Native Northwest: Books on Indigenous History, Art, and Culture

November is Native American Heritage Month and a number of recent University of Washington Press books provide testament to the enduring, resilient nature of that heritage. The books below feature Indigenous authors, contributors, and collaborators, reflecting the Press’s longtime commitment to privileging Native American perspectives on their own history, art, and culture.

Being Cowlitz: How One Tribe Renewed and Sustained its Identity
By Christine Dupres
Without a recognized reservation or homeland, what keeps an Indian tribe together?  What began as the author’s search for her own history opened a window into the practices and narratives that sustained her tribe’s identity even as its people were scattered over several states. Christine Dupres interweaves oral history, archival documentation, and personal narrative to tell the story of the Cowlitz Tribe.

Return to the Land of the Head Hunters: Edward S. Curtis, the Kwakwaka’wakw, and the Making of Modern Cinema
Edited by Brad Evans and Aaron Glass
Foreword by Bill Holm
The first silent feature film with an “all Indian” cast and a surviving original orchestral score, Edward Curtis’s 1914 In the Land of the Head Hunters was a landmark of early cinema. Influential but often neglected in historical accounts, this spectacular melodrama was an intercultural product of Curtis’s encounter and collaboration with the Kwakwaka’wakw of British Columbia. In recognition of the film’s centennial, and alongside the release of a restored version, Return to the Land of the Head Hunters brings together leading anthropologists, Native American authorities, artists, musicians, literary scholars, and film historians to reassess the film and its legacy.

Tulalip From My Heart: An Autobiographical Account of a Reservation Community
By Harriette Shelton Dover
Edited by Darleen Fitzpatrick
Foreword by Wayne Williams
In Tulalip, from My Heart, Harriette Shelton Dover describes her life on the Tulalip Reservation and recounts the myriad problems tribes faced after resettlement. Born in 1904, Dover grew up hearing the elders of her tribe tell of the hardships involved in moving from their villages to the reservation on Tulalip Bay: inadequate food and water, harsh economic conditions, and religious persecution outlawing potlatch houses and other ceremonial practices.

Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia
Edited by Robert T. Boyd, Kenneth M. Ames, and Tony A. Johnson
Chinookan peoples have lived on the Lower Columbia River for millennia. Today they are one of the most significant Native groups in the Pacific Northwest, although the Chinook Tribe is still unrecognized by the United States government. In Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia River, scholars provide a deep and wide-ranging picture of the landscape and resources of the Chinookan homeland and the history and culture of a people over time, from 10,000 years ago to the present.

“This mature and welcome work provides lifelong academic insights concerning complex hunter-gatherers, regional social networks, ethnogenesis of modern Chinooks, comparisons of highly varied research, and strong voices of living Chinooks.” –Western Historical Quarterly

Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity
By Andrew H. Fisher
Shadow Tribe offers the first in-depth history of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River Indians – the defiant River People whose ancestors refused to settle on the reservations established for them in central Oregon and Washington. Largely overlooked in traditional accounts of tribal dispossession and confinement, their story illuminates the persistence of off-reservation Native communities and the fluidity of their identities over time. Cast in the imperfect light of federal policy and dimly perceived by non-Indian eyes, the flickering presence of the Columbia River Indians has followed the treaty tribes down the difficult path marked out by the forces of American colonization.

“An engaging and compelling narrative, Shadow Tribe, engages legal, cultural, and political history as well as religion, colonization and resistance, and the sociology of identity formation. By complicating the ‘narrative of confinement and isolation’ that has dominated popular understandings and representations of Native American life, Fisher makes a thoughtful and informative addition to the long history of Indian Removal and Native American cultural persistence.”
—Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources

Where the Salmon Run: The Life and Legacy of Bill Frank Jr.
By Trova Heffernan
Billy Frank Jr. was an early participant in the fight for tribal fishing rights during the 1960s. Roughed up, belittled, and handcuffed on the riverbank, he emerged as one of the most influential Northwest Indians in modern history. His efforts helped bring about the 1974 ruling by Federal Judge George H. Boldt affirming Northwest tribal fishing rights and allocating half the harvestable catch to them.

Where the Salmon Run tells the life story of Billy Frank Jr., from his father’s influential tales, through the difficult and contentious days of the Fish Wars, to his enduring legacy. Based on extensive interviews with Billy, his family, close advisors, as well as political allies and former foes, and the holdings of Washington State’s cultural institutions, we learn about the man behind the legend, and the people who helped him along the way

Spirits of Our Whaling Ancestors
By Charlotte Coté
Foreword by Micah McCarty
Following the removal of the gray whale from the Endangered Species list in 1994, the Makah tribe of northwest Washington State announced that they would revive their whale hunts; their relatives, the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation of British Columbia, shortly followed suit. Neither tribe had exercised their right to whale – in the case of the Makah, a right affirmed in their 1855 treaty with the federal government – since the gray whale had been hunted nearly to extinction by commercial whalers in the 1920s. The Makah whale hunt of 1999 was an event of international significance, connected to the worldwide struggle for aboriginal sovereignty and to the broader discourses of environmental sustainability, treaty rights, human rights, and animal rights. It was met with enthusiastic support and vehement opposition. As a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, Charlotte Cote offers a valuable perspective on the issues surrounding indigenous whaling, past and present.

