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The Chinook Indian Nation consists of five Chinook speaking tribes who live near the mouth of the Columbia. The Clatsop live on the south shore of the Great River. The Lower Chinook live on the north shore at the river’s mouth. The Willapa Chinook live on the bay to the north. Assisted by the tide, in historic times the Lower Chinook and Clatsop easily canoed a few miles east to visit their cousins the Wahkiakum and the Cathlamet. Today’s Chinook Nation includes all five tribal groups.

The Lower Columbia Chinook Timeline presents events significant to Chinook history and cultural change, with emphasis on the people and incidents that have provided written documentation of the past and affected tribal status.


Before 12,000 BPE – 1799   1800-1850  |  1851-1914  |  1914-1948  1948-1987  |  1987-present


Before 12,000 BPE (Before Present Era) — The Chinook identify Saddle Mountain as their place of origin, before the Changer came and made things the way they are today. In those ancient times, Too-Lux, old man South Wind, traveled up the coast to the Great River, Yakaitl-Wimakl, and caught a whale to ease his hunger. The whale transformed into Thunderbird who tended a nest with five eggs. An ogress who followed Thunderbird to his nest pushed these eggs down the mountainside and when they cracked open, the grandmothers and grandfathers of the Chinook emerged. These were the first Chinook people and many of their descendants remain near Saddle Mountain at the mouth of the Columbia River to this day.

12,000 BPE — This is the earliest date of human presence documented by archaeologists in the Pacific Northwest. The Northwest Coast was among the most populated regions in North America prior to contact, with tens of thousands of people living in Chinook lands. [1]

1700 — January  An earthquake of 9.1 on the Richter scale, followed by a tsunami, hits the Northwest Coast.  The giant quake—a major disaster for the Chinook people–hit at night while the Chinook were in their winter houses. Coastal storytellers explain the disaster as a result of Thunderbird lifting Whale into the air and dropping him repeatedly. A Tillamook tribal member described it as violent “shaking of the mountains so that it was impossible to stand upon.” A Clallum Indian said “The rivers became salt. The valleys were full of water.” [2]

1707 The Spanish galleon San Francisco Xavier shipwrecks on the Oregon Coast near Nehalem Beach, an event documented by Clatsop oral history. The Spanish have been sailing the North Pacific since at least 1527.

1740s-70s Disease, likely smallpox, sweeps the Northwest Coast.

1787 — July 13  The U.S. government passes the Northwest Ordinance, opening lands for American settlement and development as far west as French Louisiana. Article III establishes the “Rights of Indians” and the process by which the new American government would expand westward: “The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands  and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice & humility shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them…”

1788 The Chinook welcome Americans who arrive on the Northwest Coast to trade for furs, the “soft gold” they will sell for high profits in China. The British John Meares spends the summer trading at Nootka Sound. Like the Americans, he misses the entrance to the Columbia.

1792 — May 11  The Chinook have greeted many American ships along the Northwest Coast by this time. When Captain Robert Gray sails into the mouth of the Yakaitl-Wimakl sand calls it the Columbia River after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva, the trade-savvy Chinook exchange fish and furs for Euro-American items. Gray’s visit gains significance later when used to establish an American claim to the region under Euro-American international law. [3]

October. Two British ships, the Discovery, commanded by Captain Vancouver and Chatham, under the command of Lieutenant William Broughton, arrive at the river’s mouth. Broughton sends two longboats approximately 100 miles upriver in the Chatham. [4]

1793 — Early August  A skirmish takes place between the Chinook and sailors of the Mexicana, a Spanish exploring ship. [5]

1795 Between now and 1804, the coastal fur trade expands in Chinook Country, with fifty American and nine British vessels arriving on the Northwest Coast during this period.

 


| 1800-1850 |


1801 An epidemic (likely smallpox) strikes the Northwest Coast.

1803 The U.S. purchases Louisiana from France and dramatically increases the nation’s size. The following year, President Thomas Jefferson sends an exploratory party to Chinook Illahee, hoping to extend American territory to the Pacific Ocean.

1805 — Ethnohistorian Robert Boyd estimates a population of 15,545 from Willamette Falls on the Willamette River to the Pacific Ocean, after waves of disease swept the NW Coast several times, with twice as many Native people gathering on the Lower Columbia during fishing seasons.

November 15  Lewis and Clark arrive in Chinook territory on the north side of the Columbia. [link to Encountering qiíq’ayaqilxam]

November 25  Lewis and Clark cross to the south side of the river. They construct Fort Clatsop in the territory of headman Coboway, where they remain until the following spring (1806). Expedition members record data on the cultural practices, villages, and population of Chinook peoples.

1806 —March 29  Lewis and Clark visit Cathlapotle Village, where the Columbia, Lewis, and Lake rivers meet. They note 14 wooden plankhouses and approximately 900 Chinook. [6]

1809-34 The British fur trading North West Company establish nine posts in the inland Northwest.

1810 David Thompson, a cartographer employed by the North West Company, descends the Columbia from present-day British Columbia to the river’s mouth.

A Chinook pilot leads the American Captain Nathan Winship and his crew 54 miles up the Columbia River to construct a trading post on the river’s south side. Within days, Native leaders tell them to move to the river’s mouth, because the Chinook there control the inland trade. The threat of violence causes Winship to abandon the enterprise. [7]

1811 The Tonquin arrives by sea to establish Fort Astoria on behalf of John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company. Wilson Price Hunt’s party arrives by land. Traders write about relations with the Chinook.

