Oregon (locally pronounced "OR-uh-gun") is a state located in the western United States bordering the Pacific Ocean, California, Washington, Idaho, and Nevada. Its northern border lies along the Columbia River and the east along the Snake River. Two north-south mountain ranges - the Coastal Range and the Cascade Mountain Range - form the two boundaries of the Willamette Valley, one of the most fertile and agriculturally productive regions in the world. Oregon is known for its abundant rainfall, but only the western half of the state is notably rainy; east of the Cascades the climate is much more arid.
Brief History of Oregon
Oregon′s earliest residents were several Native American tribes, including the Bannock, Chinook, Klamath, and Nez Perce. James Cook explored the coast in 1778 in search of the Northwest Passage. The Lewis and Clark Expedition travelled through the region during their expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase. They built their winter fort at Fort Clatsop, near the mouth of the Columbia River. Exploration by Lewis and Clark (1805-1806) and Britain′s David Thompson (1811) publicized the abundance of fur in the area. In 1811, New York financier John Jacob Astor established Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River with the intention of starting a chain of Pacific Fur Company trading posts along the river. Fort Astoria was the first permanent white settlement in Oregon. In the War of 1812, the British gained control of all of the Pacific Fur Company posts.
By the 1820s and 1830s, the British Hudson′s Bay Company dominated the Pacific Northwest. John McLoughlin, who was appointed the Company′s Chief Factor of the Columbia District, built Fort Vancouver in 1825.
The Oregon Trail infused the region with new settlers, starting in 1842-43, after the U.S. agreed to jointly settle the Oregon Country with the United Kingdom. The border was resolved in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty after a period where it seemed that the United States and the United Kingdom would go to war for a third time in 75 years. In 1844, the Democrat James_Polk ran for President on the slogan "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight," referring to the northern border of the Oregon Country at latitude 54°40′. Cooler heads prevailed, and the boundary between the United States and British North America was set at the 49th parallel. The Oregon Territory was officially organized in 1848.
Settlement increased due to the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, in conjunction with the forced relocation of the native population to Indian Reservations in Oregon. The state was admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859.
In the 1880s, railroads enabled marketing of the state′s lumber and wheat, as well as the more rapid growth of its cities.
Industrial expansion began in earnest following the construction of the Bonneville Dam in 1943 on the Columbia River. The power, food, and lumber provided by Oregon have helped fuel the development of the west, and the periodic fluctuations in the nation′s building industry has severely impacted the state′s economy on multiple occasions.
The state has a long history of polarizing conflicts: Native Americans vs. British fur trappers, British vs. settlers from the U.S., ranchers vs. farmers, wealthy growing cities vs. established but poor rural areas, loggers vs. environmentalists, white supremacists vs. anti-racists, supporters of social spending vs. anti-tax activists, and native Oregonians vs. Californians (or outsiders in general). State ballots frequently illustrate the extremes of the political spectrum - anti-gay, pro-religious measures on the same ballot as liberal drug decriminalization measures.
The origin of "Oregon"
The origin of the state′s name is something of a mystery. The earliest known use of this proper noun was in a 1765 petition by Major Robert Rogers to the Kingdom of Great Britain. The petition referred to Ouragon and asked for money to finance an expedition in search of the Northwest Passage.
Why Rogers used the name has led to many theories, which include:
- George R. Stewart argued in a 1944 article in American Speech that the name came from an engraver′s error in a French map published in the early 1700s, naming the Ouisiconsink (Wisconsin River). This theory was endorsed in Oregon Geographic Names as "the most plausible explanation."
- In 2001, Scott Byram, (currently the archaeologist for the Coquille Indian Tribe), and David G. Lewis published an article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly argued that the name Oregon came from the word oolighan, referring to grease made from fish, which the Native Americans of the region traded in. Those trade routes brought the term eastward. 
- In a 2004 article for the Oregon Historical Quarterly, professor Thomas Love and Smithsonian linguist Ives Goddard argue that Rogers chose the word based on exposure to either of the Algonquian words wauregan and olighin, both meaning "good and beautiful". Olighin was one of the early names for the Ohio River, shown on a 1680s map of the explorations of René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. Rogers is likely to have heard the terms because of his frequent encounters with Mohegans in the late 1750s.
Less supported theories are based on it having a Spanish etymology. The theory that it comes from oregano, was dismissed years ago by Henry W. Scott, an early editor of Oregonian. He wrote that it was "a mere conjecture absolutely without support. More than this, it is completely disproved by all that is known of the name." Others have speculated that the name is related to the kingdom of Aragon.
In 1778, Jonathan Carver used Oregon to label the Great River of the West in his book Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America. The poet William Cullen Bryant took the name from Carver′s book and used it in his poem "Thanatopsis" to refer to the recent discoveries of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; this use helped establish it in modern use.
- State flower: Oregon grape (since 1899)
- State song: Oregon, My Oregon (written in 1920 and adopted in 1927)
- State bird: Western meadowlark (chosen by the state′s children in 1927)
- State tree: Douglas-fir (since 1939)
- State fish: Chinook salmon (since 1961)
- State rock: Thunderegg (like a geode but formed in a rhyolitic lava flow; since 1965)
- State animal: Beaver (since 1969)
- State dance: Square Dance
- State insect: Oregon Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio oregonius; since 1979)
- State gemstone: Oregon sunstone, a type of feldspar (since 1987)
- State nut: Hazelnut (since 1989)
- State seashell: Oregon hairy triton (Fusitriton oregonensis, a gastropod in the cymatiidae family; since 1991)
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