Ruger's BayTower House in Bay Center

Chinook Tribe; some Native American history

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History of House and Bay Center
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Chinook Tribe   Native American Legends of Willapa region, where our home in Bay Center is located on peninsula in Willapa Bay.

link to The official website of the Chinook Nation

Below are some excerpt articles taken from the Official Website of the Chinook Nation.  Please visit the website by clicking on the link above for more comprehensive information on the Chinook Nation. 

Chinook Nation official logo

Culture - Chinook Life

Volume 1, 3rd Edition

by Greg Robinson

July 2002

This regular column will offer glimpses of Chinook culture and life, both ancient and modern. I dedicate this series of articles to the Elders, Ancestors, and people of the Chinook, Willapa, Wakiakum, Clatsop and Kathlamet. For the purpose of these articles, Chinook will be used representatively for all of the bands/tribes.

I will touch on ethno-botany, fishing/hunting, diet, housing, cordage, art, language and song. I would like to thank, in advance, my fellow Cultural Committee members, and all those who contribute information directly and indirectly to this column.

This article was written on the heels of the BIA's reversal of Chinook acknowledgement.

There are times during life's ebbs and flows that one stops to ponder meaning and purpose. It seems that highs are often followed by lows, like a sporadic and unpredictable tide. I find myself wishing, perhaps unrealistically, that somehow life could hover indefinitely over a high point. As if by doing something just right, I could manipulate destiny to the side of prosperity over misfortune.

Such romantic thoughts of utopia are not without merit. They inspire poetic masterpieces and music to sooth a weary soul. Indeed it provides a spark to fire creativity, inspiring courage, fortitude and an indomitable sense of hope. Man has been driven to superhuman feats in the face of adversity and despair, fueled by the premise that right will persevere over wrong, eventually and indisputably.

Native Americans in particular have proven themselves during times of struggle. Our peoples have consistently gone to war for this country, despite a nonstop crusade of oppression and annihilation. We have spilled our blood on foreign soil, far from our sacred lands, with the grieving cries of our relatives in our ears as we die, because it was the right thing to do. We have never shied away from battle, whether on the smoky battlefield, or in the equally murky fields of the justice system.

When the first explorers reached the Pacific Coast they found a harsh and bountiful country inhabited by industrious and diverse populations of native peoples. These people lived in cooperation with the natural world, not against it. This land was not discovered by these explorers, it already existed and operated in a harmonic balance as it had from time immemorial.

Natural balance is not rock steady however. The lever sways occasionally from side to side. Our people were subjected to fluctuations in climate and weather, and the aggressive intentions of neighboring tribes. There were winter shortages, drought and severe winter storms. But the natural world maintained a balance over these extremes, providing us with a prosperous stability for the majority of our existence.

That changed forever when the first ship crossed the bar. Natural balance was trampled when European boots stepped upon our beaches, bringing the scourges of the modern world to our lands.

At first we maintained our dominance over our lands and resources, dealing with the Europeans as merely a new trading partner. But like fleas on a new dog, they poured into Chinook country with a vengeance, riding a black horse named greed. They cut trees and built trading posts and forts on Indian land. Their thirst for our resources was unquenchable. The high tide had carried a plague to our country, and only exploitation was left at the ebb.

In the beginning our numbers presented a daunting wall of strength. The uninvited were forced to deal with us as a superior power. But history had taught them a strategy. Aboriginal peoples had long been decimated by disease in the wake of European expansion. With patience, the same trend would be repeated on the Big River.

The first plagues came well before the arrival of Lewis and Clark, drifting like a dark cloud from the interior, seeping down our trade routes until reaching our villages, with following plagues introduced to the coast by European sailors. But the Chinook people were strong, and persevered, maintaining control over their vast network of trading routes despite a massive loss of life.

The horror and scope of these plagues can hardly be imagined today. Small Pox is a murderer of indiscriminate selection. Our children and warriors were struck down with equal disregard; the deaths were often slow and excruciating, others fast and virulent. Villages inhabited for hundreds of years were abandoned to the invisible slayers. The important burial processes were compromised due to the sheer numbers of dead. The insidious effects of those first boot prints had begun.

When Lewis and Clark arrived decades later they expected to find a tribe easily manipulated to attend to the explorers needs. Instead, they found a generous people who were shrewd beyond words in the art of trade. Throughout the cold and wet winter, the explorers experienced frustration in trying to trade trinkets for survival goods. The ploy, after all, had worked so well with the tribes along the way. But with the Chinook, they found a people that expected, and demanded, fair value when exchanging goods.

Despite the explorer's attempts at exploiting our people, we treated them with generosity. We even allowed the explorers to take precious cedar planks from our nearby longhouses for use in the construction of Ft. Clatsop. We supplied the crew with food supplies throughout the winter, helping them avert severe malnutrition. Even with such displays of generosity and support, the Corps of Discovery recorded, in their journals, that the Chinook were untrustworthy and lacking moral character. Yet, it was Lewis and Clark that stole a Chinook Canoe for their return trip, after unsuccessful attempts to trade for one; justifying it by saying the Chinook had stolen some elk meat. How do a people steal their own meat? That would be comparable to being a guest at someone's farm, killing one of their cows, and then stealing the farmer's car for taking his meat back.

