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'Oregon is abundant indeed'
By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
John Tyler was thrust into the presidency when William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia. His administration saw the Oregon Trail migration begin in earnest in the early 1840s.
"Standing here on the precipice of the Pacific, I am humbled by the potential," said Stitch Marker, playing President Tyler, gesturing to the Elkhorn Mountains behind him. "The wealth to be found in Oregon is abundant indeed. It is imperative that we establish a presence here in Oregon. It will be a glorious moment in our nation's history to watch this movement west."
The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center gave a weekend-long party to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and 2,813 people showed up, including a pair of former presidents, a famous Indian guide, riders in a real-life wagon train even a few modern-day politicians.
Celebrants basked under clear skies during Saturday's formal presentation in which a cavalcade of historical stars like presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler, and Sacagawea, the Indian guide and translator for the Lewis & Clark expedition helped the assembled throng peel back the intervening decades.
"It's indeed a pleasure to appear before this distinguished assembly," said President Jefferson (actually Doug Copsey of Boise, playing Jefferson for the first time). "I shall endeavor not to embarrass myself."
Jefferson took the large crowd back to 1807, a year after the Corps of Discovery had returned to St. Louis.
"I'm sure it will be many years before we can assess the information that they have amassed," he said in a spot-on Virginia accent.
The president said he "quietly" secured funding for the expedition through Congress, trusting that the endeavor would be successful because it was being led by his personal secretary Meriwether Lewis along with Capt. William Clark, "who's known as a tough woodsman and a strong mapmaker," the president said.
"They did not know each other well when they set off," Jefferson said, "but they complemented each other remarkably well."
The nation's third president noted it was a year before he received his first report from the explorers. He lamented the fact that his duties as president prevented him from tagging along with Lewis and Clark.
"If I couldn't accompany them on their journey, I could at least send along a long list of advanced instructions," he said, noting that the explorers spent a large part of their time trying to satisfy the president's scientific thirst for knowledge.
Sacagawea (Joyce Badgely-Hunsaker) painted a slightly different view of western expansion, relating the tale of how she'd been taken as a slave by Lewis & Clark's crew after they boys, women and old men had been killed.
Taken by the expedition's guide Charbonneau as a second wife, Sacagawea translated along the way but her husband got the credit, as well as the promised $500 from the federal treasury at the end of the historic voyage.
"He also got a piece of paper that allowed him to farm," she said. "But he did not want to be tied down to farming."
The famed Indian then uttered a cry in her native tongue and lifted her arms skyward. Then she praised the people for coming.
"It is good," she said, "that you remember."