Clatsop County Fieldwork

Douglas Manger

Like a twisting myrtlewood tree growing close by the sea, Highway 101 makes its way in circuitous fashion along Oregon’s spectacular Pacific coastline. During the month of August, Joe O’Connell and I trekked this evocative route, flush with names that spark imaginings of what folkways might be found in places like Winchester Bay, Dunes City, Yachats, Seal Rock, Neskowin, Manzanita, Astoria.

Persist and you will find tradition keepers at every turn. Clatsop County’s Andy Carlson is one of them. Bent slightly with age, Carlson can often be found out back tending salmon sides in his home-built smokehouse. Like many in and around Astoria, his ancestry is part Finnish, part Swedish. Look at Carson’s hands, they speak volumes of a life shaped by tradition on the Columbia River. He was a tug boater for 12 years and a pilot boat owner/operator for 32 years. Watch his hands. Carlson skillfully fillets, cures, then hot or cold smokes sides of salmon that many locals call the best around. That spelled eight years of trial and error with regular visits to his mentor (now passed)—a master at smoking salmon—before the acknowledgment came, “I think you’ve got it.”

Andy filleting a salmon

Andy’s grilled cedar plank salmon

Smoking salmon sides, Andy’s smokehouse

How do we find such special tradition keepers? Serendipity plays a role. Scout the main mercantile street in Astoria, introduce yourself to Saara Matthews at Finn Ware, explain the project, and voila: “My father, Andy Carlson, is someone you might find interesting.”

Like that wind-twisted myrtlewood tree, generational traditions don’t always come down in a straight line. For Sandra Porter it was her grandmother who instilled in her a love of cooking and making do. At the Porter’s farmstand near Cloverton, at what was once her grandparent’s farm, you’ll get a feel for her grandmother’s influence: fresh cut flowers for sale, along with produce from their garden; fresh fish from Waylon Porter’s morning dory run; bulbs from the countless varieties her grandparents planted across the road in the 1990s; ice cream, and, oh, yes, Sandra Porter’s famous pies! Be it winter or summer, once the word is out on Facebook, her pies—marionberry, strawberry, apple crumble pie, to name a few—literally fly off the shelf.

A favorite is pumpkin pie made with green, home-grown, Jarrahdale pumpkins that top 50 pounds. Once cut into large wedges Porter roasts them in the oven to give the pie “another elevation of flavor.”

To make food, to cook for people, is just a really great way to show people that you love them, and you care about them. And people, people need that right now. Everybody needs nourished and they need more love.”


Sandra’s homemade pies

Sandra’s variety of pies for sale

Why the popularity of Carlson’s smoked salmon or Porter’s homemade pies? In each instance, under the watchful eye of an elder, they had a starting point from which to learn and to grow—and by introducing their own preferences—to make the making their own.

Given their heartfelt connections to the past, within this context their methodologies spark a duality, providing nourishment on the one hand and emotional sustenance on the other. It then becomes not just a smoked salmon or a homemade pie—it becomes “Andy Carson’s special smoked salmon” and “Sandra Porter’s special homemade pies” in all their resonance with a nod from generations past.

Douglas Manger is a career folklorist with over 20 years of experience. Since 2014 he has collaborated with OFN on folklife surveys in Southeastern Oregon (Malheur and Harney counties); the High Desert region, 2016 (Deschutes, Crook, Baker, Union); Portland Metro region, 2016 (Yamhill and Clackamas); and in August of this year, the Oregon coast (Douglas, Tillamook, Clatsop). Early in his career, Manger directed the Northern Tier Cultural Alliance in Pennsylvania. He later managed folk and traditional arts programming at Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in Baltimore serving nine states and jurisdictions. At Mid Atlantic, Manger project managed the award-winning publication, From Bridge to Boardwalk: An Audio Journey Across Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In 2007, Manger returned home to Texas to found HeritageWorks. HeritageWorks has since conducted multi-year regional folklife field surveys in South and East Texas for the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, and in Baton Rouge and vicinity for the Louisiana Folklife Program.

Sharing the Tides: Notes on Community and Culture in Three Oregon Coast Counties

Joseph O’Connell

On the central and northern parts of the Oregon coast, worlds meet—land and sea, work and leisure, old and new. In social and cultural terms, no place evokes the region’s contrasts more than Newport’s historic bayfront. Along a short strip of Bay Boulevard, commercial fishing, ocean science, and tourism intermingle. Visitors can buy taffy and souvenirs, visit the wax museum, or descend to an underwater viewing platform. Yet they are never more than a few doors away from one of several seafood processing plants. On the street outside the plants, cautionary signals from forklift operators blend with the vocalizations of an urban sea lion colony. (These animals are either endearing or aggravating; it depends who you ask.) A few yards farther, homemade signs indicate which boats have fresh catches of albacore tuna or Dungeness crab.