Lewis and Clark left Chinook Country, but the incursions from sea continued to increase. When furs were depleted, the American and European settlers began to concentrate on Salmon and Oysters. The lust for timber and land quickly followed suit, paving the road to the Chinook homeland with the golden bricks of exploitation.

Under pressure to concede large portions of land to settlers, the Chinook signed the Tansy Point Treaty, in good faith, knowing we would at least continue to reside in the land of our ancestors; the treaty was, conveniently, never ratified. The President sent more negotiators to speed up our removal to distant reservations, out of sight, out of mind. But our ancestors, who remain buried in Chinook country, have always tied our people to the land and the following treaty attempts failed as a result. As traders extraordinaire, we recognized a bad deal. By failing to ratify Dart Treaty, the legacy of betrayal had once again been perpetuated.

What followed was a nonstop effort at dispersion and assimilation. Chinook fishermen were removed by force from fishing grounds used continuously for thousands of years. Families were separated, when Chinook children were removed from their homes and sent to Indian Schools. Small Pox yielded to the equally destructive scourges of alcoholism, Tuberculosis, and Diabetes. Economics forced families to relocate in search of jobs and homes. Many went to neighboring reservations. But still, through it all, most of the Chinook People stayed the force of the storm, and held their ground.

We reorganized our government, and continued to meet as we always had. Our fisherman adapted to the rules and regiments of those who wished us to disappear and we continued to fish. We told our stories, and sang our songs. We bought homes and land that were already ours, and we continued to live where we always have lived. We bought oyster beds, and continued to harvest oysters.

We fought in court to regain some of our rights and filed for acknowledgment with a government who had never legally unacknowledged us. After twenty years, the Clinton Administration attempted to right a long standing wrong, and awarded the Chinook People federal acknowledgement. But money and politics once again entered the ring, and between the Quinault protest and the Bush administration, the ruling was controversially overturned.

These are not defeats, for we are a people who have never been defeated. Instead we stand stronger against the storm and face our adversaries. Strategies have been modified and courses of action implemented.

Our canoes continue to ply the waters of the Great River and Willapa Bay. We attend the functions of other tribes who question not our status. We are bombarded with requests for our culture and advice from both private and governmental entities. The many Lewis and Clark organizations have pledged their full support. In reality, everyone recognizes the Chinook as a tribe, except a corrupt and politically biased BIA.

We are going nowhere, for we have always been here. This is the land of our ancestors; it is the land of the Chinook, and it will always be so. We will never falter in our stand against this storm; we will remain forever vigilant and strong. For we have not fought for survival, we have survived to fight.


Volume 1, 2nd Edition

by Greg Robinson

May 2002

LaXayfN kHanawi-Laksta. "Hello everyone." Welcome to the second installment of Chinook Life. I dedicate this series of articles to the Elders, Ancestors, and people of the Chinook, Willapa, Wakiakum, Clatsop and Kathlamet. I would like to thank, in advance, my fellow Cultural Committee members, and all those who contribute information directly and indirectly to this column.

As I sit here at my keyboard and watch my boys play outside I cannot help but smile and feel blessed. There is a certain immortality to the way children play, the same type of timelessness that one smells on the river air or hears as the surf pulses endlessly to shore.
They push and shove, run and shout, and unleash their imagination into a world that they create before them. Their energy is as pure as it is ancient and their laughter transcends the ages.

If we were to allow our modern, overburdened, minds to drift, just a little, we could travel on that laughter, just as the children do. Like a piece of eagle down caught in the wind, we can return to a time and place where forests of giant Spruce and Cedar crowd the great river, and the blackened canoes of our people slice through the food-rich waters.

Rows of long houses appear from the mist. Smoke drifts lazily from the Cedar-plank roofs, mingling with the mist before it disappears into a low, gray sky. The ground is worn smooth by feet, and dogs bark at children as they run and play.

The people are moving in and out of the longhouses, through the round, portal-like entrances, as the dawn brightens into morning. There is an excitement in the village. The time of the winter dances has passed and spring comes bearing fresh gifts to the people. Earlier, the river thickened with the arrival of the Smelt runs. Tens of thousands of pounds have been raked and dipped from the river. The delicate little fish, cooked fresh, are a welcome rest bit from the dried stocks of winter. The remainder of the Smelt harvest is smoke-dried on long strings and hung in the smoke houses and rafters of the longhouses. Skunk Cabbage and Cow Parsnip have arrived, followed by the succulent shoots of the Salmon Berry. The Spring Chinook Salmon are entering the river and it will soon be time for the First Salmon Ceremony.

It is a green time, a time of renewal and rebirth. The Black Cottonwoods are perfuming the air with the smell of honey, and the swallows have returned to dance on the scented wind. On the riverbanks goslings scurry behind their wary parents, and from the forest shadows, male Grouse beat their courtship drums.

