Origin of the name "Chinook" helicopter


          [For the U.S. Army CH-47 helicopter]



U.S. Army Chinooks operating in the country of South Korea, circa February 2002.

          U.S. Army Chinooks operating in the country of South Korea, circa February 2002.






             Hel·i·cop·ter:   An aircraft that derives its lift from blades that rotate about an approximately vertical central axis.



A rotating airscrew - a concept by Leonardo da Vinci [15 April 1452 - 2 May 1519].
   Word History: The two Greek words that are the origin of helicopter may be particularly hard for English speakers to spot. Helicopter was borrowed from the French word hélicoptère, a word
          constructed from Greek heliko- and pteron, meaning "wing." Heliko-, the combining form of helix, "spiral," has given us helico-, which can be joined with other words and word forms to create new words.

             The consonant cluster pt in pteron begins many Greek words but relatively few English words. English speakers unfamiliar with Greek are thus not likely to recognize the word's elements as helico-pter; many analyze the word into the elements heli-copter, as is shown by the clipped form copter.

             Although it never flew, Leonardo da Vinci (15 April 1452 - 2 May 1519) is credited with the design of the first helicopter and, prior to that, ancient Chinese were playing with a hand-spun toy that rose upward when revolved rapidly and as early as 400 BCE. This toy is still an object of joy amongst children today.



          Naming the Helicopter



             THE GENERAL policy of naming Army aircraft after Indians tribes, chiefs or terms was made official by authority of Army Regulation (AR) 70-28, dated 4 April 1969. The names were authorized for use in public releases and other documents as a ready reference. The Indian names chosen were very popular among Army personnel for many years.

             The Commanding General (CG) of the U.S. Army Aviation Missile Command (AMCOM), located at Redstone Arsenal, near Huntsville, Alabama, had the responsibility of initiating action to select a popular name for an Army aircraft. For this purpose, the CG maintained a list of possible names obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For brevity the names usually consisted of only one word. When a new aircraft reached the production stage, or immediately before it went into production, the CG selected five possible names. The selection decision was based on the sound, the history, and the relationship of the name to the mission of the aircraft. The names chosen had to appeal to the imagination, without sacrificing dignity, and suggest an aggressive spirit and confidence in the capabilities of the aircraft. They also had to suggest mobility, firepower and endurance. The chosen names were sent to the Trade Mark (™) Division of the U.S. Patent Office to determine if there was any legal objection to their use.

             The U.S. Army Aviation Missile Command was formerly known as the U.S. Army Material Command (AMCOM), then located in St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to that, AMCOM was known as the U.S. Army Aviation Troop Command (ATCOM), also located in St. Louis.

             After approval by the Patent Office, the five names were sent to the Chief of Research and Development, Department of the Army, with a short justification for each. From these five, the Chief of Research and Development would select one.

             The approved name then went to the Aeronautical Systems Division, Directorate of Engineering Standards, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. This Department of Defense unit had the responsibility of officially registering the names of all aircraft used by the U.S. military. It also maintained and printed a list of the names in a publication entitled "Model Designation of Military Aircraft, Rockets and Guided Missiles."

             Some Army aircraft, such as the Bird Dog and Otter, did not have Indian names. Those that did not were named before the policy change of 1969 was enacted. AR 70-28 specified that these would not be changed.


             Note: AR 70-28 is no longer in print and we do not have a copy (but would like one if you have it). Current naming procedures are specified in DOD Directive 4120.15 and DOD 4120.15-L. The files are in Adobe .pdf format.



          The Chinook Wind



             A Chinook is an unusually strong westerly or southwesterly wind that sweeps over the Rocky Mountain States of Wyoming, Colorado and Montana and onto the plains. These warm, dry winds are also very common in regions of western Canada, particularly in the extreme southwestern corner of the province of Alberta. To a lesser extent, these winds have been observed flowing across the Pacific Ocean states of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Chinook is named after the Chinook Indians who lived along the Columbia River, and who were the first people to tell stories of "The Great South Wind", or, in their language, the "Snow Eater".

