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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in the book Legends of the Northern Paiute, as told by Wilson Wewa, a collection of twenty-one original and previously unpublished Northern Paiute Legends, compiled, edited, and introduced by James Gardner.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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

November 6th, 2017

University Presses recognize that knowledge matters today, perhaps more than ever. And we are making a difference through scholarship by providing the platform for well-written, well-researched ideas of integrity. New OSU Press author Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr.’s scholarship is making a difference on a global scale. His new book, The Alternate Route: Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones, looks at the frightening international reality of nuclear weapons and examines the possibilities of nuclear weapon-free zones as the pathway to worldwide nuclear disarmament. He gives us a look at this alternate route.

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The Alternate Route Book CoverSoon after the end of World War II, a vast nuclear arms race began as an integral part of the ensuing Cold War between the two superpowers left standing, the United States and the Soviet Union. During the Cold War and thereafter, the United States built more than 70,000 nuclear weapons, with the Soviet Union creating about 55,000. At its peak, the nuclear weapon stockpile in the United States consisted of some 32,500 nuclear weapons while the Soviet Union kept around 45,000 in its stockpile. Nuclear weapons also spread to additional countries until the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty largely checked this trend.

As of 2017, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea all possessed nuclear weapon stockpiles; however the number of weapons held by these countries, while certainly still a significant threat, are quite small compared to the number of weapons in the stockpiles of the United States and Russia – even after significant disarmament progress.

Beginning in the 1970s, important nuclear weapon disarmament agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia were initiated including: the SALT Agreements in 1972 and 1979, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, the Start Treaty in 1991, and the New Start Treaty in 2010. The idea has always been that the two countries possessing in the range of 95% of the world's nuclear weapons would first reduce their stockpiles and then the other states possessing nuclear weapons would be brought into the process with the ultimate objective of worldwide nuclear weapon disarmament and a much safer world.

Unfortunately, the current U. S.-Russian nuclear weapon totals, as discussed, remain far above those of the other nuclear weapon states. And with the return of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency in 2012, further reductions appear quite unlikely due to his opposition to further nuclear disarmament and the toxic U.S.-Russian relationship.

But nuclear weapon disarmament is too important to simply put aside. Could there be an alternative route given the failure of the U.S.-Russia way? I explore a possible answer in my new book, Alternate Route: Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones.

The book looks at the threat nuclear weapons represent, explores the U.S.-Russia relationship, discusses the several close calls with nuclear war that have taken place, and examines the nuclear weapon free zone established by each of the five treaties – Latin America, the South Pacific, Africa, South-East Asia, and Central Asia – in detail, including why they were negotiated, how they were negotiated, and their degree of success. These treaties legally put a number of programs associated with nuclear weapons aside. For example: the nascent nuclear weapon programs in Argentina and Brazil; French nuclear weapon testing in the South Pacific; French nuclear weapon testing in the Sahara; the construction of nuclear weapons by South Africa; and the threat of a nuclear weapon program in Libya.

The book discusses where the Nuclear Weapon Free Zone process would need to expand to bring the world community closer to a chance to achieve worldwide nuclear disarmament. In addition to putting pressure on the five Security Council members with nuclear weapons – U.S., United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China – a lot of effort has been expended over the years to try to make disarmament progress in regions like the Middle East, North East Asia, and South Asia with only moderate success. As part of this book, the nuclear weapon programs in Israel, Iran (whose program has not gone to the construction stage because of the Agreement with the United Nations Security Council), India, Pakistan and North Korea are carefully analyzed.

While obviously further expansion of the nuclear weapon free zone process is daunting when one considers where it must go next, it is not an impossible idea. At the very least considering such a concept will cause policy makers and scholars to "think outside the box," which is essential if the moribund nuclear disarmament process is to be revived. Very little has been written about this important process, but it is a subject to which we need to pay more attention for the safety and well being of the world community.

October 31st, 2017

Tim Palmer, author of Wild and Scenic Rivers: An American Legacy, might have one of the coolest jobs ever. Combining his passions for photography, storytelling, adventure, conservation, and natural spaces, Tim writes masterpieces about rivers, the American landscape, and adventure travel. His most recent book, Wild and Scenic Rivers: An American Legacy, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. He gives us a taste of the wild adventure he embarked on while crafting the story of this American legacy.