The nights are filled with the sounds of life, as children sleep in their beds and dream of sweet berries on the vine. Countless frogs chirp a noisy lullaby, and the wings of returning waterfowl hiss overhead. The world has awakened from its winter slumber.
Soon the days will become heavy with work, as tons of salmon strain the drying racks. Women will spend long hours in the field in search of the first roots, and then probe the muddy bottoms of ponds, with their toes, for the starchy Wapato bulbs.
It is the time of year when cedar bark is gathered, as the sap begins to run. It is peeled in long strips from the bellies of the trees. The outer bark is separated from the inner, which is rolled into neat bundles for curing for use throughout the season. The bark will be used for waterproof hats, or intermixed with dog-hair to make a warm cape. Some will be dyed for decoration in intricate wrap-twined bags and purses, or twisted into a rope strong enough to snare big game.

Little boys run with their little bows, shooting their arrows into the heaving sides of Elk. With a triumphant shout, they pull their arrows from a rotting stump and race off to continue the chase, of the imaginary herds. They aspire to greater times, when they can blacken their faces as warriors and carry their powerful war bows, decorated with the red scalps of woodpeckers, and imbued with power. With apprehension and excitement, they look towards the day when they will seek seclusion and the quest for a spirit. They wonder if they will be successful in acquiring a powerful spirit, bringing them luck in gambling, stealth or some other good fortune. They could become great hunters, or the highly regarded canoe makers. Or perhaps their destiny will be to tread rarely traveled paths as doctors for our people.

Little girls meticulously care for their cattail infants, tucking them carefully into the cradleboards. They have the great power of childbirth. They will learn the secrets of the plants and roots, and be responsible for gathering and storing critical supplies. They might aspire to become great weavers and basket makers, or women of influence, involved in barter and trade. There are many lessons to learn, such as making waterproof cooking baskets of spruce root, or the making of dyes and paints. They will learn mat making, and how to separate fibers from the stalks of the stinging nettle to make gill nets and rope. They will learn to discern a cooking rock from an ordinary rock, and how to spin dog hair into wool. There will be cooking lessons, and poultice recipes to learn. For as women, they will have many skills to master, but for now, before the daily chores, there are dolls and puppies to carry.

As my thoughts wander back to my boys, I realize that the link between then and now has never been broken. Despite the computers and video games, two boys play as children have always played, and in their eyes sparkles both the past and the future.

If I listen carefully, I might hear what they have heard all along, the sound of little arrows in the air, and the cries of a cradled-baby, made of cattail.

LaXayfN (Goodbye)


Volume 1, 1st Edition

by Greg Robinson

LaXayfN kHanawi-Laksta. "Hello everyone." Welcome to the first installment of Chinook Life. This regular column will offer glimpses of Chinook culture and life, both ancient and modern. I dedicate this series of articles to the Elders, Ancestors, and people of the Chinook, Willapa, Wakiakum, Clatsop and Kathlamet. For the purpose of these articles, Chinook will be used representatively for all of the bands/tribes.

I am starting this inaugural column with a brief overview of Chinook history and location. In future articles, I will address a varied array of subjects. I will touch on ethno-botany, fishing/hunting, diet, housing, cordage, art, language and song. I would like to thank, in advance, my fellow Cultural Committee members, and all those who contribute information directly and indirectly to this column.

Our people's position at the mouth of the Columbia River and nearby Willapa Bay afforded us access to some of the richest arrays of resources on this continent. Waterways provided a network of trade routes that spread, like a spider web, hundreds of miles along the coast, and inland to Puget Sound, Hood Canal, the Chehalis River, and even onto the plains. The combination of these two factors culminated in a trading society unrivaled in the western half of the continent.
Semi-subterranean longhouses provided refuge from the endless rain and wind of winter, some large enough to house over a hundred people. Larger villages contained twenty or more longhouses of varying sizes. Inside these comfortable houses, the winter dances, songs and stories were told as the fires cracked and cast their long shadows. Some longhouses were temporarily abandoned for the summer fishing camps; others were occupied year round.
Five types of salmon returned to the Columbia River and Willapa Bay in numbers unimaginable today. Indeed, they were the heaviest runs of salmon on earth. Smelt, sturgeon, suckers, several species of trout, whitefish, eels and other fish rounded out the wealth. The beaches offered an abundance of clams, mussels, oysters and the occasional stranded whale. Offshore were sea lions, harbor seals (olxayu), sea otters, and waterfowl by the millions. The forests were rich in elk, deer (Nawich), bear, beaver, river otter (nanANuks) and small game. Wapato (wapatu) abounded upriver, and the local plains turned purple with the flowering of the Camas (lakaNAs). Cattails, Rush, Sweet Grass Sedge, Nettle, Salmon Berry, Salal, Lilly bulbs and ferns were just a sprinkling of the plant resources. What was unavailable locally was obtained through our extensive trade network.
We were highly acclaimed canoeists, skillfully navigating the treacherous Columbia River and bar to the amazement of the traders and explorers. We plied the coastal waters from California to Alaska in canoes (kaniN) twenty-one to forty-two feet long and larger, carved from a single Red Cedar log and propelled by our distinctly notched, crescent-shaped paddles (isik) of Oregon Ash. It was this skill of travel, which transformed us into a tribe of tremendous wealth and power.
Chinook life has always been dictated by a strict and complex system of taboos and ritual. Failure to follow ritual procedure might doom the individual, and/or the tribe, to bad luck, sickness or death. The rules and ritual formula could vary not only according to species, such as salmon, but might also vary according to location. For example, stranded whales (ikoli) are to be processed with extreme care, with strict accordance to guidelines, lest future whales drift away.

