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Imperialism in the Pacific Northwest

Imperialism in the Pacific Northwest

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Published by Cherise Fuselier
Essay for \"Imperialism\" program 2006
Essay for \"Imperialism\" program 2006

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Published by: Cherise Fuselier on Jun 05, 2007
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01/01/2013

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ImperialismRunning Head: IMPERIALISMImperialism in the Pacific NorthwestAndrew Walsh and Cherise Fuselier The Evergreen State College 1
 
ImperialismIntroductionAmerica never became postcolonial. The indigenous inhabitants of NorthAmerica can stand anywhere on the continent and look in every directionat a home usurped and colonized by strangers who, from the very beginning, laid claim not merely to the land and resources but [also] to thevery definition of the Natives. (Owens, 2001, pp. 14-5)The Pacific Northwest (roughly defined in this paper as the states of Washington,Oregon, Idaho, as well as parts of British Columbia and Alaska) today is a well-developed and modestly prosperous region that has a Euro-American settlement historythat would seem to stretch back to time immemorial. However, some details betray thisnotion: Indian reservations, the presence of citizens – Native Americans – who seem to belong to an extinct race, and various landmarks and tidbits named after Natives. Little issaid about the numerous massacres and unfair treaties with Natives, the vast majority of which were legally carried out by the colonizers. Instead, relatively pleasant accounts aresubstituted and the barbaric atrocities are whitewashed over for the colonizer’s sake.This whitewashing seeps into the present day, where Natives are (as they have been in the past) ignored or denigrated when trying to represent themselves, and instead must facestereotypes perpetuated by both popular culture and academia.This leads to many contemporary Native problems being overlooked. For example, a glance at various socioeconomic statistics indicate that rates among NativeAmericans for alcoholism, suicide, disease, and crime are significantly higher than thenational average for all ethnic groups. Per 100,000 Native American inhabitants in 1982, Native Americans had 35.8 alcohol-related deaths compared with 6.4 nationwide for allethnic groups; for suicide, 13.4 compared with 11.6; for tuberculosis, 2.0 compared with0.6; and for homicide, 14.6 compared with 9.7 (Frantz, 1999, p. 99). National statistics2
 
Imperialismon annual family income from 1980 show that the percentage of Native Americanfamilies in the lowest income bracket (less than $5,000
1
for this set of statistics) is aboutthree times higher than the percentage of whites occupying the same bracket, while the percentage of whites in the highest income bracket (more than $50,000
2
) is about threetimes higher than the percentage of Native American families. Approximately 28.1% of  Native Americans families in the Pacific Northwest are under the national poverty level(p. 112). Though these statistics have improved significantly compared with older figures, there is still a disparity to be accounted for. This disparity can at least be partiallyexplained by both current imperialism and the aftereffects of past imperialism andcolonization, most significantly in the various forms of cultural domination anddestruction as well as contemporary representations of native peoples and pressures toassimilate. This weakening of culture, destruction of community, and confusion of identity among Native Americans breaks down the fabric of their society and births manynegative consequences for Natives.This paper will give a brief history of colonization and imperialism in the Pacific Northwest from the beginning of the nineteenth century describing in detail discursivetechniques used by the American government and its settlers to coerce the Natives out of their land and efforts to assimilate the Native populations. The second half of this paper focuses on the contemporary forms of colonization and imperialism against NativeAmericans including racist representations, environmental imperialism. Finally, the paper closes with contemporary forms of resistance among Pacific Northwest tribesincluding forms of cultural revival.
1
Adjusting for the rate of inflation this would be equivalent to $12,698.29 in 2005.
2
Adjusting for the rate of inflation this would be equivalent to $126,982.94 in 2005.
3

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