Reading the Region: History and Literature of the Pacific Northwest

Welcome! This website explores the history and literature of the Pacific Northwest. Like other sites created by the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, it has been designed to increase understanding of the region by making the raw materials of history more available. In particular, it offers a wide sampling of stories and texts created both about and in the Pacific Northwest, and, it includes as well tools to help viewers study and understand those stories and texts.

The site has been organized to present the history and literature of the Pacific Northwest across three layers. One layer offers an essay that interprets how the Pacific Northwest came to be defined in and through different types of texts. The essay links literature to the region’s historical evolution. Another layer provides a wide sampling of texts to illustrate different periods, trends, and types of regional stories and writing. For example, the site includes Native American myths, accounts by explorers, pioneer narratives, booster pamphlets, poetry, selections from novels, utopian literature, environmentalist tracts, and travel writing. A third layer encourages closer and more rewarding reading of those texts by giving specific information (e.g. biographies of authors, descriptions of how narratives were produced and received, comparisons and contrasts with other works) to put Northwest stories and writing into context. We hope that the site will appeal to teachers and students in secondary schools and universities, scholars of regional history and literature, and the general public. Each section of the site will have more or less appeal and utility to a given reader.

Because different visitors will bring different interests and skills to this site, we offer more than one way to navigate through it. Some viewers may wish to begin with the essay, a historical overview of writing in and about the Northwest. By clicking on the links embedded in the essay, readers can move on to the contextual commentaries; by clicking on the links in the commentaries, they may move on to the original texts, or back to the essay. Other viewers may prefer going straight to the commentaries and the texts, which will be directly accessible in through navigation bars.

When reading the texts, visitors will notice that in most cases we have chosen to transcribe works rather than scan original documents. In doing so, we endeavored to replicate the original document as much as possible. We retained the authors’ spelling and abbreviations except where indicated in bracketed, italicized notes.  When we transcribed text from an edited work, we transcribed any material inserted by the editor (usually in bracketed, non-italicized writing). We also retained the formatting of poems and the original pagination of books and manuscripts. While we acknowledge that the decision to transcribe material introduces another filter between the reader and the authors’ original writing (and therefore encourage interested readers to acquire the complete texts of books and poetry collections), we believe that this method will benefit visitors in two ways. First, it will make the website easier to navigate, since simple text pages will load more quickly than image files. Second, we anticipate adding a search engine to this site at a future date. With most of the texts transcribed rather than scanned, readers will be able to search the site for (and easily compile) all texts that mention key words such as “salmon” or “Mt. Rainier.” In instances where we have included images of scanned documents, illustrations, or maps, we have made these images available as portable document formation (pdf) files. To view and enlarge such files, visitors will need to use Adobe Acrobat Reader (which can be downloaded for free).

With this site we have tried to offer a wide-ranging exploration of regional history and literature. Yet in many ways this site can best be understood as a starting point.  It offers only a sampling of many different texts, and viewers are expected to read more as they find things that interest and attract them. The texts themselves, and the bibliography included with the site, offer guides to additional reading. The site is also a starting point for the authors, who welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement at the following address:

The site has been produced by a team of contributors. John Findlay, Dan Lamberton, and Ray Rast conceived of the project, composed the interpretive essay and commentaries, and selected the assorted texts. Ray Rast oversaw the initial design and assembly of the site and kept the project organized. Many people assisted the project, with Bruce Hevly, Sara Howell, Kim McKaig, Catherine M. Pappas, Ben Piggott, Michael Reese, Holly George, and Wendi Lindquist making the most substantial contributions. Funding support for this website came from the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest at the University of Washington; the Department of History at the University of Washington; the Division of Humanities at Walla Walla College; John and Burdette McClelland; the Miller Foundation; the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington; and the Tools for Transformation Project at the University of Washington. We remain thankful to all who helped this project along.

A collection of texts such as those offered here would not be possible without the generosity of authors, publishers, and others willing to share copyrighted materials.  We have tried to secure permission to reproduce here each and every text not in the public domain. In the great majority of cases, publishers, authors, archival collections, and heirs found a way to cooperate with the project, even though many were uneasy about making copyrighted materials available on the internet.  The project owes a great deal to their willingness to share. In each instance where a copyrighted work has been reproduced, we have provided specific information about that work and its copyright. Visitors who wish to make their own copies of material under copyright should consult this information and contact copyright holders for permission to do so.

Reading the Region Home Introductory Essay Bibliography
Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest