Book Review: The Tribal Histories of Willamette Valley

S. E. Wigget
3 min readSep 7, 2023

Lewis, David G. The Tribal Histories of Willamette Valley. Ooligan Press, Portland, OR: 2023.

The Tribal Histories of Willamette Valley on the StoryGraph app

Thank you, Ooligan Press and LibraryThing, for this free ebook galley.

I was surprised to see an email from Ooligan Press, the grad student-run press at Portland State University. I occasionally receive emails from PSU’s Alumni Association, not Ooligan Press — for which I worked as a publishing student over a decade ago.

I live in Willamette Valley in Oregon and before reading this book only knew that the local tribe is the Kalapuya. The book covers all tribes in the Willamette Valley. Before reading this, I only knew Molalla and Clackamas as place names, not tribal names. I appreciate learning so much about the tribal history of the place I’ve chosen to call home… which makes me a twentieth-century settler.

This history book describes the Native cultures of Willamette Valley. More than that, it delves into the details of relations between the Indigenous population and white settlers. A lot happened in the 1850s, with white settlers invading and breaking treaties and stealing land. Reservations were created then, and Natives were officially required to stay on the reservation — though many worked for settlers at low wages.

The book includes many direct quotes from primary sources.

The book starts with ancient times and goes all the way to the early twentieth century, with a conclusion about the present. It includes interactions with settlers, the confederation of tribes, the creation of reservations, assimilation and possible citizenship, laws and Acts, missionary boarding schools in Oregon, interracial marriage, etc.

Over twenty years ago in St. Louis, I visited the Lewis & Clark museum under the Arch, and that was probably the first I learned of how white settlers really treated Natives, how they consciously intended to kill off bison and Natives. This book goes into specific details of one region. No doubt similar histories need to be written about other North American regions. It’s horrifying… but nowadays not surprising to learn about the betrayal, the arrogance, the delusions of entitlement and utter lack of fairness and basic compassion flaunted by white settlers.

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S. E. Wigget

Outside Medium, I mostly write fiction, especially paranormal and historical fantasy, under either S. E. Wigget or Susan E. Wigget. WhimsicalWords.Substack.com