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Our History

The Chinook Indian Nation is made up of the five western-most Chinookan speaking tribes at the mouth of the Columbia River.
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Chinook Nation’s History

The Chinook Indian Nation’s nearly 70-year-old constitution identifies their five constituent tribes – the Clatsop and Cathlamet (Kathlamet) of present-day Oregon and the Lower Chinook, Wahkiakum (Waukikum) and Willapa (Weelappa) of what is now Washington State. When the U.S. government tried to remove us from our lands, we insisted on “staying with the bones of our ancestors.” Despite the U.S. government’s refusal to federally acknowledge us, we remain on the lands of our ancestors to this day.

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You can help us fight for Chinook justice. Tens of thousands of Americans have already written letters and signed petitions in support of the Chinook Indian Nation.

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A Timeline of Our Fight for Tribal Recognition

1851

The five tribes of the Chinook Indian Nation signed treaties with the federal government at Tansy Point in 1851.

The treaties we signed reserved small tracts of our original lands, but those treaties were not acted upon by the Senate — and then the U.S. government seized our lands.

1851
1855

When the U.S. government began a new round of treaty negotiations, the Chinook people were told we must relocate to the lands of the Quinault. We refused.

1855
1864

The government tried to move the Chinook Indian Nation to new reservations in Southwest Washington. Again, we refused.

1864
1912

Congress authorized land claim payments to the Chinook based on their 1899 claim, 1902 testimony, and subsequent 1906 and 1913 enrollments. Chinook Indians were able to seek enrollments and individual land allotments.

1912
1925

Congress passed an act permitting Chinook and other tribes to sue in U.S. Claims Court for taking of aboriginal lands. (Duwamish et. al. v. U.S.).

1925
1953

The U.S. government terminated the federal status of 109 tribes and bands across the nation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs began “administrative termination” of the Chinook Nation and rejected our tribal governing documents — without providing a reason.

1953
1967

The Bureau of Indian Affairs stopped services to 100 landless tribes in the United States, including the Chinook Nation. Up until then, the federal government had always served the Chinook as tribal members.

1967
1979

We petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs for federal recognition.

1979
2001

After decades of collecting historical and legal evidence, the Chinook Indian Nation was formally recognized at the end of the Clinton Administration.

2001
2002

Our celebration was short-lived. A year and a half later after granting federal recognition, the Bush Administration rescinded it, and by doing so declared that our Nation does not exist.

2002
2015

The Bureau of Indian Affairs acknowledged that its process is "broken."

2015
2017

The Chinook Indian Nation sued for federal recognition in federal court (Chinook Indian Nation v. Zinke).

2017
2022
Over the last 20 years, efforts made by the Chinook Indian Nation have been largely ignored. Not a single hearing to reinstate recognition has been scheduled, nor has Congress granted the Bureau of Indian Affairs authority to reverse prior reversals and restore recognition.
2022

Latest News and Resources

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