Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Asotin County Frontier Justice Records Now Online

The Washington State Archives, Digital Archives has placed a fascinating set of records online, with more to come. The records are the Frontier Justice records for Asotin County. The Frontier Justice Collection consists of the court records of the Washington Territory, from 1853 to 1889. These court records from the tumultuous frontier period of Washington offer an exciting and decidedly unvarnished view of our past, and include cases for adultery and debt collection, gambling and fraud, selling liquor to Indians and violence including murder. A full description of the record series is here. The Digital Archives has had a finding aid to the cases online for several years, but actually viewing these fascinating records has required a trip to a regional archive branch where the records are available in paper or microfilm. Now, thanks to the hard work of Eastern Region Archivist Jeff Creighton and his staff, the original documents for Asotin County have been scanned and are available online.The records for Walla Walla county are to follow, and it is hoped that the rest of the counties will be done in the coming years.

The records are searchable by any of our metadata fields, including the names of the plaintiff and defendant or by date. Unfortunately they are not browseable. You can get around this by searching for a date range that will include all the records (say 1800-2000) and then set the "records per page" display to its maximum of 100. The search results will show every record for the county, which you can then sort by clicking on any of the columns. Here is an example, sorted by cause. Click on the document icon to pull up a scan of the original. These are handwritten manuscript records, and not all are easy to read. The DeJa Vue document viewer plug-in used by the Digital Archives is helpful, allowing the user to zoom in, print off, or save the images.

These records open up new fields of research to historians and students. Indian are prominently mentioned in many including actions they themselves initiated. See for example this 1887 case in which William Stingy, a Nez Perce, accuses Indian George of horse theft. One wonders why Stingy used the white government's court system to seek justice rather than tribal remedies, and if the "Indian George" in the case is the same as the Nez Perce man of the same name who General Howard used to try and broker a peace with Chief Joseph in the Nez Perce War just ten years before. Other obvious topics from the records include gender relations including adultery and divorce, debt and bankruptcy, efforts to regulate the morals of early Washingtonians, including alcohol consumption, and the really striking levels of violence. These records would also make a great teaching resource.

We have room for improvement in our presentation of these records. The court cases, some of them 80 pages of longer, are chock full of names that are not currently indexed or searchable. Browsing would improve the functionality of the series. And ultimately it would be great to see some sort of crowd-sourced transcription of the records (though that is a long ways off at present).

Are you using the Frontier Justice records in your research or teaching? Drop me a line, I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Please Take My Survey So We Can Offer a Free Online MA for Teachers!

If you are interested in the possibilities of online education for graduate history, please take this quick survey. The survey is to prove to the state and feds that 1) there is an audience for an online history MA, and 2) that this is particularly true among teachers. So if either of these sound like you, please take the survey. And if you know anyone who might be interested, please forward this to them today.

As I posted a few weeks ago, this is to help us win a Teaching American History grant that would fund a free online MA for teachers. But the goal is larger than that--the plan is to use the grant to pilot what would be a continuing program.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Slideshow of the Fort Vancouver/Cathlapotle Plank House Tour

Yesterday some of us at the NCPH Conference went on a tour of Fort Vancouver and Cathlapotle Plank House. I posted a few of my lousy cell phone pics yesterday, here are the rest, click on the slides show for the stunning full-screen experience, or see them on a map:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Help EWU Offer a Free Online History MA for Teachers!


Eastern Washington University is in the process of applying for a Teaching American History grant to help teachers earn Masters degrees in history. Our plan is to offer graduate degrees in history online to teachers around the state, particularly those in rural areas who would not otherwise have the opportunity to do so. If we are successful in this effort, the federal funds would pay all tuition, fees, and books as well as summer institutes at historic sites. And after the funded program is over, EWU hopes to continue to offer the online MA in history--not only to teachers in our state but to anyone, anywhere who wants some graduate courses or an entire MA in history but cannot come to a traditional campus program. There are only a handful of graduate history programs online in the nation so we think we would be serving a definite need.

The first step is for EWU to prove to both state officials and the federal Department of Education that there is a demand for a high-quality, online MA program in history. You can help by taking this quick survey. It will take no more than five minutes of your time. The survey is completely anonymous, though if you want to enter your email we will notify you about how to apply for the program if we are funded.

And please FORWARD THIS POST (you can use the "Share" button below) to anyone who might be interested in seeing online history courses available from EWU -- teachers, people working in museums and archives, genealogists, and anyone with an interest in history. The more people who answer the survey affirmatively, the better our chance of being able to provide this opportunity.

You don't have to be in Washington to take the survey! In fact a substantial response from out-of-state might strengthen our chances.

Click on this link to take the survey. And thank you.

Come Visit the Washington State Digital Archives Exhibit

I am off to Portland, where the Washington State Digital Archives is having an exhibit at the National Council on Public History Conference. Come and say hello to Lead Archivist Debbie Bahn and myself!

Monday, March 8, 2010

New Film: Idaho's Forgotten War

In 1974 the Kutenai Tribe of Idaho declared war against the United states government in a dramatic bid to force the government to live up to its treaty obligations. Idaho's Forgotten War is a film on the topic by Sonya Rosario. It looks fascinating. Here is the trailer:

Idaho's Forgotten War will premiere Thursday, March 18th at Boise State University, Student Union Bldg, Simplot D at 6:30 p.m. I hope that it will be available online or by DVD soon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Saving Salish

The Spokesman-Review has an excellent article on Kalispel efforts to revive the Salish language. (There is also a video at the SR website.) The combination of gambling revenue, far-sighted tribal leadership, and education technology seems to be making the difference. The Inlander has this recent article on the same topic. Though it is early to say anything for certain, the Kalispel effort may be just in time--dozens of native youths are learning the language and it is even being offered in the local public school. But the prospects are less rosy for some other Plateau languages, according to the Spokesman:

Wenatchee-Moses Columbian is spoken fluently by perhaps five people, making it one of the most endangered languages in the world. More endangered is Coeur d’Alene, with only one or two native speakers remaining . . . . 

