Foreigners in Native Homelands: Lewis and Clark and the Pioneers

Video Presentation by Bobbie Conner and Bill Lang as part of the Oregon Historical Society Experience Oregon Series

Indigenous peoples have lived in the Columbia River Plateau region for thousands of years, negotiating and fostering relationships among themselves and with the ecosystems of their homelands. Beginning in the nineteenth century, they formed relationships with foreigners who arrived overland — first, the Lewis and Clark Expedition and, later, thousands of immigrants on the Oregon Trail. Scholars Bobbie Conner and Bill Lang discuss the experience of newcomers entering and crossing those homelands, including how those events impacted life for Native people and how those foreigners’ experiences in the plateau contrasted with the goals they had set when leaving their homes.

Bobbie Conner is the director of Tamástslikt (Tah-MAHST-slickt, which means turn, translate, or interpret in Wallulapam) Cultural Institute, the 45,000-square-foot tribally owned museum on the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon, which opened in 1998. The Institute serves three goals: to accurately present the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla (these three Tribes comprise the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, or CTUIR) peoples’ history, to perpetuate knowledge of their history and culture, and to contribute to the Tribal economy. Bobbie is Cayuse, Umatilla, and Nez Perce and is enrolled at the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla. She is a graduate of Pendleton High School, the University of Oregon, and Willamette University’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management. She serves on the Eastern Oregon University and Oregon Historical Society Boards of Trustees and the Ecotrust and Oregon Community Foundation Boards of Directors.

Bill Lang is Emeritus Professor of History at Portland State and author of many books and articles on Pacific Northwest and Oregon history, including Two Centuries of Lewis and Clark (OHS 2004) with Carl Abbott.