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Frontiers in History
Ideas from the National Archives for NHD 2001

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NARA's Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle)


Early Federal Courts-The Pacific Northwest Frontier

NARA's Pacific-Alaska Region (Seattle) holds a number of Federal court records that help to document the United States district and circuit courts in Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Washington. Admiralty, civil, criminal, bankruptcy, and administrative records are available for research. These can offer insight into the social, political, and cultural issues faced by those living in newly formed states in the West. A broad range of issues were documented such as the expansion of railroads, land disputes, mining and water rights, racial tensions, and the overall administration of justice. The records can provide a glimpse into daily life on the frontier and the challenges faced by its inhabitants in the latter part of the 19th century. These are part of Record Group 21, Records of the District Court of the United States. Some documents from a variety of case files have been digitized and are available in the Online Catalog (OPA).

Treaty Rights for Native Americans

As the American frontier moved westward, new settlers clashed with Native Americans over land allocation and resources. Although treaties signed between the two groups were meant to reduce friction, court records in our holdings show how differing interpretations of treaty provisions and alleged violations of treaty rights have been a recurrent theme. U.S. District Court records document legal actions taken by the tribes in the 20th century to attempt to uphold the treaties signed in the 19th century. Bureau of Indian Affairs records document changing U.S. government policies and actions throughout the 20th century. Some photos and reports found at the Region are in ARC. American Indian records from other NARA facilities may also be available in digitized form in the Online Catalog (OPA). For more information, contact NARA's Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle).

New Ideas Toward Public Lands

In 1881 a Division of Forestry was established in the Department of Agriculture. It became the U.S. Forest Service [Record Group 95] in 1905 when it assumed responsibility for the administration of forest reserves from the Department of the Interior. The Service is responsible for promoting the conservation and best use of national forests, cooperating with administrators of state and private forests, and conducting forest and range research programs. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, summed up the mission of the Forest Service-"to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run." NARA-Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle) holds records for national forests in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The records of the regional offices and experimental stations document a variety of topics including CCC camps in 1940, World War II emergency fire protection against Japanese drift balloons, and implementation of sustained yield management. The records of individual forests document the development and use of forest resources. The records are administrative guidance, correspondence, diaries, minutes, organizational studies, permit case files, reports, and surveys. Additional subjects covered include range and wildlife management, homesteads, and recreation. Selected photographic images and reports are available in the Online Catalog (OPA). For more information, contact NARA's Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle).

East Meets West on the Pacific Coast

For many immigrants, the United States remains a frontier even in the 21st century. For almost half of the 20th century, immigration and movement of persons of Chinese ancestry, whether an alien or citizen, was regulated by the Chinese Exclusion Acts. The case files (Record Group 85) created by the Bureau of Immigration (later the Immigration and Naturalization Service) contain information on individuals of Chinese descent who wished to immigrate to the United States or who already lived in the U.S. but wished to travel outside of the country and return. The files often contain interrogations which detail the person's life in the U.S. or China. Files with material after 1925 may be restricted but earlier files are open for research. U.S. District Court records (Record Group 21) contain information about the legal affairs of the Chinese living in the Pacific Northwest including immigration and business issues. The case files are arranged roughly chronologically by case number. Some exclusion case files and court cases from this and other regions relating to this topic have been digitized and are available in the Online Catalog (OPA). For more information, contact NARA's Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle).

Civil Rights for Enemy Aliens and Japanese Americans during World War II

For many ethnic groups, America has represented more than a physical frontier-it has also been a frontier of new freedoms and opportunities. During World War II, citizens of enemy countries living in the United States found their loyalty questioned and their freedoms and opportunities threatened. This situation is reflected in court cases in our holdings as well as in alien registration records created by the Selective Service System. Even American citizens of Japanese ancestry were viewed with suspicion and, together with Japanese citizens living in the U.S., were forced to resettle in internment camps. Internment camp records are held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., but included in our holdings are microfilmed records of public hearings, held in the 1980s, to address the continuing controversy over this policy. Select court records and photographs from several NARA facilities can be found in the Online Catalog (OPA). For more information, contact NARA's Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle).

The Atomic Age

The Manhattan Project was the wartime effort to design and build the first nuclear weapons. The Hanford Engineer District at Hanford, Washington, was crucial in the drive to obtain sufficient amounts of the two necessary isotopes--uranium-235 and plutonium-239. While NARA-Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle) holds no original textual records relating to the Manhattan Project, we do have four microfilm publications of formerly classified documents relating to the role of various federal agencies and individuals in the development of the atomic bomb. Microfilm publications dealing with the Manhattan Project include: The Harrison-Bundy Files Relating to the Development of the Atomic Bomb, 1942-1946 (M1108), Correspondence ('Top Secret') of the Manhattan Engineer District, 1942-1946 (M1109), The Bush-Conant File Relating to the Development of the Atomic Bomb, 1940-1945 (M1392), and The Diplomatic History of the Manhattan Project, 1943-1948 (A1218). The microfilm is available at NARA Pacific-Alaska Region. Additional textual and photographic records are available in the Online Catalog (OPA). For more information, contact NARA's Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle).

Harnessing and Engineering the Natural Resources Found in the Pacific Northwest

For much of the 20th century, the natural resources found in the Pacific Northwest, including fish and water power, were seen as there for the taking and for the taming. Records of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (RG 77), in particular, document the efforts of the U.S. government to dam the rivers for power, build flood control systems, and improve navigation and port facilities through dredging and jetty building projects. The records of the Fish and Wildlife Service (RG 22), the Bureau of Land Management (RG 49) and the U.S. Forest Service (RG 95) also document this type of Federal government activities. Some photographic images and reports have been digitized and are available in the Online Catalog (OPA). For more information, contact the National Archives at Seattle.


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