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American Indian Languages

The Chinookan Language Family

Chinookan is a small family of languages spoken in Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River by Chinook peoples.

Older linguistic classifications list Chinookan as a family of its own which consists of three languages with multiple lects:

  • Kathlamet (a.k.a. Katlamat, Cathlamet)
  • Lower Chinook (a.k.a. Coastal Chinook)
    • Clatsop (USA)
    • Shoalwater (a.k.a. Chinook proper) (USA)
  • Upper Chinook (a.k.a. Kiksht, Columbia Chinook)
    • Cascades (USA)
    • Clackamas (USA)
    • Hood River (USA)
    • Multnomah (USA)
    • Wasco-Wishram (2)
      • Wasco (USA)
      • Wishram (USA)
    • White Salmon (USA)
Both Kathlamet and Lower Chinook are now extinct. Out of Upper Chinook, Cascades, Clackamas, Hood River, Multnomah, and White Salmon are also extinct. Both Wasco and Wishram are still spoken, but severely endangered: Wasco has 6 speakers left, Wishram has 2 speakers.

Kathlamet was spoken in northwestern Oregon along the south bank of the lower Columbia River. Kathlamet has been classified as a dialect of Upper Chinook (or Middle Chinook), but they are not mutually intelligible.

Clatsop was spoken in northwestern Oregon around the mouth of the Columbia River and the Clatsop Plains. Shoalwater was spoken in southwestern Washington around southern Willapa Bay. Clackamas was spoken in northwestern Oregon along the Clackamas and Sandy rivers. Multnomah was spoken on Sauvie Island and in the Portland area in northwestern Oregon.

Wahkiakum was spoken in southwestern Washington along the north bank of the lower Columbia River. Watlala was spoken in north-central Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge.

Chinook Jargon is a pidgin that originated on the Columbia River. It has features of Chinookan and neighboring languages. Its ultimate origin is not clear and is controversial.

The Chinookan language family is now classified by Goddard (1996) & Mithun (1999) as part of the Penutian language family.

...Read More

American Indian Language Family Trees

Goddard (1996) & Mithun (1999)



3. Chinookan (>Macro-Siouan?) (5)

Penutian (33)
  • Chinookan (2)
    • Chinook (USA)
    • Wasco-Wishram (USA)


Today's Mail Bag: I am trying to find out how to register on the Creek Indian registry.I am also trying to find out what website or telephone number to call so I can get this info.
--Submitted by Jon T.

Answer: Read the answer here

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