Books On Race And Ethnicity

Jette, Melinda Marie. At the Hearth of the Crossed Races: A French-Indian Community in Nineteenth-Century Oregon, 1812-1859. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2015. 337 pp. $22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-87071-597-6.

Despite the force of Oregon’s founding mythology, the Willamette Valley was not an empty Eden awaiting settlement by hardy American pioneers. Rather, it was, as Melinda Jette explores in this book, one of the earliest sites of extensive intercultural contact in the Pacific Northwest.

At the Hearth of the Crossed Races

Jette’s study focuses on the “hearth” of the contact: French Prairie so named for the French-Indian families who resettled the homeland of the Ahantchuyuk Kalapuyans. Although these families sought a middle course in their relations with their various neighbors, their presence ultimately contributed to the Anglo-American colonization of the region. By establishing farming and husbandry operations in the valley, the French-Indian settlers enhanced the Willamette Valley’s appeal as a destination of choice for the Anglo-Americans who later immigrated to the Pacific Northwest via the Oregon Trail.

Upon these emigrants’ arrival, the social space for the people of the “crossed races” diminished considerably, as the Anglo-Americans instituted a system of settler colonialism based on racial exclusion. Like their Native kin, the French-Indian families pursued various strategies to navigate the changing times, and Jette’s study of French Prairie takes on the relationships among all three: The French-Indian families, the indigenous peoples, and the Anglo-American settlers.

With this book, Jette delivers a social history that deepens our understanding of the Oregon Country in the 19th century. This history of French Prairie provides a window into the multiracial history of the Pacific Northwest and offers an alternative vision of early Oregon in the lives of the biracial French-Indian families whose community challenged notions of white supremacy, racial separation, and social exclusion.

— Oregon State University Press

Other Books On Race And Ethnicity We Recommend:

  1. Andrés, Benny J. Power and Control in the Imperial Valley: Nature, Agribusiness, and Workers on the California Borderland, 1900-1940. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2015. 248 pp. $43.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-6234-9197-0. This is a valuable study of sociocultural and economic competition in California’s Imperial Valley.
  2. Bauer, William J. California through Native Eyes: Reclaiming History. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016. 184 pp. $30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-2959-9835-0. The author uses indigenous ideas to see California from a different perspective –revealing.
  3. Eisenberg, Ellen. Embracing a Western Identity: Jewish Oregonians, 1849-1950. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2015. 304 pp. $29.95, paper.  ISBN 978-0-8707-1818-2. The writer places Jewish experiences in the larger contexts of Oregon and western American history.
  4. Ewen, Alexander, and Jeffrey Wollock. Encyclopedia of the American Indian in the 20th century. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015. 552 pp. $90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8263-5595-9. This is an important guide to Native American persons, ideas, and events since 1900 — an indispensable reference work.
  5. Hinger, Charlotte. Nicodemus: Post-Reconstruction Politics and Racial Justice in Western Kansas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. 280 pp. $29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8061-5217-2. Illuminating study of one of the major African-American communities established in the West after the Civil War.
  6. Rhea, John M. A Field of Their Own: Women and American Indian History, 1830-1941. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. 312 pp. $34.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8061-5227-1. This is a substantial investigation of nine women historians who have examined Native American history, from Helen Hunt Jackson to Angie Debo.

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