If you're an Oregonian who doesn't refer to the Civil War as the "War of Northern Aggression," you may not know or care that 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy's first shots on Fort Sumter.

But south of the Mason-Dixon line, the 1861 start of the Civil War will be marked in 2011 by dozens of battle re-enactments, put on by history buffs who swear the war was about states' rights, not slavery.

In Oregon, the Northwest Civil War Council will stage several events to commemorate the 150th anniversary, including a skirmish re-enactment at Mount Pisgah in Eugene on May 14-15. All this excitement in 2011 over the Civil War's 150th anniversary reminds us that Oregon itself is no stranger to secession alternatives.

Oregon's constitution gives citizens the "right to alter, reform, or abolish the government" when it no longer meets our needs, but Lewis & Clark College constitutional law professor Todd Lochner assures us states cannot constitutionally secede from the union. Try telling that to these three Northwest wannabe-secessionist groups:

Republic of Cascadia


2,150 friends on MySpace and 334 members on Facebook.

Around since: 1803, when Thomas Jefferson envisioned the Pacific Northwest as a "great, free and independent empire." Newly embraced in the 1970s and 1980s with the publication of Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging by Ernest Callenbach.

Fellow countrymen: Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Raison d'être: To preserve and localize use of natural and industrial resources, from timber and fish to software and biotechnology.

Historical fact: In 2006, a handful of supporters attended a Secession Conference in Burlington, Vt., along with more than a dozen other secession organizations from across the country.

Supporters say: "The bottom line is that we have more in common with those who live just a few hundred miles away in Washington, Oregon or British Columbia than in a distant capital more than 3,000 miles away…the idea of Cascadia is a bioregional one."

—CascadiaIndependenceProject.com creator Brandon Letsinger of Seattle.

State of Jefferson


1,133 pledged members on JeffersonState.com.

Around since: 1941

Fellow countrymen: Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Raison d'être: Shift decision-making power away from liberal-leaning Portland and Eugene, and bring freedom back to the everyday right-wingers. Proposed capital in Yreka, Calif. Jefferson Public Radio already runs on many AM/FM stations in Southern Oregon.

Historical fact: In 1940 and 1941, armed supporters blockaded Highway 99 south of Yreka and proceeded to collect tolls from motorists and pass out Jefferson State independence proclamations.

Supporters say: "Jefferson State is a real possibility in the next 20 years. The status quo isn't working: Oregon's broke; California's broke. We're being overtaxed and it isn't American. Some adults need to get in and fix the economy."—JeffersonState.com creator Brian Peterson, of Yreka, Calif.

Nation of Pacifica


28 friends on Facebook and 45 members on SavePac Yahoo group.

Around since: Unclear.

Fellow countrymen: Oregon, California, Washington, Hawaii, and possibly Idaho, Alaska, British Columbia and Baja California.

Raison d'être: Greater environmental responsibility, world peace, legalized marijuana and gay marriage. Proposed capital in Seattle.

Historical fact: Chief Seattle's 1854 speech provided inspiration for this 21st-century movement.

Supporters say: "My meritocratic socialist ideas would probably not be well received by most idealistic 'freedom-minded' people."—Nation of Pacifica Facebook page founder, who declined to be identified.