“A relatively small book of potentially immense importance. The central issue it covers . . . is one that resonates with attempts by indigenous people worldwide to maintain their customary subsistence patterns.” —Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources

Bartering with the Bones of the Dead: The Colville Confederated Tribes and Termination
By Laurie Arnold
Bartering with the Bones of their Dead tells the unique story of a tribe whose members waged a painful and sometimes bitter twenty-year struggle among themselves about whether to give up their status as a sovereign nation. Over one hundred federally recognized Indian tribes and bands lost their sovereignty after the Eisenhower Administration enacted a policy known as termination, which was carefully designed to end the federal-Indian relationship and to dissolve Indian identity. Most tribes and bands fought this policy; the Colville Confederated Tribes of north-central Washington State offer a rare example of a tribe who pursued termination.

“The net effect of Arnold’s narrative strategy may be that future generations of Colvilles, and future generations of scholars, will see this book not only as a valuable work of tribal history but also as a document of Colville cultural continuity.” —Oregon Historical Quarterly

Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form, 50th Anniversary Edition
By Bill Holm
The 50th anniversary edition of this classic work on the art of Northwest Coast Indians now offers color illustrations for a new generation of readers along with reflections from contemporary Northwest Coast artists about the impact of this book. The masterworks of Northwest Coast Native artists are admired today as among the great achievements of the world’s artists. The painted and carved wooden screens, chests and boxes, rattles, crest hats, and other artworks display the complex and sophisticated northern Northwest Coast style of art that is the visual language used to illustrate inherited crests and tell family stories.

Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place
By Coll Thrush
Foreword by William Cronon
In traditional scholarship, Native Americans have been conspicuously absent from urban history. Indians appear at the time of contact, are involved in fighting or treaties, and then seem to vanish, usually onto reservations. In Native Seattle, Coll Thrush explodes the commonly accepted notion that Indians and cities-and thus Indian and urban histories-are mutually exclusive, that Indians and cities cannot coexist, and that one must necessarily be eclipsed by the other. Native people and places played a vital part in the founding of Seattle and in what the city is today, just as urban changes transformed what it meant to be Native.

“As an urban Indian palimpsest, by grounding Seattle and Puget Sound geography with Native names and by documenting the continuity of Native peoples over time and place, [Native Seattle] succeeds as a benchmark book.” —American Historical Review

Forthcoming in Spring 2015!

The first two books in our new Indigenous Confluences series will debut next spring, marking the continued expansion of our Indigenous studies publications into areas beyond the Pacific Northwest:

 A Chemehuevi Song: The Resilience of a Southern Paiute Tribe
By Clifford E. Trafzer
Foreword by Larry Myers
The Chemehuevi of the Twenty-Nine Palms tribe of Southern California stands as a testament to the power of perseverance. Having survived much of the past two centuries without rights to their homeland or any self-governing abilities, the Chemehuevi were a mostly “forgotten” people until the creation of the Twenty-Nine Palms Reservation in 1974. Since then, they have formed a tribal government that addresses many of the same challenges faced by other tribes, including preserving cultural identity and managing a thriving gaming industry.

A dedicated historian who worked closely with the Chemehuevi for more than a decade, Clifford Trafzer shows how this once-splintered tribe persevered using sacred songs and other cultural practices to maintain tribal identity during the long period when it lacked both a homeland and autonomy. The Chemehuevi believe that their history and their ancestors are always present, and Trafzer honors that belief through his emphasis on individual and family stories. In doing so, he not only sheds light on an overlooked tribe but also presents an important new model for tribal history scholarship.

“Trafzer should be congratulated for his nuanced rendering of Chemehuevi history, which stems from his longstanding relationship with the tribe . . . I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone interested in learning the ‘true history’ of California, the conquest of the U.S. West, and the survival of Native People in the Americas.” —Jeffrey P. Shepherd, author of We Are an Indian Nation: A History of the Hualapai People

Education at the Edge of Empire: Negotiating Pueblo Identity in New Mexico’s Indian Boarding Schools
By John R. Gram
Foreword by Ted Jojola
For the vast majority of Native American students in federal Indian boarding schools at the turn of the twentieth century, the experience was nothing short of tragic. Dislocated from family and community, they were forced into an educational system that sought to erase their Indian identity as a means of acculturating them to white society. However, as historian John Gram reveals, some Indian communities on the edge of the American frontier had a much different experience-even influencing the type of education their children received.

Shining a spotlight on Pueblo Indians’ interactions with school officials at the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Indian Schools, Gram examines two rare cases of off-reservation schools that were situated near the communities whose children they sought to assimilate. Far from the federal government’s reach and in competition with nearby Catholic schools for students, Indian boarding school officials were in no position to make demands and instead were forced to pick their cultural battles with nearby Pueblo parents, who visited the schools regularly. As a result, Pueblo Indians were able to exercise their agency, influencing everything from classroom curriculum to school functions. As Gram reveals, they often mitigated the schools’ assimilation efforts and assured the various pueblos’ cultural, social, and economic survival.

“Gram offers a highly engaging account of Pueblo Indian students and their experiences at the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Indian schools. His book reveals an intense power dynamic between parents, school officials, the Catholic church, and the students themselves. No other single scholarly work interrogates the ways Pueblo students and their tribal communities experienced these institutions.” —Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, author of Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929

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