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Chinook [archive]

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chI-nuk (I='i' from 'it' and u= 'oo' from 'book')


The homelands of the Chinook are on the Northwest Pacific Coast along the lower Columbian River.


The social makeup of the Chinook tribe consist of many close relatives. They were led by a senior elder who was well respected in the community. Their religion and faith derived from their livelihood. Chinook religion focused on the First Salmon Rite, a ritual in which each group welcomed the annual salmon run. Another important religious rite was the individual spirit quest, an ordeal undertaken by all male and some female adolescents to acquire guardian spirits that would give them hunting, curing, or other powers, bring them good luck, or teach them songs and dances. Singing ceremonies were public demonstrations of these gifts. The Chinook also had potlatches, which were ceremonial distributions of property.

They were famous for their extensive trading. They traded over thousands of miles with many different peoples. Being river dwellers their livelihood greatly depended on fish. Salmon was a major source of trade. Other valuable trade items included canoes, slaves and shells. They communicated with other groups through a spoken trade language. This trade language was recognized and spoken by many other peoples. It was a combination of Chinook, Nootka, English and French. It was widely used along the coast from California to Alaska.

After this Europeans moved westward, closing the gap to the Chinook. The Chinook didn't mesh well with the Europeans and slowly dwindled in population. They were ultimately removed to reservations and taken from their lands.


The Americana Encyclopedia. volume 3, 1994 Americana Encyclopedia Inc.

Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Additional Reading

 Chinook Indians
 Chinook Jargon
 Chinook Mythology
 Indian Tribes of Washington

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