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COLUMN: Celebrating 127 Years of the Evergreen State

November 15, 2016
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

Washington my home;
Where ever I may roam;
This is my land, my native land,
Washington, my home.
Our verdant forest green,
Caressed by silvery stream;
From mountain peak to fields of wheat.
Washington, my home.

This verse of “Washington My Home,” adopted as our state song in 1959, illustrates what so many Washingtonians picture about our home in the northwest corner of America. For those of us in the Okanogan Highlands, thinking of the “verdant forest green” is certainly true. For those of us in the Mid-Columbia south, though, we think of large tracts of treeless hills and steppe. The natural beauty of our mountains, forests, and rivers are assets that Washingtonians have long celebrated and enjoyed. Just last week, November 11th marked the 127th anniversary of our young state, which was admitted to the United States in 1889 by a proclamation signed by President Benjamin Harrison as the 42nd state.

In 1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery Expedition, guided by Sacajawea, after being sent by President Thomas Jefferson to map a new route to the Pacific Ocean. In October of 1805 the explorers reached the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers, the present location of Sacajawea State Park in Pasco and the Wallula Gap. They could scarcely have imagined how many people would settle the Mid-Columbia in what is now the Tri-Cities, now a thriving metropolitan area of more than 250,000 people.

Over the past 127 years, our state’s economy has indeed thrived from the contributions of agriculture, hydropower, technology, forestry, mining, and more. On the state’s centennial in 1989, President George H.W. Bush pointed out that, “Since achieving statehood in 1889, Washington has also witnessed tremendous economic development. Washington State has become a leader in aviation, computer software, shipbuilding, trade, forestry, agriculture, and the production of energy. The Puget Sound area flourishes as a gateway to the Pacific. Eastern Washington boasts rich soil that has made the State famous worldwide for its apples and many other crops.” Despite the famous ‘Cascade Divide’ and our many differences, our state and our people find common ground and flourish.

To celebrate the admission of Washington to the union, the Library of Congress is featuring Washington Collections online at https://cdn.loc.gov/project/lcnet/states/Washington.html. The collection includes early maps, state songs, stories of our state’s veterans, and folklife collections. I encourage you to explore the story of our great state, as together we celebrate what makes Washington our home. The future is bright for the Evergreen State, and we look to many more anniversaries as the 42nd state in our union.