The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity
- PUBLISHED: June 2010
- SUBJECT LISTING: Native American and Indigenous Studies, History / Western History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 320 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 18 illus.
- SERIES: Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography
- ISBN: 9780295990200
Shadow Tribe offers the first in-depth history of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River Indians -- the defiant River People whose ancestors refused to settle on the reservations established for them in central Oregon and Washington. Largely overlooked in traditional accounts of tribal dispossession and confinement, their story illuminates the persistence of off-reservation Native communities and the fluidity of their identities over time. Cast in the imperfect light of federal policy and dimly perceived by non-Indian eyes, the flickering presence of the Columbia River Indians has followed the treaty tribes down the difficult path marked out by the forces of American colonization.
Based on more than a decade of archival research and conversations with Native people, Andrew Fisher’s groundbreaking book traces the waxing and waning of Columbia River Indian identity from the mid-nineteenth through the late twentieth centuries. Fisher explains how, despite policies designed to destroy them, the shared experience of being off the reservation and at odds with recognized tribes forged far-flung river communities into a loose confederation called the Columbia River Tribe. Environmental changes and political pressures eroded their autonomy during the second half of the twentieth century, yet many River People continued to honor a common heritage of ancestral connection to the Columbia, resistance to the reservation system, devotion to cultural traditions, and detachment from the institutions of federal control and tribal governance. At times, their independent and uncompromising attitude has challenged the sovereignty of the recognized tribes, earning Columbia River Indians a reputation as radicals and troublemakers even among their own people.
Shadow Tribe is part of a new wave of historical scholarship that shows Native American identities to be socially constructed, layered, and contested rather than fixed, singular, and unchanging. From his vantage point on the Columbia, Fisher has written a pioneering study that uses regional history to broaden our understanding of how Indians thwarted efforts to confine and define their existence within narrow reservation boundaries.
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. People of the River
2. Making Treaties, Making Tribes
3. They Mean to Be Indian Always
4. Places of Persistence
5. Spaces of Resistance
6. Home Folk
7. Submergence and Resurgence
He treats two significant but often neglected themes with great clarity: first, the status of off-reservation Indian communities . . . and second, the related and important topics of racial categorization and communal identity building in these off-reservation areas.- Brian Gillis, Pacific Northwest Quarterly
The book is an engaging account of the history of Columbia River Indians and their determination to maintain control of their identity though confronted by overwhelming obstacles. Summing up: Highly recommended.- Choice
Shadow Tribe takes us into the heart of the legal and cultural conundrums stalking Columbia River Indians, and the result is a subtle, empathetic portrait of people struggling to harmonize nature, tradition, and community in a time and place where nothing is neat and clean.- Montana: The Magazine of Western History
An engaging and compelling narrative, Shadow Tribe, engages legal, cultural, and political history as well as religion, colonization and resistance, and the sociology of identity formation. By complicating the 'narrative of confinement and isolation' that has dominated popular understandings and representations of Native American life, Fisher makes a thoughtful and informative addition to the long history of Indian Removal and Native American cultural persistence.- Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources
Fischer's history is meticulous and nuanced, fully acknowledging the complex social and political currents within and around these 'renegade' Indian communities…. Fischer combines the skills and perspectives of a historian and an anthropologist. As a historian, he extracts surprising details from archival documents… Fischer also has ferreted out oral histories recorded by individual Columbia River Indians telling their stories in their own words, making this history more ethnographic, more faithful to all those caught up in this history.- Oregon Historical Quarterly
This splendid book deserves a wide audience. In exceptionally graceful prose, Andrew Fisher adds an absorbing, important story to the emergent scholarship on American Indian identity. His account of Columbia River Indians' long resistance to their displacement and political redefinition is frank and sensitive, wise and sometimes wry. Drawing on meticulous research and abundant Indian commentary, Fisher details the process that gave rise to a distinct but continually contested Columbia River tribal identity—an identity inseparably linked to competing tribal formations created by federal law. Because the forces that shaped tribal affiliations along the Columbia also affected Indians elsewhere, Shadow Tribe not only fills a crucial void in the literature on Pacific Northwest history; it offers valuable lessons for all scholars of Indian and ethnic history.- Alexandra Harmon, University of Washington
Andrew Fisher has written a superb book that tells a story of near—forgotten Indians who refused to move to the reservations and continued to live a traditional life along their beloved Columbia River. The dramatic story of their survival from the nineteenth deep into the twentieth centuries is a moving narrative that is both authentic and colorful.- Clifford Trafzer, University of California Riverside
Shadow Tribe focuses on Indian communities that remained and evolved within important historic areas not on the reservations, in which the communities’ complicated relationship with the Indian peoples on the reservations is as much a part of the story as the engagement with non—Indian society outside of the reservations.- John Shurts, author of Indian Reserved Water Rights
In this finely crafted book, Andrew Fisher provides a richly textured history of the making of a distinct identity among Indians of the Columbia River. By revealing the limits of 'tribal' histories and uncovering the complexities of identify formation, Fisher makes a signal contribution to American Indian studies. A work of impeccable research and analysis, Shadow Tribe is also an eloquently told story of heroic persistence in the face of tragedy and loss.- Jeff Ostler, University of Oregon
Andrew Fisher’s fine book asks us to reconsider the particular places and symbolic spaces in which American Indians of the Pacific Northwest have sustained their cultural identity and legal rights independent of reservation—based political authority. Though focused on the compelling story of Columbia River Indians’ struggles of community maintenance, this important study will benefit all scholars of American Indian history and ethnic studies.- Paul C. Rosier, author of Serving Their Country: American Indian Politics and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century