The article reminded me of the excellent film that Montana anthropologist Sally Thompson premiered a few years ago, Why Save a Language? That film argued in part: "Over three hundred languages were spoken on this continent when the first Europeans arrived. Half have vanished. Of those that remain, many are spoken by only a handful of elderly people. The loss of a language has serious consequences for the affected community . . . The film provides cogent arguments for the importance of native languages not only to the people who speak them, but also for the contributions to the world's knowledge and heritage held in these languages." (You can buy a copy of the film for $20 via Amazon.)

Of course, the loss of tribal languages is a world-wide phenomena. The map below shows the 578 languages listed by UNESCO as "critically endangered" which is defined as "The youngest speakers are in the great-grandparental generation, and the language is not used for everyday interactions. These older people often remember only part of the language but do not use it, since there may not be anyone to speak with."

Language revival efforts are also underway all over the world, and especially in Native America. The next decade or two will tell the story. I fear that future generations will look at out era as the time of the great languages extinction.

[Photo of Johnny Arlee from the SR article.]

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Here's what I'm talking about!

Update: There is also a documentary version.

Also: Let it be noted that I came up with the Civil War/Vampires idea over a year ago in a comment on Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory blog. My lawyers will be contacting this Hatchet Book Group first thing Monday.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Call for Presentations: 2010 PNW History Conference in Spokane

Great News--the 2010 PNW History Conference will be in Spokane. This year we are trying something new with the conference and making it a themed event. Here is the official Call for Presentations:

Great Moments in Northwest Women’s History
1848 - Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls
1871 - Susan B. Anthony visits Washington Territory
1910 - Washington women win the right to vote
1912 - Oregon women win the right to vote
1920 - The 19th Amendment passes, guaranteeing all American women the right to vote
1977 – International Women’s Year Conference at Ellensburg

Be part of the next great moment in women’s history!
Share your research and experience at “Game Changers and History Makers: Women in the Pacific Northwest,” the 63rd Pacific Northwest History Conference, November 3-5. This special gathering commemorates the centennial of Washington women’s suffrage and will feature nationally known speakers and compelling stories, all at Spokane’s historic Davenport Hotel. Proposals are encouraged for any topic on the theme of women in the Pacific Northwest. The anniversary of this momentous development in Washington history offers opportunities to consider women’s influence in the Pacific Northwest in a variety of arenas. Topics might include:

* Teaching the history of Northwest women
* Northwest women in politics
* Topics related to the national, state and territorial women’s suffrage campaigns
* Women’s history site interpretation
* Digital sources and projects for women’s history
* Successive waves of feminist history
* Landmark women’s rights campaigns in the region
* Women’s history interpretive tours and trails
* Gender studies
* Women’s ethnic history
* Women’s history collections
* Women artists and writers
* Women pioneers in nontraditional professional fields
* Women’s perspectives on major Pacific Northwest events
* Women and the environment
* Research in progress
* Oral History projects
* Women in communities

The Pacific Northwest History Conference is a forum for exchange among historians, museum professionals, educators, archivists, historic preservationists, history enthusiasts, and community activists. Proposals from all quarters are strongly encouraged. The conference is an opportunity to share your work and passion with a community of people with similar interests. Complete details at

Submission Guidelines - Electronic submissions (as Word or PDF files) are required. Please visit the website for complete details.

Submissions may be for an entire 75-minute breakout session or panel; a 75-minute, half-day, or all day workshop; or an individual presentation.

All proposals must include the following: title, description (no more than 250 words), audiovisual requests (laptop, projector, screen), presenter names and professional affiliation, address, email, phone number and brief resume for each. Clearly indicate which person should be contacted about the proposal.

Everyone listed in a proposal should have agreed to participate. All presenters selected for inclusion in the program must register for the conference.

Proposals must be submitted electronically by 5:00 p.m. on March 29, 2010. Successful applicants will be notified by May 1, 2010, and the sessions and papers selection for conference will be posted at

Submit proposals, as Word or PDF files, to:

Shanna Stevenson, Program Committee Co-Chair
Washington State Historical Society
211 – 21st Avenue SW
Olympia, WA 98501

[Photograph: "Mount Baker, hikers" (1910-1947) State Library Photograph Collection,​
Washington State Digital Archives, Item Number: AR-07​80900​1-ph0​03806​.]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"When the World Came to Campus"--AYP Exhibit Online

Last summer I had the opportunity to see and excellent exhibit at the fabulous Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington. "When the World Came to Campus" exhibited objects from the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, a World's Fair that helped put Seattle on the map in many ways. So I am happy to see that the library has put the exhibit online.

In fact the online exhibit is far more rich than the physical one, in terms of the number of objects available. Exhibit topics range from Conception and Planning to Igorrotes and Eskimos at the fair. You can also watch a cute little movie about the fair.

Oddly, there is no interpretive section on American Indians at the fair, despite the prevalence of coastal native imagery at the event and the presence of many American Indians. Fortunately the entire image database is online and you can search for the Indians yourself. (Pictured here: Nez Perce family in camp, Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, Seattle, 1909.)

I wish that more exhibits would make the move to the web as the objects are disassembled and returned to storage. A good museum exhibit is a huge professional endeavor, comparable to writing a book or article. Yet most leave no trace after they are gone.