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Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

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4/12/2005 Oregon origins explained during talk at Linfield library

McMINNVILLE - Tom Love, Linfield professor of anthropology, will present "The Curious Origin of the Name Oregon" Wednesday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m., in the Austin Reading Room of the Jereld R. Nicholson Library.

Two problems have stymied efforts by generations of scholars to resolve the meaning of the name Oregon. The general course of its history can be traced with reasonable certainty after 1765, when Robert Rogers, a larger-than-life frontiersman of the late British colonial period, first referred to "The River called by the Indians Ouragon" in a petition to the king of England. But what is the origin of the word itself: from which Indian language did it come and what did it mean? And what were Rogers’ reasons for using this name?

Drawing on work with Smithsonian linguist Ives Goddard, Love will show how Rogers likely learned this term directly from New England Indians and applied it to the fabled but then as yet unnamed River of the West. In the process, he’ll explain that the name Oregon ties together many of the major players and trends in North American history including various Indian groups, the French and the British, as Europeans advanced westward to the Pacific.

Love and Goddard co-authored a paper detailing their findings, "Oregon, The Beautiful," published in the Oregon Historical Quarterly in June 2004.

Love is professor of anthropology and chair of Linfield’s environmental studies program, and has been on the Linfield faculty since 1983. A fifth generation Portlander, he became interested in this project when he discovered, with students in an introductory anthropology class, that the origin of the name Oregon was unknown.

The event is sponsored by Friends of Nicholson Library and Friends of McMinnville Public Library, and is free and open to the public. For more information, call 503-883-2517.