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Tim Palmer in his CanoeIf I can tell stories that touch the important and the timely, I'm a happy man with a purpose in life. And let me take photographs to show natural beauty with its irreplaceable value, and I'm thrilled in a visceral and soulful way that goes immeasurably beyond the simple image in a digital file on my computer. I like to ignore the sage old writing instructor's axiom—"Show, don't tell"—by both showing and telling through the two media I love: photography and narrative.

I got to do both, plus paddle on rivers to boot, while creating my new Oregon State University Press book, Wild and Scenic Rivers: An American Legacy. Let me tell you: putting this volume of text and 160 color photos together with the OSU Press staff was a total blast.

For those who don't know (no worries; this group includes most Americans), the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system is the nation's, and the world's, premier means of protecting the values of natural, free-flowing rivers. The full story of this landmark conservation program had never been told, and the spectacular beauty of these natural rivers had never before been illustrated in any remotely comprehensive way.

Creating a book that's half story, half portfolio, I was determined to do justice to both with immersion in a vital and photogenic topic that has held my passion for all my adult life—that's a bit of a side-story that you can also find in the book.

Wild and Scenic Rivers offers a thoughtful retrospective and also a view to the future—together a timely endeavor because the fiftieth anniversary of this major but little known national conservation program comes just around the corner in 2018. The Press and I agreed that it was time to do both literary and artistic justice to this remarkable public initiative—and to these exquisite rivers along with the dedicated people who have worked to protect them.

Over the past half-century the system has grown from 12 to 300 major rivers and tributaries. Designation by Congress—something like a National Park only far lower key—bans dams and other harmful actions falling under the purview of the federal government. It also sets the stage for stewardship ranging from local land use controls to open space preservation to nuts-and-bolts management of recreation use and facilities.

Without spilling the beans, let me tell you about one of the stories I elaborate on in the book. Stewart Udall had served as perhaps the most distinguished Secretary of the Interior ever, and years later, in 1983, we met in an unlikely coffee shop near the University of Pittsburgh, where the former secretary was in "retirement" building a case for Navajo Indians aggrieved by radioactive waste and the Atomic Energy Commission. "As a Congressman in the 1950s, I was pro-dam. I instinctively identified my values more with the Sierra Club than with dam building, except that I was from Arizona, and you couldn't go to Congress from there and be against dams." The great statesman proceeded to tell me the whole story of his remarkable transformation.

With help from citizen conservationists and enlightened professionals serving under him, and with the heady rush of earthly elements whenever one kicks a boat off from shore and enters the seductive flow of a wild rushing river, Udall came to embrace the reality and the complexity of holding two opposite views at once – that some rivers should be dammed and some should be protected. As Secretary of the Interior he recognized that our treatment of rivers had been grossly unbalanced. He grew to eagerly support protection of the finest remaining undammed streams, and to battle against the mindset—and even some of the individuals—that he had grown up with as an Arizonan.

I was fortunate to interview Udall and most of the other principal players in the creation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system back when that was still possible, three decades ago. And for my new book, I also talked with key people today who are no less dedicated to sustaining and enhancing this intriguing program of river protection, now and into the future. They, as well as the rivers themselves, give me hope.

Cover of book including photo of Snake RiverLet me also tell you about the adventure of capturing one of the photos—in fact, the cover. The Snake River flowing through Grand Teton National Park is one of the scenic icons of America, and farther downstream it rushes with greater speed and urgency through Alpine Canyon—one of the West's great paddling hotspots with big-volume whitewater. I've been exhilarated by it, many times, in my canoe. But the river there is challenging to photograph because its steep trench runs east-west, and so low angles of warm sunny glow have little chance of penetrating the forested slopes, the lush green shores, the palate of eroded bedrock, and the bubbly froth of rapids. Visiting and living nearby for some years, I had failed to get the great photo that this inviting place deserved. But then one day when the summer sun rose a bit farther north, when dawn broke blue and clear, and when I scrambled down to the shore at exactly the right spot, and at exactly the right moment, I found the river rushing with speed and grace, the light glowing in the forest above, and the time precisely perfect for a photo that revealed it all. What a gift!

