Oregon now has a new anthem.
Yesterday, the Oregon Senate voted 23 to 5 to change the lyrics to Oregon’s official song, which previously celebrated the state’s racist history.
Even if you’ve never heard of Oregon’s song until this moment, it’s not exactly surprising to learn that it glorifies some of the worst moments in the state’s dark history.
The original lyrics were written in 1927, only a year after Oregon’s Black exclusion laws were repealed and openly racist, Ku Klux Klan-supporting Gov. Walter M. Pierce left office. (His career didn’t end there—he went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 years).
Titled “Oregon, My Oregon,” the song opens with the lines, “Land of the empire builders/Land of the golden west/Conquered and held by free men/Fairest and the best.” It also included the phrase, “Blest by the blood of martyrs.”
House Concurrent Resolution 11 changes those lines to “Land of majestic mountains/Land of the great Northwest/Forests and rolling green rivers/Grandest and the best” and “Blessed by the love of freedom,” respectively. The new lyrics were written by Amy Shapiro, a Beaverton resident and former school choir teacher who has long worked to change Oregon’s state song.
The resolution cites the Indigenous people whose land the state currently occupies, as well as Oregon’s Black and Chinese exclusion laws.
“There is an active and ongoing national movement to secure truly equal treatment for peoples of all racial and ethnic backgrounds,” reads the resolution. “Oregonians of all backgrounds deserve an inclusive way to celebrate our great state in song.”
Sure, you could argue that celebrating “our great state in song” is always going to be a homage to imperialism. But if we’re going to have a state song, one that’s at least trying not to be racist is an improvement, right?
The resolution is now headed to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk, where it’s expected to receive her signature.
Read the full song with updated lyrics here:
“Land of Majestic Mountains,
Land of the Great Northwest;
Forests and rolling rivers,
Grandest and the best.
Onward and upward ever,
Forward and on, and on;
Hail to thee, Land of Heroes,
Land of the rose and sunshine
Land of the summer’s breeze;
Laden with health and vigor,
Fresh from the Western seas.
Blessed by the love of freedom,
Land of the setting sun;
Hail to thee, Land of Promise,