PSU Sociologist discusses ‘Your Land, My Land’ project

<p>Sociologist Veronica Dujon called for more conversations between the younger and older generations of the North Coast. She presented as part of the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project, which on Friday visited the Astoria Public Library.</p>

Sociologist Veronica Dujon of Portland State University calls for more conversations between the diverse demographics of the North Coast.

Dujon, a speaker with the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project, presented “Your Land, My Land” to a small audience Friday evening at the Astoria Public Library.

Different people, she said, forge different connections with the landscape – utilitarian, environmental, aesthetic – depending on their backgrounds. The Conversation Project, she added, is about starting more communication between them.

“It’s not an either/or situation,” said Dujon about the differences between people trying to harvest and/or preserve natural resources. “It’s not that people should ever use the natural environment. It’s usually a spectrum.”

Dujon, chairwoman of the sociology department at PSU, is from St. Lucia in the Caribbean. She said the small island experienced a shift from agriculture – her own parents farmed bananas – to more tourism. The change is reminiscent of the North Coast’s economic transformation to a more service sector, tourism-based economy.

Local interest

Dujon, who’s spent about half her life in the U.S., earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin and started teaching at PSU in 1995.

One of her first interests, she said, was a student from Clatskanie whose parent was a gillnetter. The embattled career and lifestyle, she added, had been in decline, and the student wanted to know why.

A survey by the university later asked local fishermen, a third of whom had not turned in their gillnetting permits during buyback programs in the 1990s, why they continued.

“It’s difficult to ask somebody who’s 60, 65 to ask them to switch from something they’ve been doing their entire lives,” said Dujon, adding that a deep sense of identity kept them going despite a bleak reality. “They weren’t encouraging their children to continue in the industry, but they could (detach) from it.”

Dujon asked the audience why they chose the North Coast and Astoria. In various responses, people who moved to the area sought cleaner air, a more rural and relaxed environment, an eclectic mix of people and a deeper sense of community.

Subsequent migrations of people with different ideas about the land can create conflict, said Dujon, if they don’t remain sensitive about each other’s experience.

“We have to figure out how do we make it work,” she said about the shifting demographics. She asked audience members for their solutions and ideas on the future of the North Coast. The timing was uncanny.

Clatsop County recently launched Clatsop Vision 2030, a look at the community’s long-term goals and aspirations that will help guide public policy decision-making through 2030. Workshops started in April and continue:

• From 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Clatsop Community College in Astoria. The workshop takes place in Columbia Hall Room 219 on the main campus, 1651 Lexington Ave.

• 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Arch Cape Fire Station at 79729 U.S. Highway 101.

• From 9:30 a.m. to noon May 24 at the Bob Chisholm Community Center, 1225 Avenue A in Seaside.

• 2 to 4:30 p.m. May 24 at the Westport Community Church, located at 49246 U.S. Highway 30.

The workshops cover economy and jobs; arts, culture and history; education and learning; public health and safety; community development; environment, natural resources and recreation. For more information, visit


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