A flier on a Newport pier connects commercial fishers to scientific researchers.

Throughout the region, this intimacy of differing communities is the substance of everyday life. Environmental researchers share space with natural resource industries. Spiritual seekers rub elbows with scrappy entrepreneurs. Cold-water surfers cross paths with razor clam diggers. They may look to the ocean for different things, but they all rely on the same tide tables. Sometimes, even the people who live here seem a bit perplexed by the region’s stranger bedfellows. In a casual conversation at a fabrication shop in Waldport, an independent fisher posits that the region “attracts extremes”—extremes of lifestyle and extremes of political persuasion (he’s a progressive.) But he can’t reflect for long; he’s got hundreds of pounds of freshly-caught tuna in tow, and it’s a hot day.

Amidst this mix, creative traditions are one way that the communities of the coast “talk” about who they are. In the crucible of the modern fishing industry, for instance, people who work together forge an array of hard-won customs: techniques for “hanging gear,” methods of preparing salmon cheeks, convictions about good luck. “Never, ever bring a banana onboard a fishing boat,” warns Florence’s Amber Novelli (if you’ve got a banana on board you won’t catch anything). Such traditions function partly as a running commentary about what defines a group, a place, or its history. It’s a commentary that takes place not just within groups, as it does among fishers, but also between them. In Newport, it’s not uncommon for scientists and fishers to meet over beers, trading jokes and points of view about their shared workplace on the Pacific Ocean. Sara Skamser designs, ties, and modifies nets for clients on both sides of that pub table. On a slow day, she might also improvise a quick rope hanger for a tourist who wanders into her shop with a glass float.

Net maker and designer Sara Skamser pauses by the work in progress at her shop, Foulweather Trawl.


A shrimp net, outfitted with a custom “excluder,” awaits repairs outside Foulweather Trawl on Yaquina Bay in Newport.










Lots of traditions “root” people in this part of the coast, but being rooted means something different in each case. When Highway 101 travelers pull over at Karl Kowalski’s chainsaw carving workshop in Seal Rock, they enter a personal museum.

Second-generation Seal Rock chainsaw carver Karl Kowalski poses beside one of his father’s sculptures.

Karl displays not just the work he has for sale but also carvings and memorabilia from a previous era. He inherited these artifacts from his father, who first established the property as Sea Gulch—a sculpture garden and roadside attraction. The items in Karl’s space reflect an attitude about belonging and tell a bigger story about his place in the life of a family, a town, and a region.

Northeast of Newport on Government Hill in Siletz, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians hosts its annual Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow.

“Fancy” dancers compete in the youth category at the Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow.

On the lawn at the center of the Pow-Wow grounds, dancers from numerous tribes don regalia and compete for prize money. One event, the Women’s Basketcap Special, showcases an iconic form of Siletz material culture–traditional hats woven from natural materials. For the Siletz and other indigenous people of the region, cultural traditions like the Pow-Wow take on significance against a long history and display resilience over colonization and its legacies.

Across Oregon coastal communities, people also adapt cultural traditions to respond to contemporary concerns, especially ecological ones. At the Women’s Expression Session on Agate Beach, two surfers dress as sea fowl and perform an original rap about beach stewardship. In the thick of the parade that opens the Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow, participants carry signs that protest mismanagement of a sewage spill on the Siletz River. And at Foulweather Trawl in Newport, “trawl techs” apply their tying skills to make nets “fish cleaner” with the addition of modifications that minimize “bycatch”—those fish that fishers don’t intend to catch. Whether it’s surfing, fishing, or regalia-making, longstanding cultural forms have an intimate connection to the natural environment. Such creative traditions also function to defend that environment.

Joe O’Connell has ten years of public folklore experience spanning studies of vernacular music, laborlore, and material culture.  He completed an MA in Folklore at the University of Oregon in 2009, and fieldwork on the Oregon Coast marks his second collaboration with the OFN, this time in Lincoln and Clatsop counties, the coastal section of Lane County, and with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Along with Josephine McRobbie, Joe is a 2019 American Folklife Center Archie Green Fellow. O’Connell and McRobbie have been conducting oral histories with midwives and other birth workers across the state of North Carolina.  Joe is also an active folk-rock music recording artist, making music under the band name Elephant Micah. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Benton- Linn Co. Fieldwork Essay

Thomas Grant Richardson

In the Spring of 2018 I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Benton and Linn Counties in the Willamette Valley. Folklorists focus on the everyday traditions of people in communities and at how people define creativity, tradition, and community in their own lives. It is therefore a great joy to work as a folklorist, to be invited into the creative spaces of people often quite different from myself, and to have conversations that usually include phrases like “this is the most important thing in the world to me.”

