Tag Archives: The Oregon Treaty

His Fathers’ Hair

Ten years ago, Michael Langley decided to grow his hair out.

His Fathers’ Hair from Kaley Perkins on Vimeo.

Langley is a member of The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Grand Ronde, Oregon, a tribe that was established, terminated, and restored by the federal government. Already a conglomeration of multiple tribes and various languages throughout the northwest, the Tribe has struggled for an identity amidst a generation of elders who were so successfully assimilated that their traditions, ceremonies, and oral histories were largely lost - their generation-weaving voices silenced.

Langley grew up in Tillamook, Oregon where his grandfather moved to find work; he attended Portland State University and now serves as auditor of the Spirit Mountain Casino. He has returned to the reservation with the vision of seeing his people create a new identity for themselves: an identity both relevant and meaningful.

In this piece Langley explains the symbolic context that growing his hair has provided to both his personal and tribal identity as a modern Indian.


flattr this!

Not Just Anyone Uses an Anvil These Days

National park volunteer, (“Pecos”) Bill Evans staffs the blacksmith shop at Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Wash., teaching local history to visitors and demonstrating the  area blacksmith craft as practiced in the early- to mid-1800’s. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

Activating the two-staged grand billow above and to the left of him, national park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans, stokes the fire. Evans is making a lantern peg, and to reshape the bar, it needs to be malleable. According to Evans, temperatures in the Fort’s ovens reach 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans, uses a mallet to shape one end of an iron bar into a spike. Evans will be shaping the other end into a “hook” from which a lantern will hang. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer at Fort Vancouver’s blacksmith shop, Bill Evans, uses a mallet to reshape a piece of iron into a lantern hanger. Evans explains that contemporary iron work is often made in China and shows hammer marks in a bid to appear authentic. True artisans, Evans points out, would take pride in not having their work mar the finished product. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans shows a finished lantern hanger which he made using the ovens, Champion pliers, tongs, hammers, mallets, and the anvil from Fort Vancouver’s blacksmith’s shop. As volunteers in the only active blacksmith shop in the nation’s national park system, Evans and fellow volunteers make hardware for buildings on the national historic register, including those found at Williamsburg, Virginia. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

A clanging staccato punctuates the gravel-floored workshop as Bill Evans strikes metal mallet to iron bar. Evans, a National Park Service volunteer and blacksmith at Fort Vancouver, scrapes ashes from the glowing metal bar with a screechy wire brush before resuming his rhythm, only to return the cooled rod to the fire a few seconds later. Evans beats the iron bar into submission the old-fashioned way, using fire, tongs, a mallet, and an anvil.

Over the stirring, cracking, clanking, striking, scraping, and billow-pumping that mark his trade, Evans narrates the role the Hudson’s Bay Company played in the settlement of the Pacific Northwest in the early- to mid-1800’s. A retired couple listens from behind a cordon as Evans speaks of Dr. John McLoughlin, and his 20-year tenure as Chief Factor over the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fort.

Under McLoughlin’s leadership, the Hudson’s Bay Company monopolized the  fur trade west of the Rocky Mountains, and it was from here that beaver pelts and other trade goods were sent back to Great Britain. According to the National Park Service, thirty-five ethnic groups had trade dealings with the fort.

From 1825-1849, the fort’s blacksmith shop was responsible for making and repairing beaver traps, trade good axes, buckets, implements, and building hardware to support the company’s operations. The original shop, perched just north of the gentle banks of the Columbia River, provided metal-working services to anchored ships as well.

Great Britain and the expanding American nation disputed ownership over the land north of the Columbia River and south of the 49th parallel. The mutual signing of The Oregon Treaty on August 5, 1946 resolved the dispute, making the 49th parallel the border between the nations.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, one of Britain’s oldest corporations, eventually moved north to Canada where it remains active to this day.

After having been deserted, the fort fell into disrepair and was destroyed by fire in 1866. Though no blueprints of the original post remain, Evans reported that re-builders were able to locate the anvil stump and determined that the oven would have been positioned a quarter-turn away. Today, Fort Vancouver National Park is one of 401 sites included as part of the National Park Service.

Fort Vancouver is host to the only working blacksmith shop in the U.S. National Park Service system. Its volunteers fashion hardware for the historic buildings on the park service registry, including those for Williamsburg, Virginia.

flattr this!