Meghan Marie Bill

Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Fall 5-9-2012

Major Department or Program

Race and Ethnic Studies


Matthew Reynolds


This thesis investigates local representations of the Columbia River Basin’s colonial contact histories—framed roughly between the years 1805 and 1855—as exhibited at three of the area’s local museums: the Fort Walla Walla Museum, the Whitman Mission National Historic Site, and Tamástslikt Cultural Institute. I investigate the design, curatorial intent, and historical narratives of each institution’s exhibits as relates to Andrea Smith’s concept of “settler-colonial historical consciousness.” I propose that history museums are powerful storytellers whose narratives shape visitors’ contemporary understandings of local histories, colonialism, race relations, and contemporary communities. I argue that, as storytellers, museums have responsibilities for the interpretations they present to their viewers. Given the pervasiveness of whitewashed and colonially amnesic representations of American history in mainstream media, particularly in the Columbia River Basin, I advocate for museum exhibits more critically aware of historical narrative multiplicity and for exhibits that more explicitly address colonialism—pulling its stories of oppression and survivance from an almost exclusively historic past into contemporary relevance.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Museum exhibits -- Cascades (Or. And Wash.) -- Columbia River Basin, Walla Walla (Wash.), Washington (Wash.), Fort Walla Walla Museum, Whitman Mission National Historic Site (Wash.), Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, Local History, Colonist -- Euro-american, United States -- History -- 1801-1856, Westward Expansion, Indians of North America -- Northwest, West (U.S.) -- Migration, Missionaries -- Missionization, Pacific Northwest -- History, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2012 -- Race and Ethnic Studies

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Public Accessible Thesis

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