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Uncertain Encounters

Indians and Whites at Peace and War in Southern Oregon, 1820s-1860s

Nathan Douthit

2002. ISBN 978-0-87071-549-5. Paperback, $17.95.

A major contribution to the study of Indian-white relations in the Pacific Northwest, Uncertain Encounters provides a comprehensive view of relations in southern Oregon over a 50-year period beginning in the fur-trade era and ending with the Rogue River War and its aftermath.

Nathan Douthit's meticulously researched study offers a complex view of Indian-white relations in the region. Rather than focus mainly on well-documented incidents of conflict and federal Indian policy as other historians have done, Douthit directs attention to peaceful interactions as well. He shows that in the years leading up to the Rogue River War, Indians and whites interacted with uncertainty, alternating between acts of friendship and hostility.

Uncertain Encounters begins with a critical investigation of the Hudson's Bay Company's fur-trade relations with southern Oregon Indians, emphasizing its responsibility for Indian hostility. It turns next to exploration of the region by white Americans and to early encounters between Indians and white miners and settlers. It re-examines the tragic Rogue River War, providing the first detailed picture of Indian casualties and the war's impact on the Indian population. Finally, it describes the removal of Indians to the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations as told from the perspective of Indian oral narratives as well as white accounts. As a major aspect of the story, Douthit highlights the development of a little-known middle ground of relationships between Indian women and white men during and after removal.

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