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[Detail] Chilkat dancers, Alaska, 1895

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Creative Writing

From Russian, Spanish, French, and British fur traders to American settlers, a variety of people joined Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. How did this confluence of cultures shape the settlement of the region? What were the early towns of the Northwest like? Using your knowledge of the history of the region, write a short story set in an early Northwest town. Items such as the following may provide starting points.

The section on Chief Seattle (external link) in David M. Buerge's essay "Chief Seattle and Chief Joseph: From Indians to Icons" (external link) describes the way Chief Seattle encouraged Euro Americans to settle and trade among his people. This brief history hints at the character of the community that emerged from Chief Seattle's invitation and became his namesake.

Photographs provide evidence of cultural interactions in a variety of locations. For example, a photograph taken in Seattle, Washington depicts a Euro-American woman buying a basket from a Native-American woman on the street. A photograph of Sitka, Alaska shows Native-American women selling their goods down the street from a Russian Orthodox Church. Use the Geographic Location Index to browse images by location or search on words such as town, city, street, and store.

  • What is the name of the town you are writing about and where is it located?
  • Why do you think that a community developed in this particular location?
  • What different groups of people live in this town?
  • Where do they live in relation to each other and to town landmarks like ports, roads, trading posts, and markets?
  • When and why did these people settle here?
  • What do people in this town do for subsistence, employment, or recreation?
  • What sorts of resources does the town offer its inhabitants and visitors?
  • Where and why do people from different cultures interact within this town?
  • What are these interactions like?
  • How does the multiculturalism of this town affect its atmosphere? Do people live and interact peaceably with each other? Are there conflicts? Are people segregated from each other?