Profile view of the Chinook Wind.
   Chinooks are normally formed when very moist air moves in from the Pacific Ocean and condenses, depositing heavy rain on the western, or leeside slope of the Rockies. This air, already warm,
          continues heating, rushes over the mountains and surges down the eastern slopes, gaining velocity and eventually turning into strong winds. These warm winds usually maintain a speed of between 40-60 miles per hour, sweeping down mountain valleys and onto the plains, creating drastic and almost instantaneous temperature changes. Chinook winds have been known to melt a foot of snow or more in a single day. Temperature variations can be extreme, as much as 20-25 degrees Celsius (or 36-40 Fahrenheit) in an hour. These winds last from a few hours to a few days, and in rare cases several weeks.

             Some of the most extreme Chinook effects have been observed in the Crowsnest Pass region in southern Alberta. This area records around 30-35 Chinook days per year. In 1962, the weather office at Pincher Creek recorded a temperature of 20 degrees below zero. Between midnight and 1 AM a welcomed Chinook blew in, and in a little under an hour, the temperature had risen by almost 60 degrees.

             In this same area the Chinook winds have been recorded at gusts exceeding 120 kilometers an hour, near hurricane velocity. Railcars have been flung off tracks and semi-trailer units tipped over. It's not uncommon for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to shut down certain sections of highways until the winds have abated. Nor are the Chinooks always as warm as predicted. Instead of melting the snow, the gusts set snowdrifts in motion, creating "white-outs" that are as bad or worse than any plains blizzard. When these winds gust for longer than a day or two, fields are left without protective snow cover and precious topsoil begins to move and drift, and again, obscure visibility, sometimes as much as 100%.

             Lingering Chinooks can also cause trees and tulips to become confused and think it is Spring, causing them to blossom in January or February. Unfortunately this mild weather is almost always followed by a cold snap where early blossoms freeze. Gardening in a Chinook zone is a real challenge. Fruit trees are almost impossible to grow and rose bushes must be well protected to survive lack of snow cover and the fluctuating winter temperatures. Even then they often succumb to winterkill during a particularly harsh winter.

             The neurology department at the University of Calgary has also conducted a study and concluded that high velocity winds are a cause of migraines. Seventy five patients were asked to keep dairies for 2 years. When their headache records were compared against meteorological data, it was concluded that sufferers did indeed experience migraines to a greater degree when high winds were a factor. People are affected by Chinook winds in different ways: sleeplessness, mood swings or severe depression. Chinooks may also cause temperature inversions that trap emissions and pollution, making breathing very uncomfortable for people with asthma or other respiratory disorders. In Switzerland, where similar warm winds called "foehns" occur, law courts actually recognize that fluctuating barometric conditions can drive people temporarily insane.

             Winter Chinooks have also spawned their fair share of tall tales. What else did cowboys or early settlers have to do during those long, cold winter nights - or to flabbergast gullible greenhorns? There were stories of winter snows that were so deep that when people attended Sunday services the only hitching post they could find was the church steeple. They had to tunnel through the snow to get inside. While services were in progress a Chinook blew in. By lunch time the snow was gone, it felt like April and the settler's horses were dangling off the church roof.

             Another tale tells of a couple traveling to Calgary on a winter trail across the open plains. Halfway there they were chased by a howling Chinook wind. The husband was riding in the front of the sleigh and drove his team hard to stay on the snow. If they got bogged down in the water and mud the Chinook would create, they could be stranded for days or weeks. When the couple arrived in Calgary, the man had frostbite and his poor wife, riding in the back of the sleigh, had sunstroke.

             The early Blackfoot tribes that lived in what is now Banff National Park told this tale of the Chinook - the Great South Wind had a small blind daughter who remained in hiding somewhere in the mountains. Every so often during the coldest times of winter she would wander away from her safe mountain home and smile upon the frigid plains, turning harsh winter into brief spring. Sometimes she would stay and play long enough to make lilacs bloom in January; other times she passed by quickly and old man winter would return as suddenly as he had disappeared.



          The Chinook People



Cayuse/Chinook woman known as Ida Howlish or Te-Mow-E-Ne poses with child and many beaded objects.


             The Chinook Indians lived in the Pacific Northwest of the United States along the banks of the Columbia River and the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The Chinooks were superb canoe builders and navigators, masterful traders, skillful fishermen and planters. They lived in large wooden plank houses and slept on reed mats over raised boards.


Chinook group inside a cedar plank lodge, Oregon, in engraving made 1841.


             Short in stature, the Chinooks also were characterized by flat foreheads and pointed craniums. William Clark wrote of their attire: "all go litely dressed ware nothing below the waist in the coldest weather, a pice of fur around their bodies and a short robe composes the sum total of their dress, except a few hats, and beads about their necks arms and legs."



             CHINOOKIAN: A small family of Indians inhabiting the lower Columbia River in Washington and Oregon as far up that river as The Dalles. The Chinooks were primarily a bay and river people, dependent on fishing (salmon) as well as game. They lacked the developed woodcarving art of the west coast tribes of British Columbia and northern Washington, although often classified in the same cultural area. They have been classified as the Upper and Lower Chinook, referring to their location on the Columbia River. They were first noticed generally by Lewis and Clark in 1805, and afterwards were greatly diminished in numbers by diseases brought by settlers and traders of european descent. The majority of the individual tribes forming this family became extinct as separate identities before 1900; but a few hundred fused with other tribes on the Warm Springs, Yakima, Chehalis, Quinault and Grande Ronde Reservations in Washington and Oregon; the largest single element by 1950 were the Wasco at Warm Springs, Oregon. A few maintained themselves off reservations.

             Before their decline in population the Chinookian tribes became the greatest traders on the Columbia River, a great water highway stretching from the area of the coastal tribes into the immense interior. Their geographical position at the mouth of that river up to The Dalles gave them the opportunity to become middlemen in the development of trade relationships between the coast and the interior. The development of the Chinook Jargon, an Indian trade language based originally on Chinook words but later incorporating an increasing vocabulary of European origin, bears witness to the importance of the Chinook tribes in pre-1840 trade relations. Contacts and trade took place largely on the Columbia River at Celilo or The Dalles, when material culture from the northern edge of the Plains mingled with and was exchanged for material from as far north as Alaska. From the Dalles to the east, the Chinook tribes established contact with the Nez Perce, who were the main outlet to the northern Plains via their associations with the Crow and to a lesser extent the Flathead.

             THE LOWER CHINOOK [CHINOOK PROPER or LOWER CHINOOK]: A Chinookan tribe inhabiting the mouth of the Columbia River, giving their name to include tribes to the interior of similar language under the name Chinookian stock. Their territory extended to Shoalwater Bay in the north, and the tribe numbered 800 in 1800. They gained considerable fame through their trading with British and American companies, and the Chinook Jargon, a trade language of the northwest originally based on the Chinook language, existed until 1900. From Lewis and Clark, Nov. 1805: "This Chinook nation is about 400 souls, inhabit the country on the small river which runs into bay below us and on the Ponds to the North West of us, live principally on fish and roots, they are well armed with fusees and sometimes kill Elk, Deer, and fowl".

             Their few remnants mixed with the Chehalis or remained in public domain, and had almost disappeared as a separate people by 1945 when 120 "Upper Chinook" remained on the Quinault Reservation, Washington; although of mixed origin they included descendants of the Chinook proper. A few more were once associated with Shoalwater Bay and Chehalis reserves, and some were never on reservations. In 1970, 609 "Chinook" were reported, excluding Wasco, apparently accounting for the whole family. Two smaller groups, the Wahkiakum and Willapa Indians, probably belonged to this group.

             CLATSOP: An important coastal Chinookian tribe of the Cape Adams area, Clatsop County, Oregon. From Lewis and Clark, who estimated their population at 300, in 1806: "The Clatsaps, Chinnooks, Killamucks etc. are very loquacious and inquisitive; they possess good memories and have repeated to us the name and capacities of the vessels etc. of the many trades and others who have visited the mouth of the river (Columbia); they are generally low in stature, proportionably small, reather lighter complected and much more illy formed then the Indians on the Missouri and those of our frontier; they were generally cheerfull but never gay. With us their conversation generally turns upon subjects of trade, smoking, eating and women. In common with other savage nations they make their women perform every species of domestic drudgery; their women are also compelled to gather roots and assist them in taking fish which articles form much the greater part of their subsistence; notwithstanding the servile manner in which they treat their women they pay much more respect to their judgement and opinions in many respects than most Indian nations".

