I did a bit of research about the little plot of Earth I call my own so I could understand the history of our place. I think it’s important to honor the past, the people who were here before me and to know that my time here is temporary. I’ll be leaving this garden to someone else who will hopefully appreciate the hard work I’ve put into it just as I appreciate all the people who lived here before me.
Like most of the property in the west, our property exists as we know it because of a program called the Donation Land Claim which took land away from Native Americans and gave it to white settlers who arrived in the Oregon Territory before 1853. Samuel Stott was granted ownership of our plot of land through the Program and it was then surveyed and developed into an orchard by John Clement and his wife in 1911. In 1953 three couples, including Dwight E. Haugen and his wife, went in together to purchase and subdivide the orchard into smaller plots of land for single family houses. Mr. Haugen then developed the houses on our street and went on to be a successful residential real estate developer in our area.
Our house was built in the mid-50s at a time when the suburban housing boom was in full swing. People were enjoying post-war prosperity and the pursuit of the American dream. Our house is constructed with solid, high quality materials of the time including 2” thick, solid Cedar board and batten siding that cannot be found today. Each house had a driveway and a fruit tree in the backyard signifying the neighborhood was for the up and coming, middle class who had a dream of owning a home, a car and having fresh, healthy food on the table.
I like to imagine what life was like back then and I only have to go next door to get a glimpse. The couple next door purchased their little house when it was brand new. They raised their children in the house, added on over time, lovingly tended their little plot of land and grew peonies, grapes and vegetables.
When we purchased our house in 2012 the yard was cute but needed a lot of work. The best thing about the backyard was the very old apple tree that had so much presence. It flowered in the spring and dusted the ground with little white petals. It produced apples that we never really had a chance to enjoy. The trunk had a huge hole that filled the interior of the tree with rainwater and was slowly rotting it from the inside. We had a wind storm shortly after moving in and lost the largest, main branch of the tree. We had to make the difficult decision to have the tree cut down. It was sad to see it happen but it opened the yard up and created a clean slate that I’ve been building on ever since.
When I’m in the yard I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to tend it but I never forget that it was stolen from a group of people who were living here long before people who look like me. This land really belongs to the Chinook Nation.