Column: Clatsop Tribe forgotten despite helping Lewis and Clark

Writer says explorers Lewis and Clark owe a lot to the Clatsop Tribe, whose descendants lack federal recognition:
This is a story about a canoe and an event that reaches back 20 decades, or eight generations in genealogists’ terms. While it has been dormant in our nation’s history, it has remained unforgotten in the minds and culture of a small group of residents. Their legacy is that of a tiny Native American tribe whose roots reach far back in geologic time.

As pointed out in an earlier column recounting the arrival of the Lewis and Clark expedition on the Pacific Coast in 1805, it was with the help of the friendly Clatsop people that the explorers were able to survive during the winter months. They named the fort they erected there after the same tribe and left the structure as a gift when they departed.

The Clatsops were not strangers to Europeans because they had previously met and traded with ocean-going ships and sailors. This background invested them with a certain amount of trust in white men as well as a familiarity with a language very different from their now-extinct Chinookian dialect.

Despite the friendliness of these native people, there was always a sense of tension — at least on the part of the expedition leaders, who had limited contact with the tribe’s hunters and fishermen. The very term “Clatsop” means “place of smoked salmon.” It was local knowledge of catching fish from the sea and hunting game from the woods that served the Clatsops for so long and eventually benefited the visitors from the East.

Get the Story:
Al Cooper: Laying a 200-year-old injustice to rest (The St. George Spectrum & Daily News 11/6)

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