Book Review:
A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest (Third Edition)

  • Posted 7/26/2012
  • Essay 10156
By Robert H. Ruby, John A. Brown, Cary C. Collins
Foreword by Clifford E. Trafzer
University of Oklahoma Press
Trade Paperback, 415 pages
Illustrations, maps, suggested readings, tribal name pronunciations, index
ISBN 978-0-8061-4024-7


A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest, first published in 1986, is now issued in Third Edition by its publisher, the University of Oklahoma Press. An enormous undertaking, the book gives, in alphabetical order, the history, culture, demographics, and government of 150 Pacific Northwest tribes, geographically ranging from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and from California to British Columbia.  The authors include both well-known tribes and small bands.

There is much useful information here and the book, since its first edition, is considered a standard reference in libraries.  The new edition has made some good changes.  There are a few more photos as well as updates that deal with ssues of Indian gaming, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPA), and the economic growth some tribes have experienced in the recent decades.

The new edition has expanded sections on a number of tribes, including the Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Makah, Lummi, and Tulalips and has been brought forward in time to include notables such as Sherman Alexie (Spokane and Coeur d’Alene), Vi Hilbert (Upper Skagit), Johnny Moses (Tulalip Tribes), Esther Ross (Stillaguamish), and recent tribal leaders.

Maps now are at the beginning of the book (instead of the middle) where they are easily found for reference.  These show Historic Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest; Tribal Reservations and Tribal Council Addresses; Early Indian Missions of the Pacific Northwest; Early Fur and Military Camps and Language Families of the Pacific Northwest Tribes.  Also included is an updated list of pronunciations of Pacific Northwest tribal names. The new edition carries helpful “Suggested Reading” lists that follow many of the entries.

That said, I need to criticize from a personal perspective.  I live in Everett, Washington and for 30 years worked as a historian at the Everett Public Library.  Entries for the Snohomish and Snoqualmie -- the tribes I’m most familiar with -- contain several errors.  The Guide states that the Snohomish lived “near the mouth of the Snohomish River, a Puget Sound affluent in northwestern Washington State, north of today’s Marysville; on the southern tip of Camano Island on Whidbey Island opposite the present-day city of Mukilteo and up the Snohomish River as far east as today’s Monroe.”  First, the Snohomish River is south of Marysville.  Second, no mention is made of Indian sites at present-day Everett which would include the Snohomish Tribe’s large first-class village of Hibulb, located on the northwestern tip of today’s Everett.  To the Tulalip Tribes, this village carries so much importance that they have named their new cultural center the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural Preserve.

A stranger mistake comes in the section on the Snoqualmie.  The accompanying photo, which came from Everett Public Library, is a detail of a larger picture, one of a series taken at Tulalip in 1914 by Everett photographer J. A. Juleen. The pictured individual is most likely a Snohomish but, in any event, has never been identified as a Snoqualmie.  Further, this person is NOT David Delgard as captioned.  David Dilgard (proper spelling) was and still is (in 2012) a historian at the Everett library and the person who worked with authors who came to research.  This error was pointed out to the publishers after the first edition was released.  Sadly, the mistake was not corrected and is repeated in this new edition, leading me to wonder if there are possibly more errors of this sort throughout the book.

My preferred reference on this topic is the Smithsonian Institution’s Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7:  Northwest Coast, Wayne Suttles (editor), William Sturtevant (series editor), published in 1990.  The book is pricey, in hardcover at $80 new and about $45 used, but it is a treasure, or as one reviewer has called it, “nerd heaven.”  Pricewise, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest is affordable at $26.95 and is a good beginning reference. Use it as that, check out the book’s “Suggested Readings” and decide for yourself.  There’s enough good information to be found here to warrant the price.

By Margaret Riddle, July 26, 2012

Submitted: 7/26/2012

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