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Welcome to Oregon. Stick around for many years, we might just accept you.



by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/TRIBUNE PHOTO - Yes, that is Rachel Berry's Aloha home, but Miss Oregon officials claim it wasn't her home for long enough. Berry had to hand back her crown over a residency dispute.Rachel Berry would just as soon let the matter rest. Berry is the 24-year-old Aloha resident who won the Miss Oregon pageant title June 30, then had it taken away when pageant officials determined she did not meet the competition’s six-month Oregon residency requirement.

Berry, who grew up in a small town in Indiana, calls herself “a hard-working, All-American girl” who thinks of herself as an Oregon resident.

“I was really looking forward to representing Oregon at Miss America,” Berry says. “I feel like I embody the spirit of Oregon.”

Berry’s unfortunate situation has briefly rekindled a discussion that has captivated (and enraged) people here, on and off, since the Oregon Territory became Oregon in 1859. How long do you have to live here before you’re considered an Oregonian? To some people, it still matters.

Although six months is the answer if you’re asking the Miss Oregon pageant officials, the Regional Arts & Cultural Council says applicants for its annual $20,000 arts fellowships have to have lived in state for five years. And you need a year of residence to qualify for in-state tuition at one of the state’s colleges or universities.

If you’re looking to get divorced in Oregon, you or your spouse must have lived here at least six months.

Portland attorney Dan Margolin, who handles divorces, says he’s never known anyone to move to Oregon to get a divorce. In fact, he says Washington state has no residency requirement for divorce. If Oregon’s residency requirement was longer, we might lose some unhappy couples to Washington.

Jason Renaud, executive director of Compassion & Choices Oregon, says he’s not aware of any people at the end of their lives moving to Oregon to use the state’s Death With Dignity Act, which only requires that patients be legal Oregon residents.

But Renaud says he has spoken to a number of people, especially in Southern Oregon, who made the decision to retire in Oregon at least partially because someday they might want to make use of physician-assisted suicide.

Which raises the question, if you move here to live as well as to die, does that make you more, or less, a true Oregonian?by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/TRIBUNE PHOTO - Portland settlers Francis Pettygrove and Asa Lovejoy hadn't lived in Oregon all that long themselves when they flipped the Portland Penny (above, now on display at the Oregon Historical Society) to decide if their adopted home town would be called Portland or Boston.

‘I was born here’

Metro’s recent Opt In survey asked more than 1,300 Portland-area residents how many years it took for someone to be considered an Oregonian. More than half said the answer was one to five years. One in five said the answer was more like six to 10 years. One in 10 people said it should be less than a year. The same number said the answer was 11 to 20 years.

Then there were those 5 percenters who insisted it took 20 or more years to be a real Oregonian.

In written responses, quite a few of those surveyed said only people born here are true Oregonians. Among the responses:

“After 30 years, I almost qualify to be a newcomer.”

“After 35 years, still not accepted.”

“It’s really when they stop referring to their prior state as where they come from, or saying, ‘Back in ... we used to do it this way.’”

Chris Bouneff, executive director of NAMI Oregon, an organization focused on mental health issues, has an easy answer.

“I was born here. I consider myself an Oregonian, and the rest of you are newcomers,” says Bouneff, tongue firmly placed in cheek. We hope.

Bouneff and his wife spent a few years in California after college in the 1990s, which netted California license plates on his car, and then Idaho for a while before moving back to Oregon. He recalls parking his car in Boise and being yelled at.

“We were at a mall in Boise and some kid yelled, ‘Go back,’ or something,’ “ Bouneff says. “And my wife slammed on the brakes and went after that kid and said something to the effect, ‘We’re not from California.’ “

So Bouneff knows a bit about the Pacific Northwest attitude toward outsiders. But he also remembers growing up in east Multnomah County and hanging on the wall of his room a certificate from an organization called S.N.O.B. — the Society of Native Oregon Born.

He even recalls attending a S.N.O.B. picnic.by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/TRIBUNE PHOTO - Lie on your application to the Society of Native Oregon Born and you are sentenced to immediate deportation with no visiting rights for 25 years.

Summer? Rain’s warmer

S.N.O.B. was the brainchild of Eugene illustrator James Cloutier. In the late 1970s, he and business partner Frank Beeson developed the Oregon Ungreeting Card Co. to ride the wave of anti-outsider sentiment fueled by former Gov. Tom McCall’s famous remark: “Visit, but don’t stay.”

Cloutier and Beeson produced shirts, bags and cards all themed in a way that could make fun of Oregonians and discourage newcomers at the same time. Among their most famous: “Oregonians don’t tan in the summertime, they rust.”