The myths and stories are steeped in the regiment of rules, and quintic references. The number five (qwinfN) is integral to Chinuk culture and appears repeatedly in the old stories and legends (ikanuN). From the five cold wind brothers, to the five salmon brothers, qwinfN is undoubtedly the most important Chinook number. The origins of its significance are obscure, although theories exist. One theory refers to the five directions. My personal, and totally unsubstantiated, theory is that it relates to the five salmon (qwAnat) species that run on the Columbia. Regardless of its origin, its power continues today. If you wish something to happen, repeat it five times. If you don't want something to happen, well, repeating it five times would be a bad idea.
Trade goods were diverse, with slaves (ilaytix) and Dentalium (alIkHochick) being two of the most important items. Though most slaves were acquired through other tribes, the Chinook occasionally conducted slave raids of their own. Dentalium was the hard, claw-shaped shell harvested off the shores of Vancouver Island, usually by the Nootkan people. Dentalium was the money of its day, and many items were valued in comparison to fathom length strings (iLana) of the valuable shell. Other important trade items included powdered salmon from upriver, canoes, the double elk-skin clamons (armor), cakes of dried Salal berries, Mountain Goat horn and even dried Buffalo (duyha) from the plains. Obviously, with the exposure to such a diverse pool of skill and materials, the Chinook people were able to capitalize on a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise.

I hope you will enjoy these articles as much as I will enjoy sharing them. I consider cultural education to be of the utmost importance. Share what you learn with your children and relations. Learn the stories and songs, pass the legacy on, and the circle will continue. The rumors of our extinction have been greatly exaggerated. Hayu masi, "many thanks."


Events - Chinook Fest 2002

Chinook Fund Raiser

by Greg Robinson

On Saturday, October 5th, the Chinook Nation hosted a festival at Bush Park in Bay Center. The event was planned as part of a fundraising effort initiated by the establishment of the Chinook Tribal Preservation Fund in August.

The morning was drizzly as event volunteers set up tables and booths, and started the Alder fire. Fresh Silver Salmon waited nearby, ready for roasting.

The salmon was prepared and spread onto split cedar roasting sticks, and slow roasted in a traditional manner. Fresh corn was boiled, and fry bread mixed and ready to cook. By the opening time of 11:00 AM, the food was ready to serve and the booths were stocked with crafts and items for sale.

A steady flow of hungry festival-goers kept the volunteers busy serving salmon, corn on the cob, coleslaw, fry bread and other foods, along with sodas and coffee. As people ate, they socialized and enjoyed traditional drumming, singing and dancing.

In the afternoon, Stan Elliot and Beatrice Disney were presented blankets by members of the Tribal Council, honoring them for their long-standing contributions to the tribe. Tribal Chairman Gary Johnson spoke to the crowd about the great respect the tribe had for the two honorees.

There were raffles and cakewalks, and other entertainments, as the clouds lifted and a beautiful fall afternoon closed out a successful and fulfilling gathering of community and tribal members.

Such social gatherings have long been the foundation of strength and stability for the Chinook People in the past, and continue to provide the framework for a guaranteed future.


End of articles excerpted from the Official Website of the Chinook Nation.  Please use the link below to visit the website of the Chinook Nation for more comprehensive information.  I have borrowed only excerpts and make no claim authoring the articles.  For more knowledgeable information, please visit their official below will open a new browser window.

link to the Official Website of the Chinook Nation

What follows next are articles taken from the Pacific County Museum website. Bruce Weilepp, Director,  is the keeper of the Pacific County Museum and has gathered the information contained at that site from historical sources.   The information in these articles is of a more academic nature and not from first-hand Chinook Native American knowing.  I include them as additional information and include a link to the website as well. 

link to the Pacific County Museum, Pacific County Historical Society and Museum, Bruce Weilepp, Director.

Indian Myths of Shoalwater Bay and the Lower Columbia River
by Larry J. Weathers


     The Chinook Indians of the Lower Columbia River, the Chehalis Indians, and the related tribes of Shoalwater (Willapa) Bay had no written language.  They depended on a centuries old oral tradition to perpetuate their rich cultural heritage.  The oral tradition of these tribes was no different than the oral tradition of other cultures on other continents across the span of centuries; it was used to educate and entertain.  Indian oral tradition kept alive ancestral history, religious beliefs, myths and legends, and provided instruction in tribal customs.

     The richness of Chinook and Chehalis mythology was a result of the resourceful and inventive nature of the Chinook and Chehalis people and the temperate climate they lived in.  The mild climate and bountiful environment allowed them ample leisure time to develop a communal fiction explaining creation and the natural phenomena and geographical features which defined their world.  A world populated by giants, doctors / magicians, monsters, guardian spirits, and anthropomorphic animals and spirits.  The recorded Indian folklore in written form with critical annotations.

