Uncovering Oregon’s Past: Histories of Oregon
The First Oregonians, edited by Laura Berg, with the Oregon Council for the Humanities
An essential collection of tribal histories that bridges past with present through the voices of Oregon Indians. The volume brings together the stories and experiences of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes, using oral histories and personal recollections to portray the struggles, adaptations and resistances of the Natives of Oregon and provide a fresh perspective on cultural renewal and continuity.
Oregon: This Storied Land by William G. Robbins
Preeminent Pacific Northwest scholar William G. Robbin eloquently walks the reader through Oregon’s history, beginning with how the Missoula Floods defined the landscape and ending with the immigrant culture of the 2000’s. Robbin focuses on the Oregon landscape while weaving together the social, economic, and cultural aspects to paint an expansive picture of Oregon’s past.
For a more in-depth look at Oregon’s history through an environmental lens see:
- Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800 -1940 by William G. Robbins
- Landscapes of Conflict: The Oregon Story, 1940 – 2000 by William G. Robbins
- Fire at Eden’s Gate: Tom McCall & the Oregon Story by Brent Walth
- Keeping Oregon Green: Livability, Stewardship and the Challenges of Growth, 1960 – 1980 by Derek Larson
Some of the diverse voices that have shaped Oregon’s history have been carefully researched and recorded in the following books:
- A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1778 – 1940 by Elizabeth McLagan
- At the Hearth of Crossed Races: A French-Indian Community in Nineteenth-Century Oregon, 1812-1859 by Melinda Marie Jetté
- Dreams of the West: A History of The Chinese in Oregon, 1850 -1950 by Portland State University & Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
- Mexicanos in Oregon: Their Stories, Their Lives by Erlinda Gonzales-Berry and Marcela Mendoza
- Nosotros: The Hispanic People of Oregon, essays and recollections edited by Erasmo Gamboa and Carolyn M. Baun
- Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family by Lauren Kessler
For those interested in adventuring off the beaten path, there is James Kopp’s Eden Within Eden: Oregon’s Utopian Heritage, a richly detailed look at the various utopian communities that sought to establish Oregon as their home, and Wildmen, Wobblies & Whistle Punks: Stewart Holbrook’s Lowbrow Northwest, a lively and humorous read by freelance writer Holbrook, who wore many other hats, including logger, prizefighter, semi-pro baseball player, and artist. The Oregon Companion: A Historical Gazetteer of the Useful, the Curious, and the Arcane by Richard Engeman is full of sorts of Oregon tidbits from A to Z.
Capturing Oregon’s Beauty: Pictorial Works
Oregon 1859: A Snapshot in Time by Janice Marschner
A pictorial survey of Oregon as it transitioned from a territory to a state in 1859. The book takes the readers back in time to the 19 original counties at the moment of statehood, revealing histories of the towns, cities, and the people that defined the communities with photos, maps and short entries. A detailed and lively guide that captures the various elements that defined Oregon.
Historical Atlas of Washington and Oregon by Derek Hayes
Using maps, illustrations, newspaper clippings and other historical ephemera, this gorgeous atlas guides the reader through the development of Washington and Oregon. Hayes ties together how explorers, loggers, missionaries and pioneers settled in the rugged landscape of the Oregon Territory. The story unfolds with the expansion of commerce and transportation with railroads, highways, national parks and forests, irrigation and hydropower, floating bridges and atomic and aerospace industries.
Oregon, Then & Now: Historical Landscape Photography by Benjamin A. Gifford and Steve Terrill
Benjamin A. Gifford established himself as a photographer of the West, best known for his images of Native Americans, scenic views of the Columbia River and the Columbia River Highway. He moved to Portland in 1888, and traveled around the state capturing the scenery. Contemporary photographer Steve Terrill traveled in Gifford’s footsteps and rephotographed more than 100 of Gifford’s photos. The volume brings together past and present, illuminating drastic changes and what has remained nearly untouched.
She Flies With Her Own Wings: Oregon Featured in Fiction
The Bridge of the Gods: A Romance of Indian Oregon was recently reprinted by the Washington State University Press. It was originally published in 1890 and eventually became a Pacific Northwest literary classic remaining in print for over one hundred years. Frederich Homer Balch was the first Pacific Northwest writer to place Native Americans at the center of a novel. The work provides an insightful look at the experiences of the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, although at times ethnocentric. The landscape plays a key role, luring the main character west and providing an enchanting, yet moody backdrop to the romance between the young minister and the daughter of chief Multnomah.
A short and incomplete list of novels that star Oregon (and in no particular order):
For additional selections check out the Read Local booklist featuring Oregon authors writing about Oregon.