I too began this book with great "promise," but within a few pages, it was obvious that this book was less about history than a crypto-Marxist diatribe against white settlers (when they came to the Oregon Country in the 19th-century). The motif is easy to spot: whites brought their "ethics of intrusion" into a paradise, and ruined everything with capitalism, greed, & corruption. For some reason (never explained) when the "Natives" burned the valley to create openings in the forest, and thousands of tons of pollutants spewed into the skies, that catastrophe is never mentioned! In fact, Native peoples can apparently do no wrong, while Robbins calls the whites "intrusive" at least 26 times!! (pp. 3, 5, 8, 12-13, 14, 15, etc.). And of course whites are "Euro-Americans" despite the fact that these settlers had no contact with Europe, and neither did the vast majority of their own parents. It would be much later before that immigration would take place. Robbins is of course engaging in the typical labeling popular now amongst historians: white settlers are labeled "Euro-Americans" to make sure the reader knows where their ideas and philosophy (supposedly come from). This is a tired practice that needs to go away.
Robbins of course enjoys all the benefits of the "intrusive" ethics of the whites, including about all the perks of white privilege one can get. But apparently that was all wrong....lol
One is also struck by all the instances in which Robbins uses quotes (" ") when whites "improve" the land, but no such quotation marks are EVER used when Natives transforms the land (see pp. 6, 34, 72, 74, 91, 95, esp. 100).
The audience deserved much, much better from someone who supposedly knows better. This reads like a screed against the very philosophy and western civ that gave all the advantages that we all enjoy (and Robbins tenure!). Did many whites pollute the land and destroy large sections of the environment? Of course! Welcome to junior high civics. But balance is called for: it is insane to ask 19th-century white settlers to have the same kind of attitudes as "enlightened" "progressives." This book reads like a Jeremiad written by a grad student trying to sneak in attacks against the "bad" capitalists--not a book written by someone with Robbins' track record. If you want to engage in self-flagellation against the "Euro-Americans," by all means, pick this book. If you want a balanced, insightful, thoughtful treatment of what happened in the PNW when white settlers came to the land and dealt with it, go elsewhere. Extremely disappointing to say the least.