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Death Of Celilo Falls By Katrine Barber

1545 words - 6 pages

The purpose of this essay is to examine and analyze Katrine Barber's book, "Death of Celilo Falls". In this book, Barber successfully seeks to tell the story of a momentous event in the history of the West, the building of the Dalles Dam in 1957. Celilo Falls was part of a nine-mile area of the Long Narrows on the Columbia River. Despite the fact that the Celilo Village still survives to this day in the state of Oregon (it is the state's oldest continuously inhabited town), the assembly of The Dalles Dam in 1957 changed the way of life for the surrounding areas forever. Barber tells this story very well, and as it is the first book-length account of the inundation of Celilo Falls, it is a very valuable and insightful look at an influential event in the history of the American West. Barber's purpose for writing the book is summed up in the introductory chapter of the book when she says, "…this book examines what happened to two neighboring communities when a large public dam was built adjacent to them." (pg. 9). She goes on to say "This is not a story about impersonal federal force swooping down to rearrange two defenseless communities: it explores relationships between federal representatives and local residents, as well as between residents of The Dalles and Celilo Village." (pg. 9). Barber argues that the Columbia River and those living in its vicinity would never again be the same. The effects of the building of the dam have impacted society up until this very day, with Barber describing the dam as "a tangible reminder if the complexity of Indian-white treaties and their ongoing negotiation, the simultaneous promise and destruction of progress, the loss of a natural river and the life it sustained, and the transformative power of the market economy." (pg. 13).

Barber begins the book in Chapter One by giving a background on the two communities being affected by construction of the Dalles Dam, Celilo Village and The Dalles. She also explains the differences in thinking between the two communities. The Dalles wanted the increased "modernity and economic security that a federal dam and professional river management promised."(pg.14). The mid-size town was "on the verge of expansion and growth" (pg. 27) and supported the projects that "would make the city the "gateway" between Portland and the cities of the interior Northwest." (pg. 27). The Celilo Village and other surrounding Indians, however, saw the building of the dam as an encroachment upon their resources. The building of the dam would adversely affect the fishing industry which was vital to the native people's interests. She goes on to describe the natives' belief that they had a right to decide how the resources were used as well, describing on pages 20 through 25, the ancient, thriving community that the natives had prior to white settlement. According to Barber, the relations between the two communities were not entirely friendly, especially since "The Dalles and its non-Native...

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