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Author to discuss multiracial history

French Prairie embodied the melting pot ideology


SUBMITTED PHOTO  - In her book, At the Hearth of the Crossed Races, author Melinda Jette takes a magnifying glass to the traditional Oregon settlement story and details a biracial French-Indian community.

For The Review, Tidings

What if one of the most common assumptions about the early days of Oregon is wrong? In stories and textbooks, pioneers and Indians rarely stayed in mixed company. These two cultural spheres tended to stay separate from each other in distinct towns and tribes, only overlapping enough to trade goods and knowledge. But what if that wasn’t the whole story?

Author Melinda Jette will present an alternative narrative to these ideas at the Museum of the Oregon Territory (MOOT) at 7 p.m. March 4. In her book “At the Hearth of the Crossed Races,” Jette takes a magnifying glass to the traditional Oregon settlement story and details a biracial French-Indian community whose existence challenged the then-notions of racial exclusion, social separation and white supremacy.

“At the Hearth of the Crossed Races” focuses on the area that was known as the French Prairie between 1812 and 1859 in the Willamette Valley, its name a reflection of the French-Indian families who settled in the homeland of the Ahantchuyuk Kalapuyans and built a vibrant community there.

This integrated society was a hybrid. By using American farming techniques, their community quickly became an important destination for Anglo-Americans crossing the Oregon Trail and looking to settle.

The French Prairie embodied the melting pot ideology, and Jette exposes its social, political and logistical role in the westward expansion of America, offering a window into a unique, multi-racial community in the early days of the west.

The public is invited to attend this free presentation. MOOT is located at 211 Tumwater Drive in Oregon City. For more information, call 503-655-2866.