Collection Description

Culture Name

Chinookans of the Lower Columbia River

Culture Description

The term "Chinookans of the Lower Columbia River" is a reference to the group of Chinookan language speakers living on the northwest coast of the United States in the states of Washington and Oregon and on both banks of the Lower Columbia River from its mouth to just beyond the Willamette River. The group consists of the Chinook proper, the Clackamas, Clatsop, Shoalwater Chinook, Wahkiakum, and Cathlamet (Kathlamet). Chinookan is a branch of the Penutian phylum of languages, and is divided into Upper and Lower Chinookan (Upper Chinookan is treated as a different group of cultures). The villages consisted of both permanent winter villages and temporary summer camps. Each village had its own chief whose status and prestige varied within the area. Hunting, fishing, and gathering were the primary subsistence activities of the Chinookans.


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North America --Northwest Coast and California


United States

OWC Code


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Chinookans of the Lower Columbia River collection consists of 10 English language documents dealing with the Chinookans of the Lower Chinook region. The major time focus of the collection is from the late eighteenth century through the nineteenth. The most comprehensive documents for a general understanding of the traditional ethnography of the Chinookans will be found in Ray (1958, no. 1), and Silverstein (1990, no. 9), supplemented with much historical information in Ruby (1976, no. 2). Other major topics discussed in this collection are: Chinookan songs in Boas (1888, no. 3); beliefs about sickness and death in Boas (1893, no. 4); and humor and verbal irony in Chinookan narratives in Hymes (1987, no. 8).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary, synopsis, and indexing notes were prepared by John Beierle in January-February 2003. It was revised in 2006.

CLAMONS -- protective armor -- category 714

ETAMINUAS -- priests -- category 793

KEELALLES -- doctors, sometimes women who administer medical and spiritual aid -- categories 756, 759

mat creasers -- categories 413, 285

power sticks -- as used in musical accompaniment -- category 534; as sacred objects -- category 778; used in curing -- category 755

TAMANAWAS -- those spirits sought in the vision quest -- categories 787, 776

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