The canoe has always been one of the most significant aspects of Chinookan culture. Canoe carving and “pulling” involved honor, respect, tradition, and ceremony. Spirituality is a key part of the canoe experience. Our ancestors began carving model canoes as children. As adults they obtained their own canoes through carving, trade, gambling, or gifting. The skilled Chinook hunted, fished, traded, and traveled to other villages in canoes. Children were born in canoes; the dead were often buried in canoes. Thus the canoe is a sacred vessel. The time is coming for Chinook canoes to return to our Great River. to Willapa Bay, and to the ocean.”

Gary Johnson, Culture Committee Chairman, Chinook Tillicums, Winter 1996.

Members of the Chinook Indian Nation in traditional clothing paddle on the Columbia River in the Johnson Family canoe, ca. 2002. Image courtesy of Gary Johnson