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Columbia River Valley
Chinookan langs.png

Pre-contact distribution of Chinookan languages

Chinookan is a small family of languages spoken in Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River by Chinook peoples.


Family division

Chinookan consists of three languages with multiple varieties. There is some dispute over classification, and there are two ISO 639-3 codes assigned: chh (Chinook, Lower Chinook) and wac (Wasco-Wishram, Upper Chinook). For example, Ethnologue 15e classifies Kiksht as Lower Chinook, while others consider it instead Upper Chinook (discussion), as used in this article.

  1. Kathlamet (also known as Katlamat, Cathlamet), now extinct (†).
    Kathlamet was spoken in northwestern Oregon along the south bank of the lower Columbia River.
    Kathlamet has been classified as a dialect of Upper Chinook (or Middle Chinook), but they are not mutually intelligible.
  2. Lower Chinook (also known as Coastal Chinook) (chh), now extinct (†).
  3. Upper Chinook (also known as Kiksht, Columbia Chinook) (wac)

Watlala was spoken in north-central Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge.

See also

Chinook Jargon -- a pidgin based on Chinookan and with many words loaned from other languages, which was used in trade along the Pacific Northwest coast and adjoining areas inland.


  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.

Further reading


  1. ^ Culture: Language. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. 2009 (retrieved 9 April 2009)

, which was once an area of inhabitance by Chinookan peoples]] Chinookan refers to several groups of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. In the early 19th century, the Chinookan peoples lived along the lower and middle Columbia River in present-day Oregon and Washington. The Chinookan tribes were those encountered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 on the lower Columbia.



The Chinookan were not nomadic. At birth Chinookans would flatten some children's heads by applying pressure with a board, enabling, in turn, a social hierarchy that placed flat-headed community members above those with round heads. This ranking was inherited. Living near the coast of the Pacific Ocean, they were skilled whale hunters and fishermen. Owing partly to their non-migratory living patterns, the Chinookan and other coastal tribes had relatively little conflict over land with one another. They also lived in long houses with more than fifty people in one long house.


Some are currently engaged in a continuing effort to secure formal recognition of tribal status by the U.S. Federal government. The U.S. Department of Interior initially recognized the Chinookan as a tribe in 2001. Subsequently, the department first reconsidered and then, in 2002, revoked this status.[1]

Chinookan groups

Chinookan groups include:

Most surviving Chinookan natives live in the towns of Bay Center, Chinook, and Ilwaco in southwest Washington. Many books have been written about the Chinook, including, Boston Jane: an Adventure.

Famous Chinookans

See also


  1. ^ For the 2001 recognition, see 66 Federal Register 1690 (2001) at [1]; for the subsequent reversal, see 67 Federal Register 46204 (2002) at [2]

External links


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