Lower Chinook and Clatsop
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
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Seasonal Round
"Celiast" and "Ilchee"
Intertribal Trade Network
Canoe People
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
Environmental History
Cultural History
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  Relationship with U.S.
  Early Coastal Exploration
Strangers Arrive
Maritime Fur Trade
Fort Clatsop Winter
Overland Fur Trade
Disease and Burial Customs
Fisheries, Missions, and Settlements
Shrinking Land Base
Making Treaties
Recognition and U.S. Relations
References Cited

NAGPRA Homepage



NAGPRA on the Web


The Indian Arts & Crafts Act of 1990


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(Gary Johnson interview: 2002)

Fort Clatsop > Culture > Sovereignty
Without Federal Recognition

"Our frustration as Chinooks is that we actually don't have access to that protection because we are not federally recognized...

"We don't have tribal lands and we don't have tribal police. We don't have any social funding, anything that would allow us to go out and protect our villages. And really, on a regular basis we find out about people digging up our villages, digging up graves around our villages.

Tony Johnson

"NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection Act, is a Federal law that sees to the return of ceremonial items and skeletal remains from museums to appropriate tribes" (Tony Johnson interview: 2002).

For related stories, please see the Recognitions and US Relations page.

Grave Robbing and Reburial

"Regarding that business of flat-heads and people having an interest in that, you know, there has long been long-standing interest for people to go out and rob our graves and take those flattened skulls. Repatriating these skulls is much worse for us than if complete skeletons had been dug up. If we had all of the bones of an individual, we could take care of that person. But, with just a head, we don't believe we can ever make that person satisfied. So, it's very upsetting to us.

"Just to make clear, this problem of other people's fascination with flattened skulls, is not just something of the past. My wife had a class recently, at University. As a highlight of his class, a professor proudly brought out a flat-headed skull of "a Chinook Indian." And that was in1990, and it was considered to be not only acceptable, but exciting, to present this to a class of students.

"This was not just culturally inappropriate, but culturally inappropriate for my wife to be around. That is not something we take lightly, just to go around with bones" (Tony Johnson interview: 2002).

Grave Robbing and Reburial: A Modern Story

"A couple years ago some people brought two skulls and the tradition for the Chinook people was, if they were connected to the chief or royalty in the chief blood, they flattened their heads when they were babies, they put them in a board. You may have seen pictures of how they done that, and put the babies in with a board on the forehead, and that would flatten that part of their head. And that went on for many many years, you know, way back, they don't do that anymore. That's a thing of the past now.

George Lagergren

"When the Homestead Act came into this area, it brought a lot of people in to take up that land. Wherever they homesteaded, if there happened to be a burial ground there, and then while people were clearing off their land/ and digging and/ they'd find these, these bones and skeletons of the old Indian people. That's what happened a couple years ago.

"These skulls were dug up by somebody that had the land, they owned the land. See they were clearing or doing whatever work they do, plowing or whatever, and up come the skeleton, and they would save the skull, most of them were the skull would be a whole skull you know, and so they brought those in, they brought two of them into the Chinook tribal office.

"One day we had a meeting down there, and we decided to do something with those, so I volunteered to get those, help get those back in the ground, where they belonged, you know.

"And so Darlene Brewer, she had a plot down here at the old, the old Cemetery, and she said, well they were not going to use that and so it would be available to use that to bury those skulls in that. And then I had a whole big bundle of the old trade beads too, so I carved out that little canoe, it was about four feet long, and it was big enough to take the two skulls and all of those beads, you know.

"So we put them all in there and we had a gathering on Memorial Day, that was two years ago I think now. And so we put those back in the ground, and what we did then, we covered them over and we poured a cement slab over the top of that so that they could not be dug out, or dug up again"

"We had that burial on Memorial Day and we had a gathering there, and our friends from the Ho River was down, they drummed on their drums. And there, they were, gave a little sermon and pretty soon here two big eagles came over us, and they circled, round and round and round. And all of a sudden, they made one big round right over the top of us.

"And then they went right straight north away from us. And it gave everybody a feeling that we were watched over. We always have a special feeling for eagles" (George Lagergren interview:2002).

Restoration and Recognition

Background: Looking east across Willapa Bay from Ledbetter State Park
K. Lugthart photo