While in Benton and Linn Counties I encountered numerous wonderful and generous people connected to many vibrant traditions, including fly-fishing, boat building, instrument building, quilting, fiddle music, and various foodways. I was particularly struck by the area’s social dance traditions. During the three weeks I spent traversing the two counties, I attended three different social dances, although I could have attended one nearly every single night.

The Jefferson Jammers is mostly two-step, waltz, and line dancing, and happens every single Wednesday

The Jefferson Jammers perform on Wednesday nights at the Morning Star Grange Hall in Millersburg. This dance started as a country music jam among retired musicians who still wanted to play. Bruce and Joann Hamilton held the first few jams in their home, but it quickly outgrew their capacity, and they moved to the Grange Hall. Today it serves as a place for musicians to gather to play country music together; anyone interested can also sing along in a kind of live-backed karaoke. The audience is busy dancing with the floor usually occupied by at least 30-40 dancers. Mostly attended by local residents above the age of 50, the dance also brings in younger participants. Most attendees told me it’s the highlight of their week.

The Albany Timber Twirlers Modern Western Square Dance club’s membership is diminishing in number but not in dedication.

In nearby Albany, the Albany Timber Twirlers are a Modern Western Swing Dance Club (one of four clubs in the area) that focus on the highly precise and intricate moves of choreographed square dances. These patterns are so complicated that dancers need to take four months of lessons before they’re up to speed to participate. Club President, Bev Swearengen, told me they’re more about fun than formality.

The Corvallis Contradance was by far the biggest dance I attended, with a regular attendance of around 100 people, twice a month.

In Corvallis, a twice-monthly Contra dance has a regular attendance of over 100 people. Contra dance is somewhere in between the loose nature of traditional square dancing and the highly stylized patterns of Modern Western Square Dancing; like traditional square dancing, it’s led by a caller who gives instructions in a rhythmic and stylized fashion. But contra dancers form lines with each member of a couple opposite each other instead of side by side like square dancers. The Corvallis Contra dance also includes a live band and brings in a huge number of dancers under 40. Dance Chair, Jennifer Carlin, notes that it’s the music that makes this dance so special.

The Corvallis Contradance goes out of its way to make sure the dance is inclusive for all.

But greater numbers do not always equal a more successful event or a more important folk tradition. Social dance is alive and well in this area. And next time someone in the central Willamette Valley suggests the Internet, television, or whatever latest scapegoat is killing social life, drive them to Benton and Linn County and find a dance!

Folk Artists in Marion, Polk, and Lane Counties and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde

Amy Howard

During  the spring and summer of 2018, OFN hired me to conduct folklife fieldwork in Marion and Polk counties and at the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. The geographical area I covered was large and diverse. The sheer length of each county encompasses a landscape in transition—mountain to valley to coast. Each day brought new surprises: green fields and grasses in wine and sheep country; bustling city streets; pine-encompassed mountain lakes, and winding, sparkling rivers. The landscape reflects the local agricultural and industrial economies.

The people are equally diverse, each a wonder in their own way. Their identities and folk arts and practices also reflect the topography and economy. Whether loggers creating art from the medium they know inside and out (wood), transplants from foreign countries carrying on traditional skills, Native artists connecting to roots that were once taken away, or farmers keeping their multi-generational farms relevant and operational, the people of the Willamette Valley adapt to their surroundings. They preserve the identity that is most important to them while being rooted in traditions they cherish. I felt honored to document a snapshot of Oregon’s ever-changing, rich cultural landscape.

Chainsaw carver James Lukinich (Willamina) lived in Oregon until age 14, when he traveled to Alaska to join his brother and learn the logging business. For James, wood carving was a natural art form to pursue during long stretches of isolation in the Alaskan wilderness. While he worked as an arborist in San Diego, chainsaw carving went from hobby to career as he completed an increasing amount of custom jobs to repurpose tree stumps. He began participating in chainsaw carving competitions in 2009 and finished in the top 10 at the national competition in Reedsport last year. He and his wife, Marilyn, returned to his Oregon home, where he has continued to practice his craft professionally.

