Tillamook people

The Nehalem or Tillamook are a Native American tribe from coastal Oregon of the Salish linguistic group. The name "Tillamook" is a Chinook language term meaning "people of Nekelim (or Nehalem)."[1]

Estimated to have 2200 people at the beginning of the 18th century, the Tillamook lost population in the 19th century to infectious disease and effects of encroachment by European Americans. In 1849 they were estimated to have 200 members. In 1856 they were forced to the Siletz Reservation with other small remnant tribes. In 1898 the Tillamook and the Clatsop, another Coast Salish people, were the first tribes to sue the United States government for compensation for land it had taken from them. They were paid a settlement in 1907. Their descendants are now considered part of the Siletz, as generations of people have intermarried.

Nehalem (Tillamook)
Total population
50 (1990)[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States (Oregon)
English, Tillamook
traditional beliefs
Related ethnic groups


According to anthropological and archaeological research, the first ancestors of the Tillamook settled in their historic territory in the 15th century, living in an area ranging from Cape Lookout to Cape Meares.[2] The Native American Historical Data Base (NAHDB) calculates that the population was about 2200 in at the beginning of the 18th century, based on written historic accounts.

The first documented encounter of Europeans with the Tillamook was in 1788 by Robert Haswell, second mate on Robert Gray's ship. A second encounter was in late 1805 by the American Lewis and Clark Expedition, who were wintering at Fort Clatsop. They had reached the Pacific Coast while exploring the extent of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase for President Thomas Jefferson.

A whale was washed ashore near Necost, and the Tillamook quickly stripped it of flesh, saving the blubber as food and the 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.[3] Lewis and Clark described a village of around 1000 people living in about 50 houses,[4] 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.

In 1824 and 1829 the tribe suffered high mortality in smallpox epidemics; this was a new infectious disease to them, introduced by contact with European peoples, among whom it was endemic. Native Americans suffered because they had no acquired immunity. The arrival of Oregon Trail settlers in 1841 and resulting conflicts over land and resources caused further population losses. By 1845 Wilkes estimated there were 400 Tillamook remaining.[5] In 1849 Lane estimated 200 of the tribe survived.

In 1856 the federal government forced the Tillamook and more than 20 other remnant tribes to the Siletz Reservation. Additional population estimates are impossible as the tribes have intermarried and are no longer separately enumerated. In 1898 the Tillamook became the first tribe to sue the US government for compensation for the lands they had taken, along with the Clatsop. In 1907, along with two other tribes, they were awarded $23,500.


The Tillamook initially spoke Tillamook, a Salishan language, but gradually began to use English in greater amounts. The last fluent speaker of Tillamook died in 1970, rendering the language extinct.[6] Between 1965 and 1972, in an effort to revitalize the language, a group of researchers from the University of Hawaii interviewed the few remaining Tillamook and created a 120-page dictionary.[7]

Early 20th-century anthropologist Franz Boas wrote, "The Tillamook Indians are the most southern branch of the Coast Salish. They live on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and are separated from their more northern kinsmen by tribes speaking Chinookan languages. Their language is spoken two dialects, the Siletz and the Tillamook proper. It was first described and classified by Horatio Hale in the Publications of the Wilkes Expedition."[8]

The name Tillamook was derived from Chinook people's references to them, referring to their place of settlement. It meant the people of Nekelim (pronounced Ne-elim). The latter name means the place Elim, or, in the Cathlamet dialect, the place Kelim. This dialect differed from the northern dialects in its peculiar phonetics. Boas noted that the culture of the Tillamook seemed to have differed quite considerably from that of the northern Coast Salish, and has evidently been influenced by the culture of the tribes of northern California.[8]


According to the work of Franz Boas, the culture of the Tillamook tribe was significantly different from that of their Salish neighbors, evidently influenced by the tribes of northern California.[9]

The Tillamook were skilled basket-weavers,[10] and had a detailed mythology with links to existing events; the Story of the Thunderbird and Whale, for example, reflects the large earthquake in that region in 1700. 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.


Some Nekelim people are enrolled in either the federally recognized Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon or the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.[11] Other Nehalem are part of the unrecognized Clatsop Nehalem Confederated Tribes.

See also


  1. ^ a b Barry M. Pritzker, A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; pg. 207.
  2. ^ Coastal Oregon Native Americans Archived 2006-02-17 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Lewis and Clark . Native Americans . Tillamook Indians | PBS
  4. ^ National Geographic: Lewis & Clark—Tribes—Tillamook Indians
  5. ^ Tillamook
  6. ^ Ethnologue 14 report for language code:TIL
  7. ^ Official site of Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes Archived 2011-06-16 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b The Journal of American Folk-Lore, Vol.11, No. 40, Pg. 23-28
  9. ^ Indian Tribe History Archived 2009-10-12 at the Portuguese Web Archive
  10. ^ The Collector’s Guide: Native American Baskets
  11. ^ Pritzker 208