So it went on rivers across the nation, and also in libraries, offices, and people's homes as I interviewed, researched, and photographed. It was all fun, and now it's all an honor to bring this work into the world and celebrate our nation's magnificent estate of National Wild and Scenic Rivers. I hope you enjoy the book.

October 25th, 2017

Jim Thayer, author of Hiking from Portland to the Coast, recounts the magic of combining scientific knowledge and artistic wonder while mushroom hunting in Oregon’s woods. Armed with his extensive knowledge of and familiarity with the forest and its plants, Jim searches the forest floor for his targets – chanterelle mushrooms. But the mushrooms don’t surrender easily. They camouflage themselves against the beauty of the fall landscape, playing hide and seek. Jim provides some insight into, and advice for, the exhilarating quest for chanterelle mushrooms.

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October is one of the busiest times in our woods and meadows. The air begins to have an edge to it and all the animals are scurrying around with newfound resolve. Outside, the first rains have fallen, and the warm winds of late September have been replaced by cooler weather sliding down from Alaska. I watch as the verdant leaves begin to fall, littering the forest floor with a light wash of yellow petals. From somewhere deep inside my bones, I feel a thrill as the forest throws off its late summer lethargy and comes alive with activity.

Bracket Fungi (Fomes pinicola)By early October, it’s clear that nature is on the move. The first to arrive are the exotic Sandhill cranes, whose courtship dances have made them a favorite amongst bird watchers. Soon thereafter, you’ll hear that unmistakable double honk as the Canada geese descend upon our lawns and fields as if it were the Normandy Invasion. Our rivers too, are busy as the first fall runs of salmon thrust into the tributaries, pushing relentlessly to where they will lay their eggs in the fine gravel deposits hidden along the little streams.

Even the spiders are busy. All summer long, the newly hatched spiders have been growing and now they’re ready to strike out on their own. Looking out across a meadow you may see spiders climbing to the top of the tallest plants, where they shoot out a lengthy strand of silk. As the gossamer thread ascends on the warm breezes, it soon lifts the spider off its perch and together they are wafted high into the sky. These “ballooning” spiders can travel miles and disperse across huge swathes of countryside.

Hunting chanterelles:

Bracket Fungi (Fomes fomentarius)It is estimated that the worldwide market for chanterelles is worth about $1.62 billion. Prices range from $8 to more than $50 per pound. However, these market statistics completely miss the point. It’s not the mushrooms that are valuable. It’s the unique experience of hunting these clever little munchkins that is priceless. Mind you, hunting chanterelles is not an ordinary foraging exercise. It takes cunning, patience, and an eye for spotting that unique shade of yellow that signifies the emergence of a newly sprouted chanterelle.

For those among you that share my passion or aspire to engage in this rustic treasure hunt, I have some advice about when and where to find the elusive chanterelles.

When to find chanterelles:

Fly Agaric (Amanita mascara)My old German mushroom guides claim that chanterelles (“pfifferlinge”) can be harvested as early as June and as late as November. Here in the Pacific Northwest the season is shorter and begins in late September. Of course, it matters where you’re situated. The higher the elevation, the lower the temperature. As the temperatures drop, the mushrooms tend to wilt, so lower elevations can sustain mushroom growth later into the season.

At the north end of the Willamette Valley, the first rains usually arrive at the beginning of October. In my experience it takes another three to four weeks (from the beginning of October) for the forest fertility to advance to the point that it can produce more substantial mushrooms, such as the chanterelles or the prized matsutake.

Chanterelle hunting however, requires a more proactive approach than simply counting the days until early November. Most years, I am out scouting likely locations at least three times before the chanterelles finally make their debut.

Around mid-October, I begin my reconnoitering. By now the woods are wet and muddy, and little sprigs of fungal matter are beginning to pierce the duff. I know it’s too early, but the anticipation is gnawing at me and I can’t wait… Even though, I know these early forays will only uncover a handful of DBM’s.

DBM’s – or damned brown mushrooms – represent most of what I find at the beginning of the season. These small mushrooms are neither tasty nor big enough to garnish a meal, and some are poisonous. So I rarely take the time to even identify them, which is why they are often lumped together and referred to by their acronym.

