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January 31st, 2018

Undercurrents: From Oceanographer to University PresidentIn this week’s two-part blog post, we take a look back at OSU Press author and Oregon State University Emeritus President John Byrne’s November 2000 speech titled “The University of the Future.” As we celebrate Oregon State’s 150th year as a land grant institution, John’s historic words demonstrate the ways in which OSU is living up to its mission to conduct world-leading research, to provide the highest quality education for the people of our state and beyond, and striving to be a “University of the Future” that is making an impact locally and globally. For more on John Byrnes’ philosophy on higher education, check out his newly released book, Undercurrents: From Oceanographer to University President.


From: “The University of the Future”
A Keynote Address presented to The Alliance of Universities for Democracy
Eleventh Annual Conference
By: John V. Byrne
Emeritus President, Oregon State University
November 5, 2000

The challenges to sustain a healthy world population and the opportunities associated with these challenges is greater than humans have ever faced before, and they will continue to increase. But the knowledge needed to address the challenges is also increasing exponentially. It is estimated that the totality of world knowledge doubled between 1750 and 1900, that by 1965 world knowledge was doubling every five years, and that by 2020 the totality of world knowledge will double every seventy-three days. How that knowledge is used will be determined by those who are prepared to use it. Our colleges and universities will be critical to meeting those world challenges and using the newly created knowledge. If higher education is to respond effectively to the challenges created by the world population explosion and the opportunities provided by the rapidly available knowledge it will be required to change the way it operates. Higher education must constantly re-assess the way it functions in order to keep abreast of the rapidly changing world of which it is such an important part.

In recognition of the unprecedented speed of change within society and the need for American public universities to be increasingly responsive to the needs of the society they serve, the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-grant Universities was created with funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The Commission consisted of the presidents and chancellors (past and present) of twenty-six American public universities. Seven non-academic advisors met with the Commission to provide the citizens’ perspective. The Commission’s goal was to stimulate change and reform through discussion and action on public university campuses. The Commission was created at time when a skeptical public appeared convinced that students were being ignored and that research was more important than teaching, when enrollment was projected to increase significantly at the same time that funding was limited and would continue to be so, when society was facing staggering changes in values and family structure, and when new educational entities, such as community colleges, corporate universities, and for-profit institutions, had entered the student market place. The Commission was to meet four times per year, with the charge to address the reform of American public higher education.

The Commission’s first meeting was held in January 1996 and its final meeting in March 2000. At that first meeting the Commission identified five issues for discussion and campus action: The Student Experience; Access; The Engaged Institution; A Learning Society; and Campus Culture. Letter-reports were published regarding each of these issues. Later, a sixth report about the partnership between the public and its universities was published, “Renewing the Covenant: Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and a Different World.” The Commission addressed “The Student Experience” first because students are fundamental to the existence of universities.

As the Commission considered “Access” it became readily apparent that the issue was really not access or admission to our institutions, but, more importantly, access to a successful life in society resulting from a higher education experience. Access to such a life is affected by admission policies and guidelines, by retention, and by the student’s achievement of his or her educational goals.

The Commission’s discussion of “The Engaged Institution” focused on the role of public universities in reaching beyond their campuses and joining in partnership with those elements of society, which benefit from a shared endeavor.

During the discussion of “A Learning Society” the evolving nature of society into a true learning organization was noted. Such a society is characterized by the ability to create and use new knowledge for society’s benefit and to organize opportunities for individuals to continue to learn throughout their lifetimes: “lifelong learning.”

In addressing “The Campus Culture” the Commission noted that, in order to be more responsive to the increasingly rapid pace of change in society, universities themselves must change, and must do so rapidly. Their operation must become more effective, more efficient, and more flexible. In the past, as universities have responded to the many demands of society, they have evolved into institutions with many different cultures rather than one single culture: an academic culture, made up primarily of faculty and students, but with subcultures organized around disciplines; a separate student culture; an administrative culture; an athletic culture. A challenge before American universities is to integrate the elements of these diverse cultures into a single all-inclusive campus culture that mediates and bridges the diversity of cultures and is consistent with the aims and mission of American public higher education.

In recent years the differences between American private and public universities have become less evident. As state support for public universities has diminished, public universities have turned more and more to private funding. Research universities, both public and private, rely on external funding for support of research. All major universities today provide services to their societies, all are engaged with the public. Although the ideas expressed by the Kellogg Commission apply directly to public universities, most of these ideas apply equally well to private universities. This paper offers guidelines for the successful University of the Future, public or private, in the context of a rapidly evolving global Learning Society, and is based to a considerable degree on ideas expressed by the Kellogg Commission.

A Learning Society

Education and the ability to learn are essential in a world in which new knowledge increases at an exponential rate and the ability to use that knowledge is critical to the social, economic, and political health of individuals, the nation, and the world. The university must provide leadership as society rapidly adopts the characteristic elements of a learning organization and becomes a “learning society.”

A learning society is a society that values and fosters habits of lifelong learning and ensures that there are responsive and flexible programs and networks available to address individual and organizational needs. A learning society is socially inclusive and ensures that all of its members are part of its learning communities. It recognizes the importance of early childhood development as part of lifelong learning and develops organized ways of enhancing the development of all children. Further, a learning society stimulates the creation of new knowledge through research and other means of discovery and then uses that knowledge for the benefit of society. It values regional and global interconnections and cultural links, and views information technologies, including all interactive multi-media technologies, as tools to enrich learning. A learning society fosters a public policy agenda that ensures equity and availability of learning for all and contributes to the over-all competitiveness and economic and social well-being of the nation.

In the context of a learning society, the successful university of the future will provide learning opportunities for its students, wherever those students may be, and will prepare them for engagement in an ever-changing society, in which the ability to learn throughout each student’s life is essential. In a learning society, lifelong learning is a part of the societal ethos.

Basic Ideals

In recognizing the needs of the global society the university of the future will be based on seven broad ideals:

First, universities, particularly public universities, must provide equal access to all who are qualified. Society needs the talent of all its people. We cannot make the mistake of ignoring the educational needs of large portions of our population without exacting an enormous price from ourselves in terms of lost ability and missed opportunities. What we are talking about is individual access to success through higher education, not simply access to higher education but access to the full promise of life;

Second, our colleges and universities must become genuine learning communities, which support and inspire faculty, staff, and learners of all kinds. The emphasis will be on learning by all members of the institutional community: students, and faculty and staff. As a community, all will contribute and all will benefit;

Third, our learning communities must be student-centered, committed to excellence in teaching and to meeting the legitimate needs of students (i.e. learners) wherever they are, whatever they need, and whenever they need it;

Fourth, we must emphasize the importance of a healthy learning environment that provides students, faculty, and staff with the facilities, support, resources, and attitudes essential to making the vision of a successful life a reality;

Fifth, our universities must be responsive to public needs, intimately engaged with the societies they serve. It is time to reach beyond outreach and extension to what the Commission has defined as “engagement”;

Sixth, universities must emphasize and instill moral and social values in students, faculty, and staff through their pedagogies and through their actions;

Seventh, universities must be active participants in promoting civility in the society they serve and must extend their efforts to promote civil societies globally.

Universities must affirm these ideals, adhere to them tenaciously, and follow their implications faithfully wherever they lead. Only through such constancy of purpose will the university of the future effectively serve its local society, its nation, and the world.

END PART 1… Check back next week for Part 2 from John Byrne’s speech “The University of the Future.”

