First Peoples

Northern Oregon and the Cold War

Here’s a map of Oregon from 1846. The line that divides it in half is the proposed border along the 49th parallel, that became law twelve years later and separated British and American territory.1846_Oregon_territory-2Here it is again with my country roughly outlined in its heart. I live very close to the top of that oval. The entire oval is very roughly the central body of Syilx territory, but the northern reaches of it are its heart.


Here it is in a larger sense. This rectangle very roughly maps the salmon territory of regional interest, and even more roughly the geographic region which speaks to the hearts of all of us who live here.

threeThe formation of the border led to many gold rushes just north of the 49th Parallel in 1858, which led to British takeover of the unorganized territory north of the line, to prevent its absorption into the United States. Canadians effected a rather hostile takeover in 1871, and because of that takeover Canada eventually occupied the land from sea to sea, tied together across empty space by a new railroad.  Before that, however, local trade and settlement ran north south, as if the border wasn’t there. After all, you can’t put a wall through the heart and expect it to last.

P1170639East German Guard Tower on the B4 Road to Eisenach

The first tower erected outside of Berlin when the Wall went up in 1963. No man’s land was the strip of green grass to the left of the wheat field.



Former Electrification Station for the Electrified Fence Dividing East from West

Artificial divisions can only last so long. Some day there will be no Canada or United States. We need to lay the foundations for that future, even if it is five hundred years from now.

For one thing, that means to stop mining the land for wealth but to bring wealth to it. A people who intend their great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren to live on a land do not deplete it and do not intend to profit from it. The future is their profit. I mean, what on earth other kind of profit can there be? Anything else is a loss. We had to fight this with the anti-nuclear movement in the 1970s. We were very clear about it back then: if there’s no future, there’s no past and all acts are meaningless. It seems we aren’t done combating that paralysis yet.

3 replies »

  1. Does anyone remember Joel Garreau’s 1981 book, _The Nine Nations of North America_? A good read, in my recollection. Also _Ecotopia_ by Ernest Callenbach, from the mid-70s. Heard Callenbach talk at UC Santa Cruz in 1998–a courtly man and eloquent speaker.

    I tell my students that I feel much more a westerner than an “American” or a Canadian, and they seem to take that in stride. Wallace Stegner helped get me to that, and the irony is that I had not heard of him until I landed in Saskatoon in 1969, where a new friend aimed me at _Wolfwillow_. And my dad was a bit of a California/Western history/lit buff!

    Recommended: an excellent essay by Patrician Nelson Limerick on “discovering America from West to East,” easy to find on line.


    • Thanks! I’ll look these up. I’m interested in how Garreau parses the Columbia Plateau. And Nelson’s essay sounds intriguing. Thanks. Best, Harold


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