Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place / Edition 2

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More About This Textbook


In traditional scholarship, Native Americans have been conspicuously absent from urban history. Indians appear at the time of contact, are involved in fighting or treaties, and then seem to vanish, usually onto reservations. In Native Seattle, Coll Thrush explodes the commonly accepted notion that Indians and cities-and thus Indian and urban histories-are mutually exclusive, that Indians and cities cannot coexist, and that one must necessarily be eclipsed by the other. Native people and places played a vital part in the founding of Seattle and in what the city is today, just as urban changes transformed what it meant to be Native. On the urban indigenous frontier of the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s, Indians were central to town life. Native Americans literally made Seattle possible through their labor and their participation, even as they were made scapegoats for urban disorder. As late as 1880, Seattle was still very much a Native place. Between the 1880s and the 1930s, however, Seattle's urban and Indian histories were transformed as the town turned into a metropolis. Massive changes in the urban environment dramatically affected indigenous people's abilities to survive in traditional places. The movement of Native people and their material culture to Seattle from all across the region inspired new identities both for the migrants and for the city itself. As boosters, historians, and pioneers tried to explain Seattle's historical trajectory, they told stories about Indians: as hostile enemies, as exotic Others, and as noble symbols of a vanished wilderness. But by the beginning of World War II, a new multitribal urban Native community had begun to take shape in Seattle, even as it wasovershadowed by the city's appropriation of Indian images to understand and sell itself. After World War II, more changes in the city, combined with the agency of Native people, led to a new visibility and authority for Indians in Seattle. The descendants of Seattle's indigenous peoples capitalized on broader historical revisionism to claim new authority over urban places and narratives. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Native people have returned to the center of civic life, not as contrived symbols of a whitewashed past but on their own terms. In Seattle, the strands of urban and Indian history have always been intertwined. Including an atlas of indigenous Seattle created with linguist Nile Thompson, Native Seattle is a new kind of urban Indian history, a book with implications that reach far beyond the region.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295988122
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Bks.
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 628,657
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    Native Americans in the beginnings and history of Seattle

    With regard to the beginnings of the city of Seattle, the local Native Americans were not part of what was called the 'Vanishing Race' of Native Americans from the westward growth of America. Native Americans played a large, vital, and conspicuous role in the founding and early growth of Seattle. Thrush, an assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia, makes the point that the role of Native Americans regarding other cities is worth looking into as well. In Seattle, Native American men and women provided the large majority of the manual labor in such work as sawmills and fishing and many started small businesses. By intermarriage, some Native Americans, particularly women, assumed prominent and influential positions in the community. The other side of the Native Americans' experience with Seattle is their being supplanted as more and more whites came to Seattle in the latter years of the 19th century. Subject to discrimination, racism, oppression, and demonization, the Native Americans lost their position in the city's economy and social structure. They were, for instance, labeled as 'hostile,' and said to be unable to adjust to urban life the women were considered prostitutes. In recent years, the fundamental role of local Native Americans in Seattle's origins and the impression this had on the character of the city are being given their due. Numbers of Native Americans, showing an entrepreneurial spirit and media savvy equal to any big-city dweller, are finding places in today's Seattle. Thrush writes the full story of the changing social relationship of Native Americans to Seattle. Central to his perspective--noted in the 'Foreword'--is the false, unsubstantiated dichotomy between 'civilized' and 'uncivilized' peoples. Following the text is an 'Atlas of Indigenous Seattle' containing maps and Native American terms evidencing the prevalence of the Native Americans through the Puget Sound area, how much they had developed this area already through use of its resources, and the place of the Native American culture in the origins and development of Seattle.

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