Washington: A Timeline
A look into our regional history reveals a type of ongoing cultural contact that has made the Pacific Northwest what it is: seasonal contact among First Nations groups, transnational migration from other parts of the US, European and Asian immigration. At many of these points, the seeds were sown for linguistic influence.
A sociolinguist's-eye-view on Northwest English
Look for the symbol (➨) below to see a historical event of linguistic importance
Two hundred years after Lewis and Clark's historic voyage to the Pacific coast, has the Northwest been established long enough to have unique dialect features? Has the history of ongoing settlement made the Pacific Northwest the truest of American melting-pots? How much have Native Americans, Scandanavians, Asians, East-coast Americans, and other groups impacted the speech of this region? more about the project.
Phase I: 1800-1850
Background: Native Americans gather seasonally to trade furs and coastal items.
➨ Chinook Jargon becomes the contact language used among several First Nations groups for purposes of trade.
1824: the Hudson's Bay Company establishes its Northwest Headquarters at Fort Vancouver, WA 100 mi. up the Columbia River, near the mouth of the Willamette.
➨ Fur trading brings Europeans, Canadians (of French origin), and Native Americans into contact
1830s-40s: American interest in the Pacific Northwest increases dramatically, and settlers, missionaries, politicians and statesmen migrate West. Overland migration to Oregon Territory begins.
1840s-50s: George Washington Bush, WA's first African American settler, arrives. As land in the Willamette Valley is claimed, settlers fan out to different regions of the Northwest: Seattle and Portland are founded.
➨ By 1880 the census notes 180 African Americans in OR territory.
Phase II: 1851-1900
1851: Denny Party arrives at Alki Beach, WA
1853: formation of Washington Territory
1868: Seward Treaty allows free immigration between the US and China. Formation of the Wa Chong Company, Seattle. Wa Chong becomes a gathering place for the Chinese in WA.
➨ By 1870, Chinese population in WA is 234. Within one year, the construction of the number of Chinese working on the Northern Pacific Railroad will exceed 2,000. Chinese will comprise 4% of WA state population by 1880.
1881: The transcontinental railroad reaches Spokane, eastern Washington, linking the Northwest and Eastern US
1882: Exclusion Act inhibits the predominantly male Chinese population from bringing wives from China. Chinese population declines sharply, from roughly 105,000 in 1882 (in all US states) to 62,000 in 1920.
1889: Washington becomes a state
➨ In the 1890's, the first Japanese settlers arrive in the PNW
1893: Great Northern Railway reaches Seattle
1897: Yukon Gold rush begins, followed three years later by the Alaska Gold rush
Phase III: 1900-1950
1900s: Seattle’s Chinatown becomes established
1903-1905: First wave of Korean and Filipino immigration to the U.S.
➨ The first speakers of Korean arrive. There are 171 languages spoken in the Philippines, including the majority languages Filipino (Pilipino), Tagalog, and Ilocano. We are uncertain as to which of these languages was/were spoken by the earliest Filipino immigrants. The Jenkins family (numbering 17) represents the first family of Filipino descent in Washington State.
1910: Seattle’s International District is born, representing the only place in the mainland United States where Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, African-Americans and Vietnamese settled together and built a neighborhood. Washington state South Asian population=1,414.
1920: Sharp decline in Chinese population due to new exclusionary immigrant restrictions.
1928: Filipino farm workers forced out of Yakima Valley, WA.
1940: Japanese and Japanese American population=14,565. This is 11.5% of the state’s population.
1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, calling for the evacuation of persons of Japanese descent living on the Pacific Coast to internment camps. 54 Japanese-American families are forcibly removed from Bainbridge Island and sent to the Manzanar relocation center in California, becoming the first people to be interned under this executive order.
With the exception of the Japanese population, the numbers of minorities in Washington state increases substantially. Washington state consistently possesses a more diverse and larger population than Oregon or Idaho.
1947-1990: Second wave of South Asian immigration begins.
Phase IV: 1951-2000
1965: Immigration Act of 1965 eliminates “national origin” quotas. Third wave of Filipino, Korean, and South Asian immigration begins.
➨ Each of these language groups is “refreshed” with new native speakers.
1975: President Gerald R. Ford authorizes 130,000 Southeast Asian refugees to enter the U.S. as new governments emerge in Vietnam, Kampuchea, and Laos. First wave of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Hill Tribes (including Hmong, Mien, Khmhu) and other Southeast Asians arrive after the fall of Saigon.
➨ The first speakers of a new range of South Asian languages arrive.
1978-80: Second wave of Vietnamese, Laotian (including Laotian Hill Tribes), and Cambodian refugees begins.
1987: Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1987 facilitates immigration of Amerasian children and certain members of their families. Third wave of Vietnamese immigration to U.S. begins.
1999: Population of Asian Pacific Americans in WA state is 341,650. This is three times the number in 1980.
- facts adapted from timeline by Prof. Quintard Taylor