January 22nd, 2018

Today Alan Contreras, author of Afield: Forty Years of Birding the American West, co-editor of Birds of Oregon, proofreader for the OSU Press, and private press owner, discusses the process of writing and publishing books. His press, Oregon Review Books, just recently reissued Eleanor Baldwin’s book The White Zeppelin after Alan had the opportunity to proofread Larry Lipin’s new book, Eleanor Baldwin and the Woman’s Point of View for the OSU Press.


OSU Press: Briefly describe the books you have published with the OSU Press.

Contreras: My five books to date with the OSU Press have been about birds and the natural world. Among these are the huge Birds of Oregon for which I served as co-editor and the more personal Afield: Forty Years of Birding the American West. I’m currently working on an edited collection of essays about the Malheur-Steens region for OSU Press. Down the road I hope to write a history of Oregon ornithology.

OSU Press: What originally drew you to observing and researching birds? Can you briefly discuss what led you to compiling these guide and reference books about Oregon birds? How has your fascination with birds blossomed into some of the foremost handbooks for Lane County and Oregon birds? Can you talk a little bit about the process of moving from The Meadowlark Newsletterobserver/researcher to author?

Contreras: When I was 11 years old—fifty years ago last year—my friend Sayre Greenfield invited me to look at birds. He had received a bird book and binoculars as a gift. I found the variety and behavior of birds fascinating. My writing began very early, as Sayre and I decided at about age 12 (we were born the same day) to start our own bird newsletter, The Meadowlark (the historic first edition is shown here—note the misspelled title). Thus I have always been a writer, dating to my earliest days of birding. I was raised to appreciate books and could read pretty well by age 4 or 5, typically far above grade level. There is an old saying that the ability to express himself has kept many a man poor, but in my case it helped offset a lack of other skills such as complete incapacity to do mathematics.

OSU Press: What kind of impact did you hope to make with these books? What kind of audiences were you hoping to reach?

Contreras: The first one, Northwest Birds in Winter, was intended to fill a gap that existed at the time because bird books focused almost exclusively on breeding activity, habitat, and ranges. Today, Northwest Birds in Winter seems a little crude because the data available online about winter ranges is so much better, but that was not true twenty years ago. Obviously Birds of Oregon, which took five years for many people to write, is the monster book. It was expressly intended to replace and update the Birds of Oregon by Gabrielson and Jewett published in 1940 by OSU. Our senior editor, Dave Marshall, actually knew Gabrielson and Jewett, which added a special note to the project. The other books are smaller special-purpose items. Afield is not a reference at all, it’s a personal essay collection about birding in the west.

OSU Press: Why did you publish these books with the OSU Press? What was your experience with the OSU Press? What insights do you have after publishing your books with the OSU Press?

Contreras: I had seen many books by the OSU Press over the years (in particular the wonderful Atlas of the Pacific Northwest) and my first book, Northwest Birds in Winter, seemed like a reasonable match for what the press focused on. My experience working with the OSU Press acquisitions and editing staff has been very good. They have not always accepted my initial drafts and through the editing process and external evaluations have helped make everything I worked on much better (though I do grumble now and then.) This was especially true of Afield and will definitely be true of the Malheur collection, which has been a real challenge to assemble, but which I think will be a very successful book over time. In addition, I have worked as a contracted proofreader for the Press for many years and have enjoyed the opportunity to work on some projects other than my own. I think my knowledge of Oregon history and geography has been useful to the press.

OSU Press: Please briefly describe your press Oregon Review Books. What is its mission? How did the press come about?

Contreras: Oregon Review is the name of the blog I maintained for many years. It still operates in a small way. I retained that name when I decided to do some reprints. These days it is relatively easy to publish small, specialized books in quality paperback form. That’s what I do. I have come across some excellent writing, mostly from a hundred years ago, that I think deserves to be made available to modern audiences but which has such a low demand (and no obvious source of a subvention) that it is impractical to bring to a university press or a commercial press.

An example of this is the collected essays of John Jay Chapman on higher education issues. This material, which is astonishingly as applicable today as it was in 1910, was never available in one place—even the superb Collected Works of John Jay Chapman does not include all of his magazine articles. So I assembled this material (and paid a monstrous fee to one of Chapman’s original publishers for one article that was still in copyright) so that it would be available to people interested in his work. The same is true of Pursuit of Happiness, the collected libertarian speeches and writings of the great Oregon lawyer and civic leader C.E.S. Wood (OSU Press has a good anthology, Wood Works, of some of Wood’s other work). I have sold fewer than forty copies of each of these two, but that’s fine—the people who buy them are no doubt overjoyed to find this work available at all.

The other purpose of Oregon Review Books is to give me an easy way to publish some works of my own that can’t easily find another outlet. One of these, State Authorization of Colleges and Universities, is the definitive reference in my professional field of college and university degree authority and interstate licensure. It is used by state agencies, law firms, universities, and accrediting bodies all over the country. Even so, its sales are in the hundreds, not the thousands, owing to the arcane subject matter. That small-run niche is one that a private press can fill, especially if it doesn’t need to make a profit. It’s also a way to issue some purely personal items, such as my poetry, in an attractive format.

Larry Lipin's "Eleanor Baldwin and the Woman's Point of View"OSU Press: You just recently reissued Eleanor Baldwin’s The White Zeppelin. Why did you decide to reissue this text?

Contreras: This was a delightful accident of history. I happened to be assigned Larry Lipin’s biography of Baldwin, which focused on her political activity and writing, as a book to proof for the OSU Press. In the book there is a reference to Baldwin’s short story The White Zeppelin. I was intrigued by the story and dug it up online. I thought it exceptionally well-written and still timely in its anti-war themes. I was raised in Quaker meeting so this felt like familiar territory.

Deciding what to reprint requires some sense of good writing and also whether the work still has relevance to today’s readers. Baldwin was a good writer and there are some unique aspects in this story. One of the remarkable scenes involves one soldier saying to another, in effect, “you talk like a woman.” The response is essentially “that’s hardly a surprise, The White ZeppelinI am descended from women.” My quotes here are not exact but you get the idea. This is a distinctive voice; I don’t think a male writer of that era (or even today) would snap out a great line like that. I arranged for my old friend, Salem artist Eric Wuest. to provide illustrations to jazz it up a little. As a side note, I have also written a poem based on the story, which will appear in my poetry collection In the Time of the Queen in April, 2018.

I am never sure whether one of my reprints will find a large audience. The poet James Merrill said he’d rather have one perfect reader than do what was necessary in how he wrote to attract a large audience. I suppose I need to do more marketing, though the luxury of having no overhead or inventory costs means that I can work on these projects without the need to generate constant income.

I remain persuaded of the value of print, particularly of the value of books. When my laptop stops working or the so-called “Cloud” gets gummed up or the Internet has one of its hiccup days or North Korea succeeds in poisoning the web, all the electronic files on Earth do us no good. Some of them can be lost forever. That is not true of my library of books, which remain perfectly capable of performing their intended function under almost any conditions short of fire or flood. There is something remarkably solid and reliable about a book. I am glad to have been able to work with the OSU Press and to make my own small contribution to the world of books.

January 12th, 2018

In honor of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2018 Book Awards announced this week, and to celebrate OSU Press author Brian Doyle’s posthumous recognition with the 2018 “Indie Spirit Award,” we thought we would take a moment to look back at some of our award winning titles and authors. We hope you enjoy these books as much as we do!

*Please note: this list is in no particular order nor is it comprehensive.

Renowned author Jarold Ramsey was this year’s winner of the Oregon Book Awards C. E. S. Wood Distinguished Writer Award. He has published three books with the OSU Press.

