Tony Johnson: The Average American Doesn’t See That They Have a Culture

Tony Johnson (Chinook) talks about culture and how American settlers don’t see their own culture.

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.


“People ask what makes a Chinook Indian or I always hear people say “oh you’re so lucky you have a culture.” And then we just like to shake our heads and say wait a minute–we’re born and raised in your culture. I mean the school that we go to, the store that we go to…I mean people just don’t see it. The average American doesn’t see that they have a culture, right? But it’s kind of really obvious to people that are from here and have their own sensibility and way of looking at things because it becomes real clear when things contradict each other or aren’t really compatible. But my answer to people about what makes a Chinook Indian or whatever is really these rules and taboos, and obligations to what we have to each other. A lot of that comes from our myths, from our stories, and that’s really what determines who we are”

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