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Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee

Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee: U.S. Empire and the Transformation of an Indigenous World, 1792-1859

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee
    Book Description:

    Modern western Oregon was a crucial site of imperial competition in North America during the formative decades of the United States. In this book, Gray Whaley examines relations among newcomers and between newcomers and Native peoples--focusing on political sovereignty, religion, trade, sexuality, and the land--from initial encounters to Oregon's statehood. He emphasizes Native perspectives, using the Chinook wordIllahee(homeland) to refer to the indigenous world he examines.Whaley argues that the process of Oregon's founding is best understood as a contest between the British Empire and a nascent American one, with Oregon's Native people and their lands at the heart of the conflict. He identifies race, republicanism, liberal economics, and violence as the key ideological and practical components of American settler-colonialism. Native peoples faced capriciousness, demographic collapse, and attempted genocide, but they fought to preserveIllaheeeven as external forces caused the collapse of their world. Whaley's analysis compellingly challenges standard accounts of the quintessential antebellum "Promised Land."

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0397-1
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface Reconstructing an American Colonial History
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-1)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Historical Constructions of Oregon and Illahee
    (pp. 3-18)

    When the first Western ship entered the Columbia River in 1792, Americans and Chinooks greeted each other, exchanged goods, and unknowingly launched a colonial history that would forever alter the political, cultural, economic, and ecological landscapes. The hundreds of square miles surrounding the lower Columbia River was, to Westerners, “the lower Oregon Country.” To indigenous people, the region had many names, depending on context and language. Taken together however, the region might be effectively termedIllahee, an encompassing Chinook word for the land, soil, and home. Although Chinookan dialects dominated the numerous villages along the lower and middle Columbia River...

  6. CHAPTER TWO So Many Little Sovereignties, 1792–1822
    (pp. 19-70)

    By the late 1700s, a new era of global exchange and imperial competition had emerged: the trans-Pacific trade. The Spanish had long since consolidated their rule on the Pacific coast of the Americas and the Philippines, and the Russians colonized the far northern Pacific Rim. Relative latecomers, the British and Americans increased their commercial presence on the Pacific Ocean, attracted by the China trade and whaling. Oregon came to embody a colonial vision of the place, arriving on the ships of Western commerce. Native and Western peoples created colonial worlds together through their daily interactions, struggles for power and influence,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Disastrous Times We Had: Expansions and Epidemics, 1821–1834
    (pp. 71-98)

    On an international level, the muddy imperial claims to the Oregon Country began to clear somewhat with the United States signing treaties with Spain and Russia. Despite the dubious nature of the U.S. victory over Great Britain in the “second American Revolution” of 1812–14, the young republic emerged with an expansionist vigor to colonize the Indian Country from the Mississippi to the Pacific. A new generation of political leaders such as John Quincy Adams and Thomas Hart Benton replaced Jefferson’s revolutionary generation and, consequently, displaced the old fears that rapid colonization of the West would destroy the democratic-republican experiment...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR A Vital Experimental Religion: The Methodist Mission Colony of Lower Oregon, 1834–1844
    (pp. 99-124)

    In 1834 a band of Methodists led by Rev. Jason Lee came to bring salvation to the Native people and the diverse population of fur-trade colonials. Lee and his band of Methodists entered a world in flux. Malaria devastated Native villages; social structures adapted to meet the challenges of the fur trade were collapsing under the demographic pressures. The Hudson’s Bay Company searched for a colonial economy less dependent on furs and better able to meet the growing threat of Euro-American colonization. Lee believed that the Methodists would prove critical in reshaping this unstable environment, and he had faith that...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Trophies for God: From Mission Colony to American Colony, 1840–1845
    (pp. 125-160)

    The Methodists’ experiment in Oregon would ultimately fall to the politics of mission and colony. By the early 1840s, emigrants, missionaries (Catholics and Methodists), and John McLoughlin of the HBC bickered over various matters, including religion, land claims, national sovereignty, and a provisional government. The following case illustrates the pattern. In 1827, McLoughlin filed a land claim in London for the area surrounding Willamette Falls, an obvious town site because it had excellent potential for hydropowered mills, was the terminal point on the Willamette River for direct shipping to the Pacific, and was a productive fishery. McLoughlin rightly foresaw that...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Colonization of Illahee, 1843–1851
    (pp. 161-190)

    The Euro-American emigrants of the 1840s who survived the Oregon Trail were not plagued by the subtleties of balancing Christian mission and colony. Indeed, the missionaries’ reports of “vanishing Indians” encouraged their colonial migration, as did faith that the United States would achieve sovereignty over Oregon and grant them the lands of the “doomed race.” More than 10,000 migratory Euro-Americans left their homes in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast to speculate and cultivate the famed “open” land of the Willamette Valley between 1843 and 1851, quickly claiming full sections of 640 acres, or one square mile, of Indian land in...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Polaklie Illahee (Land of Darkness): Identity and Genocidal Culture in Oregon
    (pp. 191-216)

    Between 1846 and 1850, Euro-Americans benefited from the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain and succeeded in achieving territorial acquisition by the United States and some protections of their land claims. Clearly, however, the empire republic was not easily manipulated from the periphery. Divisions, constant deal making, and problematic compromises formed the heart of federal operations and inhibited distant manipulation, leaving colonials dissatisfied in many respects. Subsequent colonization would further highlight the limitations of territorial power. Importantly, the years between 1851 and 1858 saw intermittent armed conflict among Native peoples and colonials in western Oregon Territory. (In 1853, Congress formally separated...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Extermination and Empire: Money, Politics, and the Oregon Wars, 1855–1856
    (pp. 217-226)

    In the early spring of 1856, the regular army ended the conflict, and, once again, the joint action by Oregon Territory and the United States produced considerable acrimony between federals and colonials. By early February 1856 it was obvious that the Oregon militias could not finish what they had begun, and even Charles Drew, a principal architect of the extermination efforts, was among eighty-one Jacksonville men to sign a petition begging General Wool to enter the fray. They, of course, blamed the “Barbarous Indians” who have “murdered whole families,” “pillaged and burned,” and kept the people from trading, mining, and...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Conclusion: Illahee, “Indian Colonies,” and the Paternalist State
    (pp. 227-240)

    When European and American mariners first encountered the Native peoples of the lower Columbia, they were not enacting some preordained plan of gradual imperial domination of the region and its inhabitants. Like the merchant explorers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, their ultimate goal was to establish a profitable trade with Asia. The maritime traders recognized that their activities in the modern-day Pacific Northwest could facilitate a strong relationship with Chinese merchants. The Northwest Coast offered exploitable commodities, cheap indigenous labor, and (for the Russians, British, and Americans) a base of operations on the Pacific Ocean that was removed from...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 241-276)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-296)
  16. Index
    (pp. 297-303)