Words Marked by PlaceWords Marked by a Place: Local Histories in Central Oregon by Jarold Ramsey
Notable author Jarold Ramsey’s newest book Words Marked by a Place, slated to be released this spring, is a book of interconnected writings reflecting on the human and natural history of central Oregon. This chronological collection presents the reader with key episodes of central Oregon history, from nineteenth-century exploration to the railroading and homesteading era to the era of community-building and development that followed.

New EraNew Era: Reflections on the Human and Natural History of Central Oregon by Jarold Ramsey
Distinguished writer Jarold Ramsey authors New Era, a graceful and literate collection of personal essays on the human and natural history of the Oregon high desert, focusing on what happened to the people and the land of this region during and after the homesteading era of 1900 to 1920. It is a book full of stories-about early Indian/Anglo connections, about the ghost town of Opal City, about homestead ranches and the families who struggled to make their lives there.

The Stories We TellThe Stories We Tell: An Anthology of Oregon Folk Literature by Jarold Ramsey and Suzie Jones
Jarold Ramsey and Suzie Jones co-author the first anthology of Oregon folk literature collecting cherished traditional stories and songs, myths and sayings, that have nurtured and informed the state’s best writings. Oregon's written literary heritage owes much to what Oregonians have told and sung and kept in memory, in kitchens and sweat-lodges, on the range and on the street, in canneries and convention centers, in schools, bunkhouses, and funeral parlors. This book celebrates a literature that has been sustained by the artistry and imaginative generosity of countless Oregonians, past and present, with stories to share.

Shaping the Public GoodShaping the Public Good: Women Making History in the Pacific Northwest by Sue Armitage
This 2017 Oregon Book Award and WILLA Award finalist in the nonfiction category uses the story of Tsagaglalal, or “She Who Watches,” an ancient female chief, as a guide to show that even though women were barred from positions of public authority until recently, they have always worked quietly and informally to assure the stability and security of their families and communities. Women’s community-building and cooperative skills have been decisive in developing the societies of the Pacific Northwest—Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, and British Columbia. Like She Who Watches, women have never been mere observers, but watchful guardians and active shapers of the public good.

Ricky's AtlasRicky’s Atlas, Mapping a Land on Fire by Judith Li and illustrated by Peg Herring
The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2017 Best Hands On Science Book, Ricky’s Atlas, Mapping a Land on Fire is the sequel to Ellie’s Log: Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell. This children’s book follows Ricky Zamora as he brings his love of map-making and his boundless curiosity to the arid landscapes east of the Cascade Mountains. He arrives during a wild thunderstorm, and watches his family and their neighbors scramble to deal with a wildfire sparked by lightning. Joined by his friend Ellie, he sees how plants, animals, and people adjust to life with wildfires.

Ellie's LogEllie’s Log: Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell by Judith Li and illustrated by Peg Herring
Ellie’s Log, by notable scientist and author Judith Li and illustrated by Peg Herring, received an Honorable Mention from the John Burrough’s Society. This book is an engaging blend of science and storytelling. After a huge tree crashes to the ground during a winter storm, ten-year-old Ellie and her new friend, Ricky, explore the forest where Ellie lives. Together, they learn how trees provide habitat for plants and animals high in the forest canopy, down among mossy old logs, and deep in the pools of a stream. The plants, insects, birds, and mammals they discover come to life in colored pen-and-ink drawings.

Diary of a Citizen ScientistDairy of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World by Sharman Apt Russell
Sharman Apt Russell received the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for her book Diary of a Citizen Scientist. This timely exploration of the phenomenon of citizen scientists is told through the lens of nature writer Sharman Apt Russell’s yearlong study of a little-known species, the Western red-bellied tiger beetle. In a voice both humorous and lyrical, Russell recounts her persistent and joyful tracking of an insect she calls “charismatic,” “elegant,” and “fierce.” Patrolling the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico, collector’s net in hand, she negotiates the realities of climate change even as she celebrates the beauty of a still-wild and rural landscape.

For the Love of RiversFor the Love of Rivers: A Scientist’s Journey by Kurt Fausch
Kurt Fausch, stream ecologist and award recipient of the 2016 Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, ponders both the science of rivers and streams but also the larger questions of why rivers are important to humans, why it is in our nature to want to be near them, and what we can do now to ensure the future of these essential ecosystems in his book For the Love of Rivers.

2016 Geological Society of America fellow, Dawn Wright, co-authored her book Place Matters Astrid Scholz and published it through the OSU Press.

Place MattersPlace Matters: Geospatial Tools for Marine Science, Conservation, and Management in the Pacific Northwest by Dawn Wright and Astrid Scholz
Co-authored by distinguished scientists Dawn Wright and Astrid Scholz, this book discusses how marine geographic information system (GIS) is contributing to the understanding, management, and conservation of the shores and ocean of the Pacific Northwest, where scientists, resource managers, and conservationists- often in collaboration- are making advances in the way that data are collected, documented, used, shared, and saved.

Morning LightMorning Light: Wildflowers, Night Skies, and Other Ordinary Joys of Oregon Country Life by Barbara Drake
Morning Light, a 2016 Oregon Book Award finalist, examines the life lessons Barbara Drake has learned in her long stint of country living. As entertaining and instructive as it is personal and reflective, Drake’s writing highlights her appreciation for the landscape of western Oregon and the reasons we should care for our rural landscapes.

Field Guide to Oregon RiversField Guide to Oregon Rivers by Tim Palmer
Tim Palmer does due justice to Oregon’s pristine network of waterways in this 2016 Oregon Book Award finalist. Field Guide to Oregon Rivers offers all audiences an interpretive approach to 120 rivers and streams throughout the state of Oregon, highlighting their natural history, geology, climate, hydrology, plants, animals, and ecology and showcasing their beauty with 150 award-winning photographs.

A Week in Yellowstone's ThorofareA Week in Yellowstone’s Thorofare: A Journey through the Remotest Place by Michael Yochim
A Week in Yellowstone’s Thorofare, a finalist for the 2017 High Plains Book Award in the nonfiction category, explores Michael Yochim’s weeklong expedition in the remotest place in the country, outside of Alaska, ironically named the Thorofare for its historic role as a route traversed by fur trappers. Drawing on first-person accounts of rangers who have patrolled this region in Yellowstone National park, archival documents, and Yochim’s personal experiences over almost three decades, this book distinguishes between the notions of wildness and wilderness and argues that wildness is the most precious, and easily lost, attribute of wilderness.

Marie EquiMarie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passion by Michael Helquist
Named a 2016 Stonewall Honor Book by the American Library Association, Marie Equi explores the fiercely independent life of an extraordinary woman. Equi self-studied her way into a San Francisco medical school and then obtained her license in Portland to become one of the first practicing woman physicians in the Pacific Northwest. She leveraged her professional status to fight for woman suffrage, labor rights, and reproductive freedom and broke boundaries in all facets of life by becoming the first well-known lesbian in Oregon.

Beloved Oregon author Brian Doyle received this year’s Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2018 “Indie Spirit Award.” He published four of his works with the OSU Press.

Children and Other Wild AnimalsChildren and Other Wild Animals: Notes on badgers, otters, sons, hawks, daughters, dogs, bears, air, bobcats, fishers, mascots, Charles Darwin, newts, sturgeon, roasting squirrels, parrots, elk, foxes, tigers and various other zoological matters by Brian Doyle
Renowned author Brian Doyle’s collection of delightful, short vignettes pondering animals and human mammals of all sizes won a 2016 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award. Doyle explores the seethe of life on this startling planet, the astonishing variety of our riveting companions, and the joys available to us when we pause, see, savor, and celebrate the small things that are not small in the least.

