Columbia River at Cathlamet-Skamokama, Stella Falls
Tribe ~ Cowlitz Indian Tribe - Ta-wa-l-litch - "seeker," "capturing the medicine spirit" - www.cowlitz.org/
Ambassador ~ Willie Doughty
Volunteers ~ Joy Smith, Arden Allemen
Location ~ Skamokawa Vista Park in Skamokawa. It is 90 acres right on the river with lots of room for ceremonies with full view of the Columbia River. The shelter is 20 X 20, but it also has a fire pit and could be used for registration, administration, eating, and ceremonies if the weather is bad.. Campsites, RV sites, yurts, 3 restrooms, and a shower. Directions: http://www.skamokawavistapark.org/directions.htm
Accommodations ~ Camping, nearby hotels, motels
Notes ~ The town has a nice historical setting and a few rooms.
http://www.skamokawavistapark.org/ Nice pictures
http://www.cathlametchamber.com/ The directions: are on this web site:
History – Chinook Indian Nation
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.
In the year of 1805, a group of worn, macerated men stumbled and paddled into one of the world’s richest lands; they had arrived in lower Chinook Country.
They had crossed half a continent, under the direction of a president, to access and chart the ripe natural resources of a territory that had yet to be exploited. They depended heavily upon the advice, direction, and goodwill of the indigenous peoples they met along the way, and some historians have argued that Lewis and Clark’s mission could not have been accomplished without the good will of the people already inhabiting the land and waters of the Northwest.
Their arrival into Chinook Ili’I was less than spectacular. November had unleashed its annual storms. The wind and rain poured inland from the ocean with a vengeance, washing away the comforts of summer and tormenting the unprepared. The corps’s clothing rotted on their backs and the cold sapped their strength. The great river lashed at their dugouts, and drove them to land. They had arrived at the goal of their journey, but instead of glory, they found misery.
The Land they had entered was like a great beast, furred in dense forests and rippling with the fat of natural resources. Life teamed at every turn, on land, river and sea. Food was close at hand, but unrecognizable to a crew who had depended almost entirely on big game. Cattail and Wapato root abounded. Waterfowl swarmed the skies and waterways. Beaver and Muskrat were sleek and fat. Clams and crab were there for the picking. Yet, without the bulk meats of Buffalo, Elk or Deer, the crew was gaunt and emaciated; starving, even as they waded through a land of plenty.
If they had expected a tribe that was impressed by their advanced ways, they were unpleasantly surprised. The last of the summer’s trade ships had crossed the bar weeks before, and trade goods still filled the larder. The Chinooks found the corps to be poor in condition, health and worst of all, poor in trade goods.
At first, the people approached the corps optimistically, for few outsiders had come without substantial merchandise. The fact that this group of men had traveled overland, the hard way, and arrived with little or nothing, seemed to be incomprehensible. What was the point?
The corps was offered salmon and roots, both a goodwill gesture and an attempt to ascertain if the crew had undisclosed trade-goods. They accepted the food, but seemed unable to overcome their addiction to bulk meat and dog, failing to recognize the nutritional value of salmon. As their stay extended, they concentrated their attention on Elk and killed a disproportionate number of animals for the number of men fed. Without the refined skills to preserve all the meat, a great deal of it spoiled and was wasted. It was not uncommon for buffalo to be killed on the plains, with only a small portion of the fat meat taken for a particular meal and the bulk left to the buzzards and wolves.
They built their fort, partially with borrowed planks, and spent a rather dismal and uneventful winter, preparing for their springtime journey home. They were continually frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to trade valuables from the Chinook for trinkets, culminating in the theft of a valuable canoe. They claimed the theft of the corps’s elk meat as justification for commandeering of the canoe, an ironic portent for the future treatment of the Chinook people.
They arrived as paupers, this Corps of Discovery, and left with a treasure box of future exploitations and reconnaissance. To the Chinooks their departure differed little from their entrance; they were a curiosity, and an omen portending of an inconceivable future.
Nearly two hundred years later, the Chinooks find themselves struggling to maintain a foothold in their own country.
The gates opened by Captain Gray and Lewis and Clark, resulted in the flooding of Chinook Country, leaving a polluted flotsam of disease, exploitation, theft and dislocation that continues to this day. Land was illegally acquired, even by government standards. A negotiated treaty gathered dust and was never ratified. The once unquestionable empire of the Chinooks faired no better than the Aztecs under the greed-driven brutality of Cortez.
Today the commemoration of Lewis and Clark conjures fairy tale images of buckskin-clad hero’s; a troupe of flintlock wielding Daniel Boones. Keywords such as courageous, heroic, adventurous and honorable have successfully disguised the more revealing terms such as reconnaissance, subjugation, exploitive, and thieving. Certainly, one can appreciate the tenacity required to make such a journey. But to window-dress the intent of the journey with Hollywood style hype is little more then a continuation of a deception that has been passed upon the public for two centuries.
We are told that the commemoration is an opportunity for tribes to tell their stories. At face value, this appears valid. But what would this commemoration be without the involvement of the tribal nations? Knowing the commemoration would be flat without this interaction, the question then becomes, how can tribes be entice to participate, knowing that Lewis and Clark represents the beginning of the end for most of them? The answers are listed prominently in the government’s how-to book of tribal relations; toss a few trinkets, fluff up the chest, and say what ever is necessary to get what you want.
They offer the tribes grants, “trinkets”, and laud the value of telling the tribal perspective, “saying what they have to, to get what they want.” What they want is tribal culture and participation.
Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent during the commemoration. Cities, Counties and States will benefit greatly. Citizens will get the Hollywood production they know and love. And when the dust settles, what will the Chinooks have gained?
We will still be a landless tribe, within our country. We will still struggle to keep the lights on in our one-room office. We will still have never been legally compensated for millions of acres of our land. We will still suffer from diabetes, racism, cultural exploitation and intrusion by ‘recognized’ and make-believe tribes.
But hey, at least we got to tell our story.