1812 The British seize Astor’s Pacific Fur Co. Duncan McDougall, who is married to Ilchee, the daughter of Chief Comcomly, sells to the British NorthWest Company, which operates in Lower Chinook lands until 1821.

1814 The Treaty of Ghent ends war between Great Britain and the U.S., providing for “status antebellum.” For Americans, this means that their claim to the Oregon Country–enhanced by the construction of Fort Astoria–remains.

1818 Euro-American presence in Chinook lands increases as an agreement between the U.S. and Great Britain determines joint occupation of the Northwest Territory for trade and settlement.

1821 The British government merges the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company under the auspices of the HBC, which becomes the most influential non-Native power on the Lower Columbia.[8]

1824   HBC Chief Factor, John McLoughlin, his wife Marguerite Wadin McKay McLoughlin, and their children arrive in the Northwest. Under his supervision, the HBC moves its headquarters from headman Comcomly’s territory at the mouth of the Columbia River to the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers where headman Casino holds sway, establishing Fort Vancouver. In doing so, the European traders diminish Comcomly’s influence but heighten Casino’s importance to Euro-Americans.

1824-25 Mortality strikes Northwest Coast Native peoples, likely smallpox and/or malaria. The Hudson’s Bay Company moves inland to Fort Vancouver as headquarters of the Columbia District.

1830-31 Villages near Fort Vancouver lose “every human inhabitant” from the “intermittent fever,” [9] aka “fever and ague” or the “cold sick” (malaria). Headman Comcomly succumbs to the illness around this time, as do many Lower Chinook. With limited medical supplies, John McLoughlin sends away Native people who seek treatment at Fort Vancouver. McLoughlin notes the disappearance of about ¾ of the Native population near the fort. [10]

Survivors congregate throughout Chinook territory. While many remain on the south bank of the Columbia, other Chinook move to (or stay) in remote locations on the river’s north side, including Pillar Rock, Dahlia, Grays River, Chinook Point, Chinook River, and the present-day city of Ilwaco. Chinook also live at the mouth of every river on Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay. [11]

1833   Dr. William Tolmie visits Cathlapotle and finds it completely abandoned. A few years earlier, Tolmie reported 200-300 occupants at the village. [12]

1834 Methodist minister Jason Lee accompanies New England entrepreneur Nathaniel Wyeth and others, including Dr. John Townsend, to the Willamette Valley and establishes a mission at the site of present-day Salem, Oregon. Other Protestant and Catholic missionaries soon followed, eager to bring Christianity to the region’s indigenous peoples. Townsend visits the village of Cathlapotle, recording the devastation he witnesses.

1835 — April 3  Nathaniel Wyeth records of Sauvie Island that: “a mortality has carried off to a man its inhabitants and there is nothing to attest that they ever existed…” [13]

1836   Andrew Jackson sends William Slacum to the Pacific Coast to investigate the potential for American acquisition. Slacum explores Chinook lands. More Protestant missionaries arrive in the Northwest. [14]

1838   Catholic priests, Francis Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers arrive at Fort Vancouver. They establish missions amongst the Chinook of the Lower Columbia.

1841   A group of Chinook and an African American servant save crewmembers from the Peacock, one of five vessels of the United States South Seas Surveying and Exploring Expedition under Lt. Charles Wilkes. The survey maps over 800 miles of what would become Oregon.

1843   American missionary Marcus Whitman leads more than 900 settlers, the largest group to date, over the Oregon Trail. Americans join with some former HBC employees to create the Oregon Provisional Government, which grants land to settlers before government agreements have been made with Native people and prior to resolving competing American and British claims.

1844   Another epidemic hits the Northwest—dysentery.

1845   Due to immigration and decimation of Native populations from disease, American settlers, missionaries and traders begin to outnumber indigenous populations in the Willamette Valley.

1846 The Oregon Treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain formally ends the two nations’ joint occupation of Oregon Country and sets a boundary between them at the 49th parallel, excluding Vancouver Island. Neither country has resolved Native land claims to the territory.

1847   Measles epidemic ravages Native populations to the east/northeast of the lower Columbia. Chinookan headman Cassino’s family hard hit by epidemic downstream from Vancouver. The epidemic is one factor in the decision of several Cayuse Indians to kill Marcus & Narcissus Whitman and 12 others at the Waiiliaptu Mission near present-day Walla Walla. This incident results in the Cayuse War, with conflict continuing sporadically until 1855. Americans view the Coastal Chinook as friendly, but fear of a pan-Indian association increases general anti-Indian sentiment.[15]

1848 — August 14  Congress passes the Organic Act, creating Oregon Territory. Territorial status extends the assurances of Article III of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, indicating that the government will deal with Native people in good faith and never take their land without consent.[16]

1850   Congress authorizes a special treaty commission to negotiate with the tribes of Oregon Territory. The U.S. government seeks to extinguish all Indian land title west of the Cascade Mountains.[17]

September 27 Congress passes the Donation Land Act to promote settlement in Oregon Territory in direct conflict with protection of Native land claims set out in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Land grants of 320 acres are available to white men, with another 320 acres available to married women. Half-blood Native peoples can also file DLCs. There is a flood of immigration to the Northwest before DLC claims end in 1855.


|  1851-1914  |


1851 — February 17  Congress reserves treaty making powers for superintendents and agents of the Office of Indian Affairs (later the BIA), removing the authority of the Oregon Treaty Commission.

