Review: Indian Slavery in the Pacific Northwest

Indian Slavery in the Pacific Northwest (Northwest Historical Series)Indian Slavery in the Pacific Northwest by Robert H. Ruby
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The subject of this book is a surprising practice that most people don’t know about: the Indian slave trade that existed throughout the Pacific Northwest before the arrival of Europeans and persisted into the late 19th century. The Chinook Indians of the lower Columbia River were the most prolific slave traders, but the slave trade network reached all the way to the Tlingit in Alaska and to the Plateau cultures of inland Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Indian slaves were kept as displays of status, and as such were often killed in potlaches or buried with the chiefs who owned them.

Unfortunately for this book, though, the summary I gave above is almost all of the interesting things that we know about Indian slavery. The authors in the foreword complain about the paucity of documentation that they found, and this becomes evident as the book becomes very repetitive after about the second chapter–compounded by the book’s dry style. So while the subject matter is very interesting, I can’t highly recommend this book itself.

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