     There is no single source, or reference, for the communal fiction of the tribes of Shoalwater Bay and the north shore of the Lower Columbia River.  There are, however, several primary and secondary sources available. The collection which follows this introduction is an attempt to put the available material in one place for interested readers, but it is not a complete collection.  Many Shoalwater Bay myths have no doubt been lost or forgotten, while others may be buried in unpublished documents known to more scholarly historians than myself.   
     The criteria  used in the compilation of this collection were:

  1. Each story had to be part of the communal fiction developed by either the Chinook, of Chehalis, people who once lived within the boundaries of present-day Pacific County.
  2. They had to fall within the definition of the myth, or communal fiction, and not legend, which might be inaccurate and fanciful, but has greater pretense to historicity. (e.g. L. R. Williams "Battle of the Indians" in Our Pacific County, 1930, page 46-49).
  3. When more than one source for a myth was available the more entertaining or coherent version was used (other sources cited).
  4. Myths with long, or ornately wordy, narratives were rewritten or abridged to fit available space (other versions cited).
Shoalwater Bay Tribe and Long Beach Peninsula:  The myth recounting the origin of the Shoalwater Tribe and creation of Long Beach Peninsula has already appeared in The Sou'wester twice (Autumn 1966, page 57, and Autumn 1981, page 43).
     The myth tells how a great canoe with 100 Warriors and their families came out of the north and tried to enter the great Wauna (Columbia) river looking for new fishing and hunting grounds.  The Warriors left their great canoe tied to North Head and made their camp ot Chinook Point.  Years later they returned to North Head and found their canoe covered with sand and a few pine trees; the ocean to the west and a bay to the east.  When the tribe saw the changes they decided to stay and build a cedar lodge and their children multiplied.  From this great canoe and its passengers grew the Long Beach Peninsula and Shoalwater Bay Tribe.
     -an abridgment of variant versions found in several sources, including:  Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 3, page 186 and Our Pacific County by L. R. Williams 1930 page 39-40.

"Myths About Geographical Landmarks and Natural Phenomena"

Giesy's Crossing:  On the hill at this place, Skah-no-e-tlin (wolf), Tuh-whee (fisher), Whah-tahk (deer), Skip-whah (rabbit), sat down to play a gambling game of "Stuch-ah-luk-un."  The winner was to have a choice of the others for dinner.  Wolf and fisher both tried to win by cheating, the jumped up and ran to save their lives.  They have been running ever since to avoid being dinner.  (3)
     -rewritten story from Gertrude Lilly Bloomhart interview, WPA Project 1936.

Wilson Creek:  Once there was a lodge of several Indian families at the head of the tide water on Tlugh-ah-won (Wilson Creek).  When the men all went hunting for several days, Skah-no-e-tlin (wolf) forced his way into the flimsy lodge and devoured the family members left behind.  The hunters returned to their destroyed home and grieved for their loved ones.  Shortly after, the men left their lodge, never to return.  No other band of Indians was ever known to fish or hunt on Tlugh-ah-won after that day.
     -rewritten story from Gertrude Lilly Bloomhart interview, WPA Project 1936.

Wilson Creek Mound:  "At some distance above the mouth of Wilson Creek, near Willapa, stands a great, large, oval shaped hill which looks very much like a large grave.  Indian traditions relate that the young men of the 'Whilapah' tribe, while fishing on that stream, caught great quantities of salmon, and in preparing them for cooking, cut the fish crosswise.  The act made the great thunder-bird angry, and he sent the 'Memaloosetillicum' (dead people) after them, to take the young warriors and enclose them in a huge cavern over which was heaped a great mound of earth.  For several suns the salmon were not permitted to run up the Willapa River."  This mound is located on a farm near the junction of the Monohon Landing Road and Ward Creek Road.
     -quote from Our Pacific County by L. R. Williams page 42.

Pinnacle Rock and Coon Rocks:  There are two large rocks, and four smaller ones which are awash at low tide, near the southwest shore of Long Island in Willapa Bay which the Indians call Mis'chin (Louse Rocks).  One version of the myth of their creation says the rocks were formerly a wicked "Tamahnous" (medicine man or magician), his wife, and children.  Their evil magic was responsible for introducing lice among the Indians.  One day, while the family was bathing in the bay, a superior medicine man turned them into stones to punish them.  Another version says the "Great Spirit" ordered the lice to drag the family to the water and drown them as a punishment; unfortunately the lice were allowed to live.  Today, the rocks are called Pinnacle and Coon Rocks on some maps; Louse Rocks others.
     -variations are found in several sources including The Northwest Coast by James G. Swan, page 174-75 and OHQ, December 1955, 'George Gibbs' Account of Indian Mythology..." by Ella E. Clark, page 313.