Milky cap (Lactarius delicious)Some of the more common fungi that lead off the mushroom parade include: puff balls, inky caps, the western red-capped Cortinarius, the clustered woodlover, the poisonous haymaker’s mushroom, and a parade of miniatures including the Marasmius and Paneolus families, and, my favorite, the tiny orange Omphalina fibula.

From the typical mushroom hunters’ perspective, these small mushrooms are irrelevant but their presence identifies what stage of the mushroom procession we are observing.

By late October, the woods are impassable without rubber boots. During the preceding fortnight more rain has fallen and the brilliant yellow leaves fluttering down from the alders and broadleaf maples cover the ground. Despite our efforts, it’s soon obvious that our soggy foray into the woods may still be too early. Striding through the Oregon grape and Salal bushes I can’t seem to spot the telltale apricot yellow stalks. Instead I find a host of reddish mushrooms belonging to the Russula family. Nearby, I see a family of edible milky caps in their telltale orange caps. Nearby, I recognize several varieties of Tricholoma mushrooms including the edible man on horseback. Even an Amanita pantherina has appeared with its slender stipe rising elegantly over its shorter neighbors. However, the long expected chanterelles are still eluding us.Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa)

Early November: As October comes to a close, the time has finally arrived for the more solid mushrooms to sprout. Maybe it just takes longer to produce a meaty, tasty treat like a chanterelle or a Boletus edulis. At last we now begin to spot those apricot trumpets pushing through the dirt and exposing their vivid yellow stalks. By now everywhere we look the forest floor is covered with yellow leaves. Yet this is precisely the moment the cunning chanterelles have been waiting for. Cleverly camouflaged amongst the egg-yellow foliage, the chanterelles now stretch out their necks and spread their trumpets – making them an easy mark for a predator like myself.

Where to find chanterelles:

Where there’s one, there’s probably at least two more – or so I tell myself as I go crawling through the soggy underbrush. It does seem that chanterelles like company but more likely these concentrations imply a preference for a certain kind of forest floor. Usually, I can find chanterelles in stands of older Douglas fir trees, or even younger stands (20 years) that have been planted so tightly that little sunshine can penetrate and the forest floor is in deep shade, covered with pine needles. Typically, they congregate where the slope is mild and may host a more productive patch of mycelium.

Cauliflower Mushroom (Sparassis crispa)The mycelium is an extended subterranean network of mycorrhizal links between the plants, mushrooms, and the entire forest. If you dig up the forest floor you may spot little white threads that permeate the earthy loam. These are the veins of the mycelium that carry vital minerals to the trees and in return receive vitamins garnered through the photosynthesis occurring in the sun lit treetops. Finding a productive patch of forest that sprouts mushrooms with regularity is probably indicative of a healthy carpet of mycelium.

Over time, I’ve developed an “eye” for spotting forest habitats that seem more likely to harbor an active mycorrhizal network. This woodsy intuition notwithstanding, most of my success identifying good chanterelle hunting grounds is probably 25% patience, 15% deduction from the type of soil and tree coverage, 10% smell (many of my most productive sites have an earthy, fungal odor), and 50% luck. It’s the very unpredictability of this quixotic endeavor that makes it all the more enticing.

October 16th, 2017

Today Ken Coleman talks with us about his new book Dangerous Subjects: James D. Saules and the Rise of Black Exclusion in Oregon. Dangerous Subjects is Ken’s first published book and explores the unique story of James D. Saules, a black sailor who settled in Oregon in 1841.

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OSU Press: Briefly describe your book Dangerous Subjects.

Coleman: It’s an account of what I refer to as the “Americanization” of Oregon centered around one person. The Americanization of Oregon was a colonial process that began when Anglo-American farm families began arriving in the region in large numbers in the 1840s. In some ways, it’s a story that’s been told many times before, but most historians have either focused on American settlers or—in recent years—indigenous or mixed-race communities. Instead, I was interested in how the arrival of the Oregon Trail immigrants coincided almost immediately with a series of laws banning black people from living in Oregon. I centered my narrative on one man, James D. Saules, someone whom historians have either ignored or treated as a peripheral figure in early Oregon history. Saules was a black man who settled in Oregon two years before the first major wagon trains arrived, and is most often cited as the man who inspired Oregon’s first black exclusion law. The book is not only about the local and national context of Oregon’s early black exclusion laws, but about how Saules coped with and adapted to massive social, political, and cultural shifts in Oregon.

