Your Weekend Reader for May 27-28

by | May 27, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

Happy Memorial Day weekend! Writing from Corvallis, it feels again as if the town has emptied out for the weekend — except for the lines at the gas station and the grocery store. I wonder what’s up with that.

Here’s a bit of sad news to begin this week’s compendium: Kathryn Jones Harrison, an influential Oregon tribal leader who was essential in regaining federal recognition for two state tribes — and who is the namesake for Corvallis’ Kathryn Jones Harrison Elementary School — died May 21 at the age of 99. Nick Gibson of The Oregonian/OregonLive has a well-done obituary for Harrison. Shortly after Harrison’s election to the Siletz Tribal Council in 1975, she began agitating on behalf of the 61 tribes in Oregon that lost federal recognition under the Western Oregon Indian Termination Act of 1954. She testified before Congress in 1976 to regain tribal recognition for the Siletz and then did the same thing in 1983 on behalf of the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde.

If you’re not familiar with the U.S. government’s shameful actions regarding the so-called termination era, from the 1940s to the 1960s, a relatively painless way to start is with Louise Erdrich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Night Watchman,” which is set in the 1950s against a backdrop of termination. The book might be Erdrich’s masterpiece — but a few other of her novels offer stiff competition. (I’m a fan.)

In her afterword to “The Night Watchman,” Erdrich writes these words: “If you should be of the conviction that we are powerless to change … let this book give you heart.” And if you should be of the conviction that you’re too old to make a difference, remember that Kathryn Jones Harrison didn’t really start her work with Indigenous civil rights until she was 50.

Speaking of obituaries: Your Weekend Reader has, from time to time, written about the tragedy of the Eugene Register-Guard — once among the best newspapers its size in the nation — which simply has been gutted under Gannett ownership. Now, Jeff Manning of The Oregonian/OregonLive goes deep with a feature story examining the agonizing decline of the Register-Guard. It can be tricky for newspapers to do these stories on other newspapers, because every paper has gone through tough times lately, and that includes The Oregonian. Give Manning credit for spending some time outlining The Oregonian’s recent woes. The key difference that I can see between Advance Local, which owns The Oregonian, and Gannett is that the former has retained its sense that a local newspaper exists not just to make money but to also serve its community. There’s not even a slight sense of that anymore with Gannett. (Manning’s story, by the way, quotes Shanna Cannon, a former Register-Guard publisher who also served briefly as the publisher at the Gazette-Times and Democrat-Herald.)

We’ll know Monday for sure, when we learn the locations of the 16 sites that will host the regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament — but the Oregon State Beavers didn’t do themselves any favors in making the case for hosting during this week’s Pac-12 tournament. The Beavers surrendered 27 runs in two losses, and packed their bags for a return trip to Corvallis much sooner than expected — and now, with big questions surrounding the team’s pitching. (To be sure, the Beavers did score 22 runs in the two losses, but hits will be harder to find as postseason play continues.) The Beavers still appear to be a lock to make the NCAA tournament, but — as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive explains in this story, available only to subscribers, the team will need a big break or two to earn the right to host a regional.

It’s been a busy week for the Weekend Reader’s wildlife desk: Perhaps you’ve already noticed the story about a 25-pound snapping turtle — “a menace to human hands and feet” — captured in Harrisburg in April. Snapping turtles (an invasive species, by the way) are aptly named: They bite when threatened and their beaks are sharp. You probably also noticed the story about the black bear in the Portland area that’s been seen six times in eight days in northwest Portland, rummaging around trash; the risk, of course, is that the bear might have to be killed if it gets too habituated to humans. Finally this week, over in Eastern Oregon, a bear attacked a man in La Grande. The man earlier had shot the bear after it had been harassing his chickens. (The shooting is allowed under state law, by the way.) When the man returned later, the bear was still in the area; the man shot the bear again, and the bear attacked the man. The man survived the attack and is recovering. The bear was later located and killed. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife says this is just the sixth documented human-bear interaction in Oregon in which a human was injured. The La Grande Observer (a paper for which I now serve as associate editor) has a story about the incident, but it’s for subscribers only — and I have no apologies about that.

Let’s check in to see what’s going on with the Oregon Legislature, which has been awfully quiet lately — oh. That’s why. But expect plenty of action in the courts after the session, the Oregon Capital Chronicle’s Ben Botkin reports: GOP legislators are planning a court challenge against the voter-approved initiative that bars legislators from seeking reelection after they collect their 10th unexcused absence. One law professor told the Chronicle that he thought the GOP legislators would be able to mount a relatively strong challenge against the initiative, which was intended to block walkouts like the one that has hobbled this legislative session.

In retrospect, I had doubts about the effectiveness of this initiative at the time, and now a new reason occurs to me: Take a look at the list of senators who have collected at least 10 absences — most of them come from districts that seem unlikely to elect a Democrat. (Six of the senators come up for reelection in 2024, and only one of them — Tim Knopp, of Bend — seems likely to face a serious challenge from a Democrat.) My suspicion is that you just might see a fresh batch of senators walking out in the 2025 session. Same story, different actors — just like episodes seven, eight and nine of the “Star Wars” movies.

Feels like we could use a couple of fun reads to wrap up this edition, so I’ve pulled a couple from The New York Times. (Remember that Times articles are for subscribers only, but I can send you “gift” links to both of these. Just drop a comment below or send me an email and I’ll be pleased to send you a link.)

This coming week features this year’s edition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, nearly 100 years old now. To mark the occasion, the Times has pulled together a list of 10 words from previous bees or its training lists — see if you can identify the words from the clues the Times provides. If you get six right, you’ll do better than I did.

Finally, here’s Paul Rudnick, giving us a sneak peek at what the scripts for popular movies and TV shows would look like it they had been written by AI.

Maybe I’ll try AI for the next edition of Your Weekend Reader. I’ll see you next week (unless it’s my avatar). In the meantime, I hear the siren song of the line at the gas station. Happy holiday weekend!

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