August  Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon Territory, Anson Dart, negotiates the Tansy Point treaties for Indian lands covering much of the Columbia estuary. Treaties are made with the Wah-Ki-kum, Wheelappa, Kathlamet, Clatsop, and Lower Bands of Chinook, among many others. These treaties allow the Chinook to remain in their homelands and promise needed provisions and annuities.

1852 — July 30  President Fillmore receives 13 of the Tansy Point Treaties for ratification. They are read into the record, but none are ratified by Congress.

1853   Smallpox again strikes Northwest Native populations.

March 2  Chinooks (proper) and Clatsops, living on opposite sides of the river, are artificially divided by U.S. political jurisdiction when the government creates Washington Territory.

March 3  Congress authorizes appropriation of Indian lands west of the Missouri for settlement by U.S. citizens and funds the Pacific Railroad surveys. George C. McClellan oversees survey work under Territorial Governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens. McClellan hires George Gibbs, who documents information about Washington tribes, including the Chinook.[18]

1854 — July 31  Congress authorizes treaty negotiations in Washington Territory prior to July 1, 1855. George Gibbs carries out the “Reconnaissance of Shoalwater Bay,” a major part of the Chinook homelands.

August  Stevens forms the Chehalis River Treaty Council to negotiate with southwest Washington coastal Indians, including the Chinook, Chehalis, Cowlitz, Queniul, Quaitso, Satsop, Satchap and the Wahkiakum.

1855 — Late February  The Chinook attend the Chehalis River Treaty Council negotiations, held ten miles east of Grays Harbor. Approximately 350 representatives from various tribes are present. Governor Stevens insists these tribes relocate to a single proposed reservation a hundred miles to the north. When the Chinook insist on maintaining their existing agreement with the government–to stay in their aboriginal homelands–Stevens angrily leaves the treaty grounds.

July 1  Stevens negotiates the Treaty of Olympia with the Quinault and Quileute. Although the Chinook do not attend, an article in the resulting treaty allows the president to create a reservation and consolidate “friendly tribes or bands” of affiliated tribes together. By 1861, the government creates the 10,000 acre Quinault Indian Reservation for these groups.

1859March 8  Congress ratifies the Treaty of Olympia, providing a foundation for later legislation that includes the Chinook as “fish-eating” Indians of Washington.

1861 — January 14  The citizens of Oregon and Washington send a letter to Congress and to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs asking for relief for the Indians of the Lower Columbia River. The letter states the wrongs that had been done to the “friendly” Indians of the region.[19]

1864 — July 8  The U.S. government takes Chinook territory in Southwest Washington by order of the Secretary of the Interior, John P. Usher. The government creates the Chehalis Indian Reservation, with language that includes the Chinook, Cowlitz and other non-treaty Indians of southwestern Washington on the reservation, although they have not agreed to cede their land.

1865   Chenamus is shot in the back of the head while drumming and singing during Winter ceremony at the Wapa-loo-chee (owl) River (now Chinook River).[20]

1866   President Andrew Johnson creates the one mile square Shoalwater Bay Reservation by Executive Order for use by the Shoalwater Chinook and Lower Chehalis.

1873 — November 4  The Chinook are included, by executive order of Ulysses S. Grant, in expansion of the Quinault Reservation to 220,000 acres. The Hoh, Quit, Chehalis, Cowlitz, Ozette, and Chinook are assigned to the reservation as the “fish eating Indians” of Washington.

1879 The first off-reservation Indian boarding school is established at Carlisle, Pennsylvania under direction of Superintendent Richard Henry Pratt, whose motto “Kill the Indian, save the man” served as a model for assimilation in boarding schools established in the U.S. over the next several decades.

1880 — February 25  The Chinook are handled by the government like treaty Indians. Chemawa Indian School opens in Salem, Oregon and dozens of Chinook attend over the next 50-70 years. Chinook youth also attend the Cushman Indian School in Tacoma.

1899   Chinook petition the Indian Claims Commission seeking annuities under the Tansy Point treaties of 1851. The claim results in an investigation, testimony, and annuity payments in 1912.

1902   Chinook and early settlers testify in Astoria as part of The Lower Band of Chinook Indians of the State of Washington vs. The United States. Witnesses for the Chinook include: P.J. McGowan, B.C. Kindred, Mary Kelly, R.C.F. Astbury, Samuel Mallet, Alfred S. Tee, John Pickernell, William Chance, Catherine George, Mrs. Julia Russell, Robert S. McEwan, and Silas B. Smith.

1905May 16  The Supreme Court rules in U.S. v. Winans [198 U.S. 371], establishing that treaties are not a grant of rights to Indians, but a grant of rights from them to the U.S. government. The term “treaty rights” thus refers to rights retained by tribes, as well as governmental obligations to tribes in exchange for lands.

1906   Chinook Indians participate in the McChesney Enrollment of 1906 as well as the supplemental enrollment of 1913. Those enrolled are identified and recognized as Chinook, separate from any reservation on which they may reside. Affidavits and roll published as House Document No. 133, 59th Congress, 2nd Session.

1911   Chinook receive allotments on the enlarged Quinault Reservation. Allotment are directed by Congress to the Secretary of the Interior under provisions of the allotment laws “to all members of the Hoh, Quileute, Ozette or other tribes of Indians in Washington who are affiliated on the Quinault Reservation rather than on the reservations set aside for these tribes.”

Members of the Chinook Indian Nation participate in the centennial of Astoria, Oregon. The Euro-Americans of Astoria and Greater Clatsop County extend the invitation to them and to other indigenous peoples without recognizing that these are Chinook homelands. The Chinook are treated as guests in their own territory. During this event, a Chinook canoe race took place on the Lower Columbia.[21]

1912   Land claim payments are authorized by Congress to the Chinook based on their 1899 claim, 1902 testimony, and subsequent 1906 and 1913 enrollments.

