Native American history expert to give Carson Lecture


CORVALLIS - One of the nation's leading experts in colonial and Native American history will deliver the 18th annual Carson history lecture at Oregon State University on Monday, Oct. 18.

James Merrell, a professor at Vassar College, will lecture on "Back to the Frontier." His talk, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in LaSells Stewart Center's Construction and Engineering Auditorium, is free and open to the public.

Merrell is the Lucy Maynard Salmon Professor at Vassar and a former Rhodes Scholar. In his lecture, he will seek to restore the importance of the concept of "frontier" for American.

"James Merrell is one of the finest scholars of early America and one of the leading historians of his generation," said Steven Hackel, an assistant professor of history at OSU. "His books and essays have reoriented the focus and research of American colonial history in a way that restores to Indians the distinctive historical experience and importance that previous generations of historians had denied them.

"In his work, Native Americans are real people who helped make history - not just foils for the glorious accomplishments of settlers and colonists," Hackel added.

As part of his presentation, Merrell will examine the career of Conrad Weiser - also known as Tarachiawagon - a German colonist and adopted Iroquois who was an important go-between in colonial Pennsylvania between the cultures.

"Weiser was a member of a shadowy cadre of interpreters and diplomats long overlooked, but critically important to carrying on the conversation between cultures," Merrell said. "Examining his career helps recapture the rough texture, the gritty feel of frontier life, and offers lessons about the character of early American society."

Merrell has a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University and has held fellowships from the Newberry Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His first book, "The Indian's New World," won several awards including the Bancroft Prize. His recent book, "Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier," was published earlier this year.

The George and Dorothy Carson History Lectures were founded in honor of the late George Carson, who taught Russian history at OSU for years, and his wife, Dorothy.