Oregon has been home to many indigenous nations for thousands of years. The first European traders, explorers, and settlers began exploring what is now Oregon's Pacific coast in the early to mid-16th century. As early as 1564, the Spanish began sending vessels northeast from the Philippines, riding the Kuroshio Current in a sweeping circular route across the northern part of the Pacific. In 1592, Juan de Fuca undertook detailed mapping and studies of ocean currents in the Pacific Northwest, including the Oregon coast as well as the strait now bearing his name. The Lewis and Clark Expedition traversed Oregon in the early 1800s, and the first permanent European settlements in Oregon were established by fur trappers and traders. In 1843, an autonomous government was formed in the Oregon Country, and the Oregon Territory was created in 1848. Oregon became the 33rd state of the U.S. on February 14, 1859.
Today, with 4.2 million people over 98,000 square miles (250,000 km2), Oregon is the ninth largest and 27th most populous U.S. state. The capital, Salem, is the second-most populous city in Oregon, with 177,723 residents. Portland, with 652,503, ranks as the 26th among U.S. cities. The Portland metropolitan area, which includes neighboring counties in Washington, is the 25th largest metro area in the nation, with a population of 2,512,859. (Full article...)
The Columbia River is a river that flows from the Canadian province of British Columbia, through the U.S. state of Washington, and forms much of the border between Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. It is the largest river (measured by volume) flowing into the Pacific from the Western Hemisphere, and is the fourth-largest in North America. It is 1,243 miles (2,000 km) long and drains a 258,000 square miles (670,000 km2) basin. Humans have lived along the river for as many as 10,000 years. Natives enjoyed plentiful salmon, which could be easily caught during their spawning season; Celilo Falls, just east of the Columbia River Gorge, was an important fishing site, and also a regional trading hub, for many millennia. In 1775, Bruno de Heceta became the first European to sight the river's mouth from the Pacific. Spanish, American, and British explorers sought the river, seeking furs to trade and a navigable passage to the east coast of the continent. The river proved elusive until 1792, when American Robert Gray entered the river's mouth and named the river after his ship; and the English captain George Vancouver's crew explored it as far upstream as the Sandy River. Navigation by steamboats, and later by railroads along the river, was crucial to the settlement and trade in the 19th century. The Columbia's heavy flow, and its large elevation drop over a relatively short distance, give it tremendous potential for hydroelectricity generation. 14 dams on the Columbia, and many more on its tributaries, were built in the 20th century. The dams, and other industry near the river, profoundly altered the ecology and economy of the region; today Celilo Falls and other fishing sites have been flooded by lakes, which make up nearly the entire length of the once free-flowing river. The once plentiful salmon now struggle to reach their spawning grounds, and the removal of some of the dams to mitigate their impact on the fish is increasingly under consideration.
Mr. Chairman, when Oregonians first adopted the Death With Dignity Act and then defended it on a second ballot initiative, they sent their government a clear message. When the American people resisted government interference in the tragic case of Terri Schiavo, they sent their government a clear message. That message is that death is an intensely personal and private moment, and in those moments, the government ought to leave well enough alone.