Honors College Thesis


Comparing Native Oral History and Scientific Research to Produce Historical Evidence of Native Occupation During and After the Missoula Floods Public Deposited

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  • The Missoula Floods occurred approximately fifteen thousand to thirteen thousand years ago during the last ice age. The floods occurred when waters held back by a finger of the Purcell Ice Lobe gave way allowing water which covered present day Missoula, Montana to inundate areas of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The flooding moved mass amounts of silt and aggregates on its way to the sea. The flooding also carved out and deepened the Columbia Gorge and caused slack water areas or temporary lakes to form when narrow channels backed up the flooding currents. Native American oral history tells about the flooding and the deep formation of the Columbia River, though some scientists feel that human occupation of the areas ravaged by the floods had not taken place. Native historians hold information regarding Tribal occupation of the areas flooded as well as information regarding survivability by noting techniques of survival and as well as significant peaks used as resting places until flood water subsided. Anthropological dating of the ancient Native people does point to human occupation of these lands with findings of human feces in caves found in Oregon dating approximately fifteen thousand years ago, although occupation by current tribes may not have occurred until later. An equation created out of the histories of Native people from the affected regions gives validity to survival by proving tensile rope strength on cedar ropes used as well as drag force on canoes under force by the moving water. The equation was populated by actual canoe dimensions from similarly made modern canoes. The strength of the ropes, drag force on the canoes, and comparison of the histories in regard to peaks and places for survivorship fit together in a time frame best described in geologic time for the people who emerged in the regions affected by the cataclysmic floods.
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