Through oral testimonies such as court proceedings and the compilation of tribal rolls like the McChesney rolls, Chinook voices interact with the written historical record. These documented voices exist as evidence that the Chinook community, despite the devastations of disease and land loss, persist as a close-knit and well-rooted people.
For example, the court statement of Tleko, known to the Americans as Catherine George, establishes political and social continuity for the Chinook people. She was present at the signing of the 1851 Tansey Point treaties, which her husband and relatives signed. In her testimony, she documented the lineages of individuals, naming members of their extended families and their associations by marriage. She identified tribal affiliations and knew who was a member of which tribes. She knew how many men, women, and children lived in specific areas and the headmen of certain regions. Catherine George’s testimony demonstrates knowledge gained through her lived experience and in this document we are able to access direct evidence of her knowledge.
Below is a brief excerpt from Catherine George’s testimony in The lower band of Chinook Indians of the state of Washington, vs. the United States, 1902, a case concerning Chinook land claims in Washington state.
Q. What is your name?
A. My Indian name is Tleko. English name Catherine George, formerly Catherine Hawkes.
Q. In what degree are you related to any of the signer of this Treaty?
A. This Huckswelt was my husband and two other relations. One was father of Elapah. My father was cousin of Elaspah’s father and Ahmooseahmoose was my mother’s cousin.
Q. Were you present at the Treaty held between the Government and the Chinook Indians at Tansy Point?
A. I was there. I remember it very well. A great many of them put their names down, but they didn’t all put their names. Sent their names to Washington.