Death of Celilo Falls

Katrine Barber

  • Published: 2005
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; Environmental Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 272 pp., 15 photos, 5.5 x 8.5 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Published with: Center for the Study of Pacific Northwest History
  • Series: Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography
  • Contents

For thousands of years, Pacific Northwest Indians fished, bartered, socialized, and honored their ancestors at Celilo Falls, part of a nine-mile stretch of the Long Narrows on the Columbia River. Although the Indian community of Celilo Village survives to this day as Oregon's oldest continuously inhabited town, with the construction of The Dalles Dam in 1957, traditional uses of the river were catastrophically interrupted. Most non-Indians celebrated the new generation of hydroelectricity and the easy navigability of the river "highway" created by the dam, but Indians lost a sustaining center to their lives when Celilo Falls was inundated.

Death of Celilo Falls is a story of ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances, as neighboring communities went through tremendous economic, environmental, and cultural change in a brief period. Katrine Barber examines the negotiations and controversies that took place during the planning and construction of the dam and the profound impact the project had on both the Indian community of Celilo Village and the non-Indian town of The Dalles, intertwined with local concerns that affected the entire American West: treaty rights, federal Indian policy, environmental transformation of rivers, and the idea of "progress."
Katrine Barber is assistant professor of history at Portland State University and an associate at the Center for Columbia River History.

"Creatively conceived and carefully argued, Barber's study provides important insights to a story that, while set in the Pacific Northwest on the Columbia River, has much larger relevance to the American West as a whole and to modern U.S. social history, Cold War historiography, federal Indian policy in the mid-twentieth century, and recent Native American history."
-Peter Boag, author of Environment and Experience: Settlement Culture in Nineteenth-Century Oregon
Introduction: Dam Dedications
1. Village and Town: The Communities Transformed by The Dalles Dam
2. A Riverscape as Contexted Space
3. Debating the Drum: "A Serious Breach of Good Faith"
4. Narratives of Progress: Development and Population Growth at The Dalles
5. Relocation and the Persistence of Celilo Village: "We Don't 'Come From' Anywhere"
6. Negotiating Values: Settlement and Final Compensation
Conclusion: Losses

"Barber's useful study, like The Dalles Dam itself, takes on greater meaning as part of a larger pattern."
-American Historical Review

"Barber mines little-known government archives and local newspaper files to put flesh on the bones of this complex historic moment, providing the reader a finely detailed analysis of the chain of events leading to the flooding of Celilo Falls and a sensitive appreciation of the complex aftermath."
-Western Historical Quarterly

"Death of Celilo Falls is well-researched and crafted with great care for the people and environs of the now-submerged Celilo Falls."

"A must-read for anyone interested in this momentous regional event. Barber has produced an important book that others, including writers, artists, shamans, perhaps even politicians, will reference for facts and insights as they interpret or reinterpret what happened only a half-century ago."
-The Oregonian

"Katrine Barber is a gifted writer who manages to convey with literary flair her keen sense of the uniqueness and complexity of the Pacific Northwest- its space, people, and history. Because of her talents and the appealing way in which she has brought all the threads together in this monograph, Death of Celilo Falls is highly recommended to all readers."
-Oregon Historical Quarterly