             With the mixed remnants of the other ruined neighbouring tribes they moved to the Grande Ronde Reservation, Oregon. In 1910, they were reported as numbering 26 persons. As of 1997, the Clatsop were not separately entered amongst the general Indian population of the Grande Ronde Agency; the population of which was about 700 in 1955, most having lost their identity as Indians. In 1956, the Reservation and Indian people of Grande Ronde were no longer recognised, and the Reservation as such was terminated. However, by 1997, organized reactivation was underway and land claims were filed against the U.S. Government.

             CATHLAMET: A tribe forming a dialect division of the Chinookian stock near the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon and in Washington northwards to a point on the south bank of the river near where the city of Rainier was located as of 1997. In 1806 Lewis and Clark estimated them at 300: "The Killaniucks, Clatsops, Chinooks, Cathlahmahs and Wac-ki-a-cums resemble each other as well as in their person and dress as in their habits and manners their complexion is not remarkable, being the usual copper brown of the most tribes in North America". About 50 or 60 were reported in 1849. A remnant of the Cathlamet may have moved to the Yakima Reservation with the Wishram, or to the Quinault Reservation with the mixed Chinook-Chehalis, but as distinct groups they ceased to exist.

             MULTNOMAH or WAPPATO: A Chinookian tribe of the Sauvie Islands at the mouth of the Willamette River, Oregon. Remnants joined with related groups and lost separate identity; they were closely related to the Clackamas. Several bands can be attributed to this tribe.

             WATLALA (CASCADE INDIANS): A Chinookian tribe at the Cascades of the Columbia River and the Willamette River in Oregon. Remnants joined the Wishram and Wasco and lost separate identity. Related to the Clackamas.

             CLOWWEWALLA: A Chinookian tribe of the Clackamas dialect, formerly living in Oregon on the Willamette River, a tributary of the Columbia. They have, for many years, been extinct as a separate people. The Cushooks, Chahcowahs, Willamette-Tumwater and others where divisions of this tribe. The last of this people were said to be on the Grande Ronde Reservation.

             CLACKAMAS: A tribal division of the Chinook stock giving their name to a dialect group. They apparently moved to the Grande Ronde Reservation, Oregon, and remained separate until as late as 1989, being reported under this name in 1945-89. This may, however, be a combination of various Chinook remnants.

             CHILLUCKITTEQUAW: A Chinookian tribe of Hood River on the south side of the Columbia, and on the north side of the Columbia in Klickitat and Skamania Counties, Washington, along the White Salmon River. A few remained separate as late as 1895, mixed with a few Tenino (Waiam) at Celilo Falls and Warm Springs.

             WASCO: A Chinookian tribe of the inland branch, their closest relatives being the Wishram, living near where the city of The Dalles was located in Wasco County, Oregon, on the Columbia River as late as 2002. They were joined by the remnants of the Watlala and others and removed to the Warm Springs Reservation, where a portion still remained as a separate people as of 1997. In 1910 they returned a number of 242 persons; 227 in 1937; and 260 in 1945. They were the only independently reported Chinook group as of the year 1997. The Dalles Indians, Wasco and Wascopan were divisions of this tribe.



          Official Recognition


          Thursday, 4 January 2001



             A tribe of Indians in the U.S. was granted official recognition after more than 20 years of appealing.

             The Chinook tribe, which lives south of Seattle, in Washington State, was noted for helping some of the first European explorers who arrived in the region, with food and information.

             With the recognition, the approximately 2,000 members of the tribe became eligible for more government money and the chance to apply for reservation lands near their traditional home.

             In 1981 they asked for official modern status as Indians. However, after considering the request for 16 years, the U.S. government said no.

             The Chinook appealed against that preliminary ruling, claiming a large portion of their paperwork had been quite literally lost in a government desk drawer.

             As his final act in office, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Kevin Gover, admitted the tribe has suffered a long-standing injustice at the hands of the U.S. government.

             Mr. Gover officially recognized the Chinook as a tribe and an Indian nation - the 562nd tribe to be recognised in the U.S.