1912-13     Chinook Indians seek enrollments and individual land allotments at the Quinault Indian Reservation.


|  1914-1948  |


1914   Chinook Indians secure land claim payments per Secretarial roll of 1914. The Lower Chinook receive $20,000, the Clatsop $15,000, Nuc-que-clah-we-muck Tribe $1,500, Waukikum $7,000, Kathlamet $7,000, and Wheelappa $5,000. The Chinook assert that these payments indicate recognition of, and even constructive ratification of the 1851 treaties.

1914-48     Chinook Indians join the Northwestern Federation of American Indians.

1916-19     Chinook Indians participate in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Roblin Enrollment, a list of Indians who had not yet received benefits from 19th century treaties. In his final report, Charles Roblin writes, that, “In Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Grays Harbor Counties, Washington, there are a number of small Indian settlements, comprising the remnants of the tribes originally inhabiting the country around the harbors and inlets of the Pacific Coast and Columbia River.” Although surrounded by white communities, according to Roblin, “They can hardly be said to have severed tribal relations.”

1924June 2  Congress enacts the Indian Citizenship Act, which grants citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. Previously, the government identified indigenous peoples as non-citizen “wards” of the United States, conferring citizenship only to specific tribes, by individual naturalization or through military service and an honorable discharge in World War I. The right to vote, however, was governed by state law; many states, including Washington, barred Native Americans from voting until much later.[22]

1925   Chinook Indian Tribes are included in an act of Congress for renewed land claims litigation (Duwamish et. al. v. U.S.). Chinook Tribe adopts a written constitution and begins election of officers. Congress passes jurisdictional act permitting Chinook, Duwamish, and other tribes to sue in U.S. Claims Court for taking of aboriginal lands.

1926   Chinook Tribe begins to develop and maintains tribal enrollment records to the present day.[23]

1928   The Chinook sue for allotments on the Quinault Reservation in Halbert v. United States [283 U.S. 753]. Ten Chinook tribal plaintiffs participate in securing allotments, including Archie Pelland, Rose Pickernell, Lula M. Elliott, Kate Wolkowsky, Mary J. Jette, Mary B. Petit, Dewey Baricho, Edna May Elliott Aronson, Anna Marie Elliott, Agnes Henry Rubens.

The Institute for Government Research releases the Meriam Report on the economic and social conditions of Indians. The report identifies federal government attitudes and emphasis on private property ownership as the basic problems of Indian administration.[24]

1929 — July 16  Chinooks, George Mitchell and Roland Charley attempt to use the seining grounds at Peacock Spit, which the State of Washington has leased to the Baker Bay Fish Co. The Charleys and an additional 30 to 40 Indians contest the lease. Most are Chinook enrollees from the Quinault Reservation who have traditionally fished at the Columbia’s mouth. The right to the Indian fishery is at the heart of the case and the government represents the Chinook on behalf of the Quinault. In United States v. McGowan [62 F.2d 955], the court finds the Quinault Tribe, signatory to the treaty of Olympia, is distinct from the Chinook Indian Tribe and so does not possess tribal fishing rights at the river’s mouth.

1931   The Supreme Court rules in Halbert, determining that individual members of the Chinook, Cowlitz, and Chehalis tribes have a right to allotments on the Quinault Reservation. The court also rules on the status of Indian women who marry white men, determining that “where the woman remains in the tribal environment and continues the tribal affiliation, the membership is not affected.” This is also true of the children of Indian women, if reared by her in a tribal environment.

1932-35     Hundreds of Chinook obtain allotments on the Quinault Reservation, making them the majority land-holding interest.

1933   The Ninth Circuit Court upholds the District Court decision in McGowan, finding “That the estuary of the Columbia river, while beyond question usually and customarily resorted to as a fishing ground of the Chinook tribe of Indians, was not usually and customarily or frequently resorted to by the Quinaielt or Quillehute tribes of Indians for the purpose of fishing;. . . ” Despite recognizing aboriginal and ongoing Chinook use of the Columbia, the court does not establish Chinook fishing rights because of their association with the Quinault.

1934 – present  The Bureau of Indian Affairs administers “in trust” the lands of “non-competent” Chinook Indians, their resources, Indian Money Market accounts, and estate probates. These assets involve tens of thousands of acres of trust lands under section 1 of the General Allotment Act. Federal law requires an Indian to be a member of a recognized tribe to receive an allotment.

1936   The Washington State Attorney General issues an opinion saying that Indians DO have the right to vote in Washington. He cites the 15th amendment and the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act, calling into question a 1910 state law that said “Indians not taxed shall never be allowed the elective franchise.” Still, the State Constitution is not amended to provide the franchise to all state residents until 1974.[25]


|  1948-1987  |


1948-76     Chinook Indians pursue land claims litigations in the Indian Claims Commission.

1949   Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Portland Area Office issues “Blue Cards” to Chinooks, certifying tribal rights to hunt and fish.

1950s     Chinook join the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), previously the General Council of Northwest Indians. Chinook Tribal members attend meetings of the Inter-tribal Council before ATNI forms.[26]

1951     The Chinook Nation hires legal counsel for Indian Claims Commission suit Chinook Tribe of Indians versus United States, Docket 234. They argue that the $26,307.95 awarded to them in 1912 for the 762,000 acres they relinquished based on the unratified 1851 treaties was unconscionable. In 1970, the Indian Claims Commission awards them $75,000, which after deducting the previous balance results in a final judgment of $48,692.05. Although awarded, the Chinook do not receive these funds because they do not have federal status as a recognized tribe.[27]

July  Chinook Tribal Representative Myrtle Woodcock attends the National Indian Congress in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mrs. Woodcock of South Bend, Washington, is a tribal leader, historian, and an authority on local tribal lore.

