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City Club of Eugene: (Re)Writing Oregon's History

Program date: November 20, 2020

Air date: November 23, 2020

From the City Club of Eugene:

The Thanksgiving holiday ahead celebrates a relationship between Pilgrims and Native Americans that is mythic in nature, weaving together fact and fiction. Local stories of the arrival of “Oregon pioneers” aren’t much different. In this season, it is appropriate to ask: who wrote the history behind these myths, and what were their goals? In writing Oregon’s history, what was included and what was left out? We need to consider what really happened when White settlers encountered Oregon’s Indigenous people in the 1800s—and what that means for our Northwest today.

Many of us learned a simple, heroic story of the foundation of Oregon in school, focused on Lewis and Clark, fur traders, and covered wagons. In truth, the first White settlers in Oregon were initially well known to have been brutal, violent conquerors. In the decades that followed, the writers of Oregon’s historical narratives clashed over whether to isolate or celebrate the violence. Eventually, they converged on an open strategy of erasure, nourishing a false nostalgia for a peaceful colonization that never was. Oregon’s violent history was imperfectly hidden from view.

In this program, Marc Carpenter and Jennifer O’Neal will discuss how Oregon’s history has been written and rewritten, what steps were taken to shape incomplete narratives, and how they work and collaborate with Native American communities to tell more true and accurate accounts of this history.


Marc J. Carpenter is a PHD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Oregon. His research and writings focus on the history of relationships between White settlers and Indigenous people in the Northwest during the first century of American colonization.  He has published articles in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, the Pacific Historical Review, and (soon) the American Indian Quarterly, and has co-written a book on the Oregon State Parks system that will appear in 2021. Carpenter earned a BA in History from Portland State University and an MA in History from Pennsylvania State University.

Jennifer R. O’Neal is an Acting Assistant Professor in the Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon, and affiliated faculty with the History department and Robert D. Clark Honors College. Her interdisciplinary research and teaching examine the social, political, and historical intersections of Native American, United States, and international relations, with an emphasis on sovereignty, self-determination, cultural heritage, activism, and legal issues. Her work is also dedicated to centering Indigenous traditional knowledge, applying decolonizing methodologies, and implementing place-based education. She earned a masters degree in history from Utah State University and a masters degree in Information Science from the University of Arizona. She is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Georgetown University, and in 2019 received the Henry Roe Cloud Dissertation Fellowship from Yale University. She is an enrolled member of The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon.

Love Cross joined KLCC in 2017. She began her public radio career as a graduate student, serving as Morning Edition Host for Boise State Public Radio in the late 1990s. She earned her undergraduate degree in Rhetoric and Communication from University of California at Davis, and her Master’s Degree from Boise State University. In addition to her work in public radio, Love teaches college-level courses in Communication and Public Speaking.