Alis volat propriis Article

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Seal of the Oregon Territory with the Latin phrase Alis volat propriis

Alis volat propriis is a Latin phrase used as the motto of U.S. state of Oregon. [1]

The official English version of the motto is "She flies with her own wings" in keeping with the tradition of considering countries and territories to be feminine. However, because the feminine pronoun in the Latin sentences is often omitted and the verb form is not inflected for gender, the phrase could be translated with equal validity as "[one] flies with [one's] own wings", "[he] flies with [his] own wings", or "[it] flies with [its] own wings".

If macrons are used to indicate the long vowels (standard practice in Latin dictionaries and textbooks), then the phrase becomes Ālīs volat propriīs.

The motto was written in English by the judge Jesse Quinn Thornton, and its Latin translation was added to the Territorial Seal adopted by the Oregon Territorial Legislature in 1854. [2] The motto referred to the May 2, 1843 vote by Oregon Country settlers at the third Champoeg Meeting to form a provisional government independent of the United States and Great Britain. [3] During the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865 the motto on the state seal was changed to " The Union." [4] In 1957, the Oregon Legislature officially changed the motto to "The Union" reflecting conflicting views about slavery in Oregon's early days. [3]

In 1987, the legislature readopted the original motto, which it felt better reflected Oregon's independent spirit. [3] The sponsors of the bill that changed the motto back to alis volat propriis included the Oregon Secretary of State and later Governor Barbara Roberts, President of the Oregon Senate Jason Boe, and Senate historian Cecil Edwards. [3]

In 1999, after a short debate in committee, [5] the Oregon House of Representatives took a vote on HB 2269, which would revert the state motto to "The Union". The bill failed to pass on a 30-30 tie vote. [6]

The current Oregon State Seal, which appears on the obverse of the state flag, still features the motto "The Union." [5]


  1. ^ ORS 186.040 specifies that “The motto of the State of Oregon is ‘Alis Volat Propriis,’ translated from Latin as ‘She Flies With Her Own Wings.’” "Chapter 186". Oregon Revised Statutes, 2005 edition. Legislative Counsel Committee of the Oregon Legislative Assembly. Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2006-12-31.
  2. ^ State Symbols: Flag to Motto, Oregon Blue Book
  3. ^ a b c d "Oregon State Motto Timeline". Oregon Legislative Assembly. Archived from the original on 10 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
  4. ^ Lansing, Ronald B. 2005. Nimrod: Courts, Claims, and Killing on the Oregon Frontier. Pullman: Washington State University Press. p. 90, 136-40, 262.
  5. ^ a b "House Committee on Rules, Elections, and Public Affairs". State of Oregon. January 26, 1999. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
  6. ^ "70th Oregon Legislative Assembly — 1999 Regular Session". State of Oregon. Archived from the original on 2006-09-23.