Oregon State Motto

"Alis Volat Propiis"

Oregon Motto and Seal of Oregon Territory

(She Flies With Her Own Wings)

Adopted in 1987.

Language: Latin

"She Flies With Her Own Wings" (Alis Volat Propriis) became the official state motto of Oregon in 1987, replacing "The Union" (adopted in 1957).

In 1859, the state of Oregon adopted a new seal, which included "The Union,"likely an affirmation of legislators' unionist sentiments immediately preceding the Civil War. During Oregon's centennial in 1959, the state legislature officially chose "The Union"as the state motto. In 1987, the Oregon legislature changed the state motto from "The Union"to "She Flies With Her Own Wings,"the unofficial motto from Oregon's territorial period.

Supporters of the change argued that "She Flies With Her Own Wings"reflected Oregon's independent nature. The phrase comes from the Latin "alis volat propiis,"which was first added to Oregon's territorial seal by Jesse Quinn Thornton, a judge for Oregon's provisional government and later a state legislator. While it is now translated as "She Flies With Her Own Wings,"Thornton translated the phrase as "He Uses His Own Wings."He said it was "an allusion to the general facts of the history of colonization of Oregon and the establishment and maintenance of the provisional government without aid of the mother country."Oregon's motto, Alis Volat Propriis, meaning "She flies with her own wings," was the motto of the Territory of Oregon. This seems to be a corruption of Lines 1141 and 1142 of Seneca's Hippolytus, Act IV. They read, "ambiguis Mobilis alis hora."

Oregon State Motto
"She Flies With Her Own Wings

Oregon State Motto Timeline

1854 - "She Flies With Her Own Wings"

1957 - "The Union"

1987 - "She Flies With Her Own Wings"

The Oregon state motto also exists in a Latin motto version: "Alis Volat Propiis".

The Oregon motto is said to represent both sentiments of independence from Britain and the independent nature of the early settlers in their abilities to make a living in the new territory and create a new government.

The Oregon motto was adopted by Legislature in 1987. The phrase is much older than that, however. The Oregon motto was actually written 133 years earlier in 1854 by Judge Jessie Quinn Thornton and was put on the territorial seal.

The Oregon motto has had quite a turbulent history during these 133 years and was in fact not always entitled "She Flies With Her Own Wings".

In 1957, the Oregon state motto was changed to "The Union". Senate historian Cecil Edwards points to the public division of opinion in relation to slavery as the driving force behind changing the Oregon motto to "the Union".

The national pride of innovative achievements and history of independent nature of Oregon citizens did make the government change the Oregon motto back into "She Flies With Her Own Wings" in 1987.

"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."

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.

Oregon Law

The law designating the official Oregon state motto is found in the  Oregon Revised Statutes, Title 19, Chapter 186, Section 186.040.

Chapter 186 - State Emblems; State Boundary.
SECTION 186.040.

186.040 State motto. The motto of the State of Oregon is "Alis Volat Propriis," translated from Latin as "She Flies With Her Own Wings." [1957 c.355 §1; 1987 c.848 §1]

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

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