For thousands of years, the Chinook people have lived along the Columbia River and their home near the river's mouth was strategically located to provide abundant food, such as salmon and shellfish. In addition, the nearby forests were home to game animals and the grasslands and marshes provided ample materials for making shelter, clothing and trade and household goods. The river provided a way for Chinook traders to travel to the south shore and up and down the Columbia.
They developed a sophisticated, rich culture and enjoyed great success as traders. The waterway near Middle Village became a virtual trade "water highway." During the 10 years before Lewis and Clark arrived overland at the this spot almost 90 trade ships from Europe and New England are documented to have crossed the Columbia River Bar to trade with Native Americans. These ships brought metal tools, blankets, clothing, beads, liquor and weapons to trade for beaver and sea otter pelts. By the time the Corps reached the site, the Chinook's had moved to their winter village and this village was unoccupied.
Station Camp and the Corps of Discovery
On Nov. 24, 1805, the explorers desperately needed a winter campsite, one rich with game and near friendly tribes who would trade for supplies. To assist in deciding where the Corps should winter, the captains "Solictations of every individual." A majority of the Corps, including the Indian woman Sacagawea and the African American York decided to cross the Columbia River to look for such a place.
In 2005, archeologists found abundant physical evidence to support the importance of the site as a Chinook trade village. More than 10,000 artifacts were uncovered, including trade beads, plates, cups, musket balls, arrowheads, Indian fish net weights and ceremonial items. The European artifacts are from both before and after the Corps' visit in 1805, and attest to the vitality of the Chinook social and economic life at the site. Today, the park at Middle Village - Station Camp, focuses on the Chinook Indian Nation history, as well as telling the story of early contact, the Corps', and the town of McGowan. Middle Village - Station Camp was dedicated on August 18, 2012.
Last updated: January 6, 2017