August 28, 2012

The War of the Plucky Women

In case it’s not on your calendar, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

This is not, to put it delicately, a war that most Americans think about very often. We find it a little confusing, the fact that we fought Britain again after the Revolution. The notion that U.S. soldiers attacked Canada in the process is also surprising—at least to us. The citizens of Canada seem to be clear on this point.

For Canadians the War of 1812 is a pivotal moment in national history, the time when they defined themselves as Not Americans.

But for those of us south of the 49th parallel, other wars loom so much larger that the War of 1812 inevitably shrinks to a footnote. If pressed we might be able to name Francis Scott Key and The Star Spangled Banner, or Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, or Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture . . .

No, wait. That’s the Russians fighting Napoleon. Same year, different war. (more…)

August 19, 2012

Indian is Not a Dirty Word



Dear Editors in the Eastern Time Zone:

Allow me to show you my favorite summer ball cap. I bring it to your attention not for its traditional North Coast Native salmon motif (cleverly translated into outdoor sportsman colors) but for the embroidered monogram just above the fish.

NWIFC stands for Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. In addition to having very cool hats, the Commission is an organization of 20 federally recognized tribes who fish in the waterways around here, exercising historic rights guaranteed them by treaty.

I know you’re on full alert by now, itching to mark up my copy. I know because you make the same change every time I turn in a story that touches on Northwest tribes. But take a look at the hat again. The “I” on the hat stands for “Indian.”

It’s okay to call them that.  Really. (more…)

August 8, 2012


President William McKinley never got near the McKinley Stump. Teddy Roosevelt stood on it once, and later so did William Taft, but Mr. McKinley got himself shot before he made good on his promise to visit Chehalis, Washington. So McKinley never saw the stump the citizens of Chehalis prepared when they thought he was coming to visit. And the stump that McKinley never saw is not the enormous stump you can see, clearly labeled McKinley Stump, in front of the Lewis County Museum in the town of Chehalis today. The present stump is a “replica” of the one McKinley missed seeing when he failed to come to Chehalis in the spring of 1901.

McKinley was scheduled to stop in town while making a tour along the West Coast. Anticipating his visit, the folks of Chehalis proudly hauled a 12-foot-wide Douglas fir stump to town as a platform from which the president could deliver his whistle stop speech. Logging was Lewis County’s biggest industry back then. What better way to welcome the President of the United States than with a jaw-dropping souvenir of the magnificent Northwest woods?  They built the stump a charming gazebo, giving it a railing and roof, and waited for him to come. (more…)