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News Releases
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Oregon Historical Society Research Library, bb002919
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Oregon Historical Society Research Library, bb002919
Four Key Players in the Rajneesh Episode Come Together for Panel Discussion in Portland June 27 (Photo) - 06/19/19

Portland, OR –  In 1981, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, his personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their community of followers purchased the Big Muddy Ranch near the tiny Oregon town of Antelope. The ambitious experiment soon ignited great concern among the citizens of Antelope as well as among state and federal officials. The resulting legal and cultural controversies – many of them caused or exacerbated by supporters of the Bhagwan – played out in state and national media and in state and federal courtrooms.

On Thursday, June 27, the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society (USDCOHS) and the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) are pleased to welcome leading advocates from both sides of the Rajneeshpuram episode, who will address issues that continue to reverberate today. Three speakers made prominent appearances in the highly acclaimed Netflix Original documentary series Wild Wild Country. The program begins at 7pm at the First Congregational Church in Portland. Tickets are $25 and are available via brownpapertickets.com. This program is the latest in USDCHS’s Famous Cases lecture series and is sponsored in part by Perkins Coie LLP.

Oregon Supreme Court Justice Tom Balmer will moderate the panel discussion, featuring:

  • Philip Toelkes (a.k.a. Swami Prem Niren), attorney for the Rajneesh
  • Robert Weaver, assistant U.S. attorney at the time and lead federal prosecutor
  • William Gary, lead counsel for Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer on the matter
  • U.S. Magistrate Judge John Jelderks, who presided over a number of the state court legal proceedings

“Thirty five years later, Oregonians continue to grapple with the Rajneeshpuram episode. It is an extraordinary story of a religious utopian experiment gone wrong,” said Douglas Pahl, board member for the USDCOHS and OHS. “The strong feelings engendered by these events remain, highlighted poignantly by proceedings in Oregon courtrooms. We’ve brought together the leading legal advocates to reflect on the most significant issues they faced during that tumultuous time.” 

Interest in the Rajneesh episode skyrocketed with the premiere of Wild Wild Country in 2018. The majority of the archival footage used came from the Oregon Historical Society, primarily the KGW News Collection. To learn more about the inspiration behind this Emmy winning documentary, read the OLA Quarterly article, “Wild Wild Archive: Analog Videotape of the Rajneesh Movement at the Oregon Historical Society” written by OHS Film Archivist Matthew Cowan. For more history of the Rajneeshees, visit the Oregon Historical Society’s online Oregon Encyclopedia.


About the Oregon Historical Society

For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms & website (www.ohs.org), educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view

Alan Zhou and Kyler Wang
Alan Zhou and Kyler Wang
Over 50 Oregon Students Qualify to Advance to National History Day Contest in Maryland (Photo) - 06/07/19

Portland, OR – On Saturday, April 27, over 200 students gathered at Oregon Episcopal School in Portland to compete at Oregon History Day, the statewide qualifying competition for the annual National History Day (NHD) contest. Students presented over 100 research projects, in the forms of papers, documentaries, websites, performances, and exhibits, in front of 62 judges to determine which projects would advance to National History Day® in College Park, Maryland. Over a quarter of those students placed high enough to advance, and many will be traveling across the country this weekend to represent Oregon at the University of Maryland, near Washington, D.C., June 9 – 13.

The Oregon Historical Society (OHS)’s blog, Dear Oregon, recently profiled one of the outstanding projects that qualified to advance to the national competition. High school students Alan Zhou and Kyler Wang are a returning team who went to nationals in 2018 as middle school students with their documentary The Pig War: Confrontation, Escalation, Arbitration (now featured on NHD’s website). Although they now attend different high schools, they were excited to apply what they learned through their experience last year to a new documentary project, Echo of Falling Water: The Destruction of Celilo Falls.

When asked about why they decided to do another History Day project this year, they both expressed their love for history and their desire to learn more about their local history. According to Zhou, this year’s National History Day theme, “Triumph and Tragedy in History,” afforded them the opportunity to explore a wide range of events. After seeing other inspiring documentaries at the 2018 national contest, as well as a film on Celilo Falls in the Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon Voices exhibit, they were motivated to return to the competition.

