Lower Chinook and Clatsop
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Who's Who
Village Life
Inter-Village Relations
Seasonal Round
"Celiast" and "Ilchee"
Intertribal Trade Network
Canoe People
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
Environmental History
Cultural History
Recommended Websites

  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

Fort Clatsop > Culture > Strangers Arrive

“The Indians at the mouth of the Columbia preserve several traditions of the early visits of white men, the first of which ‘must have been many years anterior to the arrival of Gray. The wife of Mr. Solomon H. Smith, who belonged to the Klatsop, and was born about the year 1810, informed me that the first white men seen by her tribe were three who came ashore in a boat from a wrecked vessel.

“They landed on Klatsop Point (Point Adams), where one soon afterward died. They were first descried by a woman who had lost her child, and, after the Indian fashion, had gone out in the morning to mourn for it. She saw a large object lying on the beach, and, while looking at it in wonder, the seamen came ashore and approached, holding a bright kettle and motioning her to bring water. She was afraid; but they put it down and retired, when she took it and ran to the village.
Celiast Smith (Peterson:1991)
“The Indians then came down in a body. The newcomers looked like men, except that they had long beards like bears. They had already put the sick man into a box to be buried, as he was nearly dead. The Klatsop Indians sent for the others on the river, who came in great numbers. Astonished at the value of their prize and, hoping to get the whole of the metals which it contained, they set fire to the wreck, by which means they lost all. There were copper kettles on the vessels and pieces of money, having a square hole through the center" (Celiast in Gibbs: 1876: 236-237).

“The two surviving seamen remained as slaves to the Klatsop until it was found that one was a worker in iron, of which the Indians began to see the value, when they made him a chief. Afterward the two started for their own country, which, they said, was toward the rising sun. They went as far as the Dalles, where one stopped and married. The other returned to Multnomah Island and married there. He had a daughter, who was an old gray-haired woman when Mrs. Smith was a child. Her own father remembered the arrival of the seamen. The man who lived on Multnomah Island was undoubtedly the one mentioned by Franchère in his narrative, whose son, Soto, was alive, and a very old man, at the time of his visit" (Gibbs 1876:236-237).

"Averse to Beards"

Robert Stuart of the Astorians, helps explain why the first sight of Europeans was so alarming:

“They have scarce any beard, and it is seldom the smallest hair is to be discerned on their faces; from the care they take to pluck out the little that appears, they esteem it very uncooth and impolite to have a beard, calling the whites by way of reproach the long beards; the same attention is paid to removing it from their bodies, where its growth is more abundant; that of their head is thick and black, but rather coarse; they allow it to grow to a great length, sometimes wearing it pleated, and sometimes fancifully wound round the head in tresses: of this they are as proud & careful as they are averse to beards, nor could a greater affront be offered them, than to cut it off " (Stuart 1953:38).


Memory of first gun

“The Tsihalis [Chehalis] Indians retain a recollection of Gray. Kau-kau-an, the old chief at Tsihalis Point, informed me that he had seen him. Gray gave them a musket and some cartridges, first, however, cutting off the balls. They did not know its use, but supposed’ it was intended merely to make a noise, and fired it off until their powder was gone, when they broke it up. Afterward they found out Gray’s object. He also gave them axes and knives, the first they had seen. A few years after him came Captain Tom­linson, with whom also they traded. Gray and he used to give them a 'small blanket', probably a piece of coarse cloth, for a dressed deer-skin" (Gibbs 1877:238).