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Learning Center: Oregon Studies: Oregon History I

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Oregon: General Works
Allen, Ginny and Jody Klevit. Oregon Painters, the First Hundred Years (1859-1959): Index and Biographical Dictionary. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1999. This reference work is a labor of love written by two long-time docents at the Portland Art Museum. The volume includes a series of introductory essays on various aspects of the history of the arts in Oregon, including nineteenth-century artists, the Lewis and Clark Exposition of 1905, and federal arts projects sponsored by the Works Projects Administration. The biographical entries provide information on the artists’ specialties, exhibits, and the locations of surviving artworks.

D’Azevedo, Warren L., ed. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 11. Great Basin. Washington D.C. : Smithsonian Institution, 1986. The Handbook of North American Indians series is an authoritative source on the Native peoples of the continent. This volume on the Great Basin, a large region in the intermountain West, contains a series of essays on the Northern Paiute of southeastern Oregon and related tribes in Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah. In addition to the standard introductory articles on regional languages, ecology, and history, the collection includes sections on oral tradition, music and dance, mythology, basketry, and the peyote religion.

Hunn, Eugene S. with James Selam and family. Nich’i Wána, “The Big River:” Mid-Columbia Indians and their Land. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991. Anthropologist Eugene Hunn collaborated with James Selam, a mid-Columbia River Indian elder, in producing this volume. In it, Hunn presents the history and culture of the Sahaptin-speaking peoples whose ancestral lands encompassed the central Plateau region of northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. The author takes a holistic approach, exploring such diverse topics as language, ecology, ethnobotany, religion, social relations, and the history of the pre-contact and post-contact periods.

McArthur, Lewis A. Oregon Geographic Names. 6th ed. Revised and enlarged by Lewis L. McArthur. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1992. Oregon Geographic Names is an essential reference source on Oregon history. The McArthurs present comprehensive entries, developed over decades of research, revision, and consultation with local residents and historians. A revised and updated version is forthcoming from Oregon Historical Society Press in the fall of 2003.

O’Donnell, Terence. That Balance so Rare: The Story of Oregon. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1988. This modest work is best described as an illustrated history of Oregon through the mid- twentieth century. O’Donnell has written an engaging narrative for general audiences that touches on some of the most interesting episodes in the state’s history. Readers will enjoy the extensive number of photographs from the collections of the Oregon Historical Society. O’Donnell has included useful captions for the photographs and a chronology of Oregon history.

Robbins, William G. Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800-1940. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997. Robbins’ well-received work on the economic and environmental history of Oregon spans the long period from first contact through the debut of Word War II. He separates the one-hundred and forty year period into three eras: the early historic period (1800-1850); settler occupation and the advent of industrialism (1850-1890); and the extension of the industrial infrastructure (1890-1940). With this approach, Robbins demonstrates how Oregonians have perceived and utilized the natural environment for economic development, and how their relationships with the land have changed as a result.

Ruby, Robert and John Brown. A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986. Although the Handbook of North American Indians series is the authoritative source on Native American history and culture, this guide produced by Ruby and Brown is a useful introductory source for general readers. The authors provide short descriptions of the region’s Indian groups and a listing of bibliographic resources. Most importantly, this volume is currently available in paperback and can be found at local libraries and bookstores.

Suttles, Wayne. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 7. Northwest Coast. Washington D.C. : Smithsonian Institution, 1990. This volume of the well-known Smithsonian series covers the geographic region along the Pacific Coast from the Alaskan Panhandle to southern Oregon, including the inland valleys located west of the Cascade Mountains. The introductory essays examine the languages, history, culture, and geography of the region as a whole. A following section offers in-depth essays on the individual Indian groups, and a third section examines a range of topics such as mythology, art, religion, society and culture.

Venn, George and Ulrich H, series eds. The Oregon Literature Series. 6 vols. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1993-1994. This series, sponsored by the Oregon Council of Teachers of English, makes valuable written works by a variety of Oregonians available for classroom use. The six volumes in the series are: 1) The World Begins: An Anthology of Oregon Short Fiction, 2) Many Faces: An Anthology of Oregon Autobiography, 3) Varieties of Hope: An Anthology of Oregon Prose, 4) From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry, 5) The Stories We Tell: An Anthology of Oregon Folk Literature, and 6) Talking on Paper: An Anthology of Oregon Letters & Diaries. Specialists in the field provide introductory essays, short introductions to each composition, and useful bibliographies.

Walker, Deward E. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 12. Plateau. Washington D.C. : Smithsonian Institution, 1998. The ancestral lands of the Plateau peoples of the Pacific Northwest are those sub-regions located in southeastern British Columbia, eastern Washington, western Montana, and northeastern Oregon. In addition to the essays on general regional topics and specific ethnic groups, this volume includes articles on demography, religious movements, rock art, fishing, basketry, and kinship.

Zucker, Jeff, Bob Høgfoss, and Kay Hummel. Oregon Indians: Culture, History and Current Affairs, an Atlas and Introduction. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1983. As the only reference work on the Native peoples of Oregon, this volume is a useful source for the classroom. The authors divide the book into three sections on the pre-contact, historical, and contemporary societies of Oregon Indians. Written for general readers, this is an accessible work appropriate for middle and high school students. In addition to maps, graphs, and margin notations on important legal cases, Oregon Indians contains an extensive bibliography and a chronology on historical events, major federal and state laws, and court cases related to the history of Indians in Oregon.

Oregon: Euro-American Exploration and Cultural Encounters
Ambrose, Stephen. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Undaunted Courage became a long-running bestseller in the 1990s, exposing both general readers and younger generations to the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803-1806). Ambrose relies on the Nebraska edition of the journals, as well as manuscript sources and secondary sources, to tell a captivating story of the expedition’s experiences crossing the American West. As such, this volume is a shorter, more accessible account than the multi-volume Nebraska journals.

Boyd, Robert T. The People of the Dalles: The Indians of the Wascopam Mission. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997. This volume offers a historical ethnography of the Chinookan (Wasco-Wishram) and Sahaptin peoples of the Dalles area of the Columbia River (whose descendants live on the Warms Springs and Yakama Reservations). Relying on the writings of fur traders and Methodist missionaries, Boyd explores the society and culture of these Native peoples as they came into contact with various Euro-American groups during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Hayes, Derek. Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest: Maps of Explorations and Discovery. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1999. This illustrated atlas is an essential resource on the exploration and early settlement periods. Relying on a broad definition for what constitutes the “Pacific Northwest,” Hayes presents historical maps of Alaska and British Columbia as well as Oregon and Washington, thereby demonstrating the connected histories of these various sub-regions. The atlas opens with the European explorations of the sixteenth century and concludes in the early twentieth century with the surveys for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Accompanying the maps are instructive essays on the development of Euro-American conceptions of Pacific Northwest geography.

Ramsey, Jarold, ed. Coyote was Going There: Indian Literature of the Oregon Country. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977. Coyote was Going There is a unique resource giving general readers access to some of the oral literature of Oregon’s indigenous inhabitants. The stories in this volume were collected by anthropologists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, at a time when Native Americans were facing an intense struggle to preserve their culture. These stories, arranged according to sub-regions within the historic Oregon Country, illustrate the historic relationship between Native peoples and their ancestral lands and the richness of their oral traditions.

Ronda, James. Astoria and Empire. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990. Astoria and Empire is a well-received scholarly account of the Pacific Fur Company enterprise financed by German-American businessman John Jacob Astor. By alternating between national, international, and local histories, Ronda presents an engaging account of a complex business venture that ultimately failed on the financial level, but later served a valuable political purpose by solidifying American territorial claims in the Pacific Northwest.

Ronda, James. Lewis and Clark among the Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. Ronda presents an insightful analysis of the intercultural relations between the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Native peoples encountered during the group’s journey through the Far West. Chapter six and seven focus on the Corp of Discovery’s months in the Pacific Northwest, chronicling the misunderstandings that marred the expedition’s sojourn in the region. Ronda uses available documentary and anthropological evidence to investigate both Indian and Euro-American perspectives.

Scofield, John. Hail, Columbia: Robert Gray, John Kendrick and the Pacific Fur Trade. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1993. In the late 18th century, New England trading and whaling ships, along with British, French, and Spanish vessels, began visiting the waters of the Pacific Northwest. Scofield, a descendant of John Kendrick, narrates the voyages of Kendrick and Gray from New England to the Pacific Northwest. Since Kendrick and Gray played significant roles in establishing the territorial claims of the United States in the region, Scofield’s work makes an important contribution to the history of Euro-American exploration on the Pacific Coast.

Trafzer, Clifford, ed. Grandmother, Grandfather, and Old Wolf: Tamánwit Ku Súkta and Traditional Native American Narratives from the Columbia Plateau. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998. Relating such histories as “How Beaver Stole Fire,” and the “Battle between Eagle and Owl,” this volume offers readers the opportunity to learn about the oral tradition of the indigenous peoples of the Plateau region. Rancher Lucullus Virgil McWhorter collected the stories from local Indian elders during the early decades of the twentieth century. These narratives continue to be told in various forms within Plateau communities today. Trafzer provides a useful introductory essay and details on the collection of each story.

