Oregon celebrates its 150th birthday this year. The next installment in the OREGON EXPERIENCE series, “Road to Statehood,” explores Oregon’s bumpy path to becoming the 33rd state in the Union. Tune in to the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting on Monday, February 16 at 9pm.

For thousands of years, hundreds of native tribes thrived in what became known as Oregon Country — a vast wilderness that stretched north into present day British Columbia, south to California and east into Idaho, Montana and parts of Wyoming. By treaty, the land was jointly occupied by the British and the United States with both wanting to establish dominance in the area.

The first Euro-Americans in Oregon Country were mountain men and fur trappers who came in the early 1800s for the abundant pelts used to make popular beaver hats. The British Hudson’s Bay Company soon followed, establishing its Northwest headquarters at Ft. Vancouver in 1825. Managed by a British citizen named John McLoughlin, Hudson’s Bay dominated the vast fur-trading network for 20 years — using its own brigades and Native Americans to trap the furs. The company also acted as the only “government” in the region.  

But along with commerce and trade came diseases like smallpox and malaria that killed hundreds of thousands of Native Americans and decimated complete tribes. Missionaries brought more changes and began luring more immigrants to settle the rich farming lands of the Willamette Valley.   

This growing number of Americans had no legal representation in Oregon Country. If a legal issue arose, they were on their own. It was the death of a wealthy settler with no will that acted as a catalyst for the formation of a provisional government in Champoeg. On May 2, 1843, the settlers voted to align with the United States and create the first American government west of the Mississippi. By 1857 more than 50,000 people called Oregon home — enough to petition for statehood. Finally on February 14, 1859, Oregon became the 33rd state in the Union.

OREGON EXPERIENCE examines the stories of the native people already here, and the trappers, missionaries and other pioneers coming over the Oregon Trail who together shaped the state of Oregon.

Watch the complete program online anytime after February 16 at opb.org/oregonexperience.

OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting new history series on OPB-TV that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each half-hour show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by Ann & Bill Swindells Charitable Trust, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust. The OREGON EXPERIENCE Web site is opb.org/oregonexperience.

About OPB
OPB is the state’s most far-reaching and accessible media resource, providing free access to programming for children and adults designed to give voice to community, connect Oregon and its neighbors and illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune in to or log on to OPB’s Television, Radio and Internet delivered services. As the hub of operations for the state’s Emergency Broadcast and Amber Alert services, OPB serves as the backbone for the distribution of critical information to broadcasters and homes throughout Oregon. Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network that includes OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is opb.org.