Native societies in Oregon have seen monumental changes in the last two hundred years. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Oregon’s tribes and bands have witnessed great losses of land to federal government allotment programs; death from European diseases; and the loss of culture and language from assimilation programs at Indian boarding schools. Through all these changes, Native cultures in Oregon have adapted, and now are thriving. Dr. David G. Lewis, Tribal Historian for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, will describe what life was like for western Oregon tribes, and examine the changes that resulted from the resettlement of Native lands.
During a century of sometimes intense maritime and terrestrial exploration, EuroAmericans sailed and trekked to Oregon Country and made charts and maps that informed the world about the Northwest Coast of North America and the interior Pacific Northwest. Their experiences, the effect they had on Native people, and the interest they stimulated about the region set agendas for subsequent events that affect Oregonians to the present day.
The Oregon Donation Land Law, passed by Congress in 1850, divided land into square plots that are still visible on the western Oregon landscape. The law allowed for white males and married women to claim 320 acres of free land, which helped spur the westward resettlement of European Americans to the Oregon territory and had lasting impact on the economic, political, and cultural development of the state. Professor Johnson will discuss how the Donation Land Act of 1850 initiated a land rush to Oregon, hastened the European American conquest of the territory, and—by virtue of the sheer size of the Donation Land claimant population—influenced almost every aspect of the region’s subsequent transformation into a U.S. territory and state.
Oregon History 101 is a nine-month public history program series designed to give Oregonians a basic understanding of the state’s significant people, places, and events. Each month, historians present a chapter of Oregon History, beginning with the earliest peoples and ending with the turn of the twenty-first century. The series emphasizes Oregon’s connection to historical themes in American History, including Native history, early exploration, western expansion, race, gender, and social justice, and the post-industrial economy. Each presentation will feature images from the Oregon Historical Society archives and will be filmed and made available on the World Wide Web, along with research guides and other digitized material from The Oregon Encyclopedia and the Oregon History Project.
Portland may be the largest city in Oregon, but it has had plenty of competition since the 1840s. As steamboats and then railroads tied the Pacific Northwest into the national economy, cities in different corners of Oregon experienced booming growth. Carl Abbott will present a lecture and slideshow that will start and end with a brief history of Portland, but will make brief stops along the way in cities as far apart as Astoria, Klamath Falls, and Baker City as he traces the development of a statewide system of cities and towns.
One hundred years ago women in Oregon faced many challenges and debated gendered questions that have powerful echoes in our own day. Oregon women shaped powerful reform movements and forged new civic roles including the achievement of the vote, office holding, and jury service for women, public health and civic betterment movements, and labor reforms battling corporate interests, regulating workplaces, and making education more accessible to women. Some Oregon women identified reproductive rights and safety from gender-based violence as key civil liberties at a time when the surveillance state was expanding its reach. Diverse women were active in clubs and associations as an expression of their civic roles and lobbied for legislation and created institutions to benefit women and their communities. Oregon women’s activism during this period is a vital part of our state’s history and the history of the Progressive Era in the nation. It also reflects issues and challenges Oregonians and Americans address today.
As the Second World War came to an end, Oregonians looked to the future with both hope and fear. They shared the nation’s anxiety that peacetime would bring a return to Great Depression conditions; yet the taming of the Columbia River and the wartime boom gave hope that the state would achieve wide-ranging economic prosperity. There was a broad consensus that electricity, notably hydropower, would transform the Northwest and that Oregon’s well-being depended largely on its exploitation of land and water resources through fisheries, agriculture, and, above all, forestry.
The social movements of the 1960s and 1970s transformed Oregon, just as they transformed the nation. Joining together to protest racial, gender, and sexual discrimination and to address environmental degradation, Oregonians engaged in a “civic reconstruction” which succeeded in reshaping the state’s politics, economy, and society. Steven Johnson will chronicle the unprecedented civic activism around environmental issues, and Marisa Chappell will trace movements for social justice in this era of heightened political and civic engagement. Both stories offer lessons for confronting today’s challenges.
After a year of Oregon history, we end with “Thinking About Oregon” two perspectives on the Oregon story in national context. What’s unique about this state, and how has its Northwest perspective influenced the rest of the nation? Richard Etulain, historian of the West and emeritus professor of history at the University of New Mexico, reflects on four Oregonians who brought new ideas and insights to the nation. Jane Hunter, professor of history at Lewis & Clark, takes a different perspective on Oregon history, reflecting on the ways that national stories played out here. She’ll consider the state’s participation in the racial history of World War II, introducing new work on Japanese internment, an African-American newspaperman, and a recent competition for Portland’s east side.