“She Flies With Her Own Wings”
The state motto is Alis volatile propriis, or “She flies with her own wings.” It is said that you cannot manage people in Oregon, but you can lead them. We Oregonians take pride in our independence: we pioneered the direct election of U.S. Senators, and we were one of the first states to create the initiative and referendum process. There are many stories that reflect the unique character of this place “West of the West” that are worth reading:
- Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
- Mink River by Brian Doyle
- A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
- The River Why by David James Duncan
- Trask by Don Berry
- Wildmen, Wobblies, and Whistle Punks by Stewart Holbrook
All these and many others describe the life and culture of Western Oregon.
By the 16th century Western Oregon was home to many native people including the Chinook, Coquille, Klickitat, Molalla, and Umpqua. As white settlers arrived from the east, the historical occupation and implicit claims of the tribes were not recognized. Disease and violence were the outcome and tens of thousands died. Today, the remaining tribes in Western Oregon are: the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians; the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; the Confederated Tribes of Siletz; the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians; and the Coquille Indian Tribe.
The Oregon Territory was founded by Congress in 1848, and Oregon was approved as the 33rd state on February 14, 1859, despite controversy at the time as to whether or not it would be admitted. Democrats in the House of Representatives were in opposition as Oregon was to be a free state, while Republicans in the House hesitated primarily because of the 1844 Black Exclusion Law and the whites-only clause in the original state constitution. Though these laws were not always enforced, their existence has contributed to Oregon’s continued low non-white population when compared to many other states. Even with this history, Oregon has always had communities of non-white residents, and has recently seen increased immigration from other parts of the United States and the world.
This is a brief summary of our history, but much more information is available online in the Oregon Encyclopedia, particularly in their essays. The Oregon Encyclopedia is a project of the Oregon Historical Society, in partnership with several other institutions in the state.
Oregon Population Facts
The estimated population of Oregon in 2018, per the U.S. Census Bureau, was 4,190,713. Of this population, the racial and ethnic percentages are:
- 85.1% White
- 75.3% White alone (not Hispanic or Latino)
- 13.3% Hispanic or Latino
- 4.8% Asian
- 3.9% Two or more races
- 2.2% Black/African American
- 1.8% American Indian/Alaska Native
- 0.5% Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander
The Portland, Salem, and Eugene/Springfield metropolitan areas along the I-5 corridor are the most populous in the state. The Portland Metropolitan Area is home to about sixty percent of the state’s population, while another twenty percent are nearly evenly split between the Salem and Eugene/Springfield metropolitan areas.
We have vibrant Latino communities with people from Mexico and other Latin American countries, as well as Ukrainian, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, and other immigrants communities. Russian is also the third most spoken language in Oregon, after English and Spanish.
Forest products are still an important part of our economy, but it is also powered by various forms of agriculture and fishing, and by large enterprises including Nike and Columbia Sportswear, along with Intel and other high tech firms in the Silicon Forest west of Portland.
Western Oregon is also home to several well-known entrepreneurial companies that started small and reached national prominence. A few are:
- Springfield Creamery which produces Nancy’s Yogurt
- Alden’s Organic Ice Cream
- Tillamook Dairy and Cheese
- Dagoba Chocolate
- Stumptown Coffee
Oregon wine and wineries, especially wine made from the Pinot Noir grape varietal, are renowned as are the many microbreweries and small distilleries throughout Western Oregon.