Black Lake:  "Near Ilwaco lived a young Indian chief named Westwind.  He made daily trips to Shoalwater Bay to see Katonka, who was the daughter of the Whilapah chief.  During the spring and summer the tribe lived on Baby Island where they fished for salmon.
     "Down the waters of Ford's Lake and on through the waters of Black Lake and Talilt (Tarlatt) Slough sped the swift canoe of Westwind as he nightly visited the dark haired princess of the Whilapahs.  The two lakes, according to Indian tradition, were connected by a large tunnel.  It was dark and many spirits made their homes there.  The great spirit was unkind to the Whilapahs, as he did not permit many salmon to run on Shoalwater Bay up the Bear River.  He liked the Chinook Indians who lived on the Columbia River better, and made many fish run up that stream.
     "One day Westwind went out on the bay in his canoe and frightened great schools of salmon through the opening into Shoalwater Bay.  Katonka's father was pleased and for the kind act, he promised her to Westwind.  As that young chief was returning one night from Shoalwater Bay, and was passing through the tunnel, the great spirit caused the earth to shake.  It trembled and fell, burying the young chief."  Katonka for years, made nightly visits to the spot, searching for Westwind.  Indian tradition tells that when passing the lake today, there may still be heard the faint voice of an Indian girl calling to her lover."
     -quote from Our Pacific County by L. R. Williams, page 39.

Bruceport:  The land between Bruceport Park and Stony Point was once the site of an important village called Wa-HOOT-San, which means fire-owl.  The village took its name from Owl who introduced fire to the Shoalwater Bay tribe.  Owl had decided to kill Eagle because of his cruelty.  He prepared himself by practicing archery with flint tipped arrows.  While shooting at the rocky cliff near Stony Point, sparks from the arrowheads created fire which burned the trees and blackened the rocks.  In his excitement, Owl, who had been silent previously, called out his name, Wa-HOOT-San, the first and last syllables so quiet that only the Indian people could hear them.
     For bringing them the wonderful gift of fire, the first Fire Dance on Shoalwater Bay was held in honor of Owl.
     -rewritten version of myth in The Sou'wester, Summer 1971, page 36.

Stars in the sky:  The Chinooks believed that great chiefs became stars and that falling stars indicated the death of a chief.  If the falling stars had trains, they were female chiefs.  The train representing the woman's dress.
     - paraphrased quote from Oregon Historical Quarterly, December 1955, "George Gibbs' Account of Indian Mythology..." by Ella E. Clark, page 319.

Stony Point:  "Stony Point is a narrow strip of land, or rather sandy clay, with a little soil on the top, extending in the Bay (Willapa Bay) some three or four hundred rods.  It has been washed away by repeated storms so that now it is not more than ten rods wide, perfectly precipitous, with an elevation of some sixty feet from the water.  It is approached either by a path from the end next the Bay, or from its junction with the main land.  At that time it was thickly covered with spruce trees, and a thick undergrowth of vine maple, sallal bushes, vines, and other obstructions; and as the time of our visit no white man had ever had occasion to go upon it, we expected to have quite a job.  This promontory rests on boulders of basaltic rocks, which have been washed bare as the waves of the Bay have encroached on the clayey (sic) soil of the Point.  These rocks are remarkable from the fact that they are the only rocks of the kind that are to be found in the Bay.  They appear at some period to have been subjected to the action of fire.  The Indian tradition relating to them is that ages ago, a celebrated medicine-man or doctor, accompanied by his brother, came from the north on a visit to the Bay for the purpose of obtaining clams.  One day, while wading in the water for crabs, the brother of the doctor fell into a deep channel, where he was seized by some great sea monster and swallowed.  His lengthened absence from home caused much anxiety, and the doctor, by his divination, ascertained what was the cause.  At that time giants, or strong men, lived in the mountains near the Bay.  These the doctor caused to bring huge stones, while he himself collected great firs, dried spruce, and other trees wherewith to build a great fire.  When this was done, the stones were piled on the top of the wood after the present method the Indians have of heating stones for cooking purposes; and when the wood was burned down, the red-hot stones were thrown into the Bay, which caused it to boil so violently that the water soon evaporated.  The doctor then seeing the great sea monster, killed it with his club, and ripping its belly open, released his brother, who very joyfully proceeded with him to Chenook..."  (The charred remains of the sea monster are the rocks found below Stony Point.)
     - quote from The Northwest Coast by James G. Swan, page 68-69.

Doctor and Brother Rocks:  The doctor and brother referred to in the Stony Point myth are the subject of a second story.  After the doctor released his brother they went to Chenook,"... where, after performing sundry famous cures, they gave offense to some person more potent that themselves, who changed them to stone.  Two rocks near Scarborough's Hill, at Chenook Point, are still shown as the doctor and his brother."  (4)
     - quote from The Northwest Coast by James G. Swan, page 69.

Chinook Point and Scarborough Hill:  The Chinooks called Chinook Point "Nose-to-ilse."  According to their myth it was "made by the gods as a lookout station for the Chinook Indians, a place where they might see the approach and movements of all enemies.  One day an Indian girl, looking for her lover who had gone across the "Big River," could not see from the hill because of the many trees that screened her view.  She called upon the gods.  They came to her aid and with a few blows from their great weapons, cut down the forest, affording a clear view of the country for many miles around."
     - quote from Our Pacific County by L. R. Williams, page 38-39.

