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Chehalis Tribe History and Facts

The Chehalis Tribe is a Northwest Indian Tribe located in modern-day Washington state. Sometimes folks get the Chehalis tribe confused with the similarly named Chehalis First nation located in British Columbia.

Early European explorers pronounced the word “Chehalis” and gave this name to the river and the people living upriver who later became the “Chehalis people” or “People of the Sands”.

Chehalis Tribe History

Despite the Chehalis tribe still residing in the state of Washington, there is not much written about them.

The Chehalis living along the Chehalis River. They spoke the Salish language and lived in cedar longhouses.

The Chehalis lived primarily off of the fish provided by the river. This would include salmon which was a primary staple in their diet.

There were two groups of Chehalis. These were called Upper and Lower Chehalis and the two of them thrived on the land for many years. This would begin to end when European settlers began to encroach on the land of the tribe.

Chehalis Tribe

When the Europeans arrived they brought diseases with them which devastated all Native Americans and the Chehalis were no exception. Smallpox ravaged their population as they did not have any immunity to it.

In 1806, after President Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase he commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the purchase. The famous explorers came across the Chehalis 

The tribe was also considered a “non-treaty” tribe as they did not like the terms that were offered by the United States government. Unfortunately with a lack of significant allies and an inability to stop the progress of settlers coming west the Chehalis tribe would eventually be placed on a reservation. They did not fight wars against America and understood that in order to survive as a people they needed to accept the terms of the United States.

The tribe eventually settled on their current lands in 1860. A year prior to the Civil War.

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