About the Project

This project represents a collaboration between the Chinook Indian Nation and the Portland State University History Department over more than a decade. In the pages of this website you will find  short narratives, images, primary documents, video interviews, and recorded public talks that collectively shed light on the history of Chinookan people and the Chinook Indian Nation. Dr. Katrine Barber, Dr. Donna Sinclair, and Dr. Candice Goucher worked with students, community and academic partners, and members of the Chinook Indian Nation, to to explore questions of historical interpretation and build this site.

This website began as a project for the now defunct Center for Columbia River History (CCRH) a consortium of Portland State University, Washington State University Vancouver, and the Washington State Historical Society. CCRH was disbanded in 2011, after which Drs. Barber and Sinclair continued the effort to produce this site through the PSU History Department.

Humanities programming held by CCRH in 2009 and 2010 focused on Chinook culture, and brought Native and non-Native experts into conversation with the public and with Center staff. Materials from two day-long programs funded by Oregon Humanities, a day-long teacher workshop at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, multiple Portland State University classes, a PSU-funded Chinook oral history project, and materials collected and compiled under the auspices of Humanities Washington are presented here.

The purpose of the web exhibit is to provide accurate and accessible humanities content to students and the public to facilitate understanding of regional Native communities through Native and non-Native epistemologies. The website presents a digital corpora of historical, archaeological, and audiovisual texts alongside the tools and methods for analyzing them. Short narratives guide site exploration, connecting past and present, but are not conclusive. Rather, searchable primary documents, images, video, maps, and contemporary interviews create a layered knowledge space for users to construct and enrich existing narratives for themselves.

CCRH and PSU has worked with Native and non-Native experts and humanities scholars to address issues of authority and interpretation by: creating humanities content that attends to different perspectives and respects multiple authorities; examining how collaboration with Native communities reshapes the presentation of humanities content; and investigating how to create academically sound histories, while respecting Native ways of knowing the world. These questions have guided staff as they shape both content and the interpretive section, “How Do We Know?” All research, including oral history materials, have been shared with the Chinook Indian Nation‘s Culture Committee as well as with individual narrators. The Chinook Indian Nation’s Culture Committee reviewed webpages, many of which they were instrumental in developing by sharing information and images, and writing and revising text. We thank members of the  Chinook Indian Nation for their generosity and guidance, and for providing us and our students with places to stay while we visited Bay Center, Washington, and many, many meals.

— Katy Barber & Donna Sinclair, May 2018