Lower Chinook and Clatsop
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
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  Relationship with U.S.
  Early Coastal Exploration
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References Cited

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Pine Forest, Oregon, camera lucida drawing by J. Drayton, of the Wilkes Exploring Expedition in 1841. (Wilkes: 1845). Courtesy of the University of Montana Mansfield Library, Special Collections

"...the primeval forest of pines in the rear of Astoria, a sight well worth seeing...the largest tree of the sketch was thirty-nine feet six inches in circumference, eight feet above the ground, and had a bark eleven inches thick. The height could not be ascertained, but it was thought to be upward of two hundred and fifty feet, and the tree was perfectly straight" (Wilkes: 1845).

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Gorman Martin, sitting on the
porch of enormous log structure
Image courtesy the University of Oregon.

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"That weed, spartina has moved into this part of the Bay..."

Fort Clatsop > Culture > Environmental History
Through the Eyes of One Elder
George Lagergren

 

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"I grew up on the Middle and South Nemah River..."

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George Lagergren

 

"From the Middle Nemah we'd go down and into the lower part of the bay, and then we'd go west and go clear around to the little old village that we called Sunshine. We watched the tides you see as we traveled, because we could make short cuts from one part of the bay to the other, according to the tides. And then on the tide, then we'd go back around and then when we start up the river again we'd hit the incoming tide, and that helped us. We had two paddles, he had one and I had the other one, and we'd paddle that little canoe everywhere.

"Well I grew up way back in the woods on the river bank of the river. We were a mile away from any road, and there was only one highway that went down through here, and that was the 101 highway. And when I was a young boy, that highway was a little narrow, crooked gravel road. And we lived mostly in the woods fishing and hunting, and I grew up on a small cattle ranch. We had deer and we had ducks, and we had a lot of wild meat that we lived on also, that was part of our survival. We'd head back through the woods and we could travel, and on our way we always had a, a sack, and on our way we would stop along the beach and dig clams, and pick up some native oysters.


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"Back in those days, the native oysters were pretty common..."

"Most of my uncles were trappers in those early days, you know, they trapped all over, you know. But most, they had a, they had their little canoe too. You know, that they would go trap up the North Nemah and then they'd go just a short little trip over the top of the ridge and they'd hit the headwaters of the Palix. And then they'd trap down the Palix, and then when they come down to the head of the river, they'd walk around and go back right up into the river again, up to the North Nemah part again. They made those circles.

"They trapped mink and muskrat and otter, and they trapped all the fur-bearing animals, but mostly beaver. And then, later on, the season was all closed on beaver. That season on beaver was closed for many years, and so the whole area here, just got overrun with beavers. The beavers dammed every little canyon up. So then they opened the season back up on beaver again to cut back on their population.

"My uncles trapped, and they were fishermen, and they worked part time in the woods, logging. But there was not too much logging going on in those depression days so they went more to the trapping and then to fishing, gillnet fishing. And that's what I started out with, when I was a young boy. I started gillnetting, and I would take a week or two off from school, when I got up at the high school. I'd take a couple, two, three weeks off during the fishing season, and I'd make enough money to buy my clothes and what I needed for my own. But you know, if you had ten, eleven dollars, you had a quite a bit of money in those days because we could buy a hamburger for five cents, in, back in those days you know. And so that's the way we survived. And we lived mostly on common foods like fish, smoked fish, we always had a smoke house going because there was fish running in all of these streams just about year round.

"In the fall of the year, the gillnet season would come, and then would go on through almost into December.

"We fished Silver Side Salmon and Chinook Salmon and, and the what we'd call it, a Dog Salmon, or Chum Salmon, and that was the main, that was the main runs of fish that came into all of these streams here. My mother, she had several ways she cooked it. We never had electricity until I left home, we never had electricity, we had wood stove, you know, and she cooked in a wood stove oven. And she baked bread, all of our bread was homemade bread. And once in a while I would look at those kids in school, they'd have bought bread, and I always thought how good that looked. And I would try always to trade sandwiches, but they didn't feel like trading for mine either.

 


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"We have eagles around here..."

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"
When I was a boy here there was cedar everywhere.."
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Cedar branch
K. Lugthart photo

"Nowadays, there's a network of roads all through the country. But in the day when I was young, we traveled those woods on foot. We had our trails, we traveled all the hills, we knew the routes and trails, and we had shortcuts. We could go from one river over across the hill to take a shortcut into another area, into another stream, and then we could go down that stream and hit the bay shore and we could get our clams. And if we felt like where we were getting hungry, it only took us about a half an hour to take our shortcut over into another area and go for whatever we wanted to have something to eat" (George Lagergren interview: 2002).

 
Background: Old growth fir giants. K. Lugthart photo