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Subtopic : The Native Context and the Arrival of Other Peoples: Indian Trading Groups

Themes: People and the Environment, Social Relations

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Indian Group at Celilo Falls, c.1899
Benjamin A. Gifford Collection
OrHi 89622

As the eighteenth century came to a close, Indian groups along the Oregon coast lived in familiar and well-known surroundings and traded with nearby villagers and occcasionally with voyagers in sea-going canoes from the north. For centuries, Native people traveled well-worn trails to upriver fishing places and to berrying grounds in the nearby mountains. On the northern coast, the Tillamooks knew the paths that traversed the headlands and were familiar with their neighbors who lived to the north and the south. They knew the plants and animals that provided sustenance for their survival, and they understood the behavior necessary to appease supernatural beings. Perhaps as early as the 1640s, some villagers were also aware of the European sailing ships that occasionally touched landfall along the Oregon Coast. Europe’s interests in the North Pacific quickened in the last quarter of the eighteenth century as Spanish, British, French, Russian, and eventually vessels from the newly independent United States came into increasing contact with Native people in coastal estuaries.

The ships arriving on the Northwest Coast entered long-established Native places of trade and commerce. The voyages, which represented an expanding imperial geography of Old World and New World powers in search of national aggrandizement and markets, are described as “discovery” in the historical literature of the Western world. Those voyages, in fact, were in the process of making known to British, European, and American communities of interest that which was hitherto unknown to them.  Discovery, however, rests in the eye of the beholder. To Native people, European discovery and exploration had little meaning beyond expanded trading opportunities to acquire metal goods and other valued items. While that distant imperial contact with the Northwest Coast ultimately introduced devastating diseases to Native people, the immediate result augmented existing trading prospects for local villages. The expanding trading networks also brought indigenous peoples within the embrace of global market exchanges.

© Copyright 2002, William G. Robbins

Themes: People and the Environment,Social Relations

Regions: Oregon Coast

Date: 1600-1800

Author: William G. Robbins

As the eighteenth century came to a close, Indian groups along the Oregon Coast traded with their neighbors and occasionally with voyagers in sea-going canoes from the north.

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