Discussion Questions and Further Reading: Joy and Pain

We hope the stories in each issue of Oregon Humanities are the beginning of conversations and exploration for our readers. Here you'll find some prompts for discussing these articles with others, as well as links to books, articles, and organizations where you can learn more about the stories and ideas explored in the "Joy and Pain" issue.

Discussion Questions

  • A recurring theme in Lana Jack’s story is broken promises: The Celilo Wy-am people were promised the right to fish in their “usual and accustomed places” by the US government in the Treaty with the Tribes of Middle Oregon. Jack contends this promise was broken by the so-called Huntington Treaty of 1865, by the nonrecognition of Celilo Wy-am as a tribe, and by the flooding of Celilo Falls by The Dalles Dam. When governments fail to fulfill their promises to groups or individuals, what kind of recompense—if any—is appropriate? Can you think of other examples of broken promises by the United States or other governments? In such cases, how can injured parties be made whole?

  • In “The Nature of the Beast,” Celina Patterson presents two perspectives on the Himalayan blackberry. On the one hand, the blackberry is a significant source of culinary pride and agricultural revenue in Oregon. On the other hand, blackberries are an invasive species that wreak environmental and economic damage. She writes, “Maybe the blackberry’s story is more like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The sweet star of our summer pies has a dark and wild doppelgänger, and to rid ourselves of one is to strike a mortal blow at the other.” While exploring these perspectives, she also discusses Luther Burbank, the man who introduced the Himalayan blackberry to the United States, who left a legacy of both scientific advancement and racism. Can you think of other aspects of Oregon’s history that remind you of either the Himalayan blackberry or Luther Burbank? When we evaluate the importance of a plant, person, or place, is it worthwhile to examine potentially conflicting perspectives? Why or why not?

  • In “Rustication and Return,” Rich Wandschneider explores the relationship between tourism and settler colonialism in the Wallowa Valley. He explains that the arrival of the first tourists in the area coincided with the forced removal of the Nez Perce, the Nimiipuu, in 1877. Do you view contemporary tourism—in Wallowa County, or elsewhere in the state—as part of a legacy of dispossession and displacement? Are there more ethical ways to approach tourism in Oregon?
  • In "Creation Stories," how does Melissa Bennett's incorporation of various narratives—including her birth mother's, her adoptive mother's, a traditional Nez Perce story, and her own—shed light on the impacts of transracial adoption on Indigenous communities and families? How does her narrative prompt you to reflect on your own understanding of culture and identity? Talk about the ways in which societal factors shape your personal experiences and perspectives—particularly related to issues of adoption, cultural heritage, and belonging?


  • In her comic, "Minor Malady," Eleanor Klock writes, “the only reaction-worthy topics fall on the extremities of the box plot of goods and bads.” Events in the middle of the plot, from a bad haircut to a cloudy day, aren’t so good or bad as to be acceptable topics of conversation with acquaintances or extended family. What do you consider the bounds of what is acceptable to complain or brag about? Are small misfortunes better shared or kept to oneself?
  • In “The Wisdom That Finds Us,” Stacey Rice writes about her experiences as a sixty-five-year-old transgender woman and reflects on the evolving landscape of acceptance and rights for queer and trans individuals in the U.S. At one moment, the author describes seeing a transgender woman on television for the first time and the relief she felt in realizing that there were others like her. What sorts of changes have you noticed in your own lifetime regarding queer and trans representation in movies, television, and other media? How might growing up in a different era, with less acceptance and visibility, have shaped the experiences and identities of older queer and trans individuals? In what ways does Stacey’s story resonate now, considering the present-day struggles for LGTBQ+ rights, recognition, and acceptance?

Further Reading

“We Will Be Here”

Andrew Fisher. Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity. University of Washington Press, 2010.

Andrew Fisher and Katrine Barber, eds. “Remembering Celilo,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 108, no. 4. Oregon Historical Society, 2007.

Katrine Barber. In Defense of Wyam: Native White Alliances and the Struggle for Celilo Village. University of Washington Press, 2018.

The Last Salmon Feast of the Celilo Indians.” Oregon Historical Society, 1955.

Stories from the River: Celilo.” Confluence Project, Tule Films, and NW Documentary, 2019.

Treaty with the Tribes Of Middle Oregon,” 1855, and “Treaty with the Middle Oregon Tribes,” 1865. The latter was annulled in 2020.


The Nature of the Beast

On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Portrait of Luther Burbank, 1931 by Frida Kahlo

The Training of the Human Plant by Luther Burbank

Why I Am an Infidel by Luther Burbank

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Biological Control of European Blackberry,” Australis Biological

Here’s why Oregonians are so proud of their blackberries,” NPR, 2022


Rustication and Return

Fifty Years in Oregon by T. T. Greer

Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland website

The Prairie Keepers by Marcy Houle

Stories of Wallowa Lake by Rita Ehrler


Creation Stories

Elizabeth Hidalgo Reese. “The Long History of Native American Adoptions,” Harper’s Bazaar, 2022.

Susan Devon Harness. “Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption,” University of Nebraska Press, 2018.

Rita James Simon and Sarah Hernandez. “Native American Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories,” Lexington Books, 2008.

Daughter of a Lost Bird.” American Documentary, 2022.

Learn about the history of the Indian Adoption Project and the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 which was created in response to harmful practices.


The Wisdom That Finds Us

Alexandra Theis. “Joyful Portraits of Queer Elders,” VICE, 2023.

Jamal Jordan. “Generations of Mentorship: Conversations with LGTBQ Elders,” New York Times, 2019.

Laura Kate Dale. “Gender Euphoria: Stories of Joy from Trans, Non-Binary, and Intersex Writers,” Unbound, 2021.

C. Riley Snorton. “Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity,” University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Samantha Allen. “Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States,” Little, Brown, 2020.



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Also in this Issue

From the Director: Consider

Editor's Note: Joy and Pain

Angier, NC

We Will Be Here

The Nature of the Beast

Rustication and Return

Creation Stories

Minor Malady

The Wisdom That Finds Us


People, Places, Things

Discussion Questions and Further Reading: Joy and Pain