Arlene Spencer is a Staff Writer for London based Global Maritime History. Working full time from her home in Seattle, she is also in her fourth year of research for an historical nonfiction book she is writing about Richard Williams alias Cornish. Master of a merchant vessel, Cornish was hanged in Jamestown. In the past ten years, she completed research for her two other historical non-fiction books. One about James Dillman and the other about Catherine Northrup. James Dillman, a sheepman, blacksmith, and trapper, was an Oregon pioneer and a survivor of the violent Range Wars there. Catherine Northrup survived a particularly lethal sortie against newly settled homesteaders during the Nez Perce War but ten years later was murdered.
She says of the people she’s researched, “The person who historically faced injustice but was neither wealthy nor powerful draws us in. How these real people dealt with adversity can provide insight about antiquity but, too, inspire us and give us hope. Though rarely told these are our stories – the stories of individuals in history that were perhaps unremarkable during their lifetimes but faced adversity. Though probably not as ‘life or death’ as Catherine Northrup’s, James Dillman’s or Richard Cornish’s was, we all face adversity. We are them”.
In 2015 Arlene consulted with the Klamath Tribes of Southern Oregon when they were not being dealt with on an equal basis as a sovereign nation by a Central Oregon federal land agency. Through their work together the issue was remedied. In 2005 she worked with the Historic Preservation Office of the City of Bend to help the Warm Springs Tribe restore, preserve and protect their Confederated Tribes’ ancestors’ historical pictographs and petroglyphs from vandalism and proposed land development.
Arlene attended Central Washington Archaeological Survey (CWAS) Field School during summer, 1991. As a CWAS student she surveyed, mapped, recorded, and excavated a pre-contact hunting and kill processing site in the Yakima River Canyon. Two descendants of those hunters, Yakama Nation Elders Bill Yallup and Johnson Meninick, were invited to the CWAS class to present their point of view on the class’s field work. Explaining the importance of the interactions humans have with nature and the Yakama’s knowledge of the site’s usage through time, the Elders conveyed the difference between excavating ceded Yakama land and their tribal members interpreting their own historical past. Their connection to the site and that region, and the Elders’ candor that day made a deep impact on Arlene. So much so that Arlene eventually chose to work in history rather than archaeology in part because of that talk.
In 1992 she earned her Bachelor of Science in Anthropology at Central Washington University (CWU) in Ellensburg, Washington. After, as a professional archaeological crew member, she surveyed two pre-contact Native American sites and two historical sites in Washington State. In 1998 she returned to CWU and completed two years of study in the Resource Management Masters of Science program, where she focused on the Cultural Resource Management (Archaeology) track.