Stop #17 — Native Americans

Native Americans

There are many famous Native American tribes who played a part in the history of the state and whose tribal territories and homelands are located here.

The indigenous people had occupied the land thousands of years before the first European explorers arrived. The European invasion brought epidemic diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, influenza, measles and smallpox. The Native Indians of Oregon had not developed immunities against these diseases resulting in huge losses in population.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition traversed the Columbia River, and spent time among various tribal groups categorized as Chinook.Peoples speaking dialects of the Chinookan language include the Kathlamet, Wasco and Wishram, Clatsop, and Clackamas nations. At the time of their expedition, Lewis and Clark estimated a population of approximately 16,000 for the various Chinook peoples, with other tribes in the Oregon Country pushing the total indigenous population to perhaps 50,000.

The Portland metro area rests on traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla and many other tribes and bands. These groups created communities and summer encampments along the Columbia and Willamette rivers and harvested and used the plentiful natural resources of the area for thousands of years.

The Modoc War was one of the most dramatic American Indian wars in U.S. history. It began in November 1872 when the military tried to force a small band of Modoc Indians to a reservation. By the end, the Modocs were fighting off a force of nearly 1,000 men, made up of both military soldiers and civilian volunteers.

Portland’s Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), which hosts cultural programming and other events, is located on what, to the Native community, is sacred ground. The site in contemporary Northeast Portland is recognized as the original location of an Indian village known as Neerchokikoo, dating to before 1792 and cited in Lewis and Clark’s journals. The Portland region is home to more than 40,000 Native American, Alaska Native and First Nations people.

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