CORVALLIS, Ore. – The American West has long been known for the wealth and breadth of its natural resources. Now a new book of essays published by the Oregon State University Press examines the diversity of people who have used those resources.
“To Harvest, To Hunt: Stories of Resource Use in the American West” is edited by Judith L. Li, an associate professor emeritus in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU.
The book draws on family letters, oral traditions, historical records and personal experience. Contributing writers offer new perspectives on the land they live on, the harvests they consume, and the natural resources they manage, said Tom Booth, marketing manager for the OSU Press.
“These essays weave a tapestry of cultures and voices as they detail the region’s historical dependence on the land and sea,” Booth said.
Some of the people who harvest and hunt may not be familiar, said Li, who says she tried to identify stories about cultures often overlooked in a broad overview of western history.
“This is one of the few times you can find stories of Basque sheepherders, Native American basket weavers, Quinault canoe builders, Chinese abalone fishermen, Mexican migrants and Japanese peach farmers under the same cover,” Li said.
Only a handful of the contributing writers are well-known authors, including Charles Wilkinson, David Mas Masumoto and John Nichols. Other chapters tell of personal experiences by a variety of people revisiting lands of familial memory, such as OSU anthropologist Deanna Kingston’s return to King Island in northern Alaska, and the journey of Patti Sakurai, a faculty member in OSU’s Department of Ethnic Studies, to the Gila desert.
Some of the stories focus on discovering family histories, from John Bieter describing the experiences of his grandfather as a Basque immigrant, to David Hatch recounting the lives of his grandparents who were members of the Siletz tribe.
“All of the stories are fired by passion about cultures and resources – in the past, and in our time,” Li said.
Li also contributes a chapter on the lost Chinese fishing camps on Monterey and San Francisco bays and the fishermen’s pursuit of abalone and other species.
Writes Li: “To catch fish the Chinese navigated the shallow Monterey Bay waters in small sampans. These were little 21-foot boats built from redwood, cut from nearby forests in the Santa Cruz mountains. Each boat was decorated to protect the fisherman…A single fisherman stood at the back of the boat, sculling with an oar, or steering with a single sail.”
The new book, “To Harvest, To Hunt,” is available in bookstores or by calling 1-800-426-3797. It retails for $18.95 in paperback.