1952   The Chinook protest closure of the Taholah Indian Agency.

1953   The Chinook submit a tribal constitution and by-laws to the BIA.

The Eisenhower Administration terminates the federal status of 109 tribes and bands across the nation, including 62 from Oregon. “Termination” means ending the government’s trust responsibility toward Native Americans. The BIA invites Chinook leaders in writing to meetings on Public Law 280, Proposed Termination, and other matters. Chinook participate in Termination hearings in Bay Center, Washington and submit tribal rolls to the BIA. The BIA returns tribal enrollment records and Constitution (stamped “Portland Area Office, Swan Island, Portland, OR.”). The BIA begins “administrative termination” and rejects tribal governing documents– without providing a reason.

Chinook secure non-profit corporation status in the State of Washington.

The Royal Navy Museum of England returns Chief Comcomly’s skull to the U.S. a century after Dr. Meredith Gairdner robbed his grave in the middle of the night. The Clatsop County Historical Museum displays the chief’s skull in a glass case at the Flavel House until 1968, a painful situation for the Chinook, who worked for years to repatriate the chief’s remains.[28]

The Chinook sue Oral Evans, et. al. for looting Chinook graves.

Chinook join National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Membership continues into the twenty-first century.[29]

1954   The Chinook, Kathlamet, Clatsop, and Clatskanie are named in the Western Oregon Termination Act [PL 588].

The Chinook are active in the Intertribal Council Fish Commission.

Melvin E. Robinson, Superintendent of the Western Washington Indian Agency writes, “We are fully aware the Chinooks are an Indian Tribe.”

1956   The Chinook Indian Tribe holds regular meetings of its tribal council, plans for the annual meeting, and participates in regional Indian organizations. They work on a number of issues concerning members, including proposed Congressional Termination, heirship of allotments, old age assistance, artifact protection, and Blue Cards for fishing. Functioning tribal committees include Membership, Gifts, Program, Housing, Food, Kitchen, and Reception.[30]

1967   The BIA halts services to 100 landless tribes in the United States, and staff makes a list of tribes that they will serve in the future. Until this time, the federal government always served Chinook as tribal members. Seventeen tribes in Washington State are crossed off the list, including Chinook.[31]

1968   Small Tribes of Western Washington (STOWW) incorporates, including some groups with no federal land base and no federal status except for land claim purposes. Identity is the basis of STOWW membership. The Chinook are among the earliest groups to participate. Chinook continue their involvement with STOWW into the twenty-first century.[32]

1970s     Chinook Indians begin programs to preserve tribal history and culture.

1971-72     The Chinook wage a successful effort to repatriate Chief Comcomly’s remains for appropriate burial in an Ilwaco cemetery.

1972     The Chinook Land Claim, known as Docket 234, is settled after more than twenty years. The tribe is awarded $48, 692.05 for the $30 million land claim, ten cents per acre. The Chinook never receive the funds, which are still held by the BIA.

Federal grant funding supports the Bay Center-South Bend Indian Education Program, for which students of Native ancestry, including Chinook, qualify in Pacific County. Funding continues into the twenty-first century.[33]

1974   The Chinook join Small Tribes of Western Washington, Inc.

1976   Chinook Food Bank begins to serve tribal and local community in Chinook, Washington. The food bank continues until 2011 when lack of funding forces it to close.

1976   Chinook Indians begin the process for a Federal Acknowledgement Petition, as the government begins to formally acknowledge tribal status.

1977   The Chinook Tribe’s official existence is jeopardized when the Bureau of Indian Affairs confirms recognition status for several hundred tribes throughout the country, but does not list the Chinook.

1978   Shoalwater Bay and Chinook Tribes cooperate in an archaeological survey of the Willapa Bay region.

    August 12  President Jimmy Carter signs the American Indian Religious Freedom Act [PL 95-341], intended to protect and preserve the religious and cultural rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

1979   Congress passes the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), which governs the excavation of federal and Indian lands in the United States and the removal and disposition of artifacts from those sites. The law pushes federal agencies to work with tribes. Despite lack of federal status, multiple government agencies in the Northwest work with the Chinook Tribe.

1980   The Chinook initiate fishing rights litigation in Wahkiakum Band et. al. v. Bateman and Chinook Indian Tribe  v. Ralph Larson, et. al. The Wahkiakum contend that they have fishing rights to the Columbia River in their usual and accustomed grounds based on the treaty of Olympia, or alternatively, aboriginal fishing rights.

1981   The BIA receives the Chinook Tribe’s Petition for Federal Acknowledgment.

     August  The court rules that there is “no merit” in the Wahkiakum case, determining that usual and accustomed fishing rights apply only to treaty signatories, not “after-affiliated” tribes. The secondary claim of aboriginal rights is dismissed based on acceptance of annuities by Wahkiakum descendants in 1912. The court determines that although the payment was “for tribal lands only and not of other tribal rights, … Congress believed that all of the tribal rights had already been extinguished.”[34]

1984   Chinook file amicus brief in Leo Williams v. James Watt, et. al. in Court of Appeals to protect Chinook allotment interests on the Quinault Reservation.


|  1987-present  |


1987 — June 1  The BIA receives the Chinook Tribe’s Petition for Federal Acknowledgement, written with the assistance of Dr. Stephen Dow Beckham.

