High Desert History: Southeastern Oregon

Compared to the rest of the state, southeastern Oregon's high-desert country is a harsh but compelling landscape. Historically, the region has remained a comparatively isolated and challenging place where the main currents of Oregon's development flowed more slowly than elsewhere. For thousands of years a home to Native peoples that had developed a "Desert Culture" way of life, EuroAmericans arrived in the early-nineteenth century in modest but growing numbers. They came to trap beaver, to graze livestock and to homestead the sagebrush plains in an attempt to "dry-farm" wheat and other grains. By the late-twentieth century, southeastern Oregon has become a place of some cultural dissonance, a region where a traditional belief in American "rugged individualism" exists side-by-side with a landscape and resources controlled largely by the federal government. Jeff LaLande is an archaeologist and historian. A resident of the Rogue River valley for over 35 years, he has authored numerous publications on the ethnohistory and history of the southern portion of Oregon.