Native Americans have lived in this part of the world for at least 10,000 years. The 16th and 17th centuries saw increasing exploration by the English and Spanish. Lewis and Clark set out on their famous westward expedition in 1805, guided by a Shoshoni woman named Sacagawea. Their attempt to find a water route across the country helped to open up western North America to European commerce and settlement.
Trade and industry brought new communities of workers to the Pacific Northwest. At the turn of the 19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Company employed many Hawaiians and Polynesians, many of whom intermarried with local Native American tribes. The gold rush of the mid-19th century drew prospectors from China as well as other parts of the world, and provided a financial and social foundation for businesses such as that of Jewish immigrant Aaron Meier, whose dry goods store later developed into Meier & Frank. Mining, the railroads, and eventually agriculture provided jobs for African-Americans, Japanese, Irish, and other immigrant groups. Women found work on production lines and provided support services such as cooking and housekeeping.
While the growing economy provided jobs for many, most opportunities for secure employment and for land ownership in early Oregon were reserved for white men. Minorities made important contributions to the labor pool, but received little acknowledgement for their efforts.
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Next: New Centuryhttp://library.uoregon.edu/ec/exhibits/manyfaces/early.html