1987 — June 1  The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) receives the Chinook Tribe’s Petition for Federal Acknowledgement, written with the assistance of Dr. Stephen Dow Beckham.

1987-91   Under the supervision of Dr. Kenneth Ames, Portland State University Department of Anthropology students excavate the “Meier Site”—a Chinookan cedar plankhouse near Scappoose, Oregon, part of the Wapato Valley.

1989   Congress passes the National Museum of the American Indian Act requiring the Smithsonian Institution to return Indian remains, funerary objects, and other sacred objects to their rightful tribes.

1990   Congress passes the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), requiring return of Indian remains, funerary objects, and other sacred objects to their rightful tribes.

Native American Languages Act [PL 101-477] also passes, reversing an 1886 policy against Native languages. Congress finds that Native Americans have “the right to continue separate identities.”[35]

1991   Four years after petition submission, the BIA issues a boilerplate letter of “obvious deficiency” regarding Chinook’s acknowledgment effort.

Bulldozers destroy the Ero-Boldt tribal cemetery by the old village near Dahlia, Washington, now private land. Chinook have no recourse because of status issues.

1994 — January 28  Having submitted a petition for “recognition” in 1981 and a revised petition in 1987, the Chinook are finally placed on active consideration by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment. Federal guidelines allow a 12-month petition review.

The Chinook Cultural Committee gathers to strengthen the old ways, continuing and increasing activities into the twenty-first century.[36]

1991-96     Portland State University’s Department of Anthropology partners with the Chinook Tribe and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to locate, excavate and study the Cathlapotle Site–a Chinookan village comprised of 14 cedar plankhouses.

1997     The Chinook Tribe files nine large reports and extensive new documentation supporting tribal recognition.

August 11  The Chinook Tribe receives a “preliminary negative” determination from the BIA’s Office of Federal Acknowledgement–based on three claims. According to the BIA, from historical times to the present, the Chinook have not: 1) been identified as American Indian by outside observers on a continual basis; 2) lived in distinct Indian communities; 3) maintained tribal political influence since 1856. According to former tribal chairman Gary Johnson, the BIA admits to having lost Chinook documentation prior to the preliminary ruling.[37]

1998     The Chinook Indian Tribe submits new evidence to rebut the preliminary negative ruling.

1999     Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs hires an independent scholar to assess Chinook history and advise on the tribe’s federal relationship.

2000   Alvina Frisbie, a Chinook, wills money for post-secondary education of Chinook tribal members (Frisbie Scholarship Foundation).[38]

2001 — January 3   Kevin Gover signs the final determination, based on federal guidelines and evidence presented, that the Chinook are a federally recognized tribe.

January 9  Notice of federal acknowledgement of the Chinook is published in the Federal Register.[39]

January 17  The BIA officially recognizes the Chinook. Chinook tribal chairman Gary Johnson signs Recognition documents at a ceremony hosted by the BIA in Washington, D.C.

March  The Quinault Indian Nation files an appeal with the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) regarding Chinook recognition. The IBIA rules that Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Gover acted legally and within his authority to recognize the Chinook Tribe. Despite IBIA ruling, the newly appointed Secretary of Interior Gayle Norton refers Chinook recognition back to the Branch of Acknowledgement, now under the George W. Bush Administration.

2001 – present    Chinook Gatherings continue. First Salmon Ceremony and Winter Gathering are held at Chinook Point on the Columbia River. Winter Gathering continues at Chinook Point until 2005. Summer Gathering alternates between Bay Center, Washington and the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe. Many canoes travel a traditional seven-mile route across Willapa Bay to begin this tribal gathering.[40]

Chinook Fisheries Committee continues to provide sustenance fish to tribal family members. Fish are also provided to neighboring tribes for ceremonial purposes.[41]

2002 — January 3  The federal government federally recognizes the Cowlitz Tribe.

Planning sessions begin with Chinook tribal members, archaeologists, federal U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service staff, and community partners, to build an actual Chinook cedar plankhouse on the Ridgefield Wildlife Reserve.

July 3  President George W. Bush hosts a White House luncheon to kick off the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, dining with members of federally recognized tribes who met Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. Chinook Chairman Gary Johnson and his wife are invited guests. The BIA meets with tribal representatives prior to the event.

July 5  The new Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Neal McCaleb reverses Kevin Gover’s Final Determination to Acknowledge” the Chinook with a “Reconsidered Final Determination” based on an appeal by the Quinault Indian Nation. The BIA officially declares that “the group does not exist as an Indian Tribe.”[42]

Chinook receive $100,000 Aid to Native Americans (ANA) grant from the US Government. The Chinook Tribal Office has been partially funded by ANA grants for twenty plus years.

Chinook Tribal Council delegation (Chairman Gary Johnson, Vice Chairman Norris Petit, and council member Ray Gardner) travel to Washington, D.C. and meet with 24 congressional leaders.

Chinook Recognition Bill given to Washington Congressman Brian Baird.

The Coquille Tribe of Oregon and the University of Oregon co-host the largest gathering of Oregon Tribes in 100 years. Chinooks are gifted tribal records and “Residency by Aboriginal Rights” status that allows Chinook to attend the UO and not pay out of state tuition.[43]

Chinook joins the Southwest Washington Intertribal Health Alliance. Members are Chehalis, Nisqually, Shoalwater, Cowlitz, and Chinook.[44]

2003 — July 16  The Chinook Indian Nation is in the news fighting to get ancestral remains returned.

