Local politics, the county, and the world, as viewed by Tammy Maygra
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Happy Birthday Oregon
By Tammy Maygra

About two million years ago the Columbia River broke through the Cascades and formed the Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River and its drainage basin experienced some of the world's greatest known floods toward the end of the last ice age. The on and off rupturing of ice dams at Glacial Lake Missoula resulted in discharge rates ten times the combined flow of all the rivers of the world, as many as forty times over a thousand-year period.

Water levels during the Missoula Floods have been estimated at 1,250 feet at the Wallula Gap in present-day Washington, 830 feet at Bonneville Dam, and 400 feet (122 m) over current day Portland, Oregon.

Mount Mazama or Crater Lake, once the tallest mountain in the region at 11,000 feet, had a massive volcanic eruption approximately 5677 B.C. The eruption, estimated to have been 42 times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, reduced Mazama's approximate 11,000 foot height by around half a mile, falling into itself filling the magma chamber and its neck creating Crater Lake.

The 1700 Cascadia earthquake resulted from a rupture at the Cascadia subduction zone along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. The earthquake caused a tsunami that was destructive in Japan; it may also be linked to the Bonneville Slide, in which a large part of Washington's Table Mountain collapsed into the Columbia River Gorge, damming the river and forming the Bridge of the Gods, a land bridge remembered in the oral history of local Native Americans. Oregon is well past due for another such quake.

Celilo Falls, a series of rapid on the Columbia River just upstream of present-day The Dalles, this was a fishing site for natives for thousands of years. Native people traveled to Celilo Village from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond to trade, holding huge potlatches for the salmon returns. The rapids were submerged in 1957 with the construction of The Dalles Dam.

Many European explorers missed Oregon but fur traders from the Hudson Bay Company explored all parts of Oregon. The Spanish explored Oregon from 1565 to 1775--- by sending ships from the Philippines. Some explored clear into British Columbia, while another discovered Yaquina Head, yet another discovered the mouth of the Columbia River but could not enter the waters.

In 1778 British explorer James Cook explored the Pacific Coast looking for the Northwest Passage, a American explorer and sea captain Robert Gray entered the Columbia River in 1792 and was followed by British Captain George Vancouver who claimed the area for Britain.

Oregon boundary dispute---Britain and the U.S. both claimed ownership of Oregon. The dispute started out respectfully but escalated into the threat of war before it was resolved amicably in 1846 by splitting the region 50-50.

Following the Anglo American Treaty of 1818, the region was "jointly occupied" by the U.S. and Britain. The Americans called the region as Oregon Country, while the British knew it as the Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia District, which was head quartered from Fort Vancouver near Vancouver, Washington.

During the 1820s and early 1830s the American West was explored by private trappers who formed fur trading companies originating from St. Louis. One of these trappers and explorers was Jedediah Smith who led expeditions into the American West. On October 29, 1830 Smith sent Jackson's Secretary of War John H. Eaton a letter and map containing information that he had gathered from 1824 to 1830 of his explorations into the Rockies, the South Pass, and Pacific Northwest. Smith recommended that President Jackson terminate the Treaty of 1818 that gave the British free rein over the Columbia River, and reported that the Indians favored the British over the Americans.

British fur interests tried to block Americans by creating a "fur desert" along the eastern and southern borders by trapping all the animals and leaving nothing for the Americans
The balance of power shifted in the 1830s as thousands of American settlers arrived, completely dominating the southern half of the disputed region. Joint occupation ended with the signing of the Oregon Treaty in 1846, when Britain and the U.S. split the disputed region equally, along present borders, with the U.S. generally receiving lands south of the 49th parallel.

American businessman John Jacob Astor, financed an expedition from 1810-1812 this brought fur traders to the future site of Astoria by both land and sea. Fort Astoria was the first permanent white settlement in the region. The British took control of the Fort shortly after. A party returning east discovered the South Pass through the Rocky Mountains, which would become an important feature of the Oregon Trail.

At risk of being captured by the British during the War of 1812, Fort Astoria and all other Pacific Fur Company assets in the Oregon Country were sold to the Montreal-based North West Company in October 1813 The North West Company had already been expanding into the Pacific Northwest and dominated the region unchallenged from the 1813 acquisition of the Pacific Fur Company until 1821, when it was absorbed into the Hudson's Bay Company. During this time the North West Company put the Astorian scheme into practice, sending supplies by sea to the Columbia River and exporting furs directly to China.The Hudson's Bay Company expanded the system and during the 1820s and 1830s dominated the Pacific Northwest from its Columbia District headquarters at Fort Vancouver. Fur depletion and a crash in fur prices undermined the company in the early 1840s, it remained an important presence until the Oregon Treaty of 1846.

Settlers began to pour into the Oregon territory while the country was in the middle of a civil war. Settlers clashed with many Native American tribes such as the Paiute, Shoshone and Bannock tribes in Oregon, Idaho and Nevada until relations degenerated into the bloody 1864 - 1868 Snake War.

The 1880's was the birth of the railroads in Oregon, hooking up with lines from California and the transcontinental rail lines sending wheat, lumber goods and people to and from the east coast and other regions.

Both the Oregon Territory and the State of Oregon have had laws and policies discriminating against people of non-white racial backgrounds. An 1844 territorial statute outlawed slavery but also mandated free slaves to leave the territory. A law adopted by the state in 1862 required all ethnic minorities to pay a $5 annual tax. Interracial marriage was prohibited by law between 1861 and 1951.

Oregon has had a colorful and dramatic past. The territory has seen wars between two countries and wars between settlers and the native populace, explorers from all over the world came to seek the bountiful natural resources claiming it for their country. Immigrants and settlers came to Oregon--some to seek their fortune looking for gold, some came to farm or to log the vast old growth forests. Oregon was formed by violent natural forces which created some of the most prized scenic and spectacular places in the world and has remained a wonderful beauty for all generations of Oregonians and visitors alike.
Happy Birthday Oregon!


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