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Origins of Oregon


Columbia Plateau
Columbia Plateau

Human beings lived east of the Cascade Range in Oregon more than 11,000 years ago. Village sites on the middle Columbia River show signs of continuous occupation dating back for at least this amount of time. Native Americans of Oregon belong to three regional groups: the coastal peoples, the Columbia Plateau peoples, and the Native Americans of the interior. Chinook, Chehalis, Tillamook, Yaquina, and other Native American groups lived in the Columbia River valley west of the Cascades or along the Pacific coast. Because the coastal climate provided abundant resources, they had a sedentary lifestyle and lived in permanent villages. Their houses were constructed over shallow pits, used as a sort of insulation, with walls made out of large planks of cedar. Some Native American groups had gabled roofs made out of cedar.

The coastal people collected shellfish at low tide and caught salmon, sturgeon, and trout. They dammed the rivers using wooden poles and forced migrating fish into their nets. The Native Americans of the coast also hunted waterfowl using bows and arrows. With sharp stones, shells, and hot coals they shaped and carved logs into lightweight but sturdy canoes. Cedar bark was used for a variety of purposes including woven baskets, mats, and clothing. East of the Cascade Range in the southern part of the state live the Klamath-Modoc people. They led a seminomadic lifestyle, spending the winters in earthen lodges and the summers in portable dwellings. Although the Klamath-Modoc ate waterfowl, game, and fish, the most important staple to their diet was seeds.

They ate pond lily seeds, a variety of roots, and berries. The Klamath-Modoc had a structured society based on wealth; the poorest of these peoples were considered slaves. The Klamath-Modoc had informal political councils that discussed issues regarding warfare.

On the Columbia Plateau lived the Shoshone, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Yakama Native Americans. The Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau lived in skin tipis or in wickiups, portable structures made of woven mats and sagebrush. Their diet consisted of buffalo, deer, roots, plant bulbs, and berries as well as migratory salmon and small mammals.

The Nez Perce was the largest Native American group in the region and the first to use horses. The Nez Perce traveled extensively with their horses in search of game. They also led military campaigns against neighboring tribal groups including the Paiutes and the Shoshone. The Nez Perce occasionally traveled as far as the Great Plains to the east of the Rocky Mountains to hunt buffalo. On these forays they traded or fought with the Native peoples of the Great Plains, especially the Blackfoot. "Oregon" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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