OSU Press: What about James D. Saules’ life initially drew you in to his story? Why did you originally feel compelled to write this account of his life?

Coleman: When I began researching black exclusion in Oregon several years ago, I was struck by how often Saules appeared in the historical record. Truth be told, compared to white elites of the same period, it wasn’t much. But for a member of a racialized minority like Saules, it was significant. Secondly, Saules was a sailor. Oregon’s black exclusion laws and the rhetoric political figures used to support them often singled out black sailors as a particular threat to the nascent American settlement. Many suggested that black sailors would incite Native people to violence against white settlers. I knew Saules was actually arrested for doing just this, so I tried to find out as much as I could about him. It turned out he lived an extraordinary life, and the more I found out about him, the more his life took on an epic scope.

OSU Press: Why study the colonial and racial history of the Pacific Northwest through the eyes of this particular figure? What, if anything, does that do for the account of history? Are there concerns with limiting the perspective to one particular individual or does it provide a unique opportunity? If so, why?

Coleman: I don’t think it’s possible to “see” history through the eyes of a historical figure, since we only know historical figures through textual evidence. This is made more difficult since most of evidence about Saules was written by white elites, and I come to this subject as a privileged twenty-first century white male. That being said, once I narrowed my focus to Saules, ironically the story became much bigger and I was able to connect Saules to larger national and transnational historical processes. Saules was a free black man from Connecticut who had worked as a whaler in the South Pacific and later served as a cook on the United States Exploration Expedition, a naval voyage of discovery unprecedented in size and scope. This led me to research such topics as the nineteenth-century international maritime economy, merchant capitalism, U.S. and European imperialism during the Age of Sail, and the experience of black people who worked aboard sailing ships. These were all topics I doubt I would have encountered had I researched and written the book as a more local study of race relations in Oregon. For instance, by focusing on Saules, it became even more apparent that the United States was shifting from a maritime nation to one that looked to its own interior for economic resources. This fact would have a major impact in Oregon, and Saules was present when these changes occurred. I also learned that legislation targeting black sailors for exclusion was not unique to Oregon and was common in other parts of the United States, particularly the American South.

Historians who grapple with issues relating to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation often face a dearth of sources about the lives of specific people whose lives were affected by these axes of inequality. And as I mentioned before, most readily-available primary sources from the first half of the nineteenth century are written by white elites: government officials, military officers, journalists, missionaries, merchants, financiers, etc. Because of this, social historians have to read existing sources against the grain and often have to generalize to address silences in the historical record. I certainly wasn’t immune to this. As I wrote this book, I had to generalize, speculate, and engage in deductive reasoning to try to fill in the blanks. But when you focus on one person, I think you can keep generalization to a minimum and write about topics like black exclusion and white supremacy not as abstract historical processes, but as very real things that involved and affected very real human beings. For the reader, I hope this makes this account of history more intimate and less abstract.

OSU Press: Why publish this particular account today? What kind of impact do you hope this book will make? How do you hope this book to be received? What kind of audiences do you hope to reach?

Coleman: As I wrote this book, the phrase “black lives matter” and the activism around it entered into the American consciousness after the death of Trayvon Martin. My simplest answer is that I hope this book makes some contribution to the notion that the black lives mattered in the past as well.

When I began researching this project in 2011, certain political commentators were still describing the United States as a “post-racial” nation, that somehow the election of Barack Obama proved that white supremacy was a thing of the past. Obviously, this claim is belied by almost everything that has occurred since, not the least of which was the election of a president who made racial fear and scapegoating the centerpiece of his campaign.

On a more local level, my hometown of Portland, Oregon in the same Willamette Valley where Saules once resided remains one of the least racially diverse cities in the United States in a region—the American West—increasingly defined by its ethnic diversity. I insist this lack of diversity was by design, not happenstance.

