The Repatriation of the Canoe Stolen by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1805
as witnessed by Joan Tuttle Wekell on September 24, 2011 at Fort Columbia, Chinook, Washington
Background information: Lewis and Clark arrived on the Columbia River in the Winter of 1805. They spent an unusually cold winter in Chinook Territory, on the South side of the Columbia River with the Clatsops. When Spring came, the Corps of Discovery prepared for the journey long home. During their stay, the Corps had admired the Chinook canoes and wanted to buy one for the trip home. When they found a canoe was not for sale, they decided to steal one.
In 2005, the United States celebrated the Bi-Centennial of the Corps of Discovery and the Chinook Nation took part in the celebration by hosting the reenactors in November of that year. When the celebration, ended Chinook Chairman, Ray Gardner, reminded the Corps Leaders, which included descendants of Wm. Clark, about the canoe that was taken 200 years before. The Clark family agreed that this wrong should be made right and arranged for the building of a replacement canoe.
On September 24, 2011, a seventh generation Clark family member, Carlota Clark Holton, her husband Rick Holton, their grandson, Robert and granddaughter, Greta, made the presentation of new 36’ canoe to the Chinook Indian Nation. The canoe is currently the largest canoe owned by our tribe. It is made to carry us anywhere we want to paddle, including the ocean.
Tribal members agreed that the new canoe should be named kthlmin the Chinook word for the moon, and the name of an important chief about the time of Lewis and Clark. It also seemed appropriate because the moon controls the tides which our canoes pullers depend upon for travel.
The Clark-Holton family generously brought other gifts for the witnesses and the Tribal Council. As a witness, I received a white woolen blanket made especially for this occasion, with a blue stripe representing the Columbia River and red-orange stripe representing the salmon. They also gave knives in elk skin sheaths decorated in porcupine quills in the shape of a red salmon with a blue border representing the Columbia River. Witnesses also received other gifts of smoked salmon, blackberry jelly, fry bread mix kthlmin tee-shirts, Middle Village Park mugs and necklaces. The tribe presented gifts to our visitors, as well as drummed, sang and danced for them.
Joan Wekell, is a descendent of Tonwa who was raised amongst her relatives, the Great Chiefs of the Clatsop and Lower Chinook people.
Read news accounts here:
- Lewis & Clark Stolen Canoe Finally Returned to Tribe - Time
- William Clark’s descendants ‘right a wrong’ with Chinook Tribe - Seattle Times
- After Lewis and Clark stole canoe, Clark's descendants make amends - KATU
- William Clark of Lewis and Clark's Descendants Make Up for Stolen Canoe - FOX
- Watch a Daily Astorian Video of the day here