The Chinook Nation included a vast number of tribes about 16,000 in the early 1800s, settled along the banks of the Columbia River, starting from British Columbia, Canada, through Eastern Washington State all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The Chinook were dependent on fish for food; salmon, smelt and sturgeon came in seemingly endless supply, meaning the Chinook did not have to work very hard to feed their families, and could concentrate on more pleasant social activities, from dancing to storytelling.
The Chinook were a placid people, with hedonistic tendencies and did not do well in warfare, which accounts for their use of "hired assassins" to carry out their dirty deeds; this was uncommon though, as the Chinook preferred to resolve conflicts though water challenge rituals, which would end in reconciliation and the exchange of gifts.
The Chinook were also skilled traders, bartering with Europeans and other Indian tribes from as far away as the Great Plains. They traded in everything from fur to dried fish to seashells, even slaves.
Upper and Lower Chinook tribes include the Cathlamet, Cathlahmahs, Chilluckittequaw, Clatsops, Chahcowahs, Clackamas, Clowwewalla, Cushooks, Killaniucks, Klickitat, Multnomah, Wac-ki-a-cums, Wasco, Watlala, Wappato, Wascopan, and the Wishram; and Chinook villages were comprised almost entirely of relatives.
The eventual decimation of the Chinook populace, took place as a result of exposure to diseases brought forth by European explorers; In less than half a century, the Chinook were all but extinct.
Today, the last descendants of Chinookean stock live on reservations in Washington and Oregon, with a large segment of the population remaining in and around the Columbia region, namely Bay Center, Chinook, and Ilwaco. There are currently over two thousand registered members of the Chinook Nation and hundreds more applying for membership. Their legacy is that of a placid, thriving society; never to fully reveal its complex culture and mythology, save for a few scattered texts, artifacts and images.
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Last modified: August 13, 2001