Oregon: Immigration and Re-settlement
Boag, Peter G. Environment and Experience: Settlement Culture in Nineteenth-Century Oregon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. This case study on the Calapooia Valley examines early Oregon settlers’ relationships to the natural environment. Beginning with an examination of the valley’s indigenous inhabitants, Boag demonstrates that the in-coming Euro-American settlers, like their Kalapuyan predecessors, attempted to create communities in harmony with the landscape. While the Kalapuyans and the settlers had differing views on how the local natural resources should be utilized, each group left its mark on the environment. Boag’s work thus illustrates problems with the “settler vs. frontier” mythology that has long shaped western history.  

Corning, Howard McKinley. Willamette Landings: Ghost Towns of the River. 2nd ed. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1973. This volume, which debuted with the Works Projects Administration’s Oregon Writer’s project in the 1930s, chronicles the history of the Willamette River during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Corning and his collaborators drew on published sources as well as interviews conducted with elderly residents who remembered the heyday of riverboat traffic on the Willamette. It is a rich source, containing local histories, now-forgotten place names, anecdotes, historic photographs, and most importantly, a myriad of stories about Oregon settlers’ experiences on the river.

Douthit, Nathan. Uncertain Encounters: Indians and Whites at Peace and War in Southern Oregon, 1820s-1860s. Corvallis: Oregon States University Press, 2002. Douthit presents one of the few scholarly studies of Native-newcomer relations in southwestern Oregon during the early settlement period. As Douthit demonstrates through a close analysis of documentary sources, these early relations were a complex mixture of misunderstanding, negotiation, conflict, and resistance that ultimately resulted in the Rogue River War of 1853-1855 and the subsequent removal of Indian groups from their native lands. A list of useful appendixes provide information on Indian population and mortality for the period.

Faragher, John Mack. Women and Men on the Overland Trail. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979. The great migration of American settlers to Oregon along the overland trail in the mid- nineteenth century is a central element in Oregon’s history. In this volume, Faragher examines the fate of women and men on the trail, including their shared experiences and the “separate worlds” of both genders. By relying on the words and memoirs of actual emigrants, Faragher brings to life the complex, humorous, and sometimes tragic realities of life on the trail. 

Ho, Nelson Chia-Chi. Portland’s Chinatown: The History of an Urban Ethnic District. Portland: Bureau of Planning, City of Portland, 1978. A rare study on the Chinese in Oregon, Ho provides readers with a good introduction to Portland’s historic Chinatown and the former Japantown. He discusses the reasons for Chinese and Japanese immigration, the status of immigrants in the region, the growth of community and cultural organizations, and the effects of larger historical events, such as the Japanese-American internment during World War II and the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Hussey, John A. Champoeg: Place of Transition, A Disputed History. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1967. Champoeg holds a particular place in early Oregon history. Originally the site of a Kalapuyan village, Champoeg later became an important port town on the Willamette River. In 1843 it was the site of a meeting involving the eventual creation of the Oregon Provisional Government, the forerunner to Oregon’s territorial government. Hussey examines the history of the site from the contact era through its present incarnation as a state park. The author’s purpose is to trace both actual events and Champoeg’s place in the collective memory of Oregonians.

Lansing, Ronald B. Juggernaut: the Whitman Massacre Trial. Pasadena, Calif.: Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society, 1993. Ronald Lansing provides a narrative account, accessible for general readers, of the trial of the Cayuse warriors accused of killing Whitman Mission inhabitants in 1847. The events at the mission, which came to be known as the “Whitman Massacre,” played a pivotal role in Oregon Country history in the late 1840s and early 1850s. This volume describes the daily events at the trial, the defense attorney’s attempt to obtain a pardon, the execution of the defendants, and the local papers’ reactions to the verdicts. Lansing’s modest but thought-provoking narrative raises questions about cross-cultural conflict and the meaning of justice.

Loewenberg, Robert J. Equality on the Oregon Frontier: Jason Lee and the Methodist Mission, 1834-43. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976. Jason Lee remains a pivotal figure in early Oregon history. Loewenberg provides an in-depth study of Lee’s role as the leader of the first Protestant mission to the Oregon Country prior to the American emigration to the region. In contrast to the largely favorable histories of the Methodist mission dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Loewenberg argues that Lee was a devout Methodist whose lack of leadership skills and uncertainty about the missionary project ultimately undermined the mission itself.

