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The Pacific Northwest is a region in the northwest of North America, bound by the Pacific Oceanmarker to the west. There are several partially overlapping definitions of the region, but they generally include the Canadian province of British Columbiamarker and the U.S. states of Washingtonmarker and Oregonmarker, and often including Southeast Alaskamarker, Idahomarker, western Montanamarker and northernmost Californiamarker. The term "Pacific Northwest" should not be confused with the Northwest Territory (also known as the Great Northwest, a historic term in the United Statesmarker) or the Northwest Territoriesmarker of Canadamarker. The term Northwest Coast is often used when referring only to the coastal regions. The term Northwest Plateau has been used to describe the inland regions, although they are commonly referred to as "the Interior" in British Columbiamarker and the Inland Empire in the United States.

The region's biggest metropolitan areas are Seattlemarker/Tacomamarker, Washingtonmarker; Vancouver, British Columbiamarker; and Portland, Oregonmarker.


The Pacific Northwest is occupied by a diverse array of Native American peoples for millennia, beginning with Paleoindians who explored and colonized the area roughly 15,000 years before Europeans arrived. The Pacific Coast is seen by a growing number of scholars as a major migration route for late Pleistocene peoples moving from northeast Asia into the Americas. Archaeological evidence for these earliest Native Americans is sketchy—in part because heavy glaciation, flooding, and post-glacial sea level rise have radically changed the landscape—but fluted Clovis-like points found in the region were probably left by Paleoindians at least 13,000 years ago. Even earlier evidence for human occupation dating back as much as 14,500 years ago is emerging from Paisley Cavesmarker in central Oregon.

With a history of human occupation spanning many millennia, and the incredible richness of Pacific Northwest fisheries (salmon, etc.), it is not surprising that the Indian Tribes who occupied the area historically were some of the most complex hunter-gatherer-fishers in history. They lived in large villages or towns, built plank houses and large canoes, and had sophisticated artistic and technological traditions. In British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, for instance, maritime tribes like the Tlingit and Haida erected the large and elaborately carved totem poles that are iconic of Pacific Northwest artistic traditions. Throughout the area, thousands of descendants of these proud Pacific Northwest tribes still live and many of their cultural traditions continue to be practiced.

Initial European exploration

British Captain and erstwhile privateer Francis Drake may have sailed off the Oregon coast in 1579. Juan de Fuca, a Greekmarker captain in the employ of Spainmarker, may have found the Strait of Juan de Fucamarker around 1592. The strait was named for him, but whether he discovered it or not has long been questioned. During the early 1740s, Imperial Russiamarker sent the Danemarker Vitus Bering to the region. By the late 1700s and into the mid-19th century, Russian settlers had established several posts and communities on northeast Pacific coast, eventually reaching as far south as Fort Ross, Californiamarker.

In 1774 the viceroy of New Spain sent Juan Pérez in the ship Santiago to the Pacific Northwest. Peréz made landfall on the Queen Charlotte Islandsmarker on July 18, 1774. The northernmost latitude he reached was 54°40′ N. This was followed, in 1775, by another Spanishmarker expedition, under the command of Bruno de Heceta and including Juan Peréz and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra as officers. On July 14, 1775 they landed on the Olympic Peninsulamarker near the mouth of the Quinault River. Due to an outbreak of scurvy, Heceta returned to Mexico. On August 17, 1775 he sighted the mouth of the Columbia River but could not tell if it was a river or a major strait. His attempt to sail in failed due to overly strong currents. He named it Bahia de la Asúnciõn. While Heceta sailed south, Quadra continued north in the expedition's second ship, the Sonora. He reached 59° N, before turning back.

In 1776 English mariner Captain James Cook visited Nootka Soundmarker on Vancouver Islandmarker and also voyaged as far as Prince William Soundmarker. In 1779 a third Spanish expedition, under the command of Ignacio de Artega in the ship Princesa, and with Quadra as captain of the ship Favorite, sailed from Mexico to the coast of Alaska, reaching 61° N. Two further Spanish expeditions, in 1788 and 1789, both under Esteban Jose Martínez and Gonzalo López de Haro, sailed to the Pacific Northwest. During the second expedition they met the American captain Robert Gray near Nootka Soundmarker. Upon entering Nootka Sound, they found William Douglas and his ship the Iphigenia. There followed the Nootka Crisis, which was resolved by agreements known as the Nootka Convention. In 1790 the Spanish sent three ships to Nootka Sound, under the command of Francisco de Eliza. After establishing a base at Nootka, Eliza sent out several exploration parties. Salvador Fidalgo was sent north to the Alaska coast. Manuel Quimper, with Gonzalo López de Haro as pilot, explored the Strait of Juan de Fuca, discovering the San Juan Islandsmarker and Admiralty Inletmarker in the process. Francisco de Eliza himself took the ship San Carlos into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. From a base at Port Discovery, he explored the San Juan Islands, Haro Strait, Rosario Strait, and Bellingham Bay. In the process he discovered the Strait of Georgiamarker, exploring it as far north as Texada Island. He returned to Nootka Sound by August of 1791. Alessandro Malaspina, sailing for Spain, explored and mapped the coast from Yakutat Baymarker to Prince William Sound in 1791, then sailed to Nootka Sound. A scientific expedition in the manner of James Cook, Malaspina's scientists studied the Tlingit and Nuu-chah-nulth peoples before returning to Mexico. Another Spanish explorer, Jacinto Caamaño, sailed the ship Aranzazu to Nootka Sound in May of 1792. There he met Quadra, who was in command of the Spanish settlement. Quadra sent Caamaño north, where he explored the region of today's Alaska panhandle. Various Spanish maps, including Caamaño's, were given to George Vancouver in 1792, as the Spanish and British worked together to chart the complex coastline.

