Oregon — History and Culture
As one of the last parts of America to be explored and settled, Oregon still retains a lot of its initial frontier pioneering spirit. Its economy was built on its natural resources, and the state has always made huge efforts to manage and protect its environment. Oregon is also a very liberal, forward-thinking place often at the forefront of new social ideas like same-sex marriage. Though a relative pup in historical terms, Oregon makes up for it with incomparable natural beauty and a population of hardy, free-thinking folks who don’t mind a little rain.
Oregon and the Pacific Northwest have been home to Native American tribes for the past 10,000 years. Many notable tribes call Oregon home, including the Chinook, Klamath, Nez Perce, and Umpqua. All Native Americans were settled onto reservations in the 19th century but the process was significantly more peaceful than the forced relocations of tribes from the Plains and the eastern US. Today, most Oregon Indian reservations have casinos that provide them with much of their revenue.
Though the Spanish were the first Europeans to explore the Oregon coast, it was the British who really established a foothold in the region. British explorer James Cook mapped the coast in 1778, but it wasn’t until the Lewis and Clark Expedition made it to the mouth of the Columbia River in 1804 that settlement began in earnest.
The wealthy New Yorker John Jacob Astor financed the first permanent settlement in Oregon in 1811 when he founded Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River. Astoria remains one of the prettiest towns on the Oregon coast today. Fur trapping and trading was the first major industry in the region.
In 1842 the Oregon Trail opened up the entire state to pioneers seeking a better life from the eastern US. This trail is still visible today, with historic markers at several key sites, and some sections developed for recreation. With the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in the 1880s, Oregon’s resources really began to be exploited.
Timber was a major industry throughout the state right up to recent times, when conservationists managed to get better protection measures from the government. Most of Oregon’s modern economy is based around timber, salmon fishing, and power generation from its river hydroelectric dams. Tourism also plays a big role in Oregon, and cities like Portland have emerged as favorites for technology and environmental firms.
Whether or not you’ve ever been to Oregon you probably know that it rains a lot here. Visitors often wonder why anyone would want to endure eight months of cloudy soggy weather. The answer is simple: the summer. Those four glorious months make up for all the other grey days, so the residents of Oregon have learned to be patient and adapt. Sure, this state has a shocking suicide rate. But overall, the people are hardy, forward-thinking folks.
Portland epitomizes the progressive attitude of most Oregonians. It has strict environmental policies, embraces controversial ideas like same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use. Oregon does a lot to protect its beautiful environment and to create the kind of place where everyone feels welcome. There is no sales tax, a factor that never fails to keep locals happy. There is also a genuine embrace of outdoor recreation, from active sports to passive beachcombing.