Dissertation Information for Andrew Hardy Fisher
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Title: People of the river: A history of the Columbia River Indians, 1855--1945
Abstract: Due to state weakness and Native determination, many American Indians along the Middle Columbia River never moved to reservations or remained there only temporarily. This dissertation uses archival and ethnographic evidence to explore the history of off-reservation communities in the region and describe how their experiences shaped a distinct ethnic consciousness among so-called Columbia River Indians. Generally defined in opposition to recognized tribal categories, this identity gradually coalesced around a shared heritage of aboriginal connection to the river, resistance to the reservation system, adherence to cultural traditions, and relative detachment from the institutions of federal control and tribal governance. Although most "River People" eventually enrolled in recognized tribes and moved to reservations, their largely untold story highlights the persistence of Native people in off-reservation settings and challenges ahistorical concepts of tribal identity. Moreover, by focusing on interactions within and between Indian communities, this study transcends the usual emphasis on Indian-white relations and underscores the importance of Native social networks to the construction of new ethnic categories.
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