The Wet EngineThe Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart by Brian Doyle
In this poignant and startlingly original book, Brian Doyle examines the heart as a physical organ—how it is supposed to work, how surgeons try to fix it when it doesn’t—and as a metaphor: the seat of the soul, the power house of the body, the essence of spirituality. In a series of profoundly moving ruminations, Doyle considers the scientific, emotional, literary, philosophical, and spiritual understandings of the heart—from cardiology to courage, from love letters and pop songs to botany and Jesus. Weaving these strands together is the torment of Doyle’s own infant son’s heart surgery and the inspiring story of the young heart doctor who saved Liam’s life.

Mink RiverMink River by Brian Doyle
This 2011 Foreward Review’s Editor’s Choice Prize-winning novel is Brian Doyle’s stunning fiction debut that brings a small town on the Oregon coast to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people. There are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter… It’s the tale of a town, written in a distinct and lyrical voice, and readers will close the book more than a little sad to leave the village of Neawanaka, on the wet coast of Oregon, beneath the hills that used to boast the biggest trees in the history of the world.

The GrailThe Grail: A Year Ambling & Shambling through an Oregon Vineyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the Whole Wide World by Brian Doyle
A self-described "wine doofus," Brian Doyle chronicles his year in one Willamette Valley vineyard, exploring the creative and chaotic labor of making the perfect pinot noir. Doyle serves as a cheerful tour guide through the world of wine, alert to the colorful and riveting stories that swirl around its creation and consumption, and sharing these stories about the natural history of the vineyard, the fussiness of the pinot vine, the boom in pinot noir around the world, the surprising buying habits of tasting room visitors, and the subtle craft of winemakers who know, as Jesse Lange says, grinning, "how to get out of the way of great grapes.

Be sure to pick up one of these prized titles to keep you company while waiting (perhaps im-) patiently for our soon-to-be released Spring 2018 books!

January 2nd, 2018

OSU Press author Michael Helquist had the opportunity to present at the unveiling of the mock-up of Marie Equi’s plaque for San Francisco’s Rainbow Honor Walk. Michael’s biography, Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions, explores the fiercely independent life of an extraordinary woman who used her professional status as a physician to fight for woman suffrage, labor rights, and reproductive freedom and was the first well-known lesbian in Oregon. Marie Equi’s inclusion in San Francisco’s Rainbow Honor Walk is a well-deserved honor commemorating her unparalleled life journey.


Michael Helquist, Marie Equi biographer, at unveiling of mock-up.The official mock-up of Marie Equi’s plaque for San Francisco’s Rainbow Honor Walk was unveiled last month during a presentation by author Michael Helquist (Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions). The rendering reveals Equi’s likeness, her signature, and a description of her efforts to achieve a more just society. In spring 2018 the 3’ by 3’ bronze plaque will be installed in the sidewalk along Market Street, San Francisco’s primary thoroughfare, as part of a tribute to deceased LGBTQ individuals worldwide who made significant contributions to their fields.

Equi will join a stellar group of nearly three dozen individuals who have already been recognized with plaques, ranging from activists Bayard Rustin, Harry Hay, and Jane Addams; artists Frida Kahlo and Keith Haring, authors Virginia Woolf, Yukio Mishima, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams, and Federico Garcia Lorca; scientist Alan Turing, singer Sylvester James, and Jose Sarria, founder of the Imperial Court System.

The Rainbow Honor Walk is an all-volunteer project based in San Francisco’s LGBTQ community. Begun in 2011, the organization funds production and placement of the bronze plaques through community outreach and private donations. (Each plaque costs about $5,000.) The City and County of San Francisco collaborates with planning and installation and the city’s art commission approves the design. Artist Carlos Casuso of Madrid, Spain was selected to design the plaques following an international design competition. The first 24 plaques were installed mostly along Castro Street in the city’s LGBTQ neighborhood, and then organizers extended the route on either side of Market Street with the next batch of twenty-four plaques.

Mock-up of Marie Equi bronze plaque to be installed in Rainbow Honor Walk.In November 2017 Helquist and historian Paula Lichtenberg presented a talk at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco that illustrated the shift in the general public’s attitudes toward same-sex intimate relationships from the late 1890s to the 1920s. Helquist referred to the Oregon public’s general acceptance of Marie Equi’s relationship with her companion Bessie Holcomb in the mid-1890s contrasted with the harsh disapproval she encountered during a public inheritance dispute involving her intimate companion in Portland in 1906.

Although Marie Equi’s reputation extends beyond the Pacific Northwest, she was not particularly well known in San Francisco’s activist, women’s, and LGBTQ communities. Her recent biography significantly changed that.

For more information on Marie Equi see michaelhelquist.com and for the Rainbow Honor Walk see rainbowhonorwalk.org.

December 19th, 2017

New OSU Press author Natchee Blu Barnd has always been “fascinated by the fact that space and identity, geography and culture, cannot be extracted from one another.” This fascination, which perhaps began at birth, inspired his book Native Space: Geographic Strategies to Unsettle Settler Colonialism. Natchee shares his lifelong exploration of the creation, identification, and reflection of space in relation to power structures.


Native SpacesIt’s one thing to say I have always been interested in geography and space. It’s quite another to understand or make sense of why this is true. Here is what I can say. I moved a lot when I was young. I lived in and interacted with a number of different kinds of places. We lived at the edge of the redwood forest, near farmlands, in the suburbs, in cities, on reservations. I saw different practices and rules of geography. I heard different stories about what places meant to those within and to those outside of those places. I saw inclusions and exclusions. Truths and lies. Connections and walls. I noticed how things looked and how they felt, for me and for others. As I became a teen, I actively sought to reshape or challenge some spaces, while I fought to sustain or protect others. And I learned techniques of and the consequences for transgressing space. Taken together, my experiences left me with the unarticulated sense that geography is really about thought, action, and process.

In some ways, my naming at birth also led me to Native Space. I think carrying such a name compelled me to think more about my family, about history and culture, and about justice. My family is a mixed and multiethnic consequence of colonialism, imperialism, and overlapping geographies. And I come from a long line of unruly working class and “underclass” subjects, cast low along the margins of power and entangled by displacement, travelling, and hard laboring. I am not an enrolled member of any Native Nation, and did not live deeply-rooted in any single traditional culture or community. I am happily the product of a multi-ethnic and multi-racial community experience. But I have always been closely cared for and raised by Native family and community; in and around Native space. I somehow took all those resources that might otherwise be seen only as impediments and turned them toward learning and research.

My name and my curiosities about how people craft spaces, especially in relation to indigeneity, stayed with me as I moved through graduate school. I came to this topic most precisely during a class on media and race while I was a Ph.D. student in Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego. I was always seeking clarity on how to move within and between Indigenous Studies and comparative Ethnic Studies, and to recreate the geographic movement I enjoyed growing up. I found myself weaving between and across different academic fields and subfields, but without effective bridges or guidance. My training and independent wayfinding ultimately led me to merge photography, history, culture, maps, and art as part of an interdisciplinary research toolkit which has since become crucial for my teaching, mentoring, and scholarship. I found a “home” woven together by Ethnic Studies, Indigenous Studies, and Cultural Geography.

