By Robert Boyd
This volume presents a historical ethnography of the Chinookan (Wasco-Wishram) and Sahaptin peoples of The Dalles area of the Columbia River (ancestors to peoples presently located on the Warm Springs and Yakama reservations) between about 1805 and 1848. It begins with early historical background reconstructed from the accounts of explorers and travellers, then presents five chapters describing human geography, subsistence and economics, social structure, life-cycle rituals, and aboriginal religion. These are followed by chapters on cultural and religious change and a summary chapter on the methods and effects of the Methodist Mission on the Indians. Most of material on which the book is based is taken from the writings of the Methodist missionaries at Wascopam, in particular the papers of the Reverend Henry Perkins, who was stationed there from 1838 to 1844. Perkins and his fellow missionaries lived among the Indians at The Dalles during a crucial period, shortly after the devastating mortalities caused by,the epidemics of the early 1830s and just before the equally wrenching wars and removals of the 1850s. In that interlude, the culture of the Wascopam peoples changed at a rapid pace, largely related to the introduction of Euro-American ideas and manufacturers; much of that process of change is documented in the missionaries' writings. For very few Native American groups are such detailed records covering equivalent periods available. Appendices to the volume reprint Perkins's major monographs on the Wascopam Mission, provide a list of sources of material relating to the mission, and present brief biographical sketches of mission personnel and Indians whose names appear frequently inthe historical record.