Jeremy Mitchell (Salem) is an advocate for bees. As one of the few young beekeepers with a mid-sized operation in the area, he and his bees fill an important role in the Willamette Valley, pollinating berries and other produce at small farms. Schooled in beekeeping by his great-uncle, Wayne Porter, and through the OSU Extension Master Beekeeper course, Jeremy took over Flying Bee Ranch from his relatives in 2017 after Wayne’s passing. At that time, Jeremy transformed from hobbyist to full-time, professional beekeeper, helping his great-aunt, Kathy Porter, keep the business a family operation. They are known for their mono-source honeys, captured after the bees pollinate specific crops. Jeremy also works to educate the public about bees’ role in agriculture and strategies for keeping them safe.

Connie Graves (Sheridan) is a traditional basket weaver of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. She’s been instrumental in revitalizing and teaching the art of basket weaving for her Tribe. Born in McMinnville, she has lived her entire life in the Grand Ronde area. Connie has always possessed a love of craft and creativity and an ability to create by simply looking at an example. With her masterful basketry skills, she makes hats, baskets of all dimensions, doll clothes, baby rattles, or whatever she is inspired to do. She collects and works with many varieties of reeds, grasses, barks, and roots. Connie is currently battling cancer but still exudes positive energy and strength in all she does. Her help in the project was enormous.

As an addendum to my fieldwork in Polk and Marion Counties and with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, I was privileged to conduct some further documentation in Lane County. Juana Cortez (Eugene) owns and operates Juanita’s Pupusería, a food truck specializing in food from El Salvador. A pupusa, the national dish of El Salvador, is a thick flatbread made of masa—corn flour and water—stuffed with one or more ingredients such as cheese, squash, refried beans, or meat, then cooked on a griddle. The versatile flatbread comes from the Maya/Pipil culture of El Salvador. Cortez, a restauranteur in her native country, came to the US in 1987 as a refugee of war and natural disaster. A single mother, she worked and saved for years before returning to her dream of owning and running a restaurant. What began as a pupusería has expanded into a celebration of Salvadoran and Mexican foods.   If someone asks for it, she can make it, she says. Cortez’s food traditions connect her to homeland and, more importantly, allow her to enjoy peace and stability after a life of hardship and perseverance.

These individuals represent a few of the many hard-working, diligent bearers of folk traditions I documented for this project. Like Oregon’s beautiful landscapes, these people deserve to be celebrated and supported as part of the cultural landscape.

Celebrating Lane County’s Artists and Traditions

Alina Mansfield

In the Winter and Spring of 2018, I attended many of Lane County’s regional cultural events, festivals, and fairs to scout out tradition keepers for the Willamette Valley Folklife Survey.

The Willamette Valley is homeland to the Kalapuya Tribes, with the Molalla calling the foothills of the Cascades home. More recently, a significant Scandinavian population settled Junction City, where the annual Scandinavian Festival attracts attendees from far and wide to try a taste of Danish aebelskiver (apple pastry), participate in Swedish folk dancing, or watch a Norwegian artist demonstrate Hardanger embroidery (usually white on white embroidery with cutwork to create a lacy effect). Eugene’s Sons of Norway Sonja Lodge (Lane County) participate in the festival, and I had the pleasure of getting to know many of their members at their annual Lutefisk dinner in January. Before the dinner, I watched lodge members peel potatoes for the lefse (potato flatbread) and bake traditional Norwegian desserts and cookies. And I got to have my first taste ever of lutefisk (cod preserved in lye, rinsed and boiled, then served hot with butter). As someone of Norwegian descent myself, this notorious cultural delicacy was on my bucket list, and I was not disappointed. Lodge members did assure me, however, that their lutefisk used to be much stronger!

I also attended a lodge-sponsored Norwegian Sweater Night for which members donned their Norwegian-style knitted sweaters and shared stories about the talented needlewomen who made them. I discovered that Norwegian knitters make their purl stitches without moving the yarn to the front of the needle. There was a palpable celebration of their heritage in such stories, and a sense of humor and pride in the discussion that detailed how this unique style differs from standard knitting.

Through these activities, I was able to meet and interview some very special traditional artists, including PattiJo Meshnick, a Norwegian Rosemåler. Rosemåling is a traditional Norwegian decorative art that involves painting objects with stylized flower motifs. With a focus on symmetry, brightness, and depth of color, Meshnik decorates pots, clocks, hangers, cards, and more. Meshnik’s eye for design is key for her rosemåling; she uses a combination of traditional design elements, techniques and materials to achieve the right effect. She always starts with a root at the center; loading brushes with various thicknesses, she paints S strokes and C strokes, adding color, shading, and then fine lines for depth. According to Meshnik, regional styles developed as a result of the distance between the deep Norwegian valleys; traveling artists would stay with a family all winter, cheering up their houses and soot-covered furniture with brightly colored designs. Like others who learned the techniques of rosemåling from master artists, Meshnik also continues to study with master teachers to learn various regional styles. She notes that traditional rosemåling became an endangered art form in Norway; teaching is essential for its survival. “Folk art is a hard thing to keep alive in modern days; you need to find someone who wants to teach, and someone who wants to learn.”

