Blogs: American History

Searching for information on Native American tribes and Native nations? These big web sites may be able to help you.

You can search tribes alphabetically to learn about them, and learn about native languages as well as native culture. Try putting the name of the tribe you are looking for in the search box to see what other information they list, or scroll down to find the names of tribes listed alphabetically.

If you would rather search by location using a map, you can find state-by-state information, covering historic and contemporary information, languages, culture and history.

If you still need more help, contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.



Hollywood movies and TV shows are full of stereotypes. To find the truth, you need to do good  research.

When I start my search, I make a list of all the names I know that might be good to search. Many tribes have both their own name and an anglicized name (for example, Diné  and Navajo) and it’s good to search under both. For more general searches, search multiple terms such as: Indian, Native American, First People or First Peoples,or try searching ”culture”  and “indigenous” with the geographical area, for example American indigenous culture.

When doing online research on Native Americans I check not only what the website says, but who is providing the information. Techniques for Evaluating Native American Websites provides good tips on what to look for. Does the website present a view that the people it describes support? Is the information current? Does the information come from Native Americans themselves? Many new age sites and commercial websites that are trying to sell you something take Indian culture and rewrite it for their own needs. If the website is created by an institution like a museum, or government agency, remember that it might represent that institution’s perspective, but not necessarily the perspective of Native peoples.

When looking at historical issues of newspapers, like The Historical Oregonian I have to consider that many of those stories will include racism and one-sided views that were common at the time.”Historic Newspaper Accounts of Oregonian Native Americans” provides some good insight into the slant of these articles over time, both good and bad.

Need more help? Contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.


Before railroads connected the East and West coasts, traveling across the county could take up to six months, and the journey was dangerous and expensive.  As the population in the West grew, so did the need for safer, more efficient transportation.

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act, which charged two companies with building the Transcontinental Railroad. With one company starting in San Francisco, California and the other in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the two would build a railway that eventually met in Promontory Summit, Utah. Both railroads faced tough challenges.

The Central Pacific Railroad had to lay track through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, using dynamite to blast through the hard granite rock.   Many workers left the diffficult, low- paying job for other work. Increasingly, Chinese laborers were hired to work for the Central Pacific, and they were not paid or treated the same the same as white workers.

The Union Pacific was responsible for covering more land, including some territory that was unmapped, and faced difficult weather and conditions. Plains Native Americans opposed the railroad, which displaced them and their whole way of life.

In 1869, the two railroads finally connected. The final spike laid was made solid gold! It was now possbile to travel from New York to San Francisco in a week.  

Want to learn more about the Transcontintal Railroad? Just ask a librarian!

Most of us have heard of the Wright Brothers. In 1903 they were the first to design a machine that could actually fly.  But do you know about their sister Katherine? Without this amazing woman, the brothers might never have achieved their first flight or the fame that followed.

Early airplanes were flimsy and crashed easily. Many men thought it a too dangerous and too mentally difficult activity for women. Women were determined to learn to fly anyway.

In 1910 Bessica Raiche was the first women fly solo. Blanche Stuart Scott actually flew solo before Bessica, but many felt it was more an accident than a true solo flight.

Harriet Quimby became the first licensed American woman pilot in August 1911. Less than a month later she became the first woman to fly at night. Harriet was the first woman to pilot her own aircraft across the English Chanel. She didn’t get the news headlines she expected as she completed the flight at the same time the Titanic sank. Harriet died during a stunt show when she turned her plane upside down and she and her passenger fell to their deaths.

In 1916 Ruth Law declared, “To become an aviator one has to dismiss all fear.” She needed courage as she attempted to fly from Chicago to New York City on one tank of gas in her little biplane. She added three extra gas tanks so that the plane held 53 gallons and installed a metal guard to protect her legs and feet from the cold. Early in the morning on November 19, she took off on her adventure. While engine trouble forced her to land short of New York City, she still let a new American nonstop record of 215 miles.

Katherine Stinson  was the fourth woman to get a pilot’s license, the first woman to do the loop de loop, and fourth pilot to ever do so, and the first woman pilot to carry the US Mail.

In 1921 Bessie Coleman was the first African American, male or female, to earn a pilot’s license. She had to travel to France and learn to speak French in order to earn her pilot’s license. No flight instructors in the United States would teach her because she was black and a woman. Bessie performed in air shows for the next five years. Thousands turned out to watch. She refused to perform at locations that refused admittance to African Americans. Throughout her short career, Bessie encouraged African Americans to learn to fly. She was killed in 1926 while performing.

There are many more female pilots to discover. For more information ask your librarian.

Most years the flu peaks between December and January, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, this year it’s peaking in February. When we’re talking about the flu we’re talking about influenza, a virus, and not the “stomach flu” which is usually caused by bacterial infection.

