Sense of Place Lecture Series
Connecting people through place and storytelling.
Sense of Place (SOP) features scientists, tribal members, authors, farmers, and many others from throughout the Pacific Northwest. Presenters share their unique knowledge of the Columbia River Gorge and consider the natural, cultural, and political history that has shaped this place. The information and stories shared at these talks, deepens our understanding of the Gorge and strengthens our connection to the landscape and each other.
Check out this short film honoring the 10th Anniversary of Sense of Place.
POSTPONED to 2020-21: Rajneeshees in Oregon
An extraordinary time in Oregon history occurred in central Oregon when a religious sect from India set up an experiment on an abused cattle ranch outside Madras. In the 1980s, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh presided over a sect that professed self-sufficiency and love that morphed into a tightly-controlled organization that engaged in assassination attempts and plots, orchestrated the largest illegal wiretapping operation in U.S. history, and poisoned hundreds of innocent diners as a way to suppress voter turnout. Why did they come to Oregon and how did they descend into criminal conduct? Local, state and federal officials all were put under enormous pressure to confront the group, and they responded with varying measures of success. What are the lessons even today from those long-ago events? Two-time Pulitzer finalist Les Zaitz is an Oregon native. He started his professional journalism career right out of high school, hired in 1973 as a general assignment reporter for the Salem Statesman Journal. He continued writing as a staff reporter and correspondent while attending the University of Oregon, working for the Springfield News, the Oregon Journal, UPI, and the New York Times. From 1976-1987, he was a reporter for The Oregonian, handling various beats before taking an assignment in 1982 to the investigative team where he co-wrote a 20-part series about the Rajneeshees that was published in the Oregonian. More recently, he was included in the Netflix series Wild Wild Country, which looks at some of the history behind Rajneeshpuram in Oregon. Les is the editor and publisher of the weekly Malheur Enterprise newspaper, an award-winning newspaper based in Vale, Oregon. In 2018, he and a partner founded the Salem Reporter, a digital news service based in Oregon’s capital. He is the CEO and editor. Soon after its launch, Salem Reporter formed a collaboration with two other Oregon news organizations to create the Oregon Capital Bureau, focusing on state government reports. Les leads the team of three reporters as its editor. Les has won state, regional and national journalism awards for 40 years. In 2007, he was part of a team that won the prestigious George Polk Award. He is a five-time solo winner of Oregon’s Bruce Baer Award, the state’s top award for investigative reporting. The Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association in 2016 awarded him its highest honor for career achievement – an award not given since 2010. Les lives on a remote ranch in Grant County, where he and his wife, Scotta Callister, run a small horse/cow operation.
POSTPONED to 2020-21: Salmon People: A Confluence Story Gathering of Native Voices
First-person storytelling has a unique power to deepen our understanding of the histories, cultures, and environment that surrounds us. Confluence Story Gatherings are welcoming forums that feature the stories of Native elders, leaders and thinkers, told in their own voices, as a way to explore the interconnectedness of the people and places of the Columbia River system. These events feature video selections of first-person narratives and mini-documentaries, followed by discussions led by a panel of Native representatives. At this Story Gathering, speakers will share personal stories on Native fishing, resource management, and the Columbia River Indigenous cultures that have equally evolved from these practices and also continue to sustain them. Themes will include principles and practice, climate change and restoration. Carol Craig is an enrolled Yakama tribal member, Carol has 30 years of outreach experience related to tribal treaty rights, salmon recovery, tradition and culture. She has been nominated twice for the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership award. Currently, Carol is a reporter/photographer for the Yakama Nation Review and has received a number of journalism awards for her work. Wilbur Slockish is a hereditary Klickitat Chief, a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. He serves as a commissioner on the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Wilbur was one of several men who were arrested along with David Sohappy for “illegally” fishing and selling their fish in a case known as “Salmon Scam”. He concentrates his efforts on water quality and health issues related to the Hanford Nuclear Power Plant. Buck Jones is an enrolled Cayuse member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR). He was raised practicing sovereign rights including hunting, fishing, and gathering First Foods. Buck works for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) as a Field Marketing Specialist in the Salmon Marketing Program. This position allows Buck to work on markets, provide training for approximately 600 Tribal Fishermen, and be involved in national and regional Tribal Food Sovereignty Groups.
FEBRUARY 19, 2020: Debris Flows, Dam Removals, and Restoring Degraded Habitat: Shaping the Hood River Watershed Over the Past 30 Years
The Hood River Watershed sustains the Hood River Valley in countless ways – we depend on the river for agriculture, drinking water, recreation, industry, supporting native fish populations, and much more. Natural and human events have greatly impacted the watershed over time and shaped the way we connect with the river and each other. This lecture explored the pivotal events and actions over the past 30 years that have shaped the watershed as we know it today. Cindy Thieman has been the Coordinator of the Hood River Watershed Group since 2012, where she focuses on projects ranging from in-stream habitat restoration, irrigation district upgrades, and fish passage. Before coming to the Watershed Group, Cindy was the Restoration Program Director for the Long Tom Watershed Council in Eugene, where she worked with farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners in the Long Tom to develop restoration projects that improved water quality and habitat. Cindy received a MS in Biology and also in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon. Les Perkins grew up in the Hood River Valley and graduated from Hood River Valley High School. He earned a BS in Biology from Lewis and Clark College. Les has owned his own business and worked for a local laboratory as a microbiologist. In 2001, Les became the youngest person to be elected to the Hood River County Board of Commissioners, and he is now the longest serving Commissioner. Perkins also helped start Farmers Conservation Alliance, a local non-profit organization focusing on energy and water issues, where he worked for 10 years. In 2015 he became the manager for Farmers Irrigation District.
