American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Collection

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"For 500 generations they flourished until newcomers came... much was lost; much was devalued, but much was also hidden away in the hearts of the dispossessed...

...Their voices insist upon a hearing and the cumulative wisdom of their long residence in this land offers rich insights to those willing to listen. The challenge now is to find a way to make knowledge of the ancient traditions, the experience of change and the living reality accessible and available..."

~ excerpt from Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest: An Introduction by David M. Buerge
Chilkat Dancers
Chilkat dancers pose in ceremonial dress

We can learn from the images and writings of the time...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 essays include bibliographies and links to related text and images as well as study questions that K-12 teachers may use as they develop curricula in their schools. In addition to specific tribes (Alaskan Tlingit and Tsimshian, Coeur d'Alene, Lushootseed, Makah, Nez Perce), cross-cultural topics include Indian Boarding Schools, Chief Seattle and Chief Joseph, Salmon, and Totem Poles. An introductory essay provides an overview of the cultures, this Project, and the other essays.

The digital databases includes over 2,300 original photographs as well as over 1,500 pages from the Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior from 1851 to 1908 and six Indian treaties negotiated in 1855. Secondary sources include 89 articles from the Pacific Northwest Quarterly and 23 University of Washington publications in Anthropology.

The essays and digital databases may be accessed by clicking on one of the images on this page, or you may enter your own search topic by using the keyword search at the top of pages throughout the site.

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the Collection authors in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

* 1997/98 Award Winner, Library of Congress/Ameritech Digital Library Competition as part of the American Memory Historical Collections at the Library of Congress.


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