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Prehistory: First Inhabitants
Amphibian, Arboretum, Bird, Dance, Day, Endemic Mammal, Fish, Flag, Flower, Folk Song, Fossil, Fruit, Gem, Grass, Insect, Marine Mammal, Motto, Nicknames, Seal, Ship, Song, Tartan, Tree
Washington Early History
First Early Inhabitants of Washington
Early history examines the archaeological record that tells the story of the first inhabitants of Washington. Learn about the prehistory and culture of the first early inhabitants, and what lessons it might teach us about the early history of Washington.
Washington First Early Inhabitants Timeline
Early History of Native Americans in Washington
The Indigenous People of Washington
Most of present-day Washington lies under the Pacific Ocean until a giant island now called the Okanogan Terrane collides with North America about 100 million years ago. This was long before our species, Homo sapiens, evolved on Earth. A second “micro-continent” rams North America to create Western Washington and the volcanic Cascade Range about 50 million years ago. Vast flows of lava well up to create the Columbia Plateau about 15 million years ago. Ice Age glaciers begin spreading over most of Washington about two million years ago. Human beings evolve in Africa about 160,000 years ago.
Between 12,000 and 16,000 years ago, a group of nomadic hunters crossed the frozen Bering Strait from Siberia into present-day Alaska and eventually moved further south into the Pacific Northwest. Although distinct communities developed over time, all of these native groups were dependent upon the land and the water for their livelihood. Most of their lives revolved around fishing, the smoking and drying of fish, and moving across the land in search of fish. They lived in waterside villages of cedar plant houses. Another distinctive feature of these groups was their building of totem poles, which tell the stories of families, clans and individuals.
Many Native Americans lived in the Washington region when European explorers first visited the area. Some of these
groups lived west of the Cascades. The Chinook, Nisqually, Quinault, and Puyallup hunted deer and fished for salmon
and clams. Others, the Cayuse, Colville, Spokane, and Nez PercÚ, lived east of the Cascades on the plains and valleys.
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