The Chinook Tribe says it will take part in next year's Lewis and Clark bicentennial commemoration but on its own terms and not with another tribe it considers an illegitimate...
ASTORIA, Ore. — The Chinook Tribe says it will take part in next year’s Lewis and Clark bicentennial commemoration but on its own terms and not with another tribe it considers an illegitimate rival.
The Chinooks plan several events during November’s “Signature Event,” which is to showcase the tribe’s history and culture.
“Our plan is definitely to participate and have a strong presence,” said Gary Johnson, Chinook Tribal Council chairman.
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He said possible events include a canoe paddle, drumming circle and dinner during the official Nov. 11-15 “Destination: The Pacific” bicentennial commemoration of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Earlier this year, the tribe announced it would not take part if the Clatsop-Nehalem Tribe did.
The Chinook people view that tribe as an upstart challenging their rightful role as the homeland tribe of the Lower Columbia River.
“We have stated our position: We are not going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those folks,” Johnson said. “We will participate where people invite us, where they recognize us as the homeland tribe.
“We only have one issue that has kept us from full participation. We’re not happy to be in the situation we’re in,” Johnson said.
The Clatsop-Nehalem group, meanwhile, has rented space in Seaside that it plans to open in February as a tribal office, exhibit space and store.
“It’s unfortunate, it really is,” Clatsop-Nehalem leader Joe Scovell said of the dispute with the Chinook Tribe. The group is organizing several events of its own for the bicentennial, including basket-weaving and a canoe-carving demonstration.
The group, based on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, says it still is willing to work with the Chinook Tribe but insists that it is a legitimate, independent Native American group.
“As Clatsops, we feel we are a separate, distinct group from those across the river,” said Scovell, who has been pursuing federal recognition for the Clatsop-Nehalems.
The Clatsops signed their own treaty with federal agents who negotiated with several Lower Columbia tribes in 1851.
“The federal government recognized them as being separate from the Chinooks,” Scovell said.
The Clatsops were considered a band of the Chinook, while the Nehalem were a band of the Tillamook Tribe to the south, but the two groups mixed through intermarriage, Scovell said.
With no reservation of their own, tribal members mostly dispersed and many joined other tribes, including the Chinook.
About 100 people have joined the Clatsop-Nehalem group so far. Scovell and other members are collecting birth certificates to authenticate people’s tribal connections, he said.