1920. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. Organized Womanhood will provide readers with a descriptive survey of the activities of women’s groups in the Pacific Northwest. Topics covered include: suffrage, prohibition, conservation, pure foods, and social and health issues. The bibliography is full of material for readers who want to know more.
Harmon, Alexandra. Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identities around Puget Sound. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. In questioning the notion of a distinct, unchanging “Indian” identity in the Pacific Northwest, Harmon argues that the Native peoples of Puget Sound have defined and redefined themselves in contradistinction to non-Indians. Taking the long view of history and culture, the author follows the Puget Sound peoples from the contact period through the late twentieth century. This is an in-depth study appropriate for serious students.
Johnson, David Alan. Founding the Far West: California, Oregon, and Nevada, 1840-1890. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Founding the Far West compares and contrasts the political, social, and economic histories of three geographic regions—California, Oregon, and Nevada—during their transition from territories to statehood. Johnson is especially focused on the lives and ideologies of leading politicians involved in statemaking, and the effects of their leadership on the political developments of each region.
Meinig, D. W. The Great Columbia Plain: A Historical Geography, 1805-1910. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1968. This classic text, still available in paperback, traces the historical geography of the mid- Columbia basin during the Euro-American re-settlement era. Meinig examines the ways in which the region has been “explored, evaluated, organized, and developed” over the span of one hundred years. Some of the specific topics the author studies include Natives peoples’ interactions with the landscape, commercial competitions to exploit natural resources, the development of transportation links, agriculture, and the growth of urban areas.
Schwantes, Carlos A. A Long Day’s Journey: The Steamboat and Stagecoach Era in the Northern West. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. This illustrated volume presents the history of commercial transportation in the Pacific Northwest, Montana, and Wyoming from the 1830s through 1900. By attempting a “harmony between image and word,” Schwantes has produced a text which is both instructive and enjoyable to read. His main argument is that regional development—or the lack there of— shaped the earliest forms of transport in the region.
Stern, Theodore. Chiefs & Chief Traders: Indian Relations at Fort Nez Percés, 1818-1855, Vol. 1. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1993. This work represents the first of two volumes about the evolving relationships between non-Indian and metis’ fur traders, and Walla Walla, Cayuse, Nez Perce, and Umatilla Indians of the Columbia Plateau. In this first volume, Stern explores inter-group relationships that occurred from the construction of Fort Nez Perce (a fur trading post) in 1818, to the Cayuse “factional dispute” of 1831-1832.
Stern, Theodore. Chiefs & Change in the Oregon Country: Indian Relations at Fort Nez Percés, 1818-1855, Vol. 2. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1996. In the second of his two-volume series, Stern examines the history of the Walla Walla, Nez Perce, Umatilla, and Cayuse from the period of Hudson’s Bay Company’s tenure at Fort Nez Perce in 1821, to the 1855 killing of Piupiumaksmaks, revered leader of the Walla Walla, by Americans. This work also provides important information regarding the interpretation of events surrounding the Whitman Massacre—particularly from the perspective of the Cayuse.
Taylor, Quintard. The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994. Taylor separates his study of African Americans in Seattle into three sections: blacks in a frontier city (1860-1899); the emergence of a black community (1900-1940); and black Seattle in the modern era (1941-1970). The topics he explores include employment and housing opportunities, civil rights, the development of a “community ethos,” and the political culture of the black community in Seattle. One of Taylor’s important contributions is his examination of the social relations between African Americans and Asian Americans in an urban context.
Pacific Northwest: Twentieth Century
Cohen, Fay G. Treaties on Trial: The Continuing Controversy over Northwest Indian Fishing Rights. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1986. Treaties on Trial is a must read for anyone delving into the history of the Pacific Northwest salmon fishery. Cohen demonstrates the centrality of nineteenth-century Indian treaties to the struggle over salmon allocations in the region’s commercial fishery. This work also explores the persistent resistance by non-Indian Northwesterners—particularly fishers and politicians—to abide by the terms of the treaties.
Friday, Chris. Organizing Asian American Labor: The Pacific Coast Canned- Salmon Industry, 1870 – 1942. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995. In his examination of the role of Asian Americans—Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino—as cannery labor in the northwest, Friday pays close attention to the racist attitudes that constrained their everyday lives. This book is about conflict, subjugation, resistance, and accommodation between Euro-Americans and Asian Americans. It is also about interethnic competition and compromise between different Asian American ethic groups in their struggle to earn fair wages and better working conditions from belligerent co-workers, bosses, and owners.
Hirt, Paul W. A Conspiracy of Optimism: Management of the National Forests since World War Two. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996. This history of the United States Forest Service is particularly focused on the development of institutional management strategies that became ingrained during World War II and the fifteen years that followed. Hirt takes a close look at the internal politics and ideologies of the Forest Service as their management strategies evolved to mimic industrial extraction techniques employed by private timber companies. Hirt argues that the Forest Service administrators and employees convinced themselves that timber extraction was the key component to meeting the needs of all users of the forest, regardless of their strategy’s continued failure to do so.