In writing this book about space as a practice (not a thing), I have come to better understand the relationships between identity, power, and geography. I now subscribe to the maxim, paraphrasing Anaïs Nin, that we cannot see space as it is, but only as we are. So, space is a reflection. Yet, our reflections also help to create us. Most important for this book, I want readers to see that spaces can and usually do exist in layers and as uneasy sets of overlappings. One central lesson that I share in Native Space is that indigenous communities continue to create spaces that overlap with the more commonly recognized space of the United States. Indigenous geographies are actively sustained. And I don’t just mean those locations marked as sacred, or the boundaries of a reservation. I mean the totality of indigenous geographies.

As my reflections might indicate, my research is not overly interested in the past. This is especially important because non-Natives frequently, and quite violently, locate Native peoples in the past. As my book outlines, this act of “placing” Native people in the past is both a mechanism and a justification for displacement. Reflecting the community-responsive concerns of Ethnic Studies, and the place-based worldviews of indigenous communities everywhere, I am interested in the realities of the present and possibilities of the future. Native Space is fundamentally about indigenous futurities. It refuses ongoing practices of settler colonialism, which sustain a deeply flawed vision of the colonial project as final and complete; which ostensibly means the elimination of indigenous peoples. I do not see this as the future.

I have come away from this book with a number of personal convictions and understandings, each of which frame my stories, arguments, and analysis. First, I find it astonishing how everyday practices are the foundation of all power, despite our common sense understandings of that concept. I have grown in my appreciation of those intellectuals, like Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault, who articulated the seemingly benign ways that we shape the world and how it in turns shapes us without our realization. Likewise, I find it crucial to recognize that many indigenous thinkers and leaders (like Naiche, Set-tainte, and Vine Deloria) made parallel observations and thus enacted resistances against the immense pressures and violences of settler colonialism.

I also take away a better understanding of the crucial relationship between the cultural/social and the material. I am fascinated by the fact that space and identity, geography and culture, cannot be extracted from one another. This offers a bit of humility in terms of our ability to know. And human humility is always in need of some exercise. This fact shows us that space is the work of our own doing, for better and for worse, and thus our responsibility or fault. When space does not align with us, it means that we have the potential to create alignment. It also likely means that the most obvious alignment reflects the expression of power and disempowerment – since these always exist together.

I want to end by returning to my name. I was named after a Chiricahua man, Naiche, who led his band of Nde (Apache) resistance against the U.S. and Mexican militaries, and local militias in the late 1800s. My understanding is that the name translates to something like “going through things, as if looking for something.” Other translations have also explained it as “mischievous.” In either case, I think it has proven apt for my personality, career, and life path. More importantly, Naiche’s example offered me an important frame for seeing the world. I have probably come to understand space through my reckoning with that name, and the responsibility resulting from my naming.

Few non-Nde people have heard or know Naiche’s name. Almost everyone, however, has heard of his contemporary, Geronimo, if only as a surreal catch-phrase yelled before leaping out of airplanes or riverbanks. Nevertheless, Naiche (as it is spelled by some of his descendants) was alongside Goyaałé (aka Geronimo) as a fierce and important defender of his people, their culture, and their lands. While he was ultimately defeated militarily, his example has always served as a humbling form of inspiration for me and my own responsibilities. After Naiche surrendered, he was a prisoner of war for nearly three decades, “guilty” of and punished for not letting go of the insistence that those desert lands of the southwest and the Nde must continue together. He was not interested in becoming a quaint and colorful part of the United States’ past. He was engaged in actions aimed at creating acceptable Nde futures. If all space is comprised and sustained by the meanings generated between people and the world around them, and if those meanings are resilient, they can and do survive even against things as devastating as “conquest.”

Indigenous spaces and geographies, in particular, have not simply disappeared although they have necessarily shifted. Native geographies have persisted, usually beyond the perception of the non-Native world. That was the first time I grasped a research thread (geography/power/race) that had always been at the core and will likely always serve as the guide for my work. Naiche’s story (at least as I have come to know it, from some distance) helped me internalize how indigenous space does not disappear with the stroke of a pen, at the barrel of a rifle, or even after physical removal.

December 15th, 2017

Don't miss your opportunity to give the gift of knowledge this holiday season! From now through December 31, take 25% off selected titles when ordering through the OSU Press website. Just enter the promotion code 17HOLIDAY at checkout to receive this OSU Press website exclusive discount on featured titles:

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December 6th, 2017

When James Gardner and Wilson Wewa met after a lecture at Smith Rock State Park, neither knew the journey they were about to embark on. Their years long collaboration culminated in the book Legends of the Northern Paiute, as told by Wilson Wewa, a collection of twenty-one original and previously unpublished Northern Paiute Legends, compiled, edited, and introduced by James Gardner. These legends were originally told around the fires of Paiute villages during the “story-telling season” of winter and are best read out loud and commemorating the voice of the original Paiute storytellers. In celebration of the winter season, we would like to share a legend from the book.

Legend 13: How the Stars Got Their Twinkle and Why Coyote Howls to the Sky

Book cover featuring Smith Rock pinnacle, known as Monkey Face or to the Paiute in Central Oregon as Numuzoho the CannibalA looong time ago, Coyote was walking along one evening. Actually, he was on his way to go to the restroom. He got up and he was walking to go out into the sagebrush and go to the restroom.

Then he looked up in the sky and the stars were starting to come out. There were just a few of them at first, the way it happens. Then more stars came out. So Coyote started thinking to himself, “I wonder what makes all those little lights up there in the sky? At first it starts out with one or two. Then some more come out. And pretty soon they all start to twinkle. I wonder what makes that happen?”

So he did what he went out to the sagebrush to do. Then he walked up on a nearby hill. He sat down on a rock on the hill and was looking up in the sky. As the sun went down lower and lower in the west, the stars were coming out in the sky, just like he expected. “It happens every night,” he thought. “All those little lights in the sky. I wonder what they are?” Then he got up and went back to his willow hut.

Coyote fell asleep and dreamed that he went to go see his grandma, the spider, Old Lady Spider. So the next day he got up and thought to himself, “I’m going to listen to my dream and do what it says.” So he went to see the grandma, Old Lady Spider. He told her, “I need you to make me a long rope, a real long rope.”

“What do you want a long rope for?”

“I’m going to do something, and I need a real long rope.”

“Well, I can’t be making a rope for you to do foolish things!”

“No, no, no!” said Coyote. “It’s for something good.”

She looked at him, “I don’t know. Every time you do something, you get yourself in trouble.”

“No, it’s not going to be for something like that. It’s going to be for something good.”

She thought and thought about it, and finally decided to listen to him. So she told him, “Okay, I’m going to make you a rope. How long do you need the rope to be?”

He said, “I need a rope long enough to go up there in the sky, all the way up to the clouds.”

She looked at him again and asked, “What are you going to do with that rope? Why do you want a rope that’s so long?”

“Well,” said Coyote, “I’m going to do something special, and I need a real long rope!”

She finally decided, “Well, he can’t make such a rope. And whatever he’s going to do, he is going to get in trouble anyhow. So, I guess I’ll make the rope for him.”

Coyote was very happy. He went back to his home and did other things. His grandma started making him a rope, because she knew how to make real strong rope. And when she was finished she sent someone to get him and tell him his rope was ready.

Then Coyote came and took the rope. And he got his bow and his arrows and left. He thought, “I need get closer up to the sky.”

Coyote knew where there was a mountain called Pine Mountain. So he went up on that mountain and looked up at the sky. Then he got an arrow and tied the rope to the end of it. Pretty soon, when the day started turning to evening, he drew the arrow clear back in his bow, and shot it up into the sky!

Then he waited. And pretty soon his rope came tumbling back down to earth and got piled up again. He thought, “That didn’t work!”

