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History Pub: Sea Otters of the Oregon Coast

November 20, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Oregon’s nearshore waters were once the homeland to thousands of sea otters, an iconic species in the history of what is now known as Oregon. Sea otters have held a special role in the cultural, spiritual, and economic life of coastal Native American communities, with oral traditions documenting the species’ significance. Their lustrous pelts brought great wealth in late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century China, motivating Euro-Americans to broker some of the earliest contact and trade between themselves and Native American people along the Oregon coast. Over a century of zealous hunting and trading of sea otters, by Native people and Euro-Americans, eliminated the species from Oregon’s coastal waters over 100 years ago. Presenter Cameron La Follette will offer an illustrated lecture on this ecological keystone species. La Follette is the co-author of articles in a special section of the Fall 2023 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly on “Sea Otters in Oregon.” Copies of the issue will be available for sale.  

Cameron La Follette earned her master’s in psychology from New York University and her law degree from Columbia University. She is Executive Director of Oregon Coast Alliance, a coastal conservation organization. Her book Sustainability and the Rights of Nature was published in 2017, and the companion volume, Sustainability and the Rights of Nature in Practice, was published in 2019. La Follette was the lead researcher and author for the Summer 2018 special issue of OHQ, “Oregon’s Manila Galleon.” She is also a traditional poet whose work is archived at the University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives. Her research interests include land-use history, early Pacific Northwest coastal exploration and shipwrecks, and the environmental effects of early commercial resource extraction along the coast. 


McMenamins Kennedy School
5736 NE 33rd Ave
Portland, OR 97211 United States
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