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 presented a chapter of Oregon History, beginning with the earliest peoples and ending with the turn of the twenty-first century. The series emphasized 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 designed the series and invited many of the state’s most distinguished senior scholars to speak. Each presentation featured images from the Oregon Historical Society archives and was filmed.



 Series Schedule and Speakers


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Two Hundred Years of Changes to
Native Peoples of Western Oregon

Presenter: David Lewis, Tribal Historian 

Date of presentation: September 8, 2014

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland, Oregon

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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.


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A Century by Sea and Land: Explorers and 
Traders in Oregon Country, 1741-1830

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

Date of presentation: October 6, 2014

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland, Oregon


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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.



How the Donation Land Act Created the State of Oregon
and Influenced its History

Presenter: Dr. David Johnson, Professor of History, Portland State University

Date of Presentation: November 3, 2014

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland

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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.




“Looks Like a Good Beginning”: Immigration, Ethnicity, and Exclusion in Oregon, 1850-1910

Presenter: Dr. Jacqueline Peterson-Loomis, Emeritus Professor of History, Washington State University

Date of presentation: December 1, 2014

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland

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Immigration timeline: Download the handout

It's Not Just Portland: Cities and Towns...and Steamboats and Railroads

Presenter: Dr. Carl Abbott. Emeritus Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University

Date of presentation: January 5, 2015

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland


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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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Social Movements, Citizenship, and Civil Liberties: Oregon Women and Progressive Era Reform and Reaction (1890s to World War I)

Presenter: Dr. Kimberly Jensen, Professor of History and Gender Studies, Western Oregon University

Date of presentation: February 2, 2015

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland


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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Economic Change: Ships to Silicon Chips

Presenter: Dr. Daniel Pope, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Oregon

Date of presentation: March 2, 2015

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland


As the Second World War came to an end, Oregonians looked to the future with both hope and fear. They shared the nation’s anxiety that peacetime would bring a return to Great Depression conditions; yet the taming of the Columbia River and the wartime boom gave hope that the state would achieve wide-ranging economic prosperity. There was a broad consensus that electricity, notably hydropower, would transform the Northwest and that Oregon’s well-being depended largely on its exploitation of land and water resources through fisheries, agriculture, and, above all, forestry. 

In this Oregon History 101 presentation, Dr. Pope will present how the relationship of Oregon’s natural resources and economic change, specifically through energy production, has transformed Oregon in ways not anticipated at the end of WWII. The legacy of this development poses benefits for the residents of Oregon, but also long-term economic challenges that have not been resolved. 

Dr. Daniel Pope is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Oregon where he specialized in United States business and economic history. Additional background reading is available online to complement this talk on The Oregon Encyclopedia, and historical records from the Oregon History Project are also available. 

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The 1960s Came to Oregon...and Never Left

Dr. Steven Johnson, Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University
Dr. Marisa Chappell, Professor of History, Oregon State University

Date of presentation: April 6, 2015

Location: McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland


The social movements of the 1960s and 1970s transformed Oregon, just as they transformed the nation. Joining together to protest racial, gender, and sexual discrimination and to address environmental degradation, Oregonians engaged in a “civic reconstruction” which succeeded in reshaping the state’s politics, economy, and society. Steve Johnson will chronicle the unprecedented civic activism around environmental issues and Marisa Chappell will trace movements for social justice in this era of heightened political and civic engagement. Both stories offer lessons for confronting today’s challenges.


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Monday, May 4, 2015. 7pm (doors at 6)

Kennedy School, Portland

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

After a year of Oregon history, we end with “Thinking About Oregon” two perspectives on the Oregon story in national context.  What’s unique about this state, and how has its Northwest perspective influenced the rest of the nation?  Richard Etulain, historian of the West and emeritus professor of history at the University of New Mexico, reflects on four Oregonians who brought new ideas and insights to the nation. Jane Hunter, professor of history at Lewis & Clark, takes a different perspective on Oregon history, reflecting on the ways that national stories played out here.  She’ll consider the state’s participation in the racial history of World War II, introducing new work on Japanese internment, an African-American newspaperman, and a recent competition for Portland’s east side.