George Vancouver charted the Pacific Northwest on behalf of Great Britainmarker, including the Strait of Georgiamarker, the bays and inlets of Puget Soundmarker, and the Johnstone Straitmarker-Queen Charlotte Straitmarker and the much of the rest of the British Columbia Coast and Alaska Panhandlemarker shorelines. From Mexico Malaspina dispatched last Spanish exploration expedition in the Pacific Northwest, under Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and Cayentano Valdes aboard the schooners Sutíl and Mexicana. They met Vancouver in the Strait of Georgia on June 21, 1792. Vancouver had explored Puget Sound just previously. The Spanish explorers knew of Admiralty Inlet and the unexplored region to the south, but decided to sail north. They discovered and entered the Fraser River shortly before meeting Vancouver. After sharing maps and agreeing to cooperate, Galiano, Valdés, and Vancouver sailed north, charting the coastline together. They passed through Johnstone Strait and returned to Nootka Sound. As a result, the Spanish explorers, who had set out from Nootka, became the first Europeans to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. Vancouver himself had entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca directly without going to Nootka first, so had not sailed completedly around the island.

In 1786 Jean-François de La Pérouse, representing Francemarker, sailed to the Queen Charlotte Islandsmarker after visiting Nootka Soundmarker but any possible French claim to this region were lost when La Pérouse and his men and journals were lost in a shipwreck near Australia. Captain James Barclay (also spelled Barkley) also visited the area flying the flag of the Austrian Empiremarker. American merchant sea-captain Robert Gray traded along the coast and discovered the mouth of the Columbia River.

Territorial disputes

Initial formal claims to the region were asserted by Spain, based on the Treaty of Tordesillas which, in the Spanish Empire's interpretation, endowed that empire with the Pacific Ocean as a "Spanish lake". Russian maritime fur trade activity extending from the farther side of the Pacific prompted Spain to send expeditions north to assert Spanish ownership, while at the same time British claims were made and advanced by Captain James Cook and subsequent expeditions by George Vancouver. Potential French, Austrian and Portuguese claims were never advanced. As of the Nootka Conventions, the last in 1794, Spain gave up its exclusive a priori claims and agreed to share the region with the other Powers, giving up its garrison at Nootka Soundmarker in the process.

The United Statesmarker later established a claim following the exploration of the region by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, partly through the negotiation of former Spanish claims north of the Oregon-California boundary. From the 1810s until the 1840s, modern-day Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana, along with most of British Columbiamarker, were part of what Americans called the Oregon Country and the British called the Columbia District. This region was jointly claimed by the United Statesmarker and Great Britainmarker after the Treaty of 1818, which established a condominium of interests in the region in lieu of a settlement. In 1840 American Charles Wilkes explored in the area. John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, headquartered at Fort Vancouvermarker, was the de facto local political authority for most of this time.

This arrangement ended as U.S. settlement grew and President James K. Polk was elected on a platform of calling for annexation of the entire Oregon Country and of Texas. After his election, supporters coined the famous slogan "Fifty-four Forty or Fight", referring to 54°40' north latitude - the northward limit of the region. After a war scare with the United Kingdommarker, the Oregon boundary dispute was settled in the 1846 Oregon Treaty, partitioning the region along the 49th parallel and resolving most but not all of the border disputes (see Pig Warmarker).

The mainland territory north of the 49th parallel remained unincorporated until 1858, when a mass influx of Americans and others during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush forced the hand of Colony of Vancouver Island's Governor James Douglas, who declared the mainland a Crown Colony, although official ratification of his unilateral action was several months in coming. The two colonies were amalgamated in 1866 to cut costs, and joined the Dominion of Canadamarker in 1871. The U.S. portion became the Oregon Territorymarker in 1848; it was later subdivided into territories that were eventually admitted as states, the first of these being Oregon itself in 1859. See Washington Territory.