Cloutier, Oregon born, discovered in the late ‘70s that more than half the state’s residents were born out of state. Which started him thinking that native Oregonians were becoming “an endangered species.” His solution was very Oregon-like.

“I thought we needed to form a group,” he says.

Cloutier created a logo and a certificate for members that would state how many generations of the bearer’s family had lived in Oregon and whether the member was a “mossback” or a “bunchgrasser” (west or east side of the Cascades). Qualified members also received a S.N.O.B. identification card and car window decal.

Individual S.N.O.B. memberships cost $10, family memberships ran $25, and more than 5,000 Oregonians offered proof and ponied up.

But eventually Cloutier was forced to face the fundamental question of how long is long enough when his mother revealed she had actually been born across the border in Washington. Since it was his mother who helped put together and mail the S.N.O.B. certificate packages from Cloutier’s at-home business, he knew he had to mollify her somehow. So he developed a special category under which his mother qualified — honorary membership for those who had lived in Oregon at least 50 years.

Cloutier says he developed S.N.O.B. out of a sense of humor, but people began taking it seriously. The annual picnics in Champoeg Park were real. The people who pull S.N.O.B. cards out of their wallets to show him their legitimacy are real.

“I think the sense of being a native Oregonian is incredibly strong,” he says.

Strong enough that Cloutier is looking to revive S.N.O.B., especially after being informed an old S.N.O.B. certificate recently sold for $195 on eBay.

But this time, memberships won’t run $10, according to Cloutier. The original S.N.O.B. failed as a business enterprise after about nine years, proving again, Cloutier says, that he was a true Oregonian.

“You’ve heard the joke, ‘It’s easy to own your own small business in Oregon? All you have to do is start with a large one,’ “ he says.

As far as Miss Oregon goes, Cloutier says, “Six months? Hell, no, not even close. They should be born here, of course. I see these beautiful women slipping across the border in the dark of night and setting up residence in Cave Junction just so they can run for Miss Oregon. I don’t think so.”by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/TRIBUNE PHOTO - Native Oregonian James Cloutier started S.N.O.B., the Society of Native Oregon Born, and sold 5,000 memberships with certificates, shirts and car decals.

Your tan is fading

Keith Scribner, an Oregon State University English professor and author of “The Oregon Experiment,” says when your mountain bike costs more than your Subaru Outback, you’re a genuine Oregonian.

Another sign, Scribner says, is when you find yourself salivating at the thought of kale chips.

Rosanne Marmor, a resident program manager with Home Forward, the former Housing Authority of Portland, says you know you’re a true Oregonian when you hide all your Styrofoam packing pellets from your neighbors instead of just throwing them into the garbage.

Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State, has her own take on what makes an Oregonian.

“When your fleece jackets seem to multiply in their specially assigned outdoor gear closet,” Dello says, adding she didn’t own any fleece before she moved to Oregon three years ago from New York. Now she has four or five and “I had to cut myself off.”

Dello says a few weeks ago a stranger at a Starbucks approached her and commented that her tan was fading, and it made him sad to see that. Dello says she wasn’t aware she even had a suntan — she’s heavily into sunscreen — but only in Oregon, as far as she’s concerned, would someone walk up to a total stranger with such a remark.

Kerry Tymchuk, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society, grew up on the Oregon Coast in a family that can only be considered the product of a mixed marriage. Tymchuk’s mother was fifth-generation Oregonian, his father grew up in Canada.

History buff Tymchuk is quick to point out that Oregon’s most iconic politician, McCall, was born in Massachusetts (though raised in Prineville). So Tymchuk’s father, who served as mayor of Reedsport, was merely following suit.

By Tymchuk’s reckoning, where a person was born doesn’t establish their true Oregon citizenship as much as what they know.

“Some people didn’t have the good fortune to be born in Oregon, but they shouldn’t be penalized,” Tymchuk says, oozing with magnanimity. “But they should be penalized if they don’t know Oregon’s history.”

Another perspective on the Oregonian question comes from those who have moved away. David Bragdon served as Metro president until a move to New York in 2010 to become that city’s director of long-term planning and sustainability. Bragdon says you know you’re an Oregonian at heart when you take a walk in a newly redesigned New York City plaza, but you don’t notice the fancy design at all because you’re too busy searching for the absent recycling cans.by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/TRIBUNE PHOTO - Rebecca Liu holds a Chinese grave marker that was found at Lone Fir Cemetery during an archaeological investigation in 2005. Early
Chinese immigrants to Oregon were denied
citizenship, and their section of the cemetery
was abandoned and ignored for years.

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