Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Guest blogger--Summer Intern Erik Anderson


Guest blogger today is Erik Anderson, our Josephy Library Summer Intern from Whitman College in nearby Walla Walla, Washington. For those of you out of the area--not in the "Inland Northwest," Walla Walla was the place where Marcus and Narcissa Whitman established their mission in 1836, the site of the Whitman Massacre in 1847, and of Governor Isaac Stevens' treaty making in 1855. Walla Walla, Washington is about a two hour drive over the Blue Mountains from Joseph, Oregon, and Whitman College is a fine institution with its own great archival treasures relating to the history of the West--Indian, non-Indian, and the more inclusive histories of the region. 


Take it away, Erik!

“Interpretations of the phrase ‘usual and accustomed place,’” I told Rich during my initial interview, “was normal dinner conversation growing up.”  My father used the language of treaties every day during his work, advocating and managing the treaty fisheries of Western Washington. I grew up in the shadow of the Northwest Fishing War.  The pictures of  a young Billy Frank being arrested on the banks of the Nisqually stood outside of Dad’s office, a reminder of history that I studied every “take your child to work day.” Apparently, the study and practice of advocacy for American Indians runs in the family.     

However, my childhood absorption of the politics of Indian rights did not fully prepare me for this work.  Before coming to the library, I was under the illusion that there was a divide between the histories of American Indians and a history of (white) America, that the history of the interactions between Anglo-Americans and American Indians could be summarized by a simple timeline: first there were diseases and massacres, and then treaties were signed by both parties, and after that most of the  treaties were broken, and finally in 1974 Judge Bolt gave a surprise court ruling.  More generally, I assumed, like the general public, that settling of the west was a steady and stable process, the interaction between whites and Indians limited to army skirmishes and missionizing attempts. 

Yet as I catalog the collection, handling each book, taking special notes of inscriptions by the author or notes scribbled in the margins, I realize that the history of American Indians cannot be separated from any other part of American history, or indeed, any part of our culture.   

According to the Library of Congress System, books related to Indians are located towards the beginning of American History:

E 51-73..........Pre-Columbian America
E 75-99..........Indians of North America
E 81-83..........Indian wars
E 99..........Indian tribes and cultures

However, for example, I can pick out a book from HE (transportation and communication) that deals with the development of railroads in the West and find new information about the often excoriating history of large railroad corporations’ abuse of local tribes, or how surveyors for the railroads were some of the first to conduct ethnographic surveys of the tribes; ethnographies which are now essential for historical and cultural documentation.   

All the books are related. One citation leads to another, until, stepping back, it is possible look at the broad and interconnected history.

The Josephy Library, though built around the personal collection of a historian who is primarily concerned with the affairs of American Indians, is not an Indian library. That would require an impossible separation.  Instead, the books are records of complex and compelling interactions between cultures.  


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To access our catalog, go to http://catalog.sage.eou.edu/eg/opac/home?locg=1, then scroll down the right hand drop down list of libraries to Wallowa County Special Libraries - Josephy Library of Western History and Culture. You can also search for books at all SAGE libraries--over 70 libraries in Eastern Oregon.

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