'Terra Northwest' provides insightful information about Washington state


Terra Northwest: Interpreting People and Place

For history buffs or those interested in finding out more about the state of Washington, Terra Northwest: Interpreting People and Place can provide a good beginning.

This book offers insight into the beginnings of the state, allowing the reader knowledge that may not have been previously taught in history class.

Not having grown up in Washington, I have the smallest of knowledge about the state in which I have now resided approximately 10 years.

This book helped me gain information that few native residents are aware. For instance, the first chapter provides background on the Spanish expeditions and failed attempts at claiming territory along the Washington coastline to protect Spain's interests from the Russians. Terra Northwest tells of the stormy seas and scurvy suffered on Spanish ships, the Spanish conquistadores traveled only as far north as the southern border of Oregon in the 16th-century. Later attempts were made, and the Canadian-Alaskan boundary was reached by Juan Perez in 1774, establishing Spain's claims to the waters along the Pacific coastline of the now western states.

Chapter three overviews settlers in "Northern Oregon," and their struggles to become recognized as a separate territory from Oregon. The settlers felt they were under-represented in Salem and needed recognition as a separate territory to gain financial support from Congress. Those living in Olympia and the Puget Sound convinced a newspaperman to establish a newspaper office in Olympia. The newspaper, the Columbian, helped promote efforts of those living north of the Columbia River in becoming recognized as Washington after three attempts.

Also, the name originally desired for the territory was Columbia. However, a congressman from Washington, D.C. proposed the name of the territory be changed in the bill presented to Congress in 1853, and the name "stuck."

This book is not only divided by chapter, but by sections. The first section is about the Pacific Northwest, but primarily Washington State.

The second section is about the people. One chapter was written by Gordon Hirabayashi, a University of Washington student of Japanese descent, who was convicted of breaking curfew in 1942. He writes about growing up in the Pacific Northwest with racism and hostility, and his victory with the justice system 44 years later.

A chapter that truly piqued my interest was a chapter about the Yakima Valley. This chapter of Terra Northwest tells about the rise of gangs, migration and violence in the Valley. E. Mark Moreno wrote the chapter.

This chapter gives an overview of the history of gangs in the Lower Yakima Valley, explaining that though most believe the rise in gangs began in the 1990s, it was actually the rise of violence. The history of Mexican American immigrants to the Valley reaches back to WWII and there were different transitions in the style of clothing worn, known as pachuco, by those not wishing to wear traditional attire of the fieldworkers.

Overall, the book has some fascinating facts included in each chapter, which is actually made up of essays, and there are extensive bibliographies to support the information provided.

Terra Northwest, I found, makes a good reference book regarding the state of Washington and its history. I believe people who do not wish to be bogged down with too much information would be intrigued by the information provided. It is well organized and thought provoking.

This book was published by Washington State University Press retails for $21.95 per copy. It is available at bookstores or can be ordered directly, with the addition of shipping prices, by calling 1-800-354-7360 or online at wsupress.wsu.edu.


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