Wednesday, November 28, 2007

::: American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection :::

::: American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection :::: "This site provides an extensive digital collection of original photographs and documents about the Northwest Coast and Plateau Indian cultures, complemented by essays written by anthropologists, historians, and teachers about both particular tribes and cross-cultural topics. These cultures have occupied, and in some cases still live in parts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Maps are available that show traditional territories or reservation boundaries."

The maps and pictures at this site are amazing, but best of all are the nine essays on Northwest Indians by scholars like Jay Miller and Deward Walker. They are excellent introductions to their topics and could also serve as lecture fodder. There is also a collection of documents, mostly government reports.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Boston 1775: Veterans Moving West

Uber-blogger J.L. Bell at Boston 1775 picked up my post about William Cannon in his post Veterans Moving West. Bell explores the migrations of Revolutionary veteran Thompson Maxwell, whose life journey carried him from Ireland to America where he fought not only in the French and Indian War but also the American Revolution and the War of 1812 before being laid to rest at his last home near Detroit!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kennewick Man Virual Interpretive Center

The Tri-City Herald's Kennewick Man Virual Interpretive Center Has all of that paper's extensive coverage of everybody's favorite 10,000-year-old man. Discovered in 1996 along the Columbia River, the ancient remains of Kennewick man have provoked scientific discovery and political controversy in equal measure, as scientists and native groups struggle for control of one of the oldest skeletons ever located in North America. Along with the individual newspaper articles, the Interpretive Center offers a 1999 special series, "Recasting the Past," that uses the Kennewick Man controversy to explore controversial issues concerning the peopling of the Americas and archeology. There are also sections with court documents, photos, a time line and more.

Kennewick Man is in the news again right now, as Congress debates legislation that would automatically classify all ancient human remains as Indian, whether or not a cultural tie can be demonstrated.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

William Cannon and Revolutionary War Veterans in the American West

A few miles to the east of where I live in Missouri is a quaint little country graveyard. I stumbled across the Cave Springs cemetery while on a fall drive a few years ago. I surprised to find one grave that held a veteran of the Revolutionary War. "You are a long ways from Valley Forge," I chided the old fellow (who proved a disappointing audience). On the drive home I realized that I should not have been surprised. A young man in the Revolution could easily have lived long enough to have been part of the initial white settlement of southwest Missouri in the 1830s and 40s. There must be thousands of veterans of the revolution buried across the middle west. And farther. Why a boy of 16 in 1781 who had fought at Yorktown could even have been on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s. He would have been in his seventies, but perhaps that is not impossible? It occurred to me that this was a great teaching opportunity as well. The westward movement of Revolutionary War veterans could be used to illustrate western movement and to tie it to other themes in American history. And because they were veterans, the genealogists will have located and marked their graves and put the data online somewhere. Witness the American Revolutionary War Veteran Graves waymarking page.

So did any Revolutionary soldiers make it to the Pacific Northwest? At least one did--William Cannon, Oregon's Only Known Revolutionary War Veteran. Cannon had quite the life. He fought at Charleston, one of the worst American defeats of the war. (Many American captives from that defeat ended up on British prison ships in New York harbor, but Cannon's name does not appear on the list of known prisoners.) He turns up again in 1810 in the employment of the Northwest Fur Company at Mackinaw, where he was lured away to join the Overland Astorians in 1811. Cannon merits a brief vignette in George Washington Irving's Astoria, who describes how the hunter became the hunted when a grizzly bear discovered Cannon hauling fresh buffalo meat back to camp:

"In passing through a narrow ravine he heard a noise behind him and looking round beheld to his dismay a grizzly bear in full pursuit apparently attracted by the scent of the meat. Cannon had heard so much of the invulnerability of this tremendous animal that he never attempted to fire but slipping the strap from his forehead let go the buffalo meat and ran for his life The bear did not stop to regale himself with the game but kept on after the hunter He had nearly overtaken him when Cannon reached a tree and throwing down his rifle scrambled up it. The next instant Bruin was at the foot of the tree; but, as this species of bear does not climb, he contented himself with turning the chase into a blockade."

Presumably Cannon endured the same horrendous trek as the other Astorians across the Bitterroots and down the Snake River. He is nearly invisible in the historiography of Astorian--mentioned only once in James Ronda's Astoria and Empire and not at all in Robert Stuart's or John Bradbury narratives. But the outlines of his life can be pieced together.

Much of this piecing has been done by Tom Laidlaw, a historical reenactor whose favorite character is William Cannon. William Cannon joined the Northwest Company when the Astoria
venture failed. He married a Chinook woman, worked as a millwright and blacksmith, and became a modestly important figure in early Oregon. In 1843 William Cannon was of the men who on May 2, 1843, voted to form Oregon's Provisional Government, an event commemorated by the pictured obelisk at Champoeg State Heritage Area. (A Google Books Search for "william cannon"+oregon+history turns up some additional nuggets of his history.)

A cursory search has not revealed any Revolutionary veteran graves in California, Washington
or Hawaii, so it looks like William Cannon is the westernmost known veteran of the Revolution.

The life and the grave of William Cannon illustrate the speed of the conquest of the American West. A man who grew up in the Virginia of Washington and Jefferson and served his country in the Revolution also settled on the Pacific coast and helped bring one of the last major parts of the west under American control.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

National Library of Australia Digital Collections

The National Library of Australia today posted their 100,000th digital image--an orphaned joey in a sweater. Awwww.

Australian history has many parallels with that of the American West, as these digital collections remind us. Indigenous peoples. Gold Rushes. Steamboats. Aboriginal drawings reminiscent of North American Ledger Art. Fire. Frontier travel. Daring outlaws. Chinese immigrants.

