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Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee

U.S. Empire and the Transformation of an Indigenous World, 1792-1859

By Gray H. Whaley

320 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 illus., 2 tables, 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7109-6
    Published: June 2010
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-9831-4
    Published: June 2010

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Modern western Oregon was a crucial site of imperial competition in North America during the formative decades of the United States. In this book, Gray Whaley examines relations among newcomers and between newcomers and Native peoples--focusing on political sovereignty, religion, trade, sexuality, and the land--from initial encounters to Oregon's statehood. He emphasizes Native perspectives, using the Chinook word Illahee (homeland) to refer to the indigenous world he examines.

Whaley argues that the process of Oregon's founding is best understood as a contest between the British Empire and a nascent American one, with Oregon's Native people and their lands at the heart of the conflict. He identifies race, republicanism, liberal economics, and violence as the key ideological and practical components of American settler-colonialism. Native peoples faced capriciousness, demographic collapse, and attempted genocide, but they fought to preserve Illahee even as external forces caused the collapse of their world. Whaley's analysis compellingly challenges standard accounts of the quintessential antebellum "Promised Land."

A project of First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies

About the Author

Gray Whaley is assistant professor of history at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale.
For more information about Gray H. Whaley, visit the Author Page.


“[An] impressive and ambitious study. . . . Readers from many fields will be able to mine Whaley’s rich text for insights.”--Common-place

"An important contribution to Pacific Northwest historiography. . . . A compelling and thought-provoking study that raises important questions about the complexity of the colonial process in the Pacific Northwest and about the worldview and actions of the historical actors . . . who were shaped by this process."--Oregon Historical Quarterly

"This readable volume . . . demonstrates the resilience of indigenous descendents of Ilahee while he challenges the analyses of many previous historians. Highly recommended."--Choice

“Whaley’s study is a sharp and original interpretation of Oregon’s colonial legacies. The diverse perspectives and stories he relates make Oregon and the Collapse of the Illahee an important and highly readable contribution to the scholarship of the Pacific Northwest and American colonial history that will benefit students and scholars alike.” --Journal of American History

"Scholars of American empire, the U.S. West, and indigenous peoples will find this regional study a welcome addition to a growing historiography of American colonialism."--Western Historical Quarterly

“Readers interested in the history of Oregon will find this book refreshing and challenging . . . . An important reinterpretation of the history of the American West as a colonial enterprise.”--American Historical Review