The Flu Center is a one-stop shop for information about the flu, including the most important information: should you go to school? If you like some science with your viruses, diseases, and conditions, NPR has a great visual explanation 

of what is happening inside your body when the virus invades. Ick.

Thanks to advances in medicine, the flu isn’t life-threatening in most cases in this country, but that wasn’t always the case. About 100 years ago millions of people died in a pandemic that swept the United States, and from that pandemic doctors and scientists learned a lot about how to battle the flu. You can pretend you are one of those scientists and try your hand at predicting the next flu strains and creating a vaccine. If you want to know more about what causes a pandemic, here’s an explanation involving people, pigs, and ducks.

Want to know one of the basic ways you can try to keep from getting the flu? You’re probably already doing it. And don’t forget you can always contact a librarian for even more info!

History is more than just dates, battles, and wars. It’s real people, living their everyday lives through some extraordinary times and ordinary times, just like us today. Russell Freedman is an author who “tells stories of peoples” lives and his job is to "breathe life and meaning into his subject." This is called narrative nonfiction and it makes history come alive for the reader.

He has covered historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Crazy Horse, Marian Anderson,  the Wright Brothers, and Lafayette.

Have you ever wondered what life was like for kids in the past? What it was like to come to America as a child? How hard and dangerous was it to work in mills and coal mines?  Was it fun to live in the Wild West?  What was life like during the Great Depression?

What really happened during the Boston Tea Party? What inspired the delegates to write the Declaration of Independence? Did you know that Valley Forge was pivotal for winning the American Revolution?

Russell Freedman has written about many more topics including the Civil Rights movement, World War I and Native Americans. I hope you enjoy discovering new information about American history through reading the works of this author.

In the 19th century, land west of the the Mississippi was often referred to as “The Wild West”. The less regulated structure and society of the American frontier enticed those with a sense of adventure,  including many with a disregard for the law. The outrageous, illegal and often lethal acts of a colorful cast of outlaws is largely glorified today. Trying to separate fact from myth can be a challenge.

Learn a little about the real identities and actions of a few of these outlaws.

Billy the Kid was a teen outlaw who reportedly - and inaccurately- killed more than 20 people before being fatally shot at twenty-one.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were part of a gang called The Wild Bunch. They organized a legendary train robbery.   

Doc Holliday  formerly a dentist, moved West hoping to cure his tuberculosis. A gunman and gambler, he is also credited for saving Wyatt Earp's life.

Confederate soldier turned outlaw, Jesse James was shot by Robert Ford, a member of his own gang who wanted the $10,000 bounty.  A photo that reportedly shows the two of them has recently emerged, though it has yet to be authenticated.  Even through photography, the truth of history escapes us!

Belle Starr, known as the “Bandit Queen”, outlived several outlaw husbands and partners she collaborated with before being fatally shot herself. Her murder remains unsolved.

Want to learn about an outlaw not featured here? Just ask a librarian!

Black History Month: More Than Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. This marks the end of our month long journey of learning and exploration. We hope you enjoyed and learned facts about Black History Month that you didn't previously know. Thank you for joining us!

Aasha Benton

February 28, 2015

Painting by Aasha Benton

Aasha's story goes a bit like this. She graduates from college in 2012 and moves back to her hometown right here in Portland, Oregon. She discovers a love for art. So, she begins to paint. Taking inspiration from various periods in Black history and soul music, she creates incredible, yet simple, works. Her paintings are fun, colorful, serious and obtainable. Best of all? You can check them out here!

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library:



Dynamic Design Duo


February 27, 2015

Culturally Creative lunch boxes and water bottles

Photo Credit:

Source:  Kayin Talton and Cleo Davis

Kayin Talton and Cleo Davis are a husband and wife designing force. If you can think of it, they can create it! Recently named curators of the Williams Art Project, their talent and ingenuity will soon be displayed for all to see and enjoy.  When they aren’t creating for the Williams Art Project, you can find them at 3940-3944 N Williams Ave. for all of your designing needs. Or, you can find them online where they specialize in being “culturally creative.” In their own words, “As part of the Honoring the African American History of N Williams Art Project, we are combining stories, memories, and locations to create what is essentially a walk through mid-century life in Portland’s largest Black community. Follow us on twitter @blkwilliamspdx for updates on the project, and share your stories using #blackwilliamspdx.”  Be sure to join in!

Jamila Clarke


Photographer Jamila Clarke Photo: JamilaClarke\.com

She takes DIY to another level, and she could be the city’s best kept secret.  Jamila Clarke is an impressive creative and she’s good, really good! Clarke does design, illustration, interactive, photography and print, and she even makes jewelry! According to Clarke, her jewelry is “vintage inspired handmade resin jewelry with a modern twist.” More good news: She is right here in Portland. You can find her here , here and here.

Further Exploration:

Available at Multnomah County Library: Northwest Passage, The Birth of Portland’s D.I.Y Culture by Lastra, Mike (DVD)



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