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An Introduction to the Tribal Legacies Project

An Introduction to the Tribal Legacies Project at the University of Oregon Libraries

James Fox, Head, Special Collections & University Archives
Linda Long, Manuscripts Librarain, Special Collections & University Archives

The Tribal Legacies Project is an attempt to bring Native American history to the center of Oregon and United States history. Native Americans have had a continuous presence in what is now the state of Oregon for at least 15,000 years; sadly, their deep and vital history often has been neglected, distorted, or relegated to the margins. The Tribal Legacies Project identifies and documents primary source collections in Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon Libraries, as well as other locations, that relate to American Indians, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, and to their tribal histories. With this project, as outlined in this catalog, we hope to increase awareness of and make readily accessible the rich resources that tell their stories. What lies to be discovered by scholars and students in these many collections is still unknown, but surely these discoveries will contribute to new knowledge, recognition, and understanding of Native American and United States history.

Special Collections and University Archives is the principal repository for the University of Oregon’s archives, rare books, historic photographs, and one of the largest historical manuscript collections in the Pacific Northwest. It is the largest repository in the state that provides extensive public access to its collections and is a critically important reservoir of materials for research and instruction concerning Native American history in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Our holdings include over 17,000 linear feet of manuscripts; 19,000 linear feet of university archives; 100,000 monographs; 600,000 photographs and moving images; 5,000 architectural drawings; 5,000 original drawings and illustrations; and over 20,000 broadsides, pamphlets, postage stamps, autographs, and pieces of ephemera. Included in these original research materials are hundreds of documents that reflect the tribal presence in Oregon.

Our diverse collections support all types of research, from K–12 education to international scholarship. We strive to play an active and creative role in the teaching, research, and service missions of the university. To that end, staff members in Special Collections and University Archives acquire, assess, organize, and preserve primary source documents—the raw stuff of history. For the Tribal Legacies Project, staff in Special Collections and University Archives collaborated with Digital Library Services and a team of Native students and graduate teaching fellows to survey and assess our holdings related to Native Americans. Our purpose was to improve access to tribal materials by creating an online resource and this catalog. Our survey of primary source materials has a special emphasis on “tribal legacies” that can be integrated with a curricular program.
Researchers and students will discover that the manuscript, photograph, and archival collections at the University of Oregon reveal the broad scope of the colonization efforts of Euro-Americans. These collections comprise a wide range of original letters, reports, and treaty records that document the colonization period, including documents of federal officials appointed through the Office of Indian Affairs, later the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Over ninety individual collections related to Oregon tribes are housed in Special Collections and University Archives, for example, individual handwritten letters, such as the correspondence of appointed Oregon Territory Indian Agents; letters of American settlers to family and friends; diaries of Oregon Trail travelers that mention Native Americans; and records of army officials during the various “Indian Wars” in the Northwest. Larger collections are the Klamath Tribal Council Records, the extensive Lee Moorhouse photographs of Native American life in the Columbia Basin and Umatilla County, and the Southwest Oregon Research Project (SWORP), to name just a few. The SWORP Collection in particular showcases the range of primary sources available on tribal history and culture. This collection includes linguistic and ethnographic documents as well as political records produced by the federal government concerning management of the western tribes in Oregon. SWORP is one of the most frequently used collections in Special Collections and University Archives.

Many more related collections and primary source materials are held in Special Collections and University Archives, and some will be added to the UO Libraries’ digital collections online. The Tribal Legacies Project is an evolving process, as we discover together the rich history hidden in these collections. We consider this project just the beginning of a strong collaboration with the Oregon tribes as we work to add resources to the Tribal Legacies Project and improve access to these collections.



Last revision: 07/03/2012
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Digital Library Services, University of Oregon Libraries