The Columbia Plateau is a significant geologic, geographic, and social region encompassing large portions of eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and Idaho. One of its defining features, the Columbia River drainage system, further connects the region to southwestern Canada, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. Through its history, the Greater Columbia Plateau has experienced dramatic environmental, social, and cultural transformations.
The Department of History at Washington State University is sponsoring a multidisciplinary initiative that explores and promotes work on two fundamental issues in the history of the Columbia Plateau: the nature of human interactions and the relationship between humans and the environment.
Under human interactions we include migrations, the treatment of indigenous peoples, militarization, transnational relations, the struggle between labor and capital, and the politics of inclusion and exclusion.
Among the human–environmental relations we focus on are environmental degradation and rehabilitation, the perception and construction of (sometimes contending) cultural landscapes and senses of place, industrial agriculture, tourism, and water development.
Washington State University’s Greater Columbia Plateau Initiative, directed by members of the Department of History, has as its goal the creation of an enduring, multidisciplinary, and collaborative learning community both inside and outside the university and dedicated to the study and interpretation of the Greater Columbia Plateau region.
With funding and support from WSU’s Berry Family CLA Faculty Excellence program, the Columbia Chair in the History of the American West endowment, the WSU Department of History’s Pettyjohn Fund, and WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC), we begin our initiative with (1) a two-year hybrid seminar for graduate and undergraduate students that explores the history and the environment of the Greater Plateau, (2) the sponsorship of a two-year speaker series to run in conjunction with our seminar, and (3) the establishment of a multi-tiered digital archive that includes the processing of Columbia Plateau–related collections within MASC and the creation of a Web site that highlights these collections as well as the work that WSU faculty and students are doing and which is related to the Columbia Plateau.