          Recognition Reversed By Bush Administration


          Friday, 5 July 2002



             WASHINGTON - Interior Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs Neal A. McCaleb, under the Bush administration, today announced that he has signed a reconsidered final determination which declines to acknowledge the Chinook Indian Tribe / Chinook Nation (formerly the Chinook Indian Tribe, Inc.) of Chinook, Washington, as an Indian tribe for federal purposes. This decision concludes that the Chinook petitioner did not demonstrate that it meets all seven mandatory criteria to be acknowledged as a tribe with a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

             Assistant Secretary McCaleb says he has a deep appreciation of the legacy of the Chinook Indian tribe in American history but says that complete evaluation of important evidence presented by the tribe does not fully support federal recognition. The earlier final determination was based upon an inappropriate interpretation of important evidence and, once removed from consideration, the supporting evidence remaining was not sufficient to warrant federal recognition. The reconsidered determination announced today is final and effective upon publication of a notice of the determination in the Federal Register.

             This final determination is a reconsideration that reverses an earlier final determination to acknowledge the Chinook petitioner. The reconsidered final determination found that the January 2001 determination departed from acknowledgement precedent and acknowledged the Chinook petitioner based on an improper interpretation of a 1925 claims act, a 1912 claims act, and a 1911 allotment act. Today's decision also concludes that the original final determination incorrectly relied on claims organizations as sufficient evidence for satisfying the criteria, and improperly relied on a small number of the petitioner's members of ancestors living in Bay Center, Washington, to find that the petitioner had met a requirement that a predominant portion of the petitioning group comprises a distinct community. With the rejected arguments removed for the original final determination, the Assistant Secretary concluded that the remaining evidence was not sufficient to meet the acknowledgement criteria.

             The Chinook petitioner did not satisfactorily demonstrate that it meets all seven mandatory criteria. The purpose of the regulations is to provide a means to acknowledge Indian tribes that have continuous historical existence. The petitioner failed to meet criteria (a), (b), and (c) of the acknowledgement regulations - failing to demonstrate that it has maintained political influence over its members from historical times to the present (criterion (c)), that a predominant portion of its members comprise a distinct social community at present, or since 1950 (criterion (b)), or that it has been identified historically as an Indian entity by outside observers on a substantially continuous basis (criterion (a)).

             A proposed finding against acknowledgment of the Chinook petitioner was issued in August 1997. After a public comment period, a final determination to acknowledge the Chinook petitioner was issued in January 2001. The Quinault Indian Nation requested reconsideration of the final determination before the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA). The IBIA referred to the Secretary of the Interior nine issues that it found to be outside of its jurisdiction. Secretary Norton then referred eight of those issues to Assistant Secretary McCaleb and asked him to issue a reconsidered final determination on the basis of his resolution of those issues.

             The Chinook petitioner's members descend from the historical Lower Band of Chinook that lived at the mouth of the Columbia, and from several other historical Chinook bands. The regulations, however, require more than descent from a historical tribe to acknowledge the continuous tribal existence of a petitioner. Various historical Chinook bands lived along the lower Columbia River and Shoalwater Bay prior to the arrival of European and American traders and settlers. Lewis and Clark made a winter camp in 1805-1806 among the Clatsop near the mouth of the Columbia and met with several Chinook leaders and commented on Chinook villages. The United States negotiated treaties with separate Chinook bands in 1851, but the Senate did not ratify them. Chinook representatives refused to sign a treaty negotiated in 1851. The population of Chinook bands was severely reduced by a series of epidemics in the 1780's, the 1830's, and then the late 1850's. By 1900, some Chinook descendants were listed on the censuses of the several area reservations, but many other descendents were living among the general population. From the mid-1850's until 1951, when Chinook descendants organized to pursue historical claims, there is insufficient evidence to show that any Chinook entity or informal process of leadership existed among the ancestors of the petitioner.

             Many Chinook descendants today are members of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde Community, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, and other reservation tribes. The Chinook petitioner, however, consists predominantly of non-reservation Chinook descendants.



             Editors Note: There isn't a Hooker out there who doesn't firmly believe the Chinook Indians should be formally recognized by the United States Federal Government.



          The CH-47 - 40 years old and still circling the world.


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