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Chimakum woman.jpg
A Chimakum woman,
photographed by Edward S. Curtis
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States (Washington)
English, formerly Chemakum
Related ethnic groups

The Chimakum, also spelled Chemakum and Chimacum were a Native American people (known to themselves as Aqokúlo and sometimes called the Port Townsend Indians[1]), who lived in the northeastern portion of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, between Hood Canal and Discovery Bay through the mid-19th century. Their primary settlements were on Port Townsend Bay, on the Quimper Peninsula, and Port Ludlow Bay to the south.[2]

Today Chimakum people are enrolled in three federally recognized tribes:


The Chimakum population was estimated at 400 in 1780 and 90 in 1855. The Census of 1910 enumerated just three.[1] In the present day there are people who identify as Chimakums or descendants of Chimakums.[3]


The Chemakum language was one of two Chimakuan languages and very similar to the Quileute language. It is now extinct. It was spoken until the 1940s on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula between Port Townsend and Hood Canal. The name Chimakum (or Chemakum) is an Anglicized version of a Salishan word for the Chimakum people, such as the Twana word čə́bqəb [t͡ʃə́bqəb] (earlier [t͡ʃə́mqəm]).

In 1890 anthropologist Franz Boas found only three speakers of the Chemakum language, and they spoke it imperfectly.[3]


Original territory of Chimakuan speaking peoples; the Chimakum to the east and the Quileute to the west

According to Quileute tradition, the Chimakum were a remnant of a Quileute band.[3] The Chimakum had been carried away in their canoes by a great flood through a passageway in the Olympic Mountains and deposited on the other side of the Olympic Peninsula.[4]

The Chimakum had a reputation for being warlike. Shortly before 1790 they were fighting a number of tribes, including the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Klallam, Makah, and Ditidaht (or Nitinaht).[3]

In 1847 a disastrous conflict with the Suquamish devastated the Chimakum, effectively wiping them out.[5] According to Wahélchu of the Suquamish, various conflicts and tensions between the Suquamish and Chimakum had reached the point where the Suquamish decided to launch of "war of extermination" as soon as some immediate provocation was offered. At least two pretexts for war soon came to pass and a war party was organized. Because Chief Kitsap, the Suquamish war chief, was either dead or unable to lead, Chief Seattle, for whom the city of Seattle was named,[6] became the leader of the war against the Chimakum.[2] The Suquamish under Chief Seattle were assisted by about 150 Klallam warriors. Before long the Chimakum were confined to one village with a stockade, located near the mouth of Chimakum Creek, near present-day Irondale.[2] The village stronghold was named Tsetsibus,[5] or C'íc'abus,[7] and had long been an important gathering place.[3] The Suquamish warriors hid themselves near the village and waited for a good chance to attack. A Chimakum family left the village and headed north, passing by the hidden Suquamish. The father was recognized as the man responsible for the death of respected Suquamish Tulébot, which had been one of the pretexts for war. The Suquamish immediately fired a volley of bullets. Many of the Chimakum villagers rushed to help the man and his family. Seeing the village mostly empty, the Suquamish rushed through the woods and entered the village from behind. Once their numbers inside the stockade were sufficient, the Suquamish opened fire upon the Chimakum inside the village. The Chimakum were taken completely by surprise and found themselves unable to resist or escape. According to Edward S. Curtis, recounting Wahélchu's telling, "the rapid rain of bullets mowed them down." Women and children were captured and taken away as slaves. The Suquamish paddled away, leaving the last Chimakum village in ruins and nearly all of the people either dead or captured. One of the few Suquamish who died in the encounter was Chief Seattle's eldest son.[2]

The few surviving Chimakum, including the primary chief who had gone upstream early that morning, subsequently joined the Twana, or Skokomish, at the head of Hood Canal.[2] After the extinction of the Chimakum their country was occupied by the Klallam.[8]

In 1855 the Twana and Chimakum, along with the Klallam, signed the Point No Point Treaty, which established a reservation at the mouth of the Skokomish River near the southern end of Hood Canal.[9] One of the Chimakum signatories of the treaty was Chief Kulkakhan, also known as General Pierce.[3]

The Point No Point Treaty required the Klallams to move to the Skokomish Reservation, but few did. In 1936–37 the federal government established Klallam reservations for the Lower Elwha and Port Gamble communities. The Jamestown community was not federally recognized until 1981.[10] The Klallams filed a claim with the Indian Claims Commission for compensation beyond that already received for lands ceded under the Point No Point Treaty. The Klallams claimed that the Chimakums were nearly extinct at the time of the Point No Point Treaty and that those few Chimakums left had been absorbed into the Klallam tribe. The Klallams had occupied the former Chimakum lands and claimed them as their own. In 1957 the commission recognized the Klallam claim of possession of the Chimakum lands at the time of the treaty and granted compensation of over $400,000.[3]


Chimakum Creek[11] and Chimacum, Washington, both located in the Chimacum Valley,[12] are all named after the Chimakum.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Swanton, John Reed (2003). The Indian Tribes of North America. Genealogical Publishing. p. 417. ISBN 978-0-8063-1730-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Curtis, Edward S. (1913). The North American Indian. Volume 9 - The Salishan tribes of the coast. The Chimakum and the Quilliute. The Willapa. Classic Books. pp. 138–143. ISBN 978-0-7426-9809-3. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ruby, Robert H.; Brown, John Arthur (1992). A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 22–23, 28. ISBN 978-0-8061-2479-7. 
  4. ^ a b Halliday, Jan; Chehak, Gail (2000). Native Peoples of the Northwest: A Traveler's Guide to Land, Art, and Culture. Sasquatch Books. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-57061-241-1. 
  5. ^ a b Buerge, David M. "Chief Seattle and Chief Joseph: From Indians to Icons". University of Washington. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  6. ^ "Seattle, Chief of the Suquamish, Statue". National Park Service. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  7. ^ "The Life of Si'ahl, "Chief Seattle"". Duwamish Tribe. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  8. ^ Curtis, pp. 19–20
  9. ^ Curtis, p. 25
  10. ^ "Jamestown S'Klallam History". Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "Chimacum Creek". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  12. ^ "Chimacum Valley". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 

External links[edit]