November 1  The first timber is raised for construction of the Cathlapotle Plankhouse.

2004 — December 11  Archaeologists excavate contact era Chinook site at qiìq’ayaqilxam (Middle Village), near Lewis and Clark’s “Station Camp.”

        December 12  Chinook Indian Nation boycotts the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

2005 — March 25  Work on the Cathlapotle plankhouse is complete. Doors open to the public 199 years to the day after Lewis and Clark’s visit with the Cathlapotle people.

August 15  Agreement reached between Chinook Nation and State of Washington regarding “Station Camp” archaeological find/Chinook remains.[45]

The Chinook Indian Nation, a confederation of the Lower Chinook, Clatsop, Willapa, Wahkiakum, and Kathlamet bands includes 2,300 people.

Chinook host four-day Lewis and Clark Bicentennial event in Chinook, Washington.

Chinook Canoe Family joins the Inter-tribal Canoe Journey. By 2012, three Chinook canoes have traveled annually to host villages along the Northwest Coast where as many as 10,000 people meet more than a hundred canoes upon arrival.[46]

2006   Chinook moves Winter Gathering from Chinook Point to the Cathlapotle Plankhouse.

Chinook Chairman Gary Johnson initiates contact with tribal restoration attorney Michael Mason and former Congress woman Elizabeth Furse to seek Chinook Tribal Restoration through Congress.[47]

2007 — June 28  Catherine Herrold Troeh, Chinook elder and descendant of Chief Comcomly dies at age 96 (January 5, 1911-June 28, 2007).

2008 — July 31  Washington State Representative Brian Baird introduces H.R. 6689, “Chinook Restoration Act,” citing eight criteria for restoration of Chinook Tribal status including recognition of Chinook tribal status in the Tansy Point Treaties of 1851 and the Chehalis River Treaty of 1855, as well as the harm done to Chinook people through lack of treaty ratification. The bill is sent to the Committee on Natural Resources. Very little action save that associated with economy occurs in Congress. The resolution stalls.

2009 — May 21  Congressman Brian Baird introduces H.R. 2576, a second Chinook Restoration Act. It is referred to the Committee on Natural Resources and the Ways and Means Committee.

June 26  Brian Baird introduces H.R. 3084, “To Restore Federal Recognition to the Chinook.” It is referred to the Committee on Natural Resources.

July 15  Committee Hearings are held. Chinook Chairman Ray Gardner testifies, as does Brian Baird and Quinault Chairwoman Fawn Sharp. The resolution stalls.

Astoria’s Bicentennial Steering Committee presents to the Chinook Indian Nation’s Culture Committee at a meeting in Chinook, Washington. The group reaches consensus regarding Chinook participation in the Bicentennial Steering Committee. The Committee is composed primarily of members of the Clatsop County Historical Society. Some do not want Chinook participation.[48]

2010   Representative Brian Baird retires from the House of Representatives. The Chinook continue to seek Restoration.

The Chinook Nation becomes involved in the Astoria Bicentennial Committee. Devon Abing and his father Dioniscio propose and help organize a trade reenactment.

2011 Chinook begin annual Winter Storytelling at Chinook Point.

Chinook Tribal Food Bank at Chinook, Washington closes due to lack of funding.

Pacific County and the Chinook Tribe have a park maintenance management contract for Bush Pioneer County Park in Bay Center, Washington. The park is located adjacent to the Chinook tribal Office and is part of an old Chinook village site.[49]

May 20  Native drummers, singers, and dancers from the Chinook Nation hold a fundraiser for the Chinook Nation at Astoria’s renovated Liberty Theater.[50]

May 21  The Chinook participate in opening the Astoria Bicentennial ceremonies with a trade reenactment involving five canoes with pullers from Chinook, Shoalwater, Grand Ronde and Duwamish, and the crews, guests, and dignitaries of the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain.[51] The Chinook reenact the 1911 centennial canoe race later the same day.[52]

September 25  Clark family descendants gift a canoe to the Chinook at Fort Columbia to “right a wrong” committed 200 years earlier when William Clark stole a canoe from the Chinook.

December 6  The Chinook Indian Nation uses new technology to seek Restoration by introducing a “Support the Federal Restoration of The Chinook Indian Nation” petition on Petitions2Congress.com. More than 1100 people sign the petition.

2012   The Chinook Indian Nation has ongoing relationships with the cities, counties, and states of Oregon and Washington. Many state and federal agencies including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW), and the National Park Service (NPS) work with the tribe on a regular basis. The tribe has many additional formal partnerships with federal and state agencies.[53]

April. Chairman Ray Gardner and tribal council members meet in Washington D.C. with Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Brian Baird’s replacement, Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler, and Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes.

The fight for Chinook Restoration as a federally recognized tribe continues.


[1] Robert Boyd, The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence, Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline among Northwest Coast Indians, 1774-1874 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), 3.

[2] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, January 18, 2012; Brian F. Atwater, The Orphan Tsunami of 1700: Japanese Clues to a parent earthquake in North America (Reston, VA: U.S. Geological Survey; Seattle: in association with University of Washington Press, 2005).

[3] J. Neilson Barry, “Columbia River Exploration, 1792,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 33 (March 1932), 36-42, 143-55.

[4] T.C. Elliott, “Log of Captain of H.M.S. Chatham,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 18 (December 1917), 239-43; George Vancouver, The exploration of the Columbia River by Lieutenant W.R. Broughton, October, 1792: an extract from the Journal of Captain George Vancouver (Davis and Holman, 1926), 747-70.

[5] Kirk Alan Garrison, “Lewis & Clark at Fort Clatsop: A Winter of Environmental Discomfort and Cultural Misunderstandings” (Master’s Thesis, Portland State University, 1997), 14.

[6] Lewis & Clark’s population numbers vary from 300-900. Robert Boyd & Yvonne Hajda argue variance in numbers reflects seasonal population movement along Lower Columbia. See: Robert Boyd & Yvonne Hajda, “Seasonal Population Movement along the Lower Columbia River: The Social and Ecological Context” in American Ethnologist, 14, no. 2 (May, 1987), 309-326.

[7] Rick Rubin, Naked Against the Rain, The People of the Lower Columbia, 1770-1830 (Portland: Far Shores Press, 1999), 351.

[8] John Hussey, The History of Fort Vancouver and its Physical Structure (Washington State Historical Society, 1962), 14.

[9] Boyd, Coming of the Spirit, 87.

[10] Rubin, Naked Against the Rain, 344-345.

[11] Gary Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, Dec. 29, 2011.

[12] Boyd, Coming of the Sprit, 88.

[13] Rubin, Naked Against the Rain, 351.

[14] Stephen Dow Beckham, Chinook Indian Tribe, Petition for Federal Acknowledgment (Chinook Indian Tribe, Chinook Washington, 1987), 4.

[15] Boyd, Coming of the Spirit, 87.

[16] Francis Paul Prucha, Ed. “Northwest Ordinance. July 13, 1787.” In Documents of United States Indian Policy. Second Edition, Expanded (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 9-10.

[17] Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown, The Chinook Indians, Traders of the Lower Columbia River (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976), 224.

[18] Beckham, Chinook Petition, 6.

[19] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, December 29, 2012.

[20] “Peace Between Whites and Chinooks Threatened by Murder of Chief Chenamus.” Tribune (Ilwaco, WA), Dec. 22, 1971.

[21] Don and Jody Abing, letter March 2012.

[22] Library of Congress, American Memory Website, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/jun02.html [Accessed February 8, 2012].

[23] Beckham, Chinook Petition, 269.

[24] “The Merriam Report of 1928” on “Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau Website, http://library.nau.edu/speccoll/exhibits/indigenous_voices/merriam_report.html [accessed February 8, 2012].

[25] “State of Washington Twenty-third Biennial Report of the Attorney General, George W. Hamilton, 1935-1936,” Olympia: State Printing Office, 1936, p. 127; Washington State Constitution, Section 1, *AMENDMENT 63,* 1974 Senate Joint Resolution No. 143, p. 807. Approved November 5, 1974.

[26] Beckham, Chinook Petition, 159.

[27] Robert H. Ruby and John Brown. A Guide to the Indians of the Pacific Northwest. University of Oklahoma Press, 1992, 25.

[28] Euro-Americans petitioned for possession of Chief Comcomly’s skull for a number of years prior to obtaining it. When returned, his skull had been defaced by etched markings.

[29] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012; See picture of first Chinook Chairman, Roland Charley traveling to NCAI..

[30] Beckham, Chinook Petition, 285.

[31] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012. More information needed.

[32] Small Tribes of Western Washington Website, STOWW History,” [available at http://stoww.org/, accessed March 9, 2012]

[33] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[34] Justia U.S. Law, “655 F.2d 176: The Wahkiakum Band of Chinook Indians, et al., Plaintiffs-appellants, v. Mrs. Allen Bateman, Defendant-appellee” http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/655/176/65239/ [accessed May 31, 2012].

[35] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012; “Native American Languages Act,” http://www.nabe.org/files/NALanguagesActs.pdf [accessed February 8, 2012].

[36] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[37] Gary C. Johnson notes: “The BIA admitted to losing all reports and new documentation submitted by the tribe in 1997 prior to the “preliminary negative” ruling. They later found this material in their files. The material “made no difference” according to BIA’s BAR staff” [Email to Donna Sinclair, January 18, 2012].

[38] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[39] Available in the Federal Register, Volume 66, No. 6, Tuesday January 9, 2001, pp. 1690-1694, and at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2001-01-09/html/01-609.htm.

[40] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[41] Johnson to Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[42] “Reconsidered Final Determination To Decline To Acknowledge the Chinook Indian Tribe/Nation,” A Notice by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, July 5, 2002, [accessed February 15, 2012 at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2002/07/12/02-17551/reconsidered-final-determination-to-decline-to-acknowledge-the-chinook-indian-tribechinook-nation]. According to Gary Johnson, “The BIA thus reversed a decision the former Secretary Kevin Gover was legally competent to make…a decision that was FINAL for the Department of Interior.” [GCJ Email to Donna Sinclair, Jan. 18, 2012].

[43] Gary C. Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[44] Johnson to Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[45] Indian Country Today, August 15, 2005.

[46] Johnson to Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[47] Johnson to Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[48] Don and Jody Abing, letter March 2012. They describe the disagreement as coming from “separatists Chinook from 2003, who do not want Chinook involvement in the bicentennial.”

[49] Gary Johnson Email to Donna Sinclair, March 9, 2012.

[50] Don and Jody Abing, letter March 2012. Dioniscio Abing organized this unique event.

[51] Ibid. According to the Abings, a chance meeting between the Abings and David Pearson, director of the Oregon Maritime Museum led to participation in the event and a one-time grand showing of aboriginal nations at the opening ceremonies.

[52] Ibid. The reenactment took place several meters upstream from the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

[53] Johnson to Sinclair, March 9, 2012.