More Words

Japanese_intern_lgIn Portland, the exclusion order issued on April 28, 1942, required all Portland residents [of Japanese descent} to report by May 5 to the assembly center in North Portland. Other orders followed around the state, with those from Hood River and Marion counties sent to Pinedale in northern California. Because people could only take what they could carry, families had to dispose of their businesses, furniture, and personal possessions. They had no idea where they were going or when they would return. It was a time of doubt, fear, and confusion.
-Oregon Encyclopedia

I was trying to imagine this.  You may have lived in Oregon your entire life.  You’re given one week to leave your home, your friends, your whole existence.  I wondered what kind of impression these events would have made on a young child.   I have an eight-year old son.  How would he make sense of this?   What would I tell him?  In the CMNW video my friend Nola Bogle, the wonderful jazz vocalist, talks about her personal experience.  She was four years old when her family was removed to Minnedoka Internment camp.

The Territory Mvt. 6: Stones into Blossoms

Mama where’s my room in this cold gray shack so far from home?
Patience daughter, sheltered in the lee of the cedar trees heavy with snow…

is a tiny bird, they have clipped her wings and she’s all alone.
Still her singing whispers on the wind
like the rain that falls on these dusty stones.

Mama what’s this fence?  This does not make sense. What did we do wrong?
Patience daughter, listen to the breeze through the cherry trees by the temple pond.

All the things we packed will they give them back? When do we go home?
We are drifting blossoms scattered to the ground like the stones that fall from the garden walls.

We are people without place.Girl @ Minnedoka-16
Tossed like stones on a riverbed.
In a promised land with a foreign face
for our heritage denied.
All our dreams stuffed in one suitcase
sink like stones to a river bed
“Shi kata ga nai” there are stones in our hearts.

Mama where are my friends? Will this nightmare end?
When can we go home?
Patience daughter ,gather up your tears lest this dusty land turn our hearts to stone.

We are people without place.
Tossed like stones on a riverbed.
They ignore our deeds and condemn our race,
for our heritage denied.
All our dreams stuffed in one suitcase
sink like stones to a riverbed.
“Shi kata ga nai” there are stones in our hearts.

We are people without place.
Tossed like stones on a riverbed.
In a promised land with a foreign face
for our heritage denied.
All our dreams stuffed in one suitcase
sink like stones to a riverbed

Close your eyes turn stones into blossoms, stones into blossoms

Internment memerial

(The phrase “Shikata ga nai” translates as “it cannot be helped,” and was an oft heard refrain in the face of this injustice.)



Chief_JosephI did an interview today with radio host and Portland writer Lynn Darroch on the jazz radio station KMHD.  Lynn posed the question of how I went about trying to capture the idea of territory in music.  The process for me is threefold.  First I need to find a story that I want to tell, a seed of inspiration.  Then I sit and listen to for the musical seeds that might come from reflecting on those stories.  The fun part for me is then looking for a point of view, much like a writer or a film maker would do.  Trying to find a place from which to tell the story.  For me this place is often discovered through words- whether text of lyrics I’m inspired to write, or  those of others.

This post has  some words that found their way into The Territory.  It has the practical purpose of letting whoever might be interested see the lyrics to those vocal movements of the piece, since there was not room for these in the concert program.

One figure whose words inspired me was the Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph.  Whether or not  Joseph was a great leader of the native people, or a prop of the US government is a matter for debate.  I think we are fortunate, however, that many of his words, which resonate with some profoundly wise thoughts, have been preserved.

One statement that inspired me was made to him by his father, Joseph the Elder, on his deathbed.  As is so often the case, the father charges the son with taking up the burden that he can no longer carry. I knew when I read these words that I wanted to use  them in the piece.  They provide the text for the verse section of Part 3: Chief Joseph’s Lament.

“My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.”

I was also inspired by Joseph’s famous Surrender Speech from October 5th, 1877

“Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

Together these two statements provided the impetus for the refrain of this movement.  That this man, whose spirit was broken, might in giving up have sown the seeds for the future.

