Oregon’s History: People of the Northwest in the Land of Eden presents the people, places, and events of the state of Oregon from a humanist-driven perspective and recounts the struggles various peoples endured to achieve inclusion in the community. Its inspiration came from Carlos Schwantes historical survey, The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History which provides a glimpse of national events in American history through a regional approach. David Peterson Del Mar’s Oregon Promise: An Interpretive History has a similar approach as Schwantes, it is a reflective social and cultural history of the state’s diversity. The text offers a broad perspective of various ethnicities, political figures, and marginalized identities. Neither provide a traditionalist historiography of the American West. Traditionalist works replicated the heroic pioneer in the wilderness narrative embraced by historians like Frederick Jackson Turner at the beginning of the twentieth century. Other works such as Elizabeth McLagan’s Peculiar Paradise interrogated inherent racism of the traditional historical approach of the American West that enshrined a linear narrative of Euro-American colonization bearing progress and civilization to Oregon. McLagan’s analyzes the establishment of the African American community and their struggles against racial oppression in Oregon.
This “open textbook” is a social and cultural history of the people of Oregon representing powerful figures from the dominant Euro-American culture, the marginalized and oppressed, and social and political reformers who shaped the historical legacy of the state. It is a story of the diverse array of immigrants who helped build the state and strengthen it. The title is a recollection of the racial fantasies that European-American settlers created in their expansionist vision of the West and the state of Oregon. Initially the Oregon Territory was built on intolerance and racial exclusivity, but eventually Oregon embraces its diversity, but not without struggle and heartache. Our journey through the past starts with an essential question, “Who are the people of Oregon?”