Tony Johnson: Chinook Recognition, an “Incredible Fight”

Tony Johnson describes the experience of the Chinook receiving recognition in 2001 and having it revoked only eighteen months later.

Bio: Tony Johnson is the tribal chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation, as well as the chair of the tribal cultural committee. He is also the Cultural Education Director for the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe.


In January 2001 we received the call that all of that 23 years of work they acknowledged our community. They basically apologized up and down, said they’ve made a huge mistake. We understand now based on the evidence, whatever, that the Chinook Indian Nation, Chinook Tribe, is in fact a community that should be acknowledged by the federal government is an Indian community. So you know, it was a huge celebration. We absolutely felt vindicated. All this work had paid off and then 18 months later, actually while my dad was the chairman of the Chinook community. He was in Washington D.C. for a kick-off dinner for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial meeting with George W. Bush. He actually had a luncheon in the White House with all the other Lewis and Clark tribes, left the White House, had given gifts from our community– all kinds of historic canoes, all kinds of things of importance from our community members. Canoe models that is. Directly to the president sitting there as an equal and recognized tribe. That same day my dad, walking down the street in Washington D.C. received a telephone call, that they were rescinding their recognition of the Chinook tribe. So that was 18 months later. And they actually took away our status. And we just pretty much all fell apart here. Because for one it’s self-evident to us, to anybody from this area that we’re here and who we are. But you know, it’s an incredible fight.

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