This summer the eclipse has been the major story for Oregon, especially in the path of totality, which I am in, in Salem. Many folks from the region will try to get into the path to apparently find some sort of spiritual experience. Oregon Department of Transportation is predicting upwards of 1 Million visitors. The Willamette Valley will be ground zero and Salem is the largest city in the path. For the past week I have seen innumerable tourists in town who are generally lost, with many U turns and attempts to drive the wrong way on the one way streets. then On this Sunday, there are TV news vans in the downtown, NASA has a van at the state fairgrounds and events are happening at the Capitol mall and at Willamette University. There are teams of astrophysicists in Oregon, who all have various theories to test, and the Willamette Heritage Center hosted a talk on Thursday to discuss the impact of various natural phenomenon in Oregon.
ODOT has now well publicized the impending 1 Million visitors as causing a mass gridlock traffic jam on the major highways, AKA: Like the LA basin everyday! At the same time everyone here is being gouged with high gas prices. Beginning on Thursday prices began rising and between 8 am and 11 am I saw an 11 cent increase at one station. The gouging will continue all this week. Visitations appear to not being lived up too, and now motels along the coast are reporting a 30% drop in reservation rates. Then there are a multitude of landowners who have offered camping on their property for $100 a night and up. Despite the 30,000 person eclipse festival near Prineville, there have been no traffic problems. Some reports are getting to us that people are today making their way to Oregon and during the next day we will see the traffic problems.
Similarly, the Social Media networks are on fire with comments and news. I have a lot of Native news coming through and interesting enough there are numerous wild narratives advanced about how Native people should react culturally and spiritually. The first such was a suggestion that we should not go outside or operate heavy machinery during the eclipse, which was advanced from a Yaqui story. Then a similar story came from a Navajo legend, To which I responded, I am neither Yaqui or Navajo. Really we do not know if any of their cultural guides on social media are accurate without talking with the people of those cultures. Then its an interesting phenomenon to suggest that other cultural traditions apply broadly to all Native people. This is Pan-Indianism at its finest, the wholesale assumption that all tribal traditions can be adopted by other natives and valid everywhere native people are. Each tribe has their own traditions as emphasized by an article from the National Museum of the American Indian. Even Linguist Patty Whereat wrote a story addressing cultural traditions for the Oregon Central and south coast Native peoples.
I have looked for such direction from Kalapuyan sources and found nothing about eclipses. I did witness a total eclipse in 1979 when in Waldo Middle School in Salem and it was remarkable then. Scientifically, its an interesting phenomenon to be witnessed. Some people may have a spiritual experience, I think for myself the effect tells me that we are fairly insignificant part of an unimaginatively vast universe. This time rather than a pin hole cut in cardboard, I have hi-tech eclipse glasses which I will use for about 5 minutes and likely never again. The one effect I still wish to experience is that of watching the shadow approach on the ground at 1800 miles an hour culminating in the eclipse effect. Try as I might, its hard to understanding the physics of the different speeds of the moon, earth, and sun as they juxtaposition; the collision of those three bodies of the solar system for the brief time of 2 minutes at Salem, Oregon.
Finally, at the Grand Ronde Pow wow, vendors had eclipse shirts and buttons for sale. Someone, somewhere, will become an eclipse junky and attempt to collect all memorabilia from the eclipse from throughout its route and later become a dealer in rare t-shirts and eclipse glasses and other paraphernalia that most will simply throw away. The collectors market will eclipse the actual event with many generations of rabid collectors.
Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD
PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher.
I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.