Chief Joseph’s Lament

wallowaSo many miles
into the long ago…
All that was wild
courses below the ground.
So many hands
take what they do not own.
Scatter for years
all that our blood has sown

So many miles
into the long ago…
When we were wild,
rising to run the ground.
Sky father smiled
down on these bleached bones
Taught us to fly
carried away one by one.

The House We Live In


I live  in a 103 year-old house in a historic Portland neighborhood.  I know that in Portland this is not unusual.  These houses were built to last.  There is rarely a day that goes by, however,  that I am not struck by the thought of a century’s-worth of lives lived under this same roof, looking at these same walls, sitting down to supper in this dining room, gazing out at Mount Hood from these front windows.

After 14 years in this house, we are still discovering remnants of those lives: a sock full of foreign coins buried in the backyard; an old plastic toy lodged in a heating duct, crumbled newspapers in the attic, tantalizing scraps, clues to lives long gone.  Each time I see one, I want to know more.  I want to know about the conversations, the hopes, the arguments & reconciliations, the political discussions.  I want to know about the arrivals and departures, the guests, the Sunday dinners, the birthdays, the graduations, the new jobs, the plans big and small.

I want to know about the conversation in which it was decided to take out the kitchen stairs going up to the second floor. The house next door – a twin of ours, built in the same year by the same builder – still has them.  Who took ours out?  When and why?  Was it during World War I or II? Earlier? Later?

There is plumbing in the back bedroom on the 2nd floor.  Somebody took out the fixtures  and put up wall board to make a bigger closet.  Was was the idea there?   Paring down a master bathroom (not by our standards?)  taking out a small kitchen or maid’s quarters?  Moving out the mother-in law?

In my house we still have the original gas light fixtures in the front hall & living room.  Somewhere along the line somebody had to decide to put electric in.   I wonder if that was an easy decision. Did someone say electricity was “a needless modern extravagance,” or was it a “let’s get with the times?”  Was it a spouse’s demand, or an anniversary present?

Some of the clues about lives lived here are covered over by those that followed, like the layers of paint on these century-old window frames, (or layers of linoleum on the kitchen floor, of which we just added a new one last week.)

Every layer shiny and new, reminds me that I too will be gone someday, covered over. I  too am temporary.

And then there are the features that last, that I love about this house, but had nothing to do with. I inherited them.  They are the evidence that individuals over this 100-plus years cared.  They invested themselves in this house. Someone put in beautiful fir floors, probably from logs left over from ship building.  And somebody polished them.  Someone put in leaded glass windows that I can’t bring myself to replace with something more energy-efficient.  Someone more dedicated than I stripped the lovely built-in’s of an ill-advised mid-century paint-job and stained them to bring out the grain of all that glorious wood.

I don’t know who these people were.  I’ve done a little digging.  I try to keep some clues when I find them.  There is an etching on the wall by my friend and neighborhood historian Steven Leflar of Mabel, the octagenarian, who owned the house until the 1970’s. She was here a long time.  I bought a  ship’s wheel that I put in the upstairs hall to remind me of the man who built this house, and worked at the shipyards right down on the Willamette.

But these mementos are just echos of those who lived here.  Kind of like the place names that fill the territory that we occupy.  We see them everyday.  We rarely  think about what they mean,  the lives they represent,  and the fact that we are just inheritors of their home.

Here lived

The Clack-a-ma, whose river we call Clackamas.

The At-fal-a-tu [or Tu-al-a-ti], on the river we call Tualatin

The Mo-la-la, who lived from Mount Hood to Mount Scott and on Molala river, in Clackamas county, Oregon.

The Ya-quin-a, who lived about Yaquina bay and river, Lincoln county, Oregon.

The Al-se-a,  who lived along the Alsea river in Lincoln county, Oregon.

The Si-u-slaw, who lived along the Siuslaw river in Lane county, Oregon.

The Cay-use, who lived on the headwaters of the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Grande Ronde rivers in Umatilla and Union counties, Oregon.  Their territory also extended from the Blue mountains to the Des Chutes river.

