Chinook food - Native American Food and Cooking
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Chinook Food

salmon pieces stuck on sticks standing up around a fire
Smoking salmon

August 2016 - People in the Pacific Northwest like the Chinook and the Nez Perce did not farm or keep animals. There was always so much fish that nobody needed to start farming and they could just keep on fishing for their food. Mostly Chinook and Nez Perce people ate wild roots like wapato (it's like a potato) and huckleberries (like small blueberries), and a lot of dried or roasted salmon that they caught in the Columbia river and other rivers that ran into the Columbia.

white chunks of root looks like boiled potatoes in a bowl
Wapato roots

When Chinook and Nez Perce people got home from gathering and hunting and fishing trips, they cooked their food in the longhouse. Each family had its own small fire in the longhouse. To roast the salmon, Chinook and Nez Perce people put the salmon into a split cedar wood stick that held the salmon tight like a clothespin, and stuck the wooden stick in a sand pit near their fire.

green leaves with dark blue-purple round berries
Huckleberries

To boil their wapato, Chinook and Nez Perce people put the roots in a wooden box or a basket that would hold water, and they put water in too, and then they heated rocks in the fire and dropped them into the water to heat up the water and cook the roots. You could boil water this way, though it would take a long time.

Learn by Doing - Salmon and sweet potato fries
More about the early Chinook

Bibliography and further reading about Chinook food:

Chinook people
Later Chinook people
Nez Perce people
Native Americans
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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