The United States is a nation founded on the theft of indigenous land and the labor of enslaved human beings, and white supremacy and ethnic cleansing was central to U.S. imperial expansion. Yet I insist that racism is not an ahistorical aspect of human nature, and race itself is a social and historical formation. Because of this, I believe it can be overcome. But it can’t be eradicated overnight by the election of a president, and it won’t be overcome unless we begin by taking an honest and clear-eyed look at our collective past. Therefore, I think it’s essential that Americans in general and Oregonians in particular remember that they live in a colonized space. A phenomenon like the Oregon Trail should be viewed as more than the heroic trek of hardscrabble pioneers. It was also a tactic of American imperialism in which Anglo-American settlers imposed their own racial and social order with little regard for the Native, mixed-race, black, and Pacific Islander people who lived there.

Yet the task of a historian is to understand the past rather than pass judgment on historical actors. I think my account of Saules’ life and times complicates tidy narratives. Such as one of my central points, that Saules was both an agent of empire and a victim of it; for white settlers, he occupied a liminal state between colonizer and colonized. Furthermore, historical forces like colonialism, racism, and capitalism are multifaceted and dynamic, and historians need to track these changes.

As for an audience, I am trained as an academic historian, but I wrote the book to appeal to an audience beyond academia. I tried to keep jargon and esoteric references to a minimum in an effort to connect with readers of any background. In particular, I hope high school and college students could read the book and come away with a solid understanding of Oregon colonial past and present.

OSU Press: What insights do you have after publishing this book with the OSU Press?

Coleman: This was my first book. And I’m sure just about every first-time author has the same thought: If I ever have the opportunity to write another one, I would do just about everything differently. In particular, I eventually learned how crucial it is to not lean so heavily on digitized sources. It’s important to get off the computer, leave the house, hit the physical archives, and, most importantly, talk to a wide variety of people and actually listen. It was through these personal interactions that I had my biggest breakthroughs.

Another major lesson I learned through working with OSU Press is that regardless of the fact that my name is on the cover, writing a book is a deeply collaborative process. Once my rough manuscript began passing through the hands of various readers, reviewers, and editors, it kept reemerging as something different and far stronger. This can be a painful process, especially when criticism strikes a raw nerve, but it improved the book significantly.

October 10th, 2017

The impetus for Larry Lipin’s most recent book, Eleanor Baldwin and the Woman’s Point of View, came while researching his previous book. Like an earworm that couldn’t be shaken, Larry kept coming back to Eleanor Baldwin’s story as a radical female journalist from Portland, Oregon. His book takes a nuanced and complicated look at Baldwin’s compelling, and at times seemingly paradoxical, intellectual journey in the previously forgotten account of Portland’s Progressive Era. Below, Larry gives us a glimpse into the contradictions within Baldwin’s character that made her so worth writing about.

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I first came across Eleanor Florence Baldwin while researching my book Workers and the Wild (University of Illinois Press, 2007) that explores Oregon labor and its changing relationship with nature. Baldwin had written a letter to the editor of the Oregon Labor Press (OLP) defending the right of poor working people to augment their wages and to provide some healthy leisure outside of the degradations of the workplace by fishing; she came out in support of measures that would limit the commercial take of salmon on the Willamette River.

A little later I came across a few other of Baldwin’s letters that spoke to some of the more divisive issues that made their way into that newspaper’s pages, notably defenses of the Bolsheviks and the anti-Catholicism that would be associated with the KKK. The OLP’s editor, Clarence Rynerson, had denounced the Klan as an anti-labor organization when it first appeared, but as the Invisible Empire grew more powerful in Oregon, the OLP grew more silent. It became evident that the solidarities of the trade union movement, like those of Oregon in general, had been rent apart by the Klan. Yet, Baldwin’s simultaneous support for Bolsheviks and Klansmen caught my attention. Enough so that while waiting for some materials at the Multnomah County library, I used their extensive card index (as quaint as that sounds) for individuals who appeared in the local press to seek out some information about this odd person. That led me to her obituaries.

It was then that I learned that Baldwin had been a female writer who for three years put together a daily woman’s column that had appeared on the editorial page of the Portland Evening Telegram between 1906 and 1909, that she honored the abolitionist memory of her minister father, and that she was a monetary theorist of sorts who brought nineteenth century greenbackism and anti-banker sentiment into the early twentieth century. This made her seem all the more interesting, as this Klan supporter had continually honored her family’s abolitionist stature.

