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Oregon Indians

Voices from Two Centuries

Stephen Dow Beckham


Northwest Readers

6 × 9 inches. Illustrations. Bibliography. Index. 608 pages.

2006. ISBN 978-0-87071-088-9. Hardcover, $45.00.

After forty years of research and writing on Native Americans and the American West, historian Stephen Dow Beckham has compiled a rich documentary history that strives to let Oregon Indians tell their own story. From "first encounters" in the late eighteenth century to modern tribal economies, this volume presents first-person accounts of events threatening, changing, and shaping the lives of Oregon Indians.

The book's seven thematic sections are arranged chronologically and prefaced with introductory essays that provide the context of Indian relations with Euro-Americans and tightening federal policy. Each of the nearly seventy documents has a brief introduction that identifies the event and the speakers involved. Most of the book's selections are little known. Few have been previously published, including treaty council minutes, court and congressional testimonies, letters, and passages from travelers' journals.

Oregon Indians opens with the arrival of Euro-Americans and their introduction of new technology, weapons, and diseases. The role of treaties, machinations of the Oregon volunteers, efforts of the U.S. Army to protect the Indians but also to subdue and confine them, and the emergence of reservation programs to "civilize" them are recorded in a variety of documents that illuminate nineteenth-century Indian experiences.

Twentieth-century documents include Tommy Thompson on the flooding of the Celilo Falls fishing grounds in 1942, as well as Indian voices challenging the "disastrous policy of termination," the state's prohibition on inter-racial marriage, and the final resting ground of Kennewick Man. Selections in the book's final section speak to the changing political atmosphere of the late twentieth century, and suggest that hope, rather than despair, became a possibility for Oregon tribes.

This deeply researched volume gives fuller voice and greater clarity to Oregon's complex past.

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