America’s largest Pacific Coast estuary, the tidal mouth of a river, is right here in San Francisco. We explore its adventurous history — from gold miners to Jack London’s time stealing oysters — but also take a critical look at how planting Atlantic oysters and hydraulic mining for gold scarred our natural habitat. Associate professor of history Matthew Morse Booker joins us to talk about his new book, “Down by the Bay,” and the future of the estuary.

Matthew Morse Booker, associate professor of history at North Carolina State University and author of "Down by the Bay: San Francisco's History Between the Tides;" and principal investigator on the "Between the Tides" project at Stanford's Spatial History Lab

  • Justin Niya

    Interesting that the first topic was about race relations when the last guest, the supossed historian completely glossed over a very important part in the history of California and the SF Bay Area. Why didnt the host challenge this guest?

    I find a repugnancy. Why has Mr. Booker neglected to tell the full truth about the peril of the native first people’s lived in the Bay? Why water the history down making it seem less brutal and oppressive then it actually was. He completely neglected the fact that the disease that came over from the Europeans who colonized them. Creating this false narrative, white washing the true history, excusing the colonialism and genocide, oppression and repression of whole people’s, the original people’s of the land. Tell the truth in your explanations. Why make it seem as though Europeans never had a hand in the absence of the people? Who are not all gone! How about giving the surviving ancestors a shout out at least. Be honest!

    • Nancy

      Justin, your thoughts are well founded in the larger historical narrative of the bay but given the 27 minute Q & A session here specifically addressing the environmental history is a challenge to address. In contrast, the guest speaker did contend with each of the points you mentioned the night before in his presentation at the SF Historical Society given there was more time allotted. Perhaps, you might hold your weighty opinion and read the book via the public library then present a better informed critique that moves the conversation forward regarding the first people to inhabit the Bay area and all those who have come to call it home since.

      • Justin Niya

        Nancy, thanks for the compliment, and I’ll agree, my thoughts, though maybe a bit hurried in texting them out, were well founded on the matter, especially because I’ve studied culture and the histories of minorities in America through college courses. Though your backhanded compliment feels like a slight, I’ll take your advice and offer you the same. I’m open to reading books in the library, are you dating?
        I’m sure you’ll agree, history is weighty. You say he contended, I say he negated and think it’s important that on historical and sensitive subjects, such as the plight and experiences of Native or indigenous first peoples, of any region, more honest statements be expressed no matter how discordant or challenging it may be to the professor.. Especially on public radio and especially because it is American history! We want to be just, factual, and honest. The truth without whitewash because truth is not passé. This can be done using formal terms and sensitivity, especially if History is your subject of study. And where more earnest a platform opportunity then Forum to be inclusive in that way?

        Moreover, on the subject of environmentalism, nature, and this land we all share (people of various nationalities, heritage and histories obviously); who would contend that both the history of the environment and of the people are of significant importance and go hand in hand? Specifically for understanding the environmental challenges we meet today, isn’t it important to be poignant in acknowledging such history. After all it is well known that nature and people being connected in an important way has always been a narrative of the First Peoples.
        So why play into a false narrative of the colonizer being the savior liberator, innocent of any wrong doing? So a certain other can feel comfortable? Thats irresponsible and repressive in my opinion.
        It short changes, tarnishes, and erases their history, existence and integrity.

        Having your history and culture annexed and disregarded by the same institutions that once aided in the repression of your people has always been an objection for traditionally oppressed peoples like the Native Americans in terms of “challenge”. It’s a undermining negligence we’ve experienced for centuries in many different ways, (need another example?) then to hear that same negligence from an historian is absolutely remarkable. Do I really have to say the words like “white Christian male power structure” to drive the point of my position? Or would it be held against me and relegated as reverse-racism, which it is not. No, right? That would be arbitrary, here among the intellectual and understanding who make it a point to be factual in their work and who, in my mind, truly believe in a little thing called equality; liberty and justice for all. I hope you can now better understand why some people who tuned in were offended.

  • I would recommend attending the book talk tonight in Berkeley where you can learn more about the history of the bay and our predecessors…. http://universitypressbooks.com/ai1ec_event/down-by-the-bay-mathew-booker?instance_id=118

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