Further reading

  • Boas, Franz. "Traditions of the Tillamook Indians," Journal of American Folklore, v. 11 (1898), pp. 23–38.
  • Crawford, Ailsa. Tillamook Indian Basketry: Continuity and Change as Seen in The Adams Collection. MA thesis. Portland State University, Department of Anthropology, 1983.
  • Jacobs, Elizabeth Derr. Nehalem Tillamook Tales. Eugene, OR: University of Oregon Books, 1959.
  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Sauter, John and Johnson, Bruce. Tillamook Indians of the Oregon Coast. Portland, OR: Binfords and Mort, 1974.
  • Seaburg, William (ed.) The Nehalem Tillamook: An Ethnography. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2003.
Bald Point Site

The Bald Point Site (Smithsonian trinomial: 35CLT23) is an archeological site located in Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, Oregon, United States. The site features a shell midden and possible house pit, dating to ca. 1550 CE. Associated with the Tillamook people, it has the potential to yield information related to environmental change in the Oregon Coast region, settlement and subsistence patterns, emergence of ethnographic patterns among coastal people, baseline cultural patterns prior to the arrival of European Americans, and other topics. Parts of the site have been lost to coastal erosion since the first scientific investigations in 1976, but the remaining portions appear mostly secure.The Bald Point Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Ecola Point Site

The Ecola Point Site (Smithsonian trinomial: 35CLT21) is an archeological site associated with the Tillamook people, located in Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, Oregon, United States. Several ground depressions at the site have been interpreted by researchers as house pits, indicating the presence of a semipermanent village. Two dense shell middens have preserved extensive faunal remains, along with other artifacts. Radiocarbon dates taken at the site roughly span a period from ca. 1100 CE to ca. 1700 CE. The site has the potential to yield information related to environmental change in the Oregon Coast region, settlement and subsistence patterns, emergence of ethnographic patterns among coastal people, the change in cultural patterns from before to after contact with European Americans, and other topics.The Ecola Point Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

List of place names of Native American origin in the United States

Many places throughout the United States of America take their names from the languages of the indigenous Native American/American Indian tribes. The following list includes settlements, geographic features, and political subdivisions whose names are derived from these ous languages.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Clatsop County, Oregon

This list presents the full set of buildings, structures, objects, sites, or districts designated on the National Register of Historic Places in Clatsop County, Oregon, and offers brief descriptive information about each of them. The National Register recognizes places of national, state, or local historic significance across the United States. Out of over 90,000 National Register sites nationwide, Oregon is home to over 2,000, and 61 of those are found in Clatsop County.

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted April 12, 2019.

Native American peoples of Oregon

The Native American Peoples of Oregon are the indigenous peoples who have inhabited and who still inhabit the area that is now the state of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Though the federal government currently recognizes only nine tribes existing within the state boundaries of present-day Oregon, this land has been home to countless native groups and peoples, "Since time immemorial ... since before memories." Many diverse communities and groups have lived in the area, cultivating land, engaging in complex relationships across communities, and creating and maintaining forms of governance consistent with unique values, beliefs, and traditions.

Nehalem, Oregon

Nehalem is a city in Tillamook County, Oregon, United States. Incorporated in 1889, the city lies along the Nehalem River and Nehalem Bay near the Pacific Ocean. It is bisected by U.S. Route 101. The population was 271 at the 2010 census.


Tillamook may refer to:


Tillamook County, Oregon, United States

Tillamook, Oregon, a city, the seat of Tillamook County

Tillamook River, United States

Tillamook Bay, a bay in the northwestern part of Oregon

Tillamook Head, a natural feature of the Oregon Coast

Tillamook State Forest, a forest in Oregon

Tillamook Rock Light, a lighthouse on the Oregon Coast

Tillamook Air Museum, an aviation museum in OregonOther:

Tillamook people, a Native American tribe of western Oregon, United States

Tillamook, a fictional version of the aforementioned Native American tribe.

Tillamook language, an extinct language

Tillamook Burn, a series of forest fires in Oregon

Tillamook Cheddar (dog), an American Jack Russell terrier known for her paintings

Tillamook County Creamery Association, makers of dairy products sold under the "Tillamook" brand name

P55C, Tillamook, a family of Pentium MMX mobile computer processors from Intel

USS Tillamook, the name of more than one United States Navy ship

Tillamook, Oregon

The city of Tillamook is the county seat of Tillamook County, Oregon, United States. The city is located on the southeast end of Tillamook Bay on the Pacific Ocean. The population was 4,935 at the 2010 census.

Tillamook language

Tillamook is an extinct Salishan language, formerly spoken by the Tillamook people in northwestern Oregon, United States. The last fluent speaker was Minnie Scovell who died in 1972. In an effort to prevent the language from being lost, a group of researchers from the University of Hawaii interviewed the few remaining Tillamook-speakers and created a 120-page dictionary.

Native peoples of Oregon history
Oregon history

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