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Lewis and Clark
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image: Clatsop Indians
Journal sketches showing slanted foreheads of Clatsop Indians by William Clark/Image from American Philosophical Society
Clatsop Indians

First Noted by Expedition
December 9, 1805

In the early 1800s about 400 Clatsop inhabited the northwest tip of present-day Oregon, in three villages on the southern side of the Columbia River. They were known for their dugout canoes, which could carry up to 30 people through the rough coastal waters.

Normally the Clatsop would have traded pelts for goods, but when they met the Corps and discerned that the Americans needed food, the Indians quickly changed their offerings to salmon, root bread, and berries. Always helpful, the Clatsop taught the Corps where they could find food to make it through the winter. Having heard that elk were plentiful across the Columbia is one reason the Corps voted to build their fort on the Clatsop side of the river.

In a series of journal sketches, Clark detailed the Chinookan habit of head flattening, where the forehead of children was reshaped to slant backward.

When the expedition left Fort Clatsop in the spring of 1806, Lewis gave it to the Clatsop leader Coboway.

Even before Lewis and Clark came down the Columbia, diseases such as smallpox had decimated the Clatsop population.

From the Expedition Journals

"We were visited today by two Clatsop women and two boys who brought a parsel of excellent hats made of Cedar bark and ornamented with beargrass."

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