Looking Back to Move Ahead

Lately when thinking about Ricochet River, our team has been thinking a lot about change. Living in Portland these days, it’s impossible not to notice the pace of change. Sometimes it seems like the entire city is under construction. Older institutions are closing, and new businesses are popping up like mushrooms. So there’s some comfort in knowing that this change didn’t come on all at once—the town has been in constant evolution since it was settled. While the Portland of today feels a lot different than the Portland of five years ago, that Portland feels like an entirely different world compared to the 1960s Portland of Wade, Jesse, and Lorna’s experience.

As the city rushes ahead with today’s particularly dramatic growth spurt, books like Ricochet River can be a helpful and important method of taking stock of where we’ve come from and how we’ve changed. While it can be tempting to romanticize the past, reading about the flooding of Celilo Falls and the environmental and cultural fallout from that decision, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that we’ve made a lot of progress over the years. One of the things we are most excited about including in our new edition of Ricochet River are essays that explore this perspective. Native culture has healed and regained strength in the years since boys like Jesse were dismissed as “dumb Indians.” Logging practices have become more sustainable. And the dams that started it all, decimating salmon populations and encouraging “survival of the timid,” continue to improve their environmental impact, allowing the fish to recover. Keeping the lessons of our past in mind is always good as we navigate our present.

These lessons are something we are trying to keep in mind as we develop our new teacher guide. There are a lot of reasons why Ricochet River has remained vital throughout its twenty-five years in print—it is a vibrant portrait of small-town life that explores some universal coming-of-age struggles. Still, it would be foolish not to acknowledge how the cultural conversation has changed, and we are committed to facilitating that discussion. Also, teaching methods are constantly evolving. When we wrote our teacher guide for the first Ooligan edition in 2005, we focused on the Oregon State Teaching Standards; this time around we are using Common Core standards as our guide. Government standards come and go, however. While the education mandate in five years will depend on which way political winds blow, our goal is simply to create interesting, thought provoking questions and activities that will be useful to teachers and educators everywhere—questions that deepen students’ interaction with Ricochet River and leave room for them to apply their ever-evolving perspectives to its timeless story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.