The Nez Perce [Sahaptin or Chopunnish] who lived in the Clearwater River Basin, on the South and Middle forks of the Salmon River Basin and their tributaries.

The Klick-i-tat, who lived in Klickitat and Skamania counties, Washington.

The Um-a-til-la,who  lived on the Umatilla river in Umatilla county, Oregon.

The Klam-ath, who lived on the Upper Klamath lake in Klamath county, Oregon.

The San-ti-am, lived on the Santiam river in Linn county, Oregon.

The Till-a-mook, who lived in Tillamook county, Oregon.

The Si-letz, who lived on the Siletz river, Lincoln county, Oregon.

The Tlatskanai, who lived on the Clatskanie river, Columbia county, Oregon;

The Ump-qua, who lived on the Umpqua river, Douglas county, Oregon.

The Coquille, or Mishikhwutmetunne, lived on the Coquille river in Coos county, Oregon.

The Chin-ook, who lived at the mouth of the Columbia in Pacific county, Washinton. Their language formed the basis of the Chinook jargon and has given the name for the Chinook wind.

The Wal-la Wal-la, who  lived on the lower part of the Walla Walla river and on the east side of the Columbia river in Walla Walla county, Washington.

The Clat-sop, whose name means “dried salmon;” lived along the Columbia from its mouth to Tongue Point and along the coast to Tillamook Head in Clatsop county, Oregon.

The Dalles, resided at The Dalles, Wasco county, Oregon, and on the opposite side of the Columbia river in Klickitat county, Washington.

Was-co, or [Ga-las-go], which means “cup or bowl,” from a cup-shaped rock near the main village near the Dalles, Wasco county, Oregon.

Mult-no-mah, meaning “down river,” a tribe living on the upper end of Sauvie’s island, Multnomah county, Oregon. The term is also used to include all the tribes living on or near the lower Willamette river.

The Yak-im-a [or Cut-sah-nim], lived along the Columbia river and on the upper branches of the Yakima and the Wenatchee rivers in Benton, Grant, Douglas, Chelan, Kittitas and Yakima counties, Washington

The Pa-Loose, lived on the Palouse river and the northern side of the Snake river in Whitman, Adams and Franklin counties, Washington, and Latah county, Idaho.

And so many more whose names we have lost.

We inherited their homes.  We too will be gone someday, covered over.  I hope we leave some beauty worthy of remembrance.  The first movement of The Territory, “Hymn to the Four Winds” is dedicated to those whose house we live in.

IndianLands map

Thanks to the website “The Indians of Old Oregon for this history.

The Myth of Oregon

How much of the territory is real? How much is myth?

From the Oregon Trail to Portlandia, this has been a place of imagined perfection. A place where people dreamed of reinventing themselves, a backdrop for  utopian aspirations, from the Aurora Commune to Rajneeshpuram.

The journey to Oregon is part of American mythology. Not to mention college humor.

I’m betting that everyone, natives and transplant, has some myth they carry about this place. My Oregon myth goes like this:

When I describe my discovery of Oregon I usually say that I first came to Oregon on a church choir tour when I was eleven. But the truth is, I don’t know if that was really how it happened.  Was I really eleven? Was it really Portland I came to.  In my mind it is real.  I remember the green. But which highway I viewed it from, where exactly was I? I couldn’t say with certainty.  Maybe it is just Oregon in my mind.  My personal myth. My claim to the territory.

And maybe that’s not the part that matters.  What matters is what you build on top of that myth.

Do you build a place of progressive values, equity, and openness to  diversity, or do you pursue a utopian fantasy that excludes  anyone different.  Oregon has always been both.

A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940

During the Civil War, the legislature passed the last anti-black state laws, with the exception of the ban on intermarriage passed in 1866. Between 1866 and 1872, the legislature was required to consider ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which gave citizenship to black people and the right to vote to black men. It was clear, however, that these amendments were unpopular with most Oregonians.

As early as 1843, Robert Newell, who had married an Indian woman, stated his objections to allowing black men to vote.I think we have got high enough among the dark clouds; I do not believe we ought to go any higher. It is well enough to admit the English, the French, the Spanish and the half-breeds, but the Indian and the Negro is a little too dark for me. I think we had better stop at the half-breeds. I am in favor of limiting the vote to them, and going no farther into the dark clouds to admit the Negro.

In 1865, the Oregonian commented:The man who–knowing of the African race in our country-favors the extension of the privileges of citizenship to them, is surely reckless of the consequences, and regardless of the future result . . . The Negroes as a class possess no capacity of self-government, and the few who are intelligent enough to take part in public affairs are offset by the multitude who don’t . . . this nation of the white race should well ponder the question before it admits the African, the Mongolian and the Indian to all its privileges?

The Oregon Statesman, in an editorial published the same year, predicted that giving the vote to blacks would have a revolutionary influence on society. We do not believe that any democratic or republican form of government can successfully govern two separate and distinct races of people in large numbers with equal political rights to both races?  Not only those few qualified blacks, but the masses just released from slavery would be able to vote. Full suffrage would result in a “war of the races,” the editorial concluded.  If we make the African a citizen, we cannot deny the same right to the Indian or the Mongolian (the Chinese, Japanese and other Asians). Then how long would we have peace and prosperity when four races separate, distinct and antagonistic should be at the polls and contend for the control of government?

This legislature also passed another law prohibiting intermarriage. It was directed not only against white/black marriages, but against anyone with “one-fourth or more Negro, Chinese or [Hawaiian] blood, or any person having more than one-half Indian blood.  It was passed with little debate; the combined vote was forty-seven in favor, eight opposed and three absent. The penalty for disobeying the law was a prison sentence of not less than three months, or up to one year. Any person authorized to conduct marriages who broke the law by marrying two people illegally was subject to the same penalty,

Inside the Territory Part 2: The Myth of Oregon

What is Territory? Part 1

Old Coos  Bay

On my old laptop, my screensaver says

“You’re not mapping anymore.  You’re on the territory.”

It’s a quote from my former therapist, that I wanted to see every day to  remind me that planning for an experience can only take one so far.  A good map is useful, but it is not the territory. The territory is lived experience.

Territory:  “a field or sphere of action, thought, etc.; a domain or province of something.”

In 2009, I was invited to present a concert at the Oregon Coast Music Festival in Coos Bay.  I wanted to create something special that connected to the community, so I did some research into its history, or the region and it’s inhabitants.

At the time I was in the process of putting together a new band, one that would explore material not usually associated with jazz, but music that embodied a kind of meaningful essence, music of John Lennon, Bob Dylan,The Neville Brothers and Keith Jarrett.

The music inspiration for this move was a recording by drummer Brian Blade called Mama Rosa, one of the most beautiful records I have ever heard. Brian singing his own original songs, poetic stories along the lines of my favorite songwriters, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor.

Here is a track from that album

So I started a band called “On the Territory,” and our debut in Coos Bay was one of the most rewarding concerts I’ve ever played.

The why is pretty obvious.  Because it was not just a generic performance, because it was  connected to the people and place that it occurred, it  allowed me to come to know a new place in a way I never would have had I just showed up and played.

It was a wonderful process of discovery.  Here is one  of the gems.

Coos Bay poem
Grace McCormac French, born 1881, Marshfield, OR

I live in an inland valley
But my heart yearns for the sea.
I come from a race of sailor men
And they left that love to me.
Fog enfolded all the landscape
On a cool October day
And my thoughts began to center
Round my old home on Coos Bay…

And then – I heard a steamer whistle
As it left the lower bay,
Yet I knew ‘twas the noon time signal
In a town six miles away.
But to me it seemed to say
Come back, come back you wanderer,
Come back to old Coos Bay…

I know – I’ll hear the sea gulls screeching
When my ship sails in the bay
Past the cape where stands the lighthouse
And the cliffs all wet with spray,
Then my happy heart will say –
You’re home, you’re home, you wanderer,
It’s home on dear old Coos Bay.