Genocide and Resistance: The Northern Paiutes and Oregon’s “Exterminator” Governor George L. Woods during the “Snake War” of 1855–68

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 3:30 PM
Conference Room D (Sheraton New York)
Simone Smith, University of Oregon
Undergraduate student Simone Smith will discuss her research process and paper, and offer a student’s perspective on this community-based history research project.  Through a nuanced application of historian Richard White’s “kindergarten thesis,” Simone examines the complex local-federal relationship between Oregon’s third state governor (1866-1870), federal executive officials, and military officers during the culmination of the “Snake War” (1855-1868) against the Northern Paiutes.  Specifically, Simone investigates the divergence in ideology and objectives between Woods and U.S. Army Generals Frederick Steele and Henry Halleck, and his alliance with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and General George Crook.  Simone’s research also illuminates how Woods’ reframed the conflict into a truly genocidal and ethnocidal war of physical and cultural “extermination,” underpinned by his legalization and mobilization of the “Warm Springs Scouts”—mercenary detachments of Wasco and Tenino commandos enlisted from the Warm Springs reservation.  While Simone’s research draws from a breadth of primary sources, her annotated transcription of George Woods’ hand-written memoir, self-titled “Recollections,” represents an equivalently significant contribution to this field of study to the research paper itself.  Although cited briefly by 19th century historian Hubert Howe Bancroft and housed at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, all modern scholars have simply cited Bancroft when referring to Woods and have not examined the original source in its entirety.  Simone acquired a copy of the original manuscript and meticulously transcribed the 88-page manuscript, extracting a much fuller and complicated sense of Woods from his autobiography. Through her oral interviews with Northern Paiute tribal elders Simone heard directly their interest and dedication in studying this traumatic period in their tribal history.  She also learned that their commitment to the creation and dissemination of knowledge on this topic represents an integral step in the grieving and overcoming of this past.
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