Monday, October 11, 2010
History of the Oregon Coast
Homo Sapiens first arrived on the Oregon coast approximately 400 generations ago, to subsist in the coast’s generous waters and forests. They fashioned canoes to paddle along the coastline, estuaries, and rivers, where they pursued salmon, seals, and ducks. They also gathered such seafood as clams. Inland, they hunted for game and gathered such foods as roots. On the whole, it was successful subsistence living. That was their lifeway for thousands of years, and as generations came and went, bands coalesced into tribes. The Oregon coast’s principal tribes were the Siletz and Tillamook on the north coast, Alsea and Siuslaw, central coast, and Coquille and Coos on the south coast, among others. The cultures of those tribes were similar.
European exploration of the Oregon coast emerged in the 18th century when Spanish mariners sailed north from Mexico to explore and eventually stake claims to the region. The British soon followed, and the years 1774-1795 in particular became a period of sharp contention between the Spanish and the British for claims to the northwest coast. However, neither side was able to successfully gain hegemony over the region.
In the meantime, Captain Robert Gray, an American, visited the Oregon coast by sea in 1788 and 1792, and returned with fur pelts. Following the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark reached the Oregon Coast in 1804 and laid claim to the territory for the U.S. They also returned with furs, and that prompted one John Jacob Astor to establish the first permanent white trading post in Oregon. The post, Astoria, lay at the mouth of the Columbia River. However, the venture did not prove as successful as Astor had hoped, and the British North West Company bought out Astoria. Both Britain and the United States continued to claim the territory.
On a voyage commissioned by the U.S. Congress, Charles Wilkes landed on the coast in 1838 and planted the American flag. Later, a flood of Americans arriving on the Oregon Trail established de facto the United States’ claim to the land.