Giesy Hill and Willapa Valley:  "To punish the unruly members of the Whilapah tribe, the great fire god caused the forests of Willapa Valley to burn.  Heavy timber existed everywhere and there was little chance of escape from the burning trees.  To save his friend, the beaver, a spot was cleared by the god on which no fire could burn (Giesy Hill).  There all the beavers gathered and remained while the fire god destroyed every other living thing in Willapa Valley.  The bald hill at Giesy's was the camping place of the beaver during the great fire..."
     - quote from Our Pacific County by L. R. Williams, page 42-43.

Chinook wind:  Hudson Bay Company trappers called the warm winds of early spring "chinook winds" because they blew from the direction of Chinook villages on the Columbia River.  These days, warm, dry winds blowing down the side of a mountain are referred to as chinook winds.
     According to the Chinook myth there was a time long ago when five Chinook wind brothers caused warm, dry wind to blow across the land from their home at the mouth of the Columbia River and five Walla Walla wind brothers caused cold, icy winds to blow across the land from their home in interior.  The winds blew out of control and made life miserable for all the tribes living in the Northwest.  A wrestling match between the ten wind brothers resulted in the death of five Chinooks.  For many years there was only cold wind blowing across the countryside.  Eventually the son of one of the defeated Chinook brothers grew to manhood and revenged his family.  He killed all but one of the Walla Walla brothers at a second wrestling match.  Coyote, the judge at both matches, declared he would let the Walla Walla brother live on condition that he would never again blow so hard that people would freeze to death.  Coyote also declared that the young Chinook would only blow hard at night along the mountain ridges and then down to the valleys to melt the snow quickly.  The young Chinook then started for home and as he passed through the Willamette Valley, which lay cold and desolate, he blew his warm breath upon it and flowers and plants sprang up into a bloom.  Ever since then, the cold wind has blown lightly in the winter, and the warm Chinook wind has blown early in the spring.
     - abridged compilation of variant versions in Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest by Ella A. Clark, 1953 page 169-171, Our Pacific County by L. R. Williams, 1930 page 40-41, The Columbia River by William D. Lyman, 1963 edition page 19-22, and "Contest Between the Chinook and Cold Wind Brothers" by Dr. G.P. Kuykendall in History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington edited by Elwood Evans, 1889 volume 2 page 77-79.

  1. Franz Boas compiled and translated the most comprehensive collection of Chinook myths in 1890 and 1891 and published them for the Smithsonian Institution under the title Chinook Texts (1894).  The collection does not include myths about Shoalwater Bay. L. R. Williams, who collected many Chinook and Chehalis myths in his book Our Pacific County (1930), provides the most complete collection of Shoalwater Bay myths.  Williams does not indicate which myths are of Chinook and which are of Chehalis origin.
  2. Emma Gene Miller, in her book Clatsop County, Oregon: A History, 1958, page 7-8, provides a slightly different version of the legend of the creation of the Chinook Indians and credits Swan's The Northwest Coast as the source.  James G. Swan may have been the source (his opening paragraph indicates he had other versions) but the myth as told above is the one given in Swan's book.  Mrs. Miller says Swan told the legend this way:
    •      "Thunderbird flew to the north and lit on top of Saddle Mountain (in Clatsop County), near the mouth of the Columbia River.  There it laid a nest full of eggs.  The giantess followed the bird until she found its nest.  Before the egg reached the valley, it became an Indian.
           "The old giantess broke some other eggs and then threw them down the mountainside.  They too became Indians.  Each of the Thunderbird's eggs became and Indian.
           "When Thunderbird came back and found its eggs gone, it went to South Wind.  Together they tried to find the old giantess, to get revenge on her.  But they never found her, although they traveled north together every year.
           "This is how the Chinooks were created.  That is why Indians never cut the first salmon across the back.  They knew that if they should cut the fish the wrong way, the salmon would cease to run.  Always, even to this day, they slit the first salmon down the back lengthwise...."
  3. The Indian works and spellings in this story (as in several others in this article) are from books and manuscripts written by white men and women.  The Chinook and Chehalis Indians did not use a written language.  Their spoken words were rendered in written form and translated by those who heard them.  The spellings and translations in this myth are those of Mrs. Gertrude Bloomhardt who heard the story from another white pioneer L. L. Bush.  "Fisher," the animal referred to in the myth, is a carnivorous mammal of northern North America, having thick, dark-brown fur, and a body the size of a wolverine.
4. The location of these two rocks is not shown on any of the maps or charts available to me. James G. Swan (The Northwest Coast, page 69) stated the " doctor and his brother" are located "near Scarborough's Hill, at Chinook Point;" a vague description considering the rocky topography of the promontory. Lewis R. Williams (Chinook By The Sea, page 42) located the two rocks " on the beach between Fanning Point and the government dock." Williams' description may have been useful for locating the rocks in the 1920's but it is no longer valid. The government dock disappeared years ago and "Fanning Point" is not a place name used on road maps or marine charts.