Yet, there were things holding me back from committing to this project. Noting that her monetary tract—and a subsequent unpublished sequel—were held in the special collections department of the University of Oregon library, I drove from Portland to Eugene to read her tract. In it, Baldwin sought to convince her readers that money was a “force” and not a mere medium of exchange; I duly noted the argument, but came away unimpressed. The cultural use of electricity as a metaphor for both the human body and mind were familiar to me, but not that interesting. Still the contradictions of her biography bothered me and would not let me completely leave it at that. I decided I needed to read the columns.

After taking notes on many of them, I decided that this project was not worth the time that would be needed to read all nine-hundred columns, so I began to photocopy them off the microfilm reader. I knew I had a sabbatical coming up in the next couple of years and that I could use that to make sense of them. Desiring searchable data, I found a student of mine to transcribe them into word documents. That student, Caty Prechtal, soon came to know Baldwin better than I did; some of her email messages with transcribed documents came with exclamations of how interesting she was. As Ms. Prechtal had taken my Victorian gender and sexuality course at Pacific University, she knew the context in which Baldwin had lived and these expressions of interest were reasonably grounded. Her emails slowly but surely caught my attention, and so I began to read the columns in earnest.

What I found was a remarkably progressive woman, which did nothing to blunt the contradictions that I had originally found and which continued to perplex. But other things came into sharper focus. The columns made clear that Baldwin was an adherent of the emerging “New Thought” religious tradition, and Portland, I soon learned, had been a center for women who had moved into this religious belief system from spiritualism. New Thought came out of mind-cure circles in New England; it was significant enough to capture the attention of William James who wrote about it in his Varieties of Religious Experience. The gist was that the focused mind could not only cure the body, but that the collective mind could cure society of its illnesses. Though the tradition would eventually move towards the kind of mainstream religion as offered by Norman Vincent Peale or what some call “prosperity gospel,” in Baldwin’s day it nurtured a number of socialists who believed that the mind could bring forth a socialist utopia. This tradition was evident in many of her columns, as was her friendship with other local practitioners like Lucy Rose Mallory who published a monthly newspaper that melded together spiritualism, left-wing populism, and New Thought for decades, and the woman’s right activist, Clara Colby. I was pretty much convinced that I needed to write about Baldwin, if for no other reason than to alert others to the vitality of this tradition.

And, thus, I was motivated to return to Eugene to one more time go through her papers regarding the nature of money, and what I had previously thought had been incoherent became much clearer: Baldwin had been translating greenback labor theory into New Thought language. Her final and unpublished manuscript, written in the early 1920s as she was writing her defenses of both Bolsheviks and Klansmen, sought to reinvigorate the socialist possibilities in New Thought against the more individualistic and consumerist direction to which it was inevitably tending. All of a sudden, the incoherent and uninteresting was transformed into a fascinating, if unsuccessful attempt to adapt nineteenth century religious and political traditions into a meaningful political and spiritual statement for the developing mass consumer society of the twentieth century.

And in this way I committed to Eleanor Baldwin and the writing of this book.

August 17th, 2017

Dangerous SubjectsLast week’s events in Charlottesville serve as a chilling reminder of why it is essential for us to tell, and keep telling, the story of slavery in America. Oregon entered the union in 1859, just before the Civil War, under a cloud of deliberate racial exclusion that casts its shadow to the present day. These books from OSU Press confront, each in its own way, the legacy of slavery in Oregon.

BreakiBreaking Chainsng Chains: Slavery on Trial in Oregon by R. Gregory Nokes

The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders, and Murder in the Wartime West by Max G. Geier

Dangerous Subjects: James D. Saules and the Rise of Black Exclusion in Oregon by Kenneth R. Coleman (available October 2017)

A Force for Change: Beatrice Morrow Cannady and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Oregon, 1912-1936 by Kimberley Mangun

Lincoln and Oregon Country Politics in the Civil War Era by Richard W. Etulain

Remembering the Power of Words: The Life of an Oregon Activist, Legislator, and Community Leader by Avel Louise Gordly with Patricia A. Schechter

Outsiders in a Promised Land: Religious Activists in Pacific Northwest History by Dale Soden

Race and Science: Scientific Challenges to Racism in Modern America edited by Paul Farber and Hamilton Cravens

 

 

 

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