Federal Recognition for the Chinook Nation

The traditional lands of the Chinook Nation. (Image source: https://chinooknation.org/)

I’ve often thought that staying in one place for long periods of time and being part of a community of friends creates stability and is therefore very important. Although living in Portland for 30 years can not compare with living in an area for thousands of years, I can appreciate the Chinook people’s desire to be recognized by the federal government given that they were the original inhabitants of the land and are still here.

One of Extinction Rebellion’s demands is the 4th Demand, which includes:

  1. a just transition that establishes Indigenous sovereignty and
  2. reparations and remediation led by Indigenous people for years of environmental injustice.

Therefore, we not only must acknowledge that the Chinook Nation‘s land was taken illegally, but also we must take action in support of their efforts to restore their sovereignty. XRPDX is making a strong effort to live up to the 4th demand, and helping the Chinook will be part of our on-going efforts to support Indigenous rights. This year we have been and still are very active in our opposition to Line 3, a new tar sands pipeline corridor through the treaty territory of the Anishinaabe peoples in Minnesota.

Despite years of petitioning for that status with the federal government, the Chinook Indian Nation is still not a Federally Recognized Tribe. (See here for more information on what that status entails.) Chinook history, like other indigenous peoples, is one of broken promises.

[Editor’s note: to read the history of the Chinook Nation from 1848 – 2018, please read the full blog post.]

From chinooknation.org:

2018: “The U.S. District Court ruled that seven of eight claims brought by the Chinook Indian Nation in Chinook v. Zinke will move forward. In May attorneys for the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs asked the judge to dismiss the tribe’s 2017 civil suit. In a June decision, the judge upholds all but one of the tribe’s claims.”

As of Fall 2021, their case is still not settled.

The Chinook Indian Nation is asking people and organizations to contact Congress and the President urging them to restore their status as a Federally recognized tribe – go to https://chinooknation.org/contact-congress/.

Here is how to contact your Senators and Portland-area Congressional Representatives:

Here is a sample letter of support for the Restoration Bill. Please send a printed copy of your letter to:

Chinook Indian Nation, P.O. Box 368, Bay Center, WA 98527

RE: Chinook Indian Nation Restoration Bill and Clarification of Status

To Whom It May Concern,

Please consider this letter to represent my full support of the Chinook Indian Nation and their efforts to clarify their Federal Status. I understand the Chinook are pursuing a bill through Congress for this purpose and I strongly support these efforts. Including the Chinook Indian Nation amongst the other recognized tribes of the United States is long overdue. The Chinook’s long and history at the mouth of the Columbia River and their important historical influence in the Pacific Northwest deserves to continue and flourish.

As a resident of the region, I know the Chinook people and acknowledge the contributions that they have made locally. There is no doubt that they continue to exist. They will provide an important boost to a diminished local economy and will continue to be an important player in the enhancement of our natural resources. A recognized Chinook Indian Nation is vital for our region.

Further, their traditional knowledge enriches us all and should be preserved. Please respect the opinion and knowledge of our local people that reside in or near the homeland of the Chinook people. Their existence cannot be denied, and it is time to put an end to this historical injustice once and for all.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.


[Your name]
[If relevant, your organizational affiliation]

About Mark Darienzo

Mark Darienzo, a natural hazards geologist, became active in the climate movement in 2013. He helped develop Climate Jobs PDX, a committee of Jobs with Justice, to reach out to labor unions about the climate crisis. Mark joined XRPDX in 2020.


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