Created By: University of Virginia
Although I grew up in Portland, my family would often take weekend trips to Hood River, which is an hour East of portland along the Columbia River corridor and along I-84. Rooster Rock is a memorable landmark for me from this drive. It also holds another memory, because one summer I raced there in outrigger canoes. Although outrigger canoes spacifically originated in the polynesian islands, there is still certainly some connection for me with the canoes used by the Chinook people.
Canoes were the main method of transport on the river for the Chinook. Small canoes were most common, and used for short trips. To make them, they used the Western Red Cedar, as it is soft, lightweight, and durable. It also naturally contains oil that inhibits rot. They built the canoes by hollowing out the logs, using hot water and rocks to soften the food. These canoes were meticulously carved, and often decorative pieces would be attatched to the stern. One thing we learned in school is that indigenous people used sap from the trees to seal the canoes, and I used to think about this when I climbed big pine trees, and got sap all over my hands.
Canoes also played a spiritual role -- when people passed away, they were often buried in their canoe, as they were considered one of their most important belongings.
Here's a quote by a Chinook carver Tony Johnson:
“People wore canoes out. Canoes have a lifespan. So our old cemeteries were full not only of dead people. They’re also full of dead canoes. We buried our people with things that were important to them. And our old cemeteries were full of canoes placed up on supports or in trees or however else we could elevate them above the ground. And inside of those canoes were individuals or multiple individuals from families. So, you know, they actually had a life after death also.” (quoted from The Wisdom of the Elders website.)
This point of interest is part of the tour: Colombia River Gorge