In February, I celebrated the Asian Lunar New Year of the Dog in Eugene at the “Bark to the New Year” festival. There I met Kathy Hoy, a traditional Chinese ink brush painter. Before moving to Eugene to attend college, Kathy learned to paint by apprenticing with Huang Jun Pin, a famous traditional Chinese brush painter in Taipei, Taiwan. She creates traditional Chinese ink wash and watercolor on rice paper. Many of her paintings have traditional symbols of nature such as water, fish, birds, and mountain landscapes as well as Chinese characters.

In April, I headed out to Vida, Oregon, for the McKenzie Drift Boat Festival, where I met river guides and a conch mushroom artist, learned about wooden drift boats, and watched fly fishers demonstrate how to make fly ties. Along the way, I marveled at the chainsaw art along the McKenzie Highway, which celebrates these roadside sculptures each year in July at the McKenzie River Chainsaw & Arts Festival in Blue River.

Lane County also hosted the Evergreen Tattoo Invitational in March, which prompted me to speak with local tattoo artist, Suzen Tattoozen, co-owner of Whiteaker Tattoo Collective in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood. She is known for her unique custom designs, and ornate, embellished, illustrative watercolor styles. Tattoozen has high standards and is very passionate about representing the industry with the highest of integrity. She says no to tattoos she believes will not be good art, and she asks a lot of questions before agreeing to do a tattoo. But she also believes in never judging a client’s ideas. She thinks of tattoos and body art as the “freedom of owning yourself.” She is slow to start when she begins her work because she wants to get to know her client’s skin. Tattoozen also runs Transformation Ink, a tattoo-based charity; she believes that tattoos are empowering and transformative and that receiving a good tattoo is treating one’s self to self-care and self-love.

Tattoos, rosemåling, and fly fishing may seem very different from each other, but these culture keepers all share a love for detail in artistry, symmetry, design; an attention to story and heritage; and a commitment to passing on their skills and knowledge to others. Folk and traditional artists like these continue to enrich Lane County’s diverse cultural and regional heritage.



Oregon Folklife Network awarded $55,000 by the National Endowment for the Arts

EUGENE, Ore. – (Dec. 28, 2018) – The University of Oregon’s Oregon Folklife Network is set to receive a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Announced as part of the endowment’s $27 million funding package for fiscal year 2019, the Oregon grant will support a folklife survey on Oregon’s north and central coast.

“OFN is so pleased to have another year of NEA support for our documentation of Oregon’s living cultural heritage,” said Riki Saltzman, Oregon Folklife Networks’s executive director.

Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grantmaking program. The agency received 1,605 Art Works applications for this round of grantmaking and will award 972 grants in this category.

“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

With support from the grant, the Oregon Folklife Network will work with veteran folklorist Douglas Manger to identify folk and traditional artists in the Northwest and Central Oregon Coast counties of Clatsop, Tillamook, and Lincoln, as well as the coastal sections of Lane and Douglas counties. Manger will also mentor emerging folklorists as they document regional and ethnic folklore from a range of heritage groups including but not limited to Asian and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Latinos, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, and Europeans as well as occupational folklife such as chainsaw carving, hunting, dairy farming, commercial fishing, clamming, oystering, shrimping, and other waterways traditions. Folklorists will also document foodways, music, storytelling, and other relevant folk expressions.

OFN’s statewide survey has so far identified over 355 folk and traditional artists in 28 counties as well as at the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, the Burns Paiute, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. OFN partners with local and state organizations and Tribes to refer tradition bearers and folk artists for programs in parks, arts organizations, libraries, or festivals. We also preserve this documentation in our archives.

OFN invites recommendations for individuals who should be documented as part of the project. Recommendations can be submitted to by email to Riki Saltzman,, or Emily West,, or by phone to 541-346-3820.

For more information on the National Endowment for the Arts grant announcement, visit

Oregon Folklife Network is hiring!

2 Contract Fieldworker Positions Starting July, 2013

The Oregon Folklife Network seeks to hire two professional folklorists to conduct folklife field surveys and documentation of traditions in the southern Oregon counties of Malheur, Harney, Lake, and Klamath (fieldwork regions will be divided up based on the experience and backgrounds of the folklorists selected). Work for this project may begin any time after July 15, 2013 but must be completed by June 30, 2014 (including all paperwork). Fieldwork days need not be consecutive, and, in fact, two field trips would be ideal.

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