Who celebrates the Oregon Trail?

The Oregon Trail was not just a road; it was a decades-long event that brought an influx of pioneers into what became known as “Oregon Territory.”

Beginning in 1840 with the small group of raggedy mountain men who accompanied Joe Meek and Robert “Doc” Newell, the first wagon crossed the mountains and reached Oregon Territory. Well, the first wagon wheels… they had to throw the bed of the wagon aside as they fought their way through sagebrush, over mountain passes, through forests and high desert plains.

Meek and Newell were not the first to arrive at the fine lands of Oregon. The missionaries had preceded them in the 1830s, and the fur traders had set up posts in the region since 1811.

But who preceded them? 

Little homage is paid to the people who were already living here, and had been for well over 10,000 years. The Indigenous folks, the River People, the collective tribes and bands of native peoples of Ni’ chi-wana, the Big River, had their homes here already.

They saw the stream of explorers and pioneers first as a curiosity, then a source of trade, but eventually recognized in horror what was really happening. It was an invasion. By the time they recognized that fact, the damage was well underway, as their people were decimated by disease and the flood of people setting up towns on the lands they once roamed freely.

The year 2018 marks the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, commemorating it from the year 1843 which saw the first big emigration.

But as we celebrate the stalwart spirit of those pioneers who braved hardship to carve a new life for themselves and their families, let’s also commemorate the regional Indigenous people whose ancestors did the same thing over 10,000 years ago, and who have been and are survivors in the face of multiple adversities – not the least of which is the settlement of this noble territory by Euro-Americans and their descendants.


Total Solar Eclipse

We have the opportunity to recognize in the moment that we are living in historic times. If you think about it, not every day brings that gift.

One of the special things that lands us in the midst of historic times is the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse that is taking place across the USA on August 21. In Oregon we are primed to be in the path of the totality.

Travel to the John Day Fossil Bed area if you want a spectacular view. No one can predict ahead of time what the weather will be like, but chances are far higher in eastern Oregon for cloudless skies than on the Oregon Coast.

Want to camp out? Camp sites are not yet all gone. Click here to see the available self-contained camping right in the center of the John Day Fossil Bed.

Spring is sprung

Spring is sprung, and with it the biting cold days of winter 2016-17 turn into memories. Was it an historic winter? Some say so, due to the number of days snow covered the landscape, beginning early last December. (You’ll still find snow on a few of the deep recesses in the the north-facing slopes of Highway 30.)

Heavy snowfall is followed, eventually, by snow melt. The Columbia River drains the north-western half of the continent, and all of those mountain passes are feeding streams which feed into the Columbia. Floods in this part of the river have always been a part of our town’s history, and historically they come with spring and early summer weather when the snow pack in the mountains turns into more water than one river can hold.

Viva la revolucion

Battle of Waterloo by William Sadler
The Battle of Waterloo by artist William Sadler
Viva la revolución!

In various languages and cultures, that has been the battle cry over the ages.

Revolutions don’t take place when the populace is well fed, well cared-for, and content. They take place when people feel disenfranchised, shut-out, discontent.

The political season of 2016 may well go down in history books, but lest you think it was unique, review your history tomes.

In the beginning, the central point of American Revolution wasn’t about freedom. Sorry. The British government levied large taxes on the American colonies to help pay for the war debt from the French and Indian wars. The colonists resisted paying the new taxes, via the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act. These acts of “taxation without representation” brought discontent, and the desire to break the shackles of British taxation gave rise to an overthrow of the ruling government.

The Napoleonic wars were caused by a continuation of the French Revolution, the bankruptcy of France as a nation under the monarchy, and the overthrow of the French aristocracy and royal family.

The War of 1812 was a series of economic sanctions taken by the British and French against the US as part of the Napoleonic Wars and American outrage at the British practice of forced recruitment.

The Civil War – if you think the political season of 2016 was horrific, imagine what it was like to go through the lead-up to the Civil War. Political ideals split families like a meat cleaver. The core issue leading up to the Civil War was, again, economics. Would the South be free to pick up their marbles and retreat to their own turf, and operate financially (with big, financially booming cotton plantations) as an independent country? Or would they be overruled, and forced into compliance.

If you look at virtually every war, the central issue revolves around money, and power. The moral and emotional issues become rallying cries to recruit loyalty from the masses. But make no mistake – nations go to battle in a quest for money. And power.

Revolution takes place when the status quo becomes complacent, and willfully ignorant, of the comfort of the masses. It would be lovely to imagine that world leaders would wake up one morning and think, “I believe I shall make a positive change in the world to benefit all people.”

If you depend on world leaders to think along those lines, you may be disappointed.

We can’t control what world leaders – or any other people – think or do. But we can control what WE think and do. Start a revolution in your own life. Make your time count. Identify a positive change and jump into action.

Viva la revolución!