Kittredge, William, Tupper Ansel Blake, and Madeline Graham Blake. Balancing Water: Restoring the Klamath Basin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. The biggest strength of Balancing Water is Kittridge’s ability to help readers understand the complexity of human relationships with each other and with their environments. The work is highly readable, the photographs are wonderful, and the human players are complex. For readers looking for a greater understanding of the Klamath Basin water struggles, this book will certainly help.
Lang, William L. and Robert C. Carriker, eds. Great River of the West: Essays on the Columbia River. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. This compilation of essays is the result of a conference held during the bicentennial of Robert Gray’s “discovery” of the Columbia River. The book explores various perspectives of the Columbia River by the contributors, who include Eugene Hunn, Henry Zenk, William Layman, James Ronda, Patricia Limerick, Lillian Schlissel, and Richard Etulain.
Langston, Nancy. Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares: The Paradox of Old Growth in the Inland West. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996. Langston’s decision to write an environmental history of the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon was driven by 1990s timber wars between industrial loggers and environmentalists over forest management strategies. Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares examines the role of the United States Forest Service, and its evolving ideology in regards to forest management, particularly its relationship with private timber industries.
Lowitt, Richard. The New Deal and the West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993, paperback reprint. Lowitt provides readers with an overview of New Deal policies enacted during the Great Depression. The book covers the entire American West, but has a good deal of information focused on the Columbia River Basin. Lowitt primarily concerns himself with politically driven reclamation and conservation strategies emanating from the White House, through the Departments of Agriculture and Interior.
May, Dean L. Three Frontiers: Family, Land, and Society in the American West, 1850-1900. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Three Frontiers is a comparative social history of Sublimity, Oregon, Middleton, Idaho, and Alpine, Utah. Topics covered include: overland migrations, the development of communities and institutions, and issues of continuity and change during the Civil War era and mining period.
Morrissey, Katherine G. Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997. Mental Territories represents Morrissey’s attempt to understand the formation of regional identity in Spokane and its hinterland. It is a narrative focused on perceptions, ideas, personal and group experiences, and the consequences of a variety of conflicts between different groups of people.
Mullins, William H. The Depression and the Urban West Coast, 1929-1933: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. Mullin’s work focuses on western cities during the early years of the Great Depression, covering only the first year of the New Deal. Mullin’s decision to place attention on the policies of President Herbert Hoover’s administration, and the ways in which the West’s largest cities were affecting them, provide a good counterpart to Richard Lowitt’s The New Deal and the West.
Pisani, Donald J. Water, Land, and Law in the West: The Limits of Public Policy, 1850 – 1920. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996. This compilation of previously published essays will help provide readers with a background in the origins and evolution of water law in the American West. Pisani also stresses the importance of the drought of the late 1880s and the economic depression of the 1990s in understanding the federal government’s decision to reserve vast areas of forest and to pass the Federal Reclamation Act of 1902, which created the Reclamation Service (eventually the Bureau of Reclamation). Additionally, an essay covering the origins of Native American water rights provides readers with an introduction to “Winters rights.”
Smith, Courtland L. Salmon Fishers of the Columbia. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1979. Smith’s work covers the major developments in the growth and decline of the Columbia River’s salmon fishery. He provides readers with concise descriptions of many different types of fishing gear and strategies. Additionally, he explores the conflicts between different groups of fishers as each attempted to maintain or expand their share of the river’s declining runs. This is an especially good source for data in regards to cannery production from 1866 to 1973 and for the use of different types of fishing gear on the Columbia from 1874 to 1939.
Taylor, Joseph. Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Coast Fisheries Salmon Crisis. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. Taylor challenges the readers of this book to reevaluate the ways in which the “salmon crisis” has been framed in public debates during the past 125 years. Central to his argument and historical narrative is an examination of people’s uncritical and misplaced faith in technologies—particularly hatcheries—that have misguided salmon management, having a disastrous effect on the region’s salmon populations.
Ulrich, Roberta. Empty Nets: Indians, Dams, and the Columbia River. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1999. Empty Nets is a historical narrative about broken promises made by the Army Corps of Engineers to Indigenous fishers of the mid-Columbia River. The Army Corps promised to provide the tribes with replacement sites to serve in lieu of the originals flooded by Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day dams, a commitment still yet to be completely fulfilled.
White, Richard. The Organic Machine. New York: Hill and Way, 1995. Richard White, a noted environmental historian, has produced a short but illuminating book on Pacific Northwesterners’ relationship to the Columbia River. White is particularly interested in how residents come into contact with the river for economic and subsistence purposes. He argues that competing notions about how the region’s inhabitants should “use” the river have shaped both the people and history of the Pacific Northwest.
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