State Motto Timeline
1854 “She Flies With Her Own Wings”

1957 “The Union”

1987 “She Flies With Her Own Wings”

 

“She Flies with Her Own Wings” was adopted by the 1987 Legislature as the state motto. The phrase was written by Judge Jessie Quinn Thornton and translated into Latin for the territorial seal in 1854. “Alis Volat Propiis” is the Latin translation. Chapter 848, 1987 Oregon Laws, most clearly describes the events that led to the choice for the state’s motto in 1854.

 

             “Relating to the state motto; amending ORS 186.040.

                        Whereas the spring of 1843 found the Oregon County politically unorganized and its inhabitants in disagreement over whether their future lay beneath the wing of Britain or that of the United States; and

                        Whereas on the second day of May in that year of 1843, the settlers of the Oregon Country gathered at the settlement of Champoeg and voted, by division of those present, to form a provisional government dependent upon neither Britain nor the United States, but dependent only upon the inherent political authority of its own people; and

                        Whereas the Oregon Territorial Legislature, on January 18, 1854, recognized this seminal event in the history of the Oregon Country by adopting as the motto of the Oregon Territory the Latin phrase, “Alis Volat Propiis,” which, in English, means “She flies with her own wings”; and

                        Whereas the motto appropriately reflected the independent character of the Oregon pioneer settlers who established their own government, …”

 

In 1957, the motto was changed to “The Union.” According to former Senate historian Cecil Edwards, “The Union” goes back to earlier years in Oregon when citizens “were torn over the issue of slavery.”1

 

Senate historian Cecil Edwards, Secretary of State Barbara Roberts and former state Senate President Jason Boe were the sponsors for the 1987 Senate Bill 1036 which proposed changing the motto back to “She Flies With Her Own Wings.” Supporters of the bill felt that “She Flies With Her Own Wings” reflected Oregon’s tradition of independence and innovation. Sen. Frank Roberts said that Oregon was the first in many areas including the bottle bill and the public beach access bill. In addition Oregon was the first in some national issues among which were providing for the recall of public officials in 1908, statewide voter registration in 1899 and the first celebration of Labor Day.


 

1.”Senate Historian Backs Gutsy Motto,” Statesman Journal, May 12, 1987, Page 4C

 

“She Flies With Her Own Wings; New Motto Describes the Oregon of Today,” Statesman Journal, June 22, 1987, Page 6A

“Senate Approves Reclaiming Motto.” Statesman Journal, May 28, 1987, Page 6C