CORVALLIS - The vast, often devastating influence of white settlers on the Indian tribes of the Columbia Plateau in 19th century Oregon is the subject of a new book published by the Oregon State University Press.
"Chiefs and Change in the Oregon Country: Indian Relations at Fort Nez Perces, 1818-1855" was written by Theodore Stern, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Oregon. The book is the second Stern has written on the relationship between Indians and white settlers at the fort, also known as Fort Walla Walla.
Fort Nez Perces was a key fur trading post near the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers. The book describes the changes tribes went through as they encountered first trappers from the Hudson's Bay Company, and then missionaries, settlers, Indian agents and, finally, the military.
The book draws on Stern's 25 years of research on the topic and makes use of oral interviews with elders from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
"Stern weaves together anthropology and history in a way that few are qualified to do," said Jo Alexander, managing editor of the OSU Press. "By encompassing the voices and lives of Indians as well as whites, his book offers a new, more balanced perspective to our understanding of the region's historic and ethnographic past."
In the book, Stern describes the consequences brought on by these waves of change, from attempts by missionaries and government officials to administer the "Indian problem" to the attack on the Whitman Mission at Waiilatpu, to the Indian wars of the 1850s.
The book concludes with the fall of Fort Nez Perces and the subsequent end of independent tribal government.
"Chiefs and Change in the Oregon Country" is available in hardcover for $39.95 from book stores and libraries, or can be ordered from the OSU Press. Stern's first book, "Chiefs and Chief Traders," also is available.
To order, write the OSU Press, Waldo Hall 101, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, or call 541-737-3166. Mail orders must include $3.50 for postage.
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Tom Booth, 503-282-9801