Then he went over to a big juniper tree that had a fork in it. He put the bowstring between the fork in the juniper tree. And he put the arrow in it, and put the rope on the arrow again. Then he pulled the bow way back with both hands, and shot the arrow up into the air.

This time it went far up. And as it went he started getting scared, because his rope pile was getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Pretty soon he was almost out of rope—and then pretty soon it stopped!

He looked up, and the rope was hanging down from way up in the sky. So he grabbed the rope and pulled on it. But it wouldn’t give, it wouldn’t pull down. He pulled on it more, and it still wouldn’t pull down. So he jumped up and grabbed the rope—and it held him up!

By now the sun was descending to the point where it was going to go down. So he started climbing up the rope.

And he climbed and he climbed and he climbed. He looked down, and the earth was getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

When he got way up there he could see the house where he lived, way over there. And he could see the people, starting to put sagebrush on their fires. So he kept crawling up the rope.

Pretty soon he could hear people above him talking, so he kept climbing up the rope. He knew that somebody was talking up above him, so he kept climbing up the rope.

Pretty soon he got to the bottom of a cloud, and he crawled through it. When he got up above the cloud he came out of the hole. He looked around, and there was land up there, just like on the earth.

So he crawled out of the hole. Then he could see that there was a fire, and there was somebody standing by that fire. So he started walking toward that fire.

When he got closer it turned out to be a lady. She was standing there with a dress on. It was decorated with abalone shells on the fringes. And every time she would move the firelight would hit those shells, and they would sparkle. Pretty soon another lady joined her. And as it was getting darker, still another lady joined her.

Pretty soon you could hear a lot of talking, as a whole bunch of people were coming. They were ladies. And they all had abalone shells tied all over their dresses, on their headbands, and on their moccasins and everything.

Then they started singing and dancing all around the fire. And when they were dancing all those abalone shells would sparkle.

As the Coyote was looking at them, he started getting shorter and shorter. He looked down, and realized that he was starting to sink into the land up there!

One of the ladies told him, “You’re going to fall back through this land. You have to dance, or you’ll fall through!”

So he started dancing, and he came back up! He started dancing with them, and they danced and they danced. Coyote liked being up there, because there were lots of pretty women. He didn’t want to leave.

Then he got tired of dancing, so he sat down. But when he sat down he started sinking again! So he jumped up and started jumping around and dancing with the ladies again. And then he came back up on the land.

But he was getting more and more tired. And he said, “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to stay up here! Every time I dance, I’m fine. But when I get tired and sit down, I start sinking! I think I might fall back to earth!”

So he danced over where the hole was, and he grabbed the rope, and he started pulling it up. There was a pole over where the ladies were dancing, and he thought “I’m going to tie myself to that pole. That way if I get tired and start to sink in, then I’ll be tied to the pole!”

So he tied himself to the pole, and nobody said anything. And as he was tied to the pole the ladies were dancing, and he was dancing with them. That went on for four nights.

Pretty soon he got tired. By the fifth night he was so tired he just couldn’t dance anymore. He really didn’t want to leave those beautiful women. He wanted to stay up there and dance with them all the time. But his feet were getting tired. And his legs were getting tired.

Pretty soon they were building the fire for the dance. Everybody started coming out, and they were all dancing. But he was just exhausted. He was so tired that he quit dancing—and he started sinking again. He thought, “My rope is going to hold me this time. I won’t fall back to earth. I’ll climb back up when I get my rest.”

But when he was sinking, the rope was pulled through the fire and caught on fire! Then he fell from the sky, with the burning rope trailing behind him—he looked like a falling star. He hit on the earth at a place we now call “Hole-in-the-Ground.”

When Coyote stood up, he went up on Pine Mountain again. And he looked up at the sky and the clouds. He wanted to be up there with all those beautiful women dancing in the firelight. He wanted to be up there dancing with the women with the shell dresses on. He wanted to stay up there and dance with them forever!

He went back to his grandma Old Lady Spider again, and asked her to make him another rope. But she told him, “No. You would just use it for something foolish. I’m not going to make you another rope.”

Coyote kept thinking about what he saw up there. And every night when the sun went down he would go up on the hill and look up into the sky. When the first star would come out and start twinkling, he would start crying “howwuuu, howwuuu!” And he would cry out, “I want to be up there, I want to be up there.”

Soon more stars would come out. And the more stars that came out the more Coyote would cry out. He didn’t want to leave all those pretty ladies up there in the sky, dancing around the fire, with abalone shells tied all over their dresses, sparkling in the firelight. That’s how the stars got their twinkle.

Now every time the stars come out at night the Coyotes go up on the hills and cry out. They want to go back up in the sky and dance with the beautiful ladies dancing around the fire making starlight.

November 28th, 2017

Perhaps one of the most fulfilling experiences for an author is the ability to connect with an audience over the topic of his book. OSU Press author Michael Helquist recently had this opportunity to help shape the young minds of undergraduate students at Washington State University – Vancouver while perpetuating the legacy of an extraordinary woman, Marie Equi. He discussed his book Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions and was energized by the students' smart questions and engagement with the material. Michael shares his experience below.


Michael HelquistOn a foggy November morning on a forested campus in the Pacific Northwest, I spent a few hours talking about Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions with women’s history students. They were undergraduates at Washington State University – Vancouver, and they had already read my biography of Equi. Professor Laurie Mercier had assigned the book as one of two full-volume readings for the course. Students were also required to write a 1000-word paper that examined one or two social or political movements in which Equi was involved.

Professor Mercier posed a few possibilities for the discussion papers. She suggested they consider how Equi’s background and experiences influenced her drive to become one of the few female physicians in the country. How did her gender, sexuality, and class shape her work and activism? How did Equi’s frailties and flaws reveal her humanity? Did Equi affect the city of Portland and the broader Pacific Northwest, and, related to that, is Equi’s story uniquely regional (western)? The reading and writing assignments meant that students had to engage with Equi’s story on a deeper level than if they had simply read excerpts or skimmed the book.

An Audience Who Knew the Story
This was my first opportunity to discuss my biography with undergraduates who had already read the biography. Two years ago I talked to Professor Kimberly Jensen’s graduate seminar class at Western Oregon University, and last year I spoke before a noon-time gathering for Professor Nancy Krieger’s graduate students at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. I enjoyed both those occasions, but I expected talking with undergraduates would be different. I was eager to hear how younger students reacted to Equi’s life, her radical politics, her love of women, and how she tried to stay true to herself and her associates.

About 30 students and visitors joined the discussion about Equi, including a handful of men, who had signed up for the review of women’s history from the 17th century to the present. For the first twenty minutes I introduced the question “Whose story gets told?” Why were there fewer biographies of women, political radicals, working class people, and sexual minorities? What have we as a nation and community lost as a result of not valuing these people’s stories enough to encourage retaining their writing and studying their lives? I recalled Nancy Krieger’s argument in a 1983 journal article that Equi’s story had been largely untold due to her political radicalism and transgressive sexuality. I then described my years-long search that led to a trove of Equi-related documents, including correspondence, court testimony, and more than 300 newspaper articles that confirmed Equi’s historical footprint and her voice. As a result, her story got told.

Students’ Questions
The students were hesitant, at first, to ask questions, and I reminded myself of the considerable age difference between us and how that might affect them. Once the first questions were posed, however, a steady stream followed. “How did Equi’s role and upbringing as an outsider affect her?” one student asked. That was followed by a related question about whether Equi’s outsider status led her to defend the underdog. I told the students that I thought Equi strived to be included in social and political groups all her life. But a woman in the early 1900s who worked in a profession dominated by men, a woman of working-class background who dared to become a doctor, and a relatively open lesbian who fought for radical change could not avoid being an outsider. I reminded them that in Equi’s day simply striving to be independent made a woman suspect and beyond the norm. I proposed that experiencing life as an outsider might very well have made Equi more sensitive to others who were disadvantaged or discriminated against.