In a short video interview with Zhou and Wang, which can be viewed on Dear Oregon, Zhou said:

Going to nationals last year was an amazing experience for us. Not only did we get to showcase the documentary that we worked on for months, we also got a chance to see other documentaries and meet people from around the country. We learned that NHD isn't only about the final product — it’s about the journey and people you meet along the way.

Zhou and Wang depart for Maryland this weekend alongside nearly 30 students, including middle school student Kalia Perkins from Bend, Oregon, whose exhibit People Behind Barbed Wire, won Best Overall Entry at Oregon History Day. Other notable entries that will represent Oregon include:

  • Stonewall: The Riots the Started the Gay Revolution, an exhibit by Lane Shaffer, Eliana Leone, and Sunil Williams from ACCESS Academy
  • The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a performance by Alistaire and Ripley Dills from Laurelhurst School
  • The Code Talkers: A Story of Assimilation and Global Conflict Triumph, by Rishab Jain and Darsh Mandera from Stoller Middle School
  • Let Her Buck: The Tragic Story of Bonnie McCarroll, by Kaylee Cope and Alexis Leake from Helix High School

As the organizer of Oregon History Day, OHS Education Manager, Kristen Pilgrim, works closely with educators throughout the state to connect students with a wide variety of OHS research resources and digital assets to aid in their project development. Regional competitions take place across Oregon, and qualifying entries compete at the Oregon History Day contest in Portland each spring.

All National History Day® participants compete in the first round of competition, while only the first place winners from round one advance to the second finals round where first, second, and third place finishers are awarded medals. Students may also receive Special Awards in a variety of categories.

More than a half-million students and 30,000 teachers participate in National History Day® annually. Through historical research on topics of their choice and interviews with multiple judges, students learn research and reading skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and self-esteem and confidence. For more information on National History Day®, visit www.nhd.org.

A full list of 2019 Oregon History Day participants can be found at www.ohs.org/oregonhistoryday.


About the Oregon Historical Society

For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms & website (www.ohs.org), educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view.

D-Day_landing_in_Normandy.jpg
D-Day_landing_in_Normandy.jpg
Two World War II Veterans to Speak at "A Celebration of Heroes" Program on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day (Photo) - 06/04/19

**Event on Thursday, June 6 at the Oregon Historical Society**

Portland, OR – June 4, 2019 – On June 6, 1944, some 156,000 American, British, and Canadian forces landed on fives beaches along a 50-mile stretch of coast of France’s Normandy region. The Battle of Normandy, also known as D-Day, lasted from June 1944 to August 1944 and resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. Codenamed “Operation Overlord,” the invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and has been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.

This Thursday, June 6 — on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasions — the Oregon Historical Society and The Mighty Endeavor will host “A Celebration of Heroes,” a program honoring Oregonians who served during World War II. The program, which will include ASL interpretation, will begin at 12pm at the Oregon Historical Society (1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland) and is free and open to the public.

The program will feature 1944 newsreel footage from the beaches in Normandy followed by a moderated conversation with WWII veterans Ben Asquith and Abe Laurenzo, Oregonians who took part in the historic invasion. A slideshow will display names of Oregon veterans buried at Normandy, and volunteers will serve cake at the conclusion of the program in honor of all veterans.

Ben Asquith of Dayton, Oregon, was born in Kansas and moved to Oregon with his family at an early age. In 1943, he enlisted in the United States Navy, beginning a year of extensive training in preparation for his tour of the European Theater of Operations (ETO). Asquith was one of the first to land at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Abe Laurenzo, LCI 47, LCI 409 Radioman, served on D-Day and in the landings in Italy and Africa. Mr. Laurenzo served as a Radioman First Class on a Landing Craft – Infantry (LCI #47). He and his fellow crewmembers delivered 200 troops in the first wave on Omaha Beach. His ship collided with an LST after their first landing and was unable to continue the mission until they could make repairs in dry dock in England.

This program is organized by The Mighty Endeavor, powered by Veterans’ Legacies, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit created to provide a resource for students, educators, historians, families, and the public. Veterans' Legacies is dedicated to the collection of veterans’ stories in order to preserve and share them for generations to come — giving veterans a voice and an audience to hear it.


About the Oregon Historical Society

For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms & website (www.ohs.org), educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view.

Attached Media Files: D-Day_landing_in_Normandy.jpg