FEBRUARY 5, 2020: Finnish in the Gorge
In the early 1900s a Finnish community settled in the Hood River Valley. In particular the Annala, Hukari, and Jakku families. Why did they journey to the United States from Finland and then to the mines of Minnesota, plains of North Dakota, and finally to the West coast and the Columbia River Gorge? How did their migration change them as well as the community in which they settled? And what similarities and differences were there between the Finnish experience settling in the Gorge and that of another group, the Japanese? Maija Annala Yasui was born in Hood River in 1950 into an extended family of Finns. She enjoyed the traditions throughout her childhood without knowing that the culture in which she was growing up was different from others around her. The neighborhood of Oak Grove, where her father and extended family raised apples and pears, provided a sense of security and service. You couldn’t ride your bike around the block, Kenwood Drive, Reed Road, and Country Club without encountering an Annala, Hukari or Jakku home. Maija left Hood River to attend college, getting a bachelor of science degree in sociology and criminology from Portland State University. She returned when she married Flip Yasui and began farming and raising a family in the Odell area. She continues to live on Willow Flat Ranch with her husband of almost 50 years, a third-generation farmer, surrounded by her three children and seven grandchildren who continue to work on the farm as well. Maija worked in prevention research and practice for over twenty-five years, in the county as well as at the state and national level. She has written a monthly column for the Hood River News since 1992 recounting many of the stories of her youth, the Annala and Yasui families. She has also worked with author Lauren Kessler, The Stubborn Twig, with Lise Yasui on the documentary A Family Gathering, and her first writing adventure was in a writers’ workshop which resulted in several short stories Aakki Daakki to Zoomorphic, authored by Pat Krussow. Maija’s passion is social justice, working to right the wrong and to create a positive future for those suffering from discrimination and inequality.
NOVEMBER 20, 2019: Forgotten Toxic Waste Dump on the Columbia: The Bradford Island Story
Why are the fish at one of the most popular recreational fishing areas in the Mid-Columbia considered too toxic to eat? For over 40 years, the U.S. government dumped toxic pollution in and along the Columbia’s shorelines at Bradford Island, located near Bonneville Dam. But cleanup has languished and the area around the island is now one of the most toxic sites on the Columbia River. Cancer-causing PCB concentrations in resident fish remain extremely high and the area is also contaminated with lead, mercury, pesticides, and petroleum chemicals. The cleanup story involves many players and perspectives. A panel of speakers will describe the history of Bradford Island’s past, planned cleanup actions, current fish advisories in the area, and what the future may hold if proposed budget cuts for this cleanup are approved. Rebeccah Winnier is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and owns Northwest Fish Hogs, a Columbia Gorge-based fishing business. Ms. Winnier fishes in the Columbia River upstream of Bradford Island and sells salmon and steelhead to local restaurants and the public. Rebeccah lives in White Salmon, WA. Lauren Goldberg is the Legal and Program Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. Lauren’s practice areas focus on reducing toxic pollution and protecting salmon habitat and river communities from energy projects, including oil-by-rail, natural gas, and coal export projects. Lauren lives in Hood River, OR. Laura Klasner Shira joined the Yakama Nation Fisheries Program in 2015 to assist in their efforts to honor, protect, and restore the Columbia River basin. Her work focuses on cleanup of contaminated industrial sites and other environmental issues that impact the Columbia River water quality and aquatic resources. Prior to joining the Yakama team, Laura worked on similar issues as a regulator for the State of Washington and an environmental engineering consultant in Minnesota. In a past life, Laura also taught high school math and science.
OCTOBER 16, 2019: Traditional First Foods & The Creation Story
Each year, tribes in the Columbia River Basin celebrate the return of the salmon. It is part of an annual First Foods ceremony that honors the tribes’ Creation Story and their unique connection to the Pacific Northwest. This relationship has spanned thousands of years and hundreds of generations and their traditional First Foods give insight into how this coexistence between people and place has endured. Join “Smunitee” Mary Lee Jones as she shares her first-hand experience with Traditional First Foods and her tribe’s Creation Story. Mary Lee is a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She has coordinated Traditional Food Seminars throughout the Pacific Northwest, and is a traditional gatherer herself. In her professional life, she works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a Social Services Representative to those living and working along the Columbia River.
Thanks to all 2019-20 Sense of Place Sponsors!
Columbia Center for the Arts
Columbia Gorge Community College
Columbia Gorge Physical Therapy
Dog River Coffee
Farmer’s Conservation Alliance
Friends of the Columbia Gorge
Gorge Community Foundation
Hood River Hotel
Jay Sherrerd, Attorney at Law
Colleen Marilley & Jay Lyman
Kym & Mark Zanmiller
Mike Hendricks & Leanne Hogie
Sponsor information for the 2020-21 season will be available soon. Questions? Contact us here.
Season 11 planning has begun!
Location: Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River, OR.
Dates: Second or third Wednesdays, October 2020 – April 2021.
Tickets: will be available for the 2020-21 season in the upcoming months.
Requests for Proposals (RFP) for Season 11 will be available online in May 2020.
Who would you like to hear from in Season 11? What topics interest you? Let us know here.
During this challenging time, please consider making a donation to help keep the community connected through storytelling and support Sense of Place & Hear in the Gorge.