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5 Interesting Facts About The Tillamook Tribe

Tillamook Tribe

The Tillamook Tribe was a Northwest tribe that were known for their religion, basket-making, and their differences from the Salish people to the north of them.

They were the southernmost Salish tribe and had many differences between their peers. Their language would become extinct in 1970 as many of them picked up English.

#1. The Tillamook Tribe Lived In Modern Oregon

Tillamook Tribe Map

The Tillamook tribe lived on the coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean in what is now Oregon. They were part of the Salish linguistic group although many noted that they were influenced by the tribes of Northern California rather than the Northwest Tribes.

They resided in Oregon until 1856 when they were put onto the Selitz Reservation. 

#2. Their First Contact With Americans Was During The Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Lewis and Clark Expedition

After President Thomas Jefferson made a deal with the French to acquire the Louisiana Purchase he organized an expedition to be led by William Clark and Meriwether Lewis

On the infamous expedition the two men came in contact with many Native Americans, one of which would have been the Tillamook Tribe. They would have came in contact with the tribe in 1805 when they reached the Pacific. 

A whale was washed ashore near Necost, and the Tillamook quickly stripped it of flesh, saving the flesh/blubber as food and the rendering oil for later use.

After hearing of this, Lewis and Clark sought to trade for blubber. They received 300 pounds and some oil in exchange for trade goods.

Lewis and Clark described a village of around 1000 people living in about 50 houses, estimating the entire population at around 2200. According to the expedition, the staple food source of the Tillamook was salmon.

The people caught salmon during the annual salmon run of April to October, when the salmon went upstream in freshwater rivers from the ocean to spawn.

The Tillamook ate some fresh and processed much of the fish to use throughout the year, preserving it by drying it and grinding it into a powder.

#3. The Tribe Suffered From The Smallpox Epidemic

Smallpox was devastating to every tribe in North and South America. The Tillamook tribe had their first epidemic 1824 and a second in 1829. 

Due to not having any natural immunity the disease wiped much of their population out and it would become hard for them to maintain their lands due to a rising population of settlers.

It is estimated that the Tillamook suffered anywhere from 30-70% mortality from smallpox.

#4. They Had Many Different Bands Of Tillamook Indians

The Tillamook consisted of several different bands that spread among the coast of Oregon. A list of these bands include:

  • Siletz / Nachicolcho
  • Salmon River / Nachesne / Nachesna
  • Nestucca / Nastucco / Nestugga
  • Tillamook Bay
  • Nehalem

#5. The Tillamook Tribe Had A Detailed Mythology

Native Americans had their own religion and it often had to do with the spirits and the earth. there were different beliefs in origins, however you never saw anything as details as the Mount Olympus gods in Greek Mythology. 

The Tillamook divided their mythology into three categories; the earliest was the Myth Age, followed by the Age of Transformation, when the “South Wind” remade the land. The third age is the “period of true happenings”, or events that happened in what the Tillamook considered recent history.

Despite this, stories from the third age were considered just as much of a myth as those from the first or second.

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