I find interesting objects in my yard as I weed and plant. A railroad spike here, an old marble there; crockery shards and wonderfully rusted metal objects (“Now what could this BE?”). I am playing a guessing game as I piece together an identity and a history for my old place, but fortunately not so for those looking to celebrate, or at least acknowledge Black History Month in Pendleton. We have some very fortunate and ready-made connections not requiring (too much) guessing and digging to find them!! Allow me…
Within a few city blocks is a trifecta of history and ongoing effort to add character and nuance to the nexus of our multiple histories. Before the official effort to coalesce around Black History in 1926, Pendleton had George Fletcher (see image). Influenced by the mentoring and the savvy of the Umatilla Tribe, he was a sensation for those in attendance at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up (Black Cowboys in Oregon). He is featured on Main Street as part of the Bronze Trail of statues in town. His story was recently retold at the Heritage Station “Terrific Tuesdays” events where children’s author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson presented her publication. “Let’ Er buck: George Fletcher, the people’s champion.” Copies are available at local library branches, and it is terrifically illustrated by Gordon C. James.
Two blocks south on Main, a plaque is dedicated to the Triple Nickles, the first U.S. Forestry Service-trained military smokejumpers, operating out of Pendleton in 1944 (See 555th History plaque). What a proud legacy for our local airfield to have been on the avant garde in the defence of our local population, and how nicely it is honored as we connect the past with our recent use of space in the core of downtown.
These past events, so recently crafted and honored by bronze casting, image and text, are prominent enough in the community that no one need dig to find them. As I continue my muddy work to document my history of place, I am encouraged by the more recent story of Chuck LeValle and his tenure as interim Pendleton City Council member. He made history in 2018 when he became the first African American to hold this leadership position, which he very nearly retained after campaigning that same year just one Main Street block away from the monument to George Fletcher and one block from the future site of the Triple Nickels’ tribute plaque. Perhaps you (the reader) can encourage and share more of our local Black History by posting a comment to this blog!
African American History in the West:
Children's Author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson:
I recently viewed a tree removal in Pendleton that prompted me to wonder how long such a large tree had been present. It was a solemn process and I was struggling for a way to understand the good in it (any fellow tree lovers with me?). I was reminded that a crosscut section gives the ability to see and therefore read the life of the tree across the years. Exposure to the inside structure reveals an intricate and unique pattern with clues to the life and times it knew. This practice of reading trees across the rings is dendrochronology, and it can be pretty simple given the right explanation:
-“Dendrochronology studies indicate that droughts of varying magnitude were common in eastern Oregon during the last 500 years (Graumlich 1987, Keen 1937).: p.8, para 4.
Umatilla National Forest-USDA Forest Service
Being able to see variation and uniqueness in the growth patterns laid bare by the crosscut of this tree made me reflect on how we measure growth in other contexts: how variables act on (and in) our own human experience. How would this past year of struggle be read by future audiences? And how would our tales of struggle or growth manifest and be understood by future generations?
-See about the ability of trees to speak their truth in a page on the Pitara site: “Tree rings tell many tales” Pitara
That’s when it hit me that mentoring operates in a similar space of growth affected by environment….patterns formed in direct response to inputs specific to a particular combination of factors: obviously not the same set for trees and mentees, yet operating in similar ways. For trees we look to contributions like soil and weather. We can readily accept these factors would change the amount of growth marked in the tree “ring” that represents the growth for that year.
Apply this model to mentoring and consider the role of mentor as a contributor to growth where, say, encouragement or empathy impacted the growth of their mentee for that year. Parents and other family of course play a vital role in the growth of the mentee, but there is reason to believe that additional support from other well placed adults can help a student thrive.
-“Successful students had one or more teachers who were mentors and took a real interest in their aspirations, and they had an internship related to what they were learning in school.” -
Podcast; “It Takes A Mentor” (from the Chronicles of Evidence-Based Mentoring: An article by Thomas L. Friedman posted in the New York Times.)
Together we can make 2021 the right environment for our mentees to experience a remarkable year of growth!! For more on how to encourage the vigorous growth cycles that Impact Mentoring is striving for with our mentees, please visit our website and contact us: