Sam Robinson was born in Bay Center, Washington. Sam traces his Chinook ancestry through his father Scott Robinson,(b. 1929). And his father’s mother Dora Daisy Clark. Sam’s great grandparents were Annie and John Hawks. John was the son of Thomas Huckswelt, Chief of the Willapa, and signer of the Anson Dart treaty in 1851. Sam and his Great-Great grandfather, both served in tribal leadership roles in working with the tribe’s federal recognition.
Sam’s family moved to La Center, Washington when he was three years old. His Grandfather Clarence Andrew Robinson, owned and operated a large commercial berry storage and packing plant in Ridgefield, Washington. His Grandfather was a well regarded business-man in the community. Sam and his family took frequent trips back to Bay Center to visit with Chinook relatives. Sam went to school in La Center and then joined the army through deferred enlistment when he was 17 years old in 1975.
Sams military service began just as the Vietnam war was ending and he did not see combat. He was stationed at Fort Ord, California, and worked as a TOW missile operator and as an assistant to non-commissioned officers.He met his wife, Mildred Pagan while stationed at Fort Ord. He left the military in 1979, moved back home, and started working for Calvert Manufacturing Co. in Washougal, where he still worked in 2014.
Sam began to take a deeper interest in his Chinook ancestry after his military service. He began to attend council meetings where he met the broader chinook community. Eventually, Sam was nominated to fill a vacancy on the tribal council, and was fully elected a few years later. He has served an important role in publicizing the tribes efforts towards recognition and restoration. He traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby and testify three times for tribal restoration.
In addition to his contributions as a political leader, Sam has also been involved with Chinook cultural revival. He is active in the tribe’s canoe family and the annual inter-tribal Canoe Journeys. He helped with the revival of the First Salmon Ceremony at Fort Columbia and WinterGathering at the Cathlapotle plankhouse, which has grown to include other local tribes. Sam also works as an artist, making canoe paddles that are sold all over the world. His artistic skills help revived Chinook woodcarving traditions and have generated public interest in Chinook history and culture.