This collection would make for an easy comparative frontiers lecture, or an assignment for a class.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

During the first world war, Woodrow Wilson authorized a crash program to produce wooden steamships to ferry supplies to the American Expeditionary Force in Europe. Over 700 ships were authorized but less than 100 built by the war's end. Yet the program continued for several more years, producing hundreds of leaky, inefficient, and unwanted vessels before Congress cut off funding. Eventually over 150 of the ships were towed to Mallows Bay on a remote section of the Potomac. Many were burned to the waterline and the rest slowly sank into the shallow water. Over 100 years later, their outlines are clearly visible from the air, as you can see on Google Maps. (Note: This post is shamelessly stolen from this great post at Metafilter, which contains links to other goodies like some kayaker's pictures of the wrecks). I recently used this in class and was rewarded with a collective gasp from the students as they saw the outlines of the wrecks come into view!

So what long-gone historical landmarks in the Northwest are still visible (or only visible) from the air and discoverable through Google Maps and similar services? I don't have time to hunt any down right now but possibilities include the Mullan Road, old railroad cuts, sunken docks and other facilities (a quick look at Seattle on Google Maps reveals some suggestive structures under the water). The problem however, as is so often the case with Google Maps, is that the resolution of the photos for much of the mountain west is very poor. (I was at a Google Earth teacher workshop at Eastern Washington University earlier this year. While the teachers from Spokane ooh-ed and aah-ed as they picked out their own cars in their driveways, the teachers from little towns like Republic and Usk stared at the pixellated blur on their screens and cursed their fate.)

Google is constantly updating and improving the resolutions avaialble. But currently the most promising use of this technology at present is to look for signs of history in the places Google cares about the most. Can anyone think of possble histori relics near Hood River?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

2008 Pacific Northwest History Conference

Update (3/24/2008): I will be giving a presentation titled "A Northwest Historian's Tour of the Internet" as part of the "Digital History and the Pacific Northwest" panel on Saturday. Here is the complete conference schedule [PDF].

The 2008 PNW History Conference will be in Corvallis, Oregon, April 17-19 at Oregon State University. The Call for Papers is below. Anyone want to put together a panel on digital/public history? This is always a fun conference.

2008 Pacific Northwest History Conference
Call for Papers: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest
Corvallis, Oregon April 17-19, 2008

When the expanding empires of Great Britain and the United States imposed imperial markers on the greater Columbia River country, their map makers drew lines that divided human cultures, watersheds, and ecosystems along convenient geopolitical bounds. The agents of empire then went into the field to declare sovereignty over Native people who had been inhabiting these landscapes for several millennia. Over the course of the following decades the newcomers proceeded to impose their languages (tools of thought), their religions (ways of making sense of the world), and their concepts of private property (processes to control land, labor, people, and information). More than 150 years later, Canadian and American scholars continue to probe the dynamics and legacies of conquest and the revolutionary changes to peoples, cultures, and landscapes in the region.

The Program Committee for the 2008 meeting of the Pacific Northwest History Conference invites session proposals and individual papers that explore the complex, ambivalent, and sometimes paradoxical antecedents to our present moment in time. What have been the historical relationships between the Pacific Northwest and global spheres of influence? How has the cultural politics of race, ethnicity, and gender, of class, poverty, and wealth framed historical discourse about the region? How have diverse immigrant groups shaped and reshaped our understanding of the Northwest? How has the presence and persistence of First Nations/Native American groups influenced scholarly discourse?

Submission Guidelines: Submissions can involve an entire session or an individual paper. All submissions must be received no later than December 31, 2007. Session proposals are particularly encouraged.

All proposals must include: title, description (no more than 250 words), A/V requirements (laptop, projector, screen, etc.), presenter name, professional affiliation, address, email, phone number and two-page c.v.

Session proposals must include all of the above for each presenter, plus: session title, session description (200 words maximum), and contact information for the panel organizer, including email address and phone number. We assume that everyone listed in a session proposal has agreed to participate. Electronic submissions are preferred; attach proposals as Word or PDF files. All submissions must be received no later than December 31, 2007. Submit proposals to:

William G. Robbins, Program Committee Chair
2008 Pacific Northwest History Conference
email: ( )
phone: 541-602-3867
Department of History
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-5104

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air

I had a nice chat at the WHA with some scholars of the American West and we agreed how delighted we were that the L&C Bicentennial is at an end. I cannot imagine a more over-rated historical event. They weren't important and the canonization of what should be an obscure event distracts us from more important themes in Western History. On the other hand--some amazing scholarship, teaching and web resources came out of the anniversary hysteria, which is all to the good. And also some stuff that is just plain fun.

Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air
is a web presentation of a book by Jim Wark and Joseph Mussulman. The later of course is the Producer and Principal Writer at Discovering Lewis & Clark, by far the best of untold millions of L&C sites on the web. The idea of the book is simple enough: Our dynamic duo took flew a small plane over the route of the Corps of Discovery and took aerial photos of places along the trail. I am so jealous.

The principal impression one get from these photos is how completely the landscape of 200 years ago has vanished--dammed up, paved over and plowed under. The rivers of Lewis and Clark's time (and it was mostly a river journey) are drowned under the slack water of dozens of dams, and where they are not drowned they are often channelized, straightened and otherwise "improved." So it is no surprise that many of the best photos here are of the mountain crossing: Beaverhead Rock, Tobacco Root Mountains, Bitterroot Mountains.

This would be a good resource for a class about Lewis and Clark or western exploration. A possible assignment could focus on the changes in the landscape between the explorer's time and our own.