At the Hearth of the Crossed Races
360 pages, 6 x 9
Maps. Index.
Release Date:01 Jun 2015

At the Hearth of the Crossed Races

A French-Indian Community in Nineteenth-Century Oregon, 1812-1859

Oregon State University Press
Despite the force of Oregon’s founding mythology, the Willamette Valley was not an empty Eden awaiting settlement by hardy American pioneers. Rather, it was, as Melinda Jetté explores in At the Hearth of the Crossed Races, one of the earliest sites of extensive intercultural contact in the Pacific Northwest.

Jetté’s study focuses on the “hearth” of this contact: French Prairie, so named for the French-Indian families who resettled the homeland of the Ahantchuyuk Kalapuyans. Although these families sought a middle course in their relations with their various neighbors, their presence ultimately contributed to the Anglo-American colonization of the region. By establishing farming and husbandry operations in the valley, the French-Indian settlers enhanced the Willamette Valley’s appeal as a destination of choice for the Anglo-Americans who later emigrated to the Pacific Northwest via the Oregon Trail.

Upon these emigrants’ arrival, the social space for the people of the “crossed races” diminished considerably, as the Anglo-Americans instituted a system of settler colonialism based on racial exclusion. Like their Native kin, the French-Indian families pursued various strategies to navigate the changing times and Jetté’s study of French Prairie takes on the relationships among all three: the French-Indian families, the indigenous peoples, and the Anglo-American settlers.  

With At the Hearth of the Crossed Races, Jetté delivers a social history that deepens our understanding of the Oregon Country in the nineteenth century. This history of French Prairie provides a window into the multi-racial history of the Pacific Northwest and offers an alternative vision of early Oregon in the lives of the biracial French-Indian families whose community challenged notions of white supremacy, racial separation, and social exclusion.
With deep research and sensitive analysis, Melinda Jetté has written a big history of a small place. In the experiences of the 'bicultural' French-Indian families of French Prairie, Oregon, she reveals both the insidious work of colonialism and the inventive ways that individuals--Indians, French Canadians, and other Euro-Americans--adapted to the rapidly changing dynamics of the nineteenth-century American West. A highly satisfying, and often quite surprising, study. --Brett Rushforth, author of Bonds of Alliance: Indigenous and Atlantic Slaveries in New France.
Melinda Jetté’s absorbing history of French Prairie belongs on every western history bookshelf. It reminds us that the history of Oregon does not begin with the Whitmans or the Oregon Trail. The author ‘aim[s] to connect French Prairie to the larger history of French-speaking peoples in American history.’ This she most certainly has done—and this French perspective redraws the map. It turns out that the road from Québec passes just south of Portland, Oregon. --Jay Gitlin, author of The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders & American Expansion
Melinda Marie Jetté  is a native Oregonian and a descendant of the French Canadian men and Native women who resettled French Prairie. The recipient of a M.A. in History from Université Laval and a Ph.D from the University of British Columbia, she is Associate Professor of History at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.
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