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Naming Oregon

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So out of the same ground the man was made from, the Eternal God sculpted every sort of animal and every kind of bird that flies up in the sky. Then He brought them to the man and gave him the authority to name each creature as he saw fit: whatever he decided to call it, that became its name.
Genesis 2:19 THE VOICE


Visions of swash-buckling explorers, storm-tossed sea navigators, and hard-tack pioneers are among the theories behind the naming of the state of Oregon.

Romance aside, many theories arise, but there is no one definite answer. With its diversified geography, it would be apropos that there would not be any one answer.

Some theories are much more convincing than others. That Oregon was named after the culinary herb oregano stretches the imagination.

Several theories put a European influence on her naming. A Portuguese navigator who heard the poetry of the waters of the Columbia River. A kingdom of Spanish Catalonia. The French word for hurricane Ouragan.

Theories made in America also abound. One includes an 18th-century error made by a mapmaker regarding the Wisconsin River. Or another from history: the Shoshone word that means River of the West.

One poetic theory encompasses the poem “Thanatopsis”, written by William Cullen Bryant. Published in 1817, the poem refers to Oregon as a river: “Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound.” Jonathan Carver, who wrote the book Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America, used the name Oregon in his book to refer to the Great River of the West. From this passage, Bryant wrote this idea for his poem.

Oregon also has a plethora of nicknames. Oregon became a state in 1859. Oregon then became the westernmost state of the United States and earned the nickname The Sunset State.

Other nicknames refer to her natural history: Hard-case refers to the hard life of the pioneers moving westward in their covered wagons. Webfoot refers to the rain total amounts west of the Cascades. The most well-known now, The Beaver State, is pictured on the backside of the state flag.

No matter the origin of the name, it was named, plausibly a conglomeration of the different and abundant theories.

God giving Adam the authority to name the creatures in the garden speaks more of just naming the birds and animals. He gave him authority to name, to create, and to rule over his surroundings with humility and wisdom.

We have a chance to speak life into our state – to name it Oregon again, a state of trailblazers, pioneers, and rebuilders.


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