Michael Helquist with WSU studentsAnother student wondered, “How did Equi avoid getting arrested for providing abortions?” I discussed the politics of abortion prosecutions in Portland during the period Equi began providing the procedure. Abortion trials spiked during the Progressive Era when activists pushed for social control as well as social reform. But there’s no documentation that Equi was either investigated or charged with providing illegal abortions. She was known to be adept at the procedure, and other doctors referred their clients seeking abortions to her. (In effect, these doctors maintained their client base while shifting legal risks to Equi). I suggested that Equi, in effect, ensured protection for herself by providing the service to the wives, daughters, or mistresses of influential men in town.

“Was Equi particularly good with the press?” another student asked. I had described in my book that reporters appeared to regard Equi as an excellent source of copy. She provided good quotes, she was opinionated and unafraid to speak out against injustice, and she had a ready sense of humor. I shared with the students a few of the more than 300 newspaper reports I discovered featuring Equi.

Once again there was the question I get almost every time I talk about the biography: “How did I learn about Marie Equi?” I credit the Portland-based Gay Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN) for first alerting me to Equi as a twenty-year old who horsewhipped a school superintendent in the middle of The Dalles, Oregon over a pay dispute involving her girlfriend. After that, I wanted to know more. I discovered a woman of compassion and conviction who risked her livelihood and well-being in the defense of others.

My hour with the WSU students passed quickly. We had time for a group photo and book signings. Several students thanked me for speaking to them and for writing the book. I’m grateful to them and especially to Professor Mercier for introducing Marie Equi to her students.

Additional resources:
“‘Criminal Operations’: The First Fifty Years of Abortion Trials in Portland, Oregon,” Michael Helquist, Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 116, no. 4, Spring 2015. Winner, 2016 Joel Palmer Award.

“‘Lewd, Obscene and Indecent’ The 1916 Portland Edition of Family Limitation,” Michael Helquist, Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 117, no. 2, Summer 2016.

“Adventures in Family Limitation,” history comic, Khris Soden and Michael Helquist, Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 117, no. 2, Summer 2016.

“Resistance, Dissent, and Punishment in WWI Oregon,” Michael Helquist, Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 118, no. 2, Summer 2017. Available at JSTOR.

“Portland to the Rescue: The Rose City’s Response to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire,” Michael Helquist, Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 108, no. 3, Fall 2007. Available at JSTOR.

November 21st, 2017

Culture and communication are inextricably linked. Whether it is building a narrative for ourselves, talking within our communities, or trying to speak across boundaries – ultimately, much of our cultural practices and how we understand each other are shaped by the stories we tell. OSU Press author Lisa King explores the efforts and effects of Indigenously-driven stories within Native American museums in her new book Legible Sovereignties: Rhetoric, Representations, and Native American Museums. Her journey to publishing this book began more than a decade ago with her first acquaintance with the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. She explores this awe-inspiring experience that gave her a new perspective into visual rhetoric, museum studies, and public engagement with Indigenous voices.


Legible Sovereignties: Rhetoric, Representations, and Native American MuseumsMy first time to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C., was a revelation in many ways. The proverbial dust had settled from its triumphant opening months before, and while I couldn’t afford to be there for the opening ceremonies (grad student budget), I had finally made my way there. The curving sand-colored Kasota stone architecture, the high-domed atrium, the recently installed medicinal gardens: the entire orientation of the museum was unlike anything else on the National Mall, and an emphatic statement of Indigenous presence next to the Capitol building. “We are still here” was the undeniable claim. I was elated.

Inside, the exhibits were beautiful, overwhelming in their stories, and an inversion of typical museum exhibit in the clear influence of self-representation in each Native community’s alcove. The Our Peoples exhibit told in some stark terms what the motivations for colonialism were, and the devastating effects of it for the peoples of North and South America. The Our Universes exhibit revealed many of the ways Native peoples of the Americas structure their worldviews, clearly challenging stereotypes of Native spiritual practice and philosophy. The Our Lives exhibit was my favorite, particularly for the ways it tried to complicate notions of Native identity and what Native peoples do on a daily basis to maintain identity and live as contemporary Indigenous peoples. The museum overall was a powerful, celebratory testament to the presence and survival of North and South America’s Indigenous peoples.

Yet there were emerging problems, too. As someone who frequently negotiates back and forth between disciplines (rhetoric and Native American/Indigenous studies, plus museum studies) as a professional and between worldviews as a person, I worried over whether or not the average museum visitor would get it. Museums are widely believed to be purveyors of “Truth,” and so anything the NMAI did would be high stakes. How much history would the average visitors wandering in from the D.C. Mall know? What would their reactions be? Would visitors treat this narrative of survival and resistance the same way they would a display in an art or science museum, for good or ill? Could they grasp the complicated and nuanced and beautiful range of histories, cultures, and present-day lives represented here? Or would they just come looking for the exotic “Indian” in Plains war bonnet and buckskin? In short, I was not sure at all that the exhibits, lovely as they were, would bear the weight of visitors’ likely historical ignorance and the misperceptions they would likely bring with them.

This moment more than a decade ago was the genesis for Legible Sovereignties: Rhetoric, Representations, and Native American Museums, yet as I’ve traveled and worked with other Indigenous museums and cultural centers, I have seen first hand that every institution faces these questions and that formulating answers involves much more than the experience of one museum, one community, and one audience. For this reason, the book highlights the first decade of work at three distinctive Indigenously-oriented or owned institutions. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan’s Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways, for example, is a tribally owned and operated institution that developed out of Saginaw Chippewa community’s need and desire for a place to tell their own histories, repatriate their ancestors, and cultivate living culture for the next generations. Its context is deeply rooted in local communities, but its impact has reached beyond initial expectations and intentions to shape local and regional Anishinabe identities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences. In contrast, the Haskell Indian Nations University’s Cultural Center and Museum provides a different kind of story, one that spans more than a century of history and represents more than 150 tribal nations and communities. The tracing of the university’s narrative from boarding school to educational self-determination is key to understanding Haskell as a place, but the story also continues to shift with its audiences’ needs and contributions. In short, all of these places have similar goals, and yet very different needs and audiences to which they answer.

While we might desire a one-size-fits-all solution to re-educate audiences away from misperceptions founded in a narrative of savagism and civilization, what I hope to show is how every story here is unique, and every story here is connected. I talked with curators and museum staff at all three of these sites about their hopes and intentions, I documented the exhibits in their original state and then again as the spaces evolved at their ten-year anniversaries, and I collected audience responses and reviews for all the semi-permanent exhibits. What it adds up to is a rhetorical web of relationships and stories all aimed at taking apart the notion of a “savage” or “vanished” or “frozen-in-the-past” Indian to educate audiences about Indigenous presents and futures. Yet not all of those efforts played out as intended, some stories took a different turn, and sometimes what was assumed to be perfectly legible, wasn’t. Or what started out clear became muddied. Or what the audiences needed changed. In other words, what constitutes “legible sovereignties” for Indigenous communities has to be rhetorically flexible and responsive to audiences and the moment, and these three sites all embody individual and situation-specific efforts to speak Indigenous presence in a way that resonates for everyone involved.