Lowenstein, Steven. The Jews of Oregon, 1850-1950. Portland: Jewish Historical Society of Oregon, 1987. Lowenstein’s handsomely illustrated volume chronicles several periods in the first century of Jewish life in Oregon. The initial section examines the experiences of German Jewish emigrants to Portland (1850-1890) and their efforts to build strong communities and businesses. The next section traces a second wave of Jewish emigrants from eastern Europe through the Progressive Era (1890-1920). In the final portion, Lowenstein studies how Jews in Oregon confronted contemporary issues and events (anti-semiticism, civil liberties, state politics, War World II, and the founding of Israel) as they worked to create a unified community from 1920 through 1950. In addition to the illustrations and photographs, this volume features a glossary of useful terms. 

MacColl, E. Kimbark. Merchants, Money, and Power: The Portland Establishment, 1843-1913. Portland: Georgian Press, 1988. MacColl, E. Kimbark. The Shaping of a City: Business and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1885-1915, Portland: Georgian Press, 1976. These works are the first two in a three-volume series Kimbark MacColl produced on the political and economy history of Portland through the 1950s. MacColl’s works are recognized as the standard texts on Portland history, and provides readers with an in-depth analysis of the personalities and events at the center of the city’s political culture. In the first two volumes, the author traces the rise of the city’s merchant class as they shaped and dominated Portland’s economic and political life from the frontier period through the Progressive Era.

McLynn, Frank. Wagons West: The Epic Story of America’s Overland Trails. New York: Grove Press, 2002. McLynn has produced the most recent narrative account of the overland trails aimed at a general audience. Wagons West chronicles the aspirations and experiences of emigrants on the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails during the 1840s. The author provides year-by-year narratives complemented by discussions of specific topics, such Native-newcomer relations, the role of women, and the animals and technology used by the overlanders.

Merk, Frederick. The Oregon Question: Essays in Anglo-American Diplomacy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967. Merk’s work is recognized as the standard resource on the political and diplomatic history of Oregon for the period leading up to the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which divided the historic Oregon Country between the United States and Great Britain along the 49th parallel. The essays in this volume trace the origins of both nations’ territorial claims in the region, and the events and historical developments that came to bear on the 1846 agreement, including British and American colonizing efforts, national political realities, and the British Corn Crisis of 1845-1846.

O’Donnell, Terence. Arrow in the Earth: General Joel Palmer and the Indians of Oregon. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1992. Arrow in the Earth is a narrative account of the efforts by Joel Palmer, Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs, to resolve the growing conflict between Oregon’s indigenous inhabitants and in-coming settlers during the 1850s. Despite Palmer’s cultural views about Euro-American superiority, he believed that a negotiated settlement needed to be reached with Indian peoples of Oregon. However, Palmer faced both local hostility from settlers, who opposed any outcome other than Indian removal, as well as indifference from federal and congressional officials who were unwilling to commit funds for a more equitable settlement of land cessions.

Pletcher, David M. The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War. St. Louis: University of Missouri Press, 1973. As the title of this volume suggests, Pletcher’s work examines the diplomatic and political history of American westward expansion in the mid-nineteenth century. Rather than focus solely on the American perspective, Pletcher traces the involvement of Mexico, Great Britain, and Spain in the events that led to the largest territorial expansion of the United States since the Louisiana Purchase. As such, the author demonstrates the importance of studying both American history and Pacific Northwest history from a global perspective.

Schwartz, E. A. The Rogue River Indian War and Its Aftermath, 1850-1980. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. Beginning with the pre-contact period and ending in the 1980s, this volume presents an overview of the history of Indian groups from southern Oregon. Native peoples of the region are at the center of historical events, represented as communities that have long sought to retain their culture and identity in the face of dispossession, military conquest, forced removal from their traditional homelands, and forced assimilation and detribalization (termination). Despite the odds against them, the descendants of these groups have survived as the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz.

Throckmorton, Arthur. Oregon Argonauts: Merchant Adventurers on the Western Frontier. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1961. Throckmorton’s book chronicles the entrepreneurial activities of fur traders, missionaries, and settlers in the Pacific Northwest from 1839 to 1869. As such, it serves as a useful precursor to the Kimbark MacColl’s volumes on the Portland establishment. Beginning with the activities of the Hudson’s Bay Company and Methodist missionaries and continuing with the emergence of larger markets following the California gold rush, the author traces the inter-connections between local, national, and international developments in the region’s economic history.

Unruh, John David, Jr. The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1979. The Plains Across is a scholarly study of the great western migrations as a changing historical development over the course of two decades. Unruh’s work is unique because it examines the western migrations during the 1850s, in addition to the more well-known wagon trains of the 1840s. In tracing the overland experience, the author examines such diverse topics as the images of Oregon as presented in the popular press, emigrant motivations and interactions, Indian-emigrant relations, and the roles of the federal government and private enterprise along the trails.

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