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History project examining key role of Washington’s 161st Infantry Regiment finds rare WWII footage

Sometimes you just get lucky.

Orlan Svingen
Orlan Svingen

Washington State University graduate students Laura Briere and Jared Chastain, along with their faculty adviser, historian Orlan Svingen, were in College Park, Maryland last spring looking for information about the storied 161st Infantry Regiment when they stepped off the elevator on the wrong floor.

It turned out to be a fortunate mistake.

They’d hoped to find old photographs and other paper documents from the Washington National Guard regiment’s World War II deployment but stumbled onto something even more dramatic. Specifically, an old film reel containing never-before-publicly viewed footage of the unit’s fierce, island-by-island march across the Pacific.

“I wasn’t expecting any video clips,” says Briere, a school teacher from Richmond, Virginia working on a history master’s at WSU in Pullman. “We had gone there hoping to find documents, paperwork and maybe some pictures.”

They came away with so much more.

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WSU Insider

Always at the Front: Native American soldiers and WWI

Ryan BoothRyan W. Booth, a Ph.D. student in history at Washington State University and member of the Upper Skagit tribe, gave his talk “They Are Always at the Front” Tuesday night at Wolff Auditorium, discussing the contributions of Native American soldiers during World War I.

Despite assimilation being well-studied, he explained that martial race theory, which says that certain races of men are more war-like than others, has only been recently discussed. He added that both of these concepts help explain some of the motivations behind Native men volunteering for service during the war.

Using anecdotes, Booth explained how the spirit of most Native soldiers was of valiance and bravery, and that the front represented the greatest chance of death, but also the greatest freedom away from the strictures of Army life.

Through the martial race theory, World War I military sought to “identify and exploit” these groups to fight for their side, but the same armies supported efforts to assimilate these indigenous soldiers into Euro-American culture.

“The odd nature of attitudes towards Native Americans in the World War I period is the two-faced aspect of it,” Booth said. “On the one hand, Natives represented a fierce fighting force backed up by millennia of ancient warrior culture. On the other hand, that same culture was under assault at home as the assimilation projects, such as boarding schools, attempted to eradicate all remnants of that indigenous culture.”

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Gonzaga Bulletin

WSUV professor authors book on slavery

Woman, children were enslaved on Indian Ocean island

France probably isn’t the first country to pop into your mind when you think of nations with a convoluted and ugly history of slavery, but a new book by WSU Vancouver history professor Sue Peabody may change that.

Sue Peabody
Sue Peabody

Peabody, an international expert in French colonial slavery in the Indian Ocean, released her book, “Madeleine’s Children,” through Oxford University Press on Oct. 3. The book tells the tale of Madeleine, a slave brought to France as a teenager in 1772, and her children, Furcy, Constance and Maurice, who were illegally enslaved on Reunion Island, a French Indian Ocean colony at the time. The story traces her son Furcy’s struggles to gain his freedom through a corrupt and convoluted system of colonial rule.

“It’s really a remarkable piece of work,” said Brett Rushforth, an assistant professor at the University of Oregon who read Peabody’s manuscript for Oxford University Press. “It’s amazing how those worlds interconnected. In India, you have complicated colonial rules, legal statuses and servitude. You have France’s sugar islands, and then you have France itself. These three things are very different from each other and yet end up intertwined.”

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The Columbian

10 CAS undergrads receive Carson, Auvil research awards

Ten students in the College of Arts & Sciences are among 27 WSU undergraduates at Pullman and Vancouver to receive two types of awards from the Office of Undergraduate Research, part of WSU Undergraduate Education.

Students in anthropology, biological sciences, chemistry, environmental studies, and history received Carson and Auvil awards. They will work with faculty mentors throughout the 2017-18 academic year on research, scholarly, and creative projects that advance or create new knowledge in their specific fields.

“Awards are typically $1,000 and help to ease financial stress, so students can focus more on their research,” said Shelley Pressley, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

“We are fortunate to have generous alumni and friends whose gifts make these awards possible. Supporting undergraduates in their research also adds immeasurably to their educational experience at our top research university,” she said.

Awardees will present their research results at the seventh annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) on April 2, 2018.

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WSU News

New executive director no stranger to museum or its mission

Camas-Washougal native Brad Richardson has a new title but isn’t a new face at the Clark County Historical Museum.

The histories of Brad Richardson and Clark County, Washington, are intertwined.

Brad RichardsonSeven years ago, while working on his degree in history at Washington State University Vancouver, Richardson volunteered to help out at the museum’s Harvest Days event. The job included helping people build scarecrows.

His other positions there included intern, visitor services assistant, visitor services coordinator and museum experience coordinator.

“We made up the title,” he added.

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The Columbian