Every time I am in D.C., or Mt. Pleasant, or Lawrence, I go back to visit these beautiful institutions, and every time I am grateful to them for striving to make Native and Indigenous nations, communities, and individuals visible and break down misconceptions. This book is meant to honor those efforts, and in turn to make them visible so that we can continue to learn how to strengthen communication and education across audiences and across communities. They have taught me much, and I offer this account of their stories to you.

November 14th, 2017

It is easy to associate California with cannabis history. But Nick Johnson, author of Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West, emphasizes the rich history of cannabis in Oregon in today’s blog post. While his book explores the negative environmental impact and legacy of marijuana prohibition in the West, Nick credits Oregon with being one of the most environmentally friendly states for cannabis production. He also suggests that Oregon’s legacy of ballot initiatives as a legislative mode made re-legalization possible in many of the western states. So, to coin a phrase: Is it Beaver State or Reefer State? Read on to find out!


Cover of "Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West" by Nick JohnsonWhen it comes to the long and controversial history of cannabis in the United States, California gets a lot of attention, for obvious reasons. There’s the Emerald Triangle, the countercultural mecca of San Francisco, and the Bay Area medical movement that eventually led to Proposition 215, which made the Golden State the first to re-legalize medical cannabis after more than eighty years of national prohibition.

Those events and many others have understandably created the impression that California is, as journalist Peter Hecht put it, “America’s marijuana epicenter.” But anyone seeking to truly understand marijuana’s incredible story in the United States cannot ignore the plant’s history just over the border in Oregon. Like its neighbor to the south, the Beaver State has been home to many of the most important political, social, and biological events in the history of American cannabis.

Cannabis products arrived in Oregon with the first white immigrants, many of whom came in wagons covered by hemp canvas. It’s unclear when medicinal or drug cannabis first arrived, but by the late nineteenth century, medicinal cannabis tinctures were available in Oregon pharmacies. By 1898, the state’s farmers and agriculturalists were excited about the prospect of a local hemp industry, even though the national hemp industry had been in serious decline for several decades. Perhaps because of a lack of demand, industrial hemp never did take off in early-twentieth-century Oregon.

In 1904, in the throes of the Progressive Era, Oregonians passed the United States’ first ballot initiative, beginning their century-long love affair with direct democracy. Over the next 100 years, Oregonians drafted and voted on 384 ballot initiatives, by far the most in the United States. This normalized a process that would eventually allow for the re-legalization of cannabis in Oregon.

Meanwhile, as American anti-vice fervor reached a fever pitch in 1915, Portland’s Morning Oregonian reported an investigation into “the sale of ‘cannabis indica,’ otherwise called ‘hashish,’ a drug said to be rapidly gaining favor as a substitute for opium.” Later that year, the paper reported that several local drugstores were caught selling “packages of hashish” to “young boys.” Portland promptly restricted all sales of “hashish” in May 1915. In 1920, Portland resident Dolores Fernandes was caught with a “large fruit box” of drug cannabis, which by that time was already starting to be called “marijuana” based on its alleged association with Mexicans.

In 1923 the Oregon legislature responded to these and other incidents by outlawing the nonmedical distribution of cannabis. Around the same time, drug cannabis was falling out of favor as a medicine, as physicians and pharmacists struggled to find proper dosages and figure out the appropriate application for its medicinal properties. The federal government eventually outlawed all cannabis production with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Without a robust trade in either hemp or medical cannabis, the plant largely disappears from Oregon’s historical record until the counterculture of the 1960s. Hippies and other counterculturalists picked up the habit of marijuana smoking from the Beat Generation, which used the drug as a gateway to new ideas and a greater appreciation of music and the arts.

By the late 1960s, different groups of counterculturalists were starting their own, separate communities in rural places across Oregon. Some of the earliest communes included High Ridge Farm on the Illinois River, Sunnyridge in the Browntown area, and CRO Farm west of Eugene. By the early 1970s, communal groups convened in the southern Oregon locales of Applegate, Medford, Jacksonville, and Ashland.

While many of these communes withered over the course of the 1970s, the counterculture had firmly put down roots in Oregon. The university towns of the Willamette Valley and the rural hamlets of southern Oregon were particularly prominent hubs of countercultural activity, including marijuana use and cultivation. In 1970, Eugene resident Bill Drake typed out The Cultivator’s Handbook of Marijuana, the nation’s first guidebook exclusively dedicated to cannabis cultivation. Tailed by the FBI after he sold his first 500 copies, Drake eventually got a conservative publisher in the town of Florence, Oregon, to publish additional copies. Drake went on to pen “Cultivator’s Handbooks” for other controversial plants, such as tobacco and coca.

In 1973, amidst a rising rate of marijuana use by young, middle-class whites, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis possession. The new law reduced the penalties for possessing up to an ounce of cannabis to a $100 fine, instead of the extensive jail time required by earlier laws.

By the 1980s, southern Oregon’s warm climate, geographic isolation, and countercultural presence made it a hotbed for illegal marijuana farming. Growers there held annual harvest celebrations for the cannabis crop, and some even proudly labeled their crop “grown in Oregon.” “Marijuana culture was just everywhere,” remembers Richard Reames, a southern Oregon grower who has lived in the area since the 1980s. Reames used Robert Clarke’s Marijuana Botany to farm his own funky flowers, but after Bill Drake’s book, there were plenty more marijuana guides to choose from.

One was Tom Alexander’s Sinsemilla Tips, a magazine first published by typewriter in Corvallis in 1980. Alexander started the magazine after Corvallis police busted him for growing marijuana in 1979. The magazine published advice columns by growers, for growers, and sold ad space to garden supply shops and other businesses that cheekily sold lights, fertilizers, and other equipment to growers. By 1985, Sinsemilla Tips had a press run of 10,000 copies.

Abandoned Marijuana grow site in southern OregonMeanwhile, the medical marijuana movement that began in California’s Bay Area gradually made its way north, where more Oregonians began reacquainting themselves with marijuana’s medical potential. In 1998, two years after Californians passed Prop. 215, Oregonians approved Ballot Measure 67; after a seventy-five-year hiatus, medical marijuana was legal again in the Beaver State. Despite ongoing raids by law enforcement, Oregon growers continued to experiment with their marijuana crop; some of the most popular strains today, such as “trainwreck,” are reportedly the result of Oregonian ingenuity (although the origins of that strain in particular are disputed).

Following victories for adult-use marijuana in Colorado and Washington in 2012, Oregonians again tapped into their rich history of direct democracy and passed Measure 91 in 2014. As of July 1, 2015, anyone in the state over the age of 21 can now buy or use marijuana. Thanks to legalization, industrial hemp is also back on the rise; as of 2017, more than 100 Oregon farmers have planned for some 1,300 acres of hemp. While far from perfect, Oregon’s marijuana program is also one of the most environmentally friendly to-date, as it allows outdoor cultivation, regulates pesticide use, and encourages sustainable cultivation via a publicly available list of best practices.

From hemp-covered wagons to resin-soaked sinsemilla, Oregon’s cannabis history demonstrates that the Beaver State has played an instrumental role in the dispersal of cannabis across the country and the rise of the modern marijuana movement. The state was home to the first decriminalization law, the first marijuana grower’s guide, and even the first major use of the ballot initiative—those living in states with legal marijuana today have Oregonians to thank for popularizing the mechanism by which the marijuana movement has met with so much success. Oregon has also been home to some of the most competent and innovative growers in the Pacific Northwest, making significant contributions to the West Coast’s reputation as the source of the best marijuana in the world. California may get most of the press, but the straight dope is that Oregon has been just as influential in the world of modern cannabis.

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