Oregon History 101



Oregon History 101 is a nine-month public history program series designed to give Oregonians a basic understanding of the state’s significant people, places, and events. Each month, historians will present a chapter of Oregon History, beginning with the earliest peoples and ending with the turn of the twenty-first century. The series will emphasize Oregon’s connection to historical themes in American History, including Native history, early exploration, western expansion, race, gender, and social justice, and the post-industrial economy.

Series Editors Dr. Carl Abbott and Dr. William Lang have designed the series and invited many of the state’s most distinguished senior scholars to speak. Each presentation will feature images from the Oregon Historical Society archives and will be filmed and made available on the World Wide Web. All events will take place at McMenamins Kennedy School (Portland) and will be free and open to the public, all ages. 




 Series Schedule and Speakers


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Title: Native Life and Pre-Contact

Presenter: David Lewis Tribal Historian and Manager of the Cultural Exhibits and Archives Program, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde

Date of presentation: September 8, 2014

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland, Oregon

Watch the presentation


Native societies in Oregon have seen monumental changes in the last two hundred years. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Oregon’s tribes and bands have witnessed great losses of land to federal government allotment programs; death from European diseases; and the loss of culture and language from assimilation programs at Indian boarding schools. Through all these changes, Native cultures in Oregon have adapted, and now are thriving. Dr. David G. Lewis, Tribal Historian for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, will describe what life was like for western Oregon tribes, and examine the changes that resulted from the resettlement of Native lands.

David Lewis is the Tribal Historian and Manager of the Exhibits and Archives Program for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community. David is an enrolled member at the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, his ancestral heritage is Chinook, Takelma, and Santiam Kalapuya. He earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Oregon.


sea and land

Monday, October 6, 2014, 7pm (doors at 6)
Kennedy School, Portland

Exploration and Fur Trade
Dr. William Lang, Emeritus Professor of History, Portland State University
Gregory Shine, Chief Ranger and Historian, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

During a century of sometimes intense maritime and terrestrial exploration, EuroAmericans sailed and trekked to Oregon Country and made charts and maps that informed the world about the Northwest Coast of North America and the interior Pacific Northwest. Their experiences, the effect they had on Native people, and the interest they stimulated about the region set agendas for subsequent events that affect Oregonians to the present day.

 Using knowledge gained from explorers, British and American fur companies envisioned control of the rich natural resources of the Oregon Country—especially its fur-bearing animals, timber, and salmon—as the path to profit and power in what soon became a jointly-occupied territory.

In the process of extracting key resources, these fur traders transformed area networks of commerce, transportation, and communication; established new communities; linked the Oregon Country to the global marketplace; and helped lay the groundwork for key political boundaries, cities, and transportation corridors known in Oregon today. 

William L. Lang is Emeritus Professor of History at Portland State University, the founding director of the Center for Columbia River History, and founding editor of The Oregon Encyclopedia. He is the author and editor of many books and articles on the Columbia River and the Pacific Northwest. Gregory P. Shine is the Chief Ranger and Historian at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the Northwest Cultural Resources Institute. The author of numerous articles, studies, and digital publications, he serves on the editorial board of the Oregon Encyclopedia and is an adjunct faculty member in the History Department at Portland State University.



Monday, November 3, 2014, 7pm (doors at 6)
Kennedy School, Portland

Missionaries, the Oregon Trail, and State-Making
“How the Donation Land Act Created the State of Oregon and Influenced its History.”
Presented by David Johnson, Professor of History, Portland State University

The Oregon Donation Land Law, passed by Congress in 1850, divided land into square plots that are still visible on the western Oregon landscape. The law allowed for white males and married women to claim 320 acres of free land, which helped spur the westward resettlement of European Americans to the Oregon territory and had lasting impact on the economic, political, and cultural development of the state. Professor Johnson will discuss how the Donation Land Act of 1850 initiated a land rush to Oregon, hastened the European American conquest of the territory, and—by virtue of the sheer size of the Donation Land claimant population—influenced almost every aspect of the region’s subsequent transformation into a U.S. territory and state.

David A. Johnson is a professor of history at Portland State University. His field of expertise is United States social and intellectual history. Johnson is the managing editor of the Pacific Historical Review.



Monday, December 1, 2014, 7pm (doors at 6)
Kennedy School, Portland

“Looks Like a Good Beginning”: Immigration, Ethnicity, and Exclusion in Oregon, 1850-1910.
Presented by Dr. Jacqueline Peterson-Loomis, Emeritus Professor of History, Washington State University


Monday, January 5, 2014, 7pm (doors at 6)
Kennedy School, Portland
It's Not Just Portland: Cities and Towns....and Steamboats and Railroads.
Dr. Carl Abbott, Emeritus Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University

Portland may be the largest city in Oregon, but it has had plenty of competition since the 1840s. As steamboats and then railroads tied the Pacific Northwest into the national economy, cities in different corners of Oregon experienced booming growth. Carl Abbott will present a lecture and slideshow that will start and end with a brief history of Portland, but will make brief stops along the way in cities as far apart as Astoria, Klamath Falls, and Baker City as he traces the development of a statewide system of cities and towns.

Carl Abbott taught at Portland State University from 1978 to 2013. He has written extensively on the history of Portland and the Pacific Northwest and has been active as a board member of a number of community groups, including the Oregon Encyclopedia, the Historic Preservation League of Oregon, the Oregon Downtown Development Association, and Livable Oregon. He is a contributor to the Oregonian and Portland Monthly and is a frequent speaker to community groups.


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Monday, February 2, 2015, 7pm (doors at 6)
Kennedy School, Portland

“Social Movements, Citizenship, and Civil Liberties: Oregon Women and Progressive Era Reform and Reaction (1890s to World War I).”
Presented by Dr. Kimberly Jensen, Professor of History and Gender Studies, Western Oregon University

One hundred years ago women in Oregon faced many challenges and debated questions that resonate in our own day. Oregon women shaped powerful reform movements and forged new civic roles including the achievement of the vote, office holding, and influencing public health, labor, and education reforms. Yet Oregon women were also divided in their visions of female citizenship and how to make a better society. Some women campaigned for the prohibition of alcohol and eugenic sterilization as their expression of a better community. Many women of color, wage-earning, and Socialist women challenged privileged structures of whiteness and the capitalist state. Women debated the nature of sexuality and gender roles even as local and state officials sought to define and constrain them. In this presentation, Dr. Kimberly Jensen will show how Oregon women’s activism during this period is a vital part of our state’s history and the history of the Progressive Era in the nation.

Kimberly Jensen is Professor of History and Gender Studies at Western Oregon University and serves on the editorial boards of the Oregon Encyclopedia and the Oregon Historical Quarterly. She is the author of Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War (University of Illinois Press, 2008) and Oregon’s Doctor to the World: Esther Pohl Lovejoy and a Life in Activism (University of Washington Press, 2012).

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Monday, March 2, 2015, 7pm (doors at 6)
Kennedy School, Portland

Economic Change: Ships to Silicon Chips
Dr. Daniel Pope, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Oregon




April 6, 2015

New Politics: Environmentalism and Civil Rights
Dr. Steven Johnson, Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University
Dr. Marisa Chappell, Professor of History, Oregon State University

May 4, 2015

Thinking About Oregon
Dr. Richard Etulain, Emeritus Professor of History, University of New Mexico
Dr. Jane Hunter, Professor of History, Lewis & Clark College