Bonneville Dam

Colombia River Gorge

Bonneville Dam

Washington United States

Created By: University of Virginia


Growing up, we would commonly take weekend trips to Hood River, where we would later move to. A common rest stop along I-84 from the trip from Portland to Hood River is the Bonneville Dam, which also includes a fish hatchery and visitor center, where visitors can see sturgeons and salmon through the glass. It was also a common spot for field trips in middle school.

For Chinook people, salmon are a symbol of lifeblood. They not only provide as physical sustenance, but they are also a central part of their religion and culture. In fact, they held ceremonies each year in longhouses called the First Salmon Feast. Here is a story that they tell:

"When the Creator was preparing to bring humans onto the earth, He called a grand council of all the animal people, plant people, and everything else. In those days, the animals and plants were more like people because they could talk. He asked each one to give a gift to the humans—a gift to help them survive, since they were pitiful and would die without all their help. The first to come forward was Salmon. He gave the humans his body for food. The second give a gift was Water. She promised to be the home to the salmon. After that, everyone else gave the humans a gift, but it was special that the first to give their gifts were Salmon and Water. When the humans finally arrived, the Creator took away the animals’ power of speech and gave it to the humans. He then told the humans that since the animals could no longer speak for themselves, it was their responsibility to speak for them."

The salmon is a main focal point of their religion. The Chinook people's main belief is of the Great Spirit, which is based on the spirit and animal deities that protect humans. This is why they greatly value the animals and land around them, and even view them as superior. For this reason, the salmon is considered holy and sacred, and they believe that the salmons are martyrs, because they sacrifice their lives to sustain humans.

Why Salmon are Important to the Tribes - CRITFC

Tribal Salmon Culture - CRITFC

Chinook Native Americans: Religion and Beliefs (

This point of interest is part of the tour: Colombia River Gorge


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