Swan and Williams, among other sources, are obviously not much help in locating the two rocks. However, the rocks are still visible. The "Doctor and His Brother" rest in a shallow pond of brackish water trapped between the hillside and Highway 401. The pond is on the section of highway between Meglar rest area and the Point Ellice entrance to the Astoria-Meglar bridge. The rocks were trapped in the pond when the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company extended its road to Meglar in the early 1900's. The railroad ceased operation in 1930 but the Washington State Highway Department acquired title to the right-of- way upon which a portion of Highway 401 was built. The beautiful pond setting was unfortunately befouled by falling trees and driftwood (washed over the roadway) during a winter storm on the Columbia River in the late 1970's.

"The Alliance of the Quinault and Chinook Tribe"

By Myrtle Johnson Woodcock

     Editor's Note:  Myrtle Johnson Woodcock was born April 13,1889, the year Washington Territory became a state, and died February 27, 1973.  She was the youngest child of Pacific County pioneers James Johnson, Jr., and lane Cecile Haguet.  Captain Jimmy, as he was known to friends, carried mail from Astoria to Willapa Valley for many years prior to his death by drowning on Shoalwater Bay in January 1889.  Jane (who married William Howard, South Bend, after the death of lames) was a teacher in the pioneer schools of Pacific County.
     Myrtle's family tree is firmly rooted in Pacific Northwest soil.  She was the proud descendent of Chinook and Quinault Indians and Hudson Bay Company employees.  Among her ancestors were Chief Uhlahnee of the Chinook band living at Celilo Falls near the Dalles, Chief Hoqueem of the Quinault tribe (after whom the town of Hoquiam is named), and Captain James Johnson, Sr., retired HBC employee and holder of a 638 acre Donation Land Claim at Ilwaco (settled claim in 1849).
     Throughout her life, Myrtle wrote and published several poems reflecting her deep love and understanding of her dual heritage.  One of the earliest, "The Chief of the Willapa Council", was printed in the South Bend Journal, April 28, 1918.  It is a stirring call to arms, imploring Native Americans to fight the hated Kaiser because,

Those old braves who fought in darkness
They could scarcely see the right
But the message they would send you
"For your country go and fight!"
     Most of Myrtle's poems retell Indian legends or invoke memories of pioneer days on Shoalwater Bay.  Three of her works ("The Plungers," "The Pioneers" and "Legend of the Wild Blackberry") were printed in earlier issues of The Sou'wester (Summer 1968, page 39, and Spring 1973, pages 10-12 & 20).  "The Alliance of the Quinault and Chinook Tribes", presented below, is taken from an autographed, privately printed copy of the poem found in the museum history files.  The copy contains definitions for the Chinook words she uses:  Shilthlo (lightning), Wecoma (the sea), Whul lah Kokumel (Indian Summer or warm harvest time), Twah Alchee (moonlight), and Kawock (guardian spirit).
     Myrtle, and her husband Fred (who died in 1967), were charter members of Pacific County Historical Society (1950).  Their daughters, Mrs. William B. (Oma) Singer of Vancouver, and Mrs. Dude (Myrtle lean) Little of Eureka, CA, are the current guardians of the family interest in the history of Pacific County.  Both have been members of the society for many years.

On these shores where now White Man
Roams at will unarmed and free
Going each his way indifferent
To our wealth of legendry,
Here the Red Men held their council,
Had their feasts upon the ground,
Beat upon their doleful tom-toms
And the peace-pipe went its round.

Each tribe different from another,
And the pale-face found it so,
When he sought to trade among them
Oft' he met with savage blow.

Had no time to speak or reason,
Whence he came or what he sought,
Gave his life up for the vengeance
That another's deed had wrought.

But the Chinook Tribe was peaceful
'Tho powerful as well.
On both shores of the Columbia
Near its mouth these braves did dwell.
The Clatsops and Multhnomahs
Were of this good old stock,
On their old beloved surroundings,
Only mournful spirits mock.

To the North the mighty Quinaults
Were a cruel and haughty band,
Massacres of deadly terror
Were imputed to their hand.
But wild rumors rose among them
When the cunning White Men came,
When disease and fire-water
Spread like Shilthlo's mighty flame.

They were called to sit in council
With the wary Chinook Chiefs,
Venturing to calm and settle
All their vague disturbing griefs.
Soon our old homes shall be taken,
Our old haunts shall be denied,"
Spoke the Chinook with great fervor,
"Let our two tribes be allied."

"'Tis a simple boon you ask!"
Came the Quinault's cold reply.
We shall form a tribal union,
But the Chinook name must die:
White and red men know the Quinaults,
Know them with a deadly fear,
Let the Chinook merge within us
As the treaty day draws near."

Once your tribe was great, Oh Quinault,
Rightfully your records claim,
White and red men each have fallen
'Neath your cool steady aim.
But the white-man sits in council,
His last battle has been won,
He will keep the name of Chinook,
For the good that they have done."


End articles excerpted from website for Pacific County Historical Society and Museum, Bruce Weilepp, Director.  If you wish to explore more for yourself, please visit the website by clicking on the  link below.  A new browser window will open. 

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