American expansionist pressure on British Columbia persisted after the colony became a province of Canadamarker, even though Americans living in the province did not harbor annexationist inclinations. The Fenian Brotherhood openly organized and drilled in Washington, particularly in the 1870s and the 1880s, though no cross-border attacks were experienced. During the Alaska Boundary Dispute, U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt threatened to invade and annex British Columbia if Britain would not yield on the question of the Yukonmarker ports. In more recent times, during the so-called "Salmon War" of the 1990s, Washington Senator Slade Gorton called for the U.S. Navy to "force" the Inside Passage, even though it is not an official international waterway. Disputes between British Columbia and Alaska over the Dixon Entrancemarker of the Hecate Straitmarker between Prince Rupertmarker and the Queen Charlotte Islandsmarker still continue.


The Northwest is still geologically active, with both active volcanoes and geologic faults.


The Pacific Northwest is a diverse geographic region, dominated by several mountain ranges, including the Coast Mountainsmarker, the Cascade Range, the Olympic Mountainsmarker, the Columbia Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. The highest peak in the Pacific Northwest is Mt. Rainier, in the Washington Cascades, at . Immediately inland from the Cascade Range there is a broad plateau, narrowing progressively northwards, and also getting higher. In the US this region, semi-arid and often completely arid, is known as the Columbia Plateaumarker, while in British Columbia it is the Interior Plateaumarker, also called the Fraser Plateau. The Columbia Plateau was the scene of massive ice-age floods, as a consequence there are many coulees, canyons, and plateaus. The Columbia River cuts a deep and wide gorge around the rim of the Columbia Plateau, and through the Cascade Range on its way to the Pacific Ocean. After the Mississippi, more water flows through the Columbia than any other river in the lower 48 states.

Because many areas have plentiful rainfall, the Pacific Northwest has some of North America's most lush and extensive forests, and at one time, the largest trees in the world. Coastal forests in some areas are classified as temperate rain forest, or in some local slang, "cold jungle".

The major cities of Vancouvermarker, Portlandmarker, Seattlemarker and Tacomamarker all began as seaports supporting the logging, mining, and farming industries of the region, but have developed into major technological and industrial centers (such as the Silicon Forest), which benefit from their location on the Pacific Rim.

The region has four U.S.marker National Parks: Crater Lakemarker in Oregon, and Olympicmarker, Mount Rainiermarker, and North Cascades in Washington. Other outstanding natural features include the Oregon Coast, the Columbia River Gorgemarker, The Columbia River, Mt.marker St. Helensmarker, and Hells Canyonmarker on the Snake River between Oregon and Idaho. There are several Canadian National Parks in the Pacific Northwest, from Pacific Rim National Parkmarker on the west coast of Vancouver Islandmarker, and Mount Revelstoke National Parkmarker and Glacier National Parkmarker in the Selkirk Range alongside Rogers Passmarker, as well as Kootenay National Parkmarker and Yoho National Parkmarker on the British Columbia flank of the Rockies. Although unprotected by national parks and only a handful of provincial parks, the south-central Coast Mountains in British Columbia contain the five largest mid-latitude icefields in the world.


The Pacific Northwest experiences a wide variety of climates. Oceanic climate ("marine west coast climate") occurs in many coastal areas, typically between the ocean and high mountain ranges. Alpine climate dominates in the high mountains. Semi-arid and Arid climate is found east of the higher mountains, especially in rainshadow areas. The Harney Basinmarker of Oregon is an example of arid climate in the Pacific Northwest. Hemiboreal climate occurs in places such as Revelstoke, British Columbiamarker. Subarctic climate occurs farther north. Mediterranean climate (Csb) occurs in various areas such as Victoria, British Columbiamarker.


The area's biomes and ecoregions are distinct from the surrounding areas. The Georgia Straitmarker-Puget Soundmarker basin is shared between British Columbia and Washington, and the Pacific temperate rain forests ecoregion, which is the largest of the world's temperate rain forest ecozones in the system created by the World Wildlife Fund, stretches along the coast from Alaskamarker to Californiamarker. The dryland area inland from the Cascade Range and Coast Mountainsmarker is very different from the terrain and climate of the Coast, and comprises the Columbia, Fraser and Thompson Plateaus and mountain ranges contained within them. The interior regions' climates are a northward extension of the Great Western Desert which spans the Great Basin farther south, although by their northern reaches dryland and desert areas verge with boreal forest and various alpine flora regimes.


Most of the population of the Pacific Northwest is concentrated in the Vancouvermarker-Seattlemarker-Portlandmarker corridor. This area is sometimes seen as a megacity (also known as a conurbation, an agglomeration, or a megalopolis). This "megacity" stretches along Interstate 5 in the states of Oregonmarker and Washingtonmarker and Hwy 99 in the province of British Columbiamarker. As of 2004, the combined populations of the Greater Vancouvermarker/Lower Mainlandmarker area, the Seattle metropolitan area and the Portland metropolitan areamarker totaled almost nine million people.


A major divide in political opinion separates the region's greatly more populated urban core and rural areas west of the mountains from its less populated rural areas to their east and (in B.C.) north. The coastal - especially in the cities of Vancouver, Victoria, Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Corvallis and Eugene - is one of the most politically liberal parts of North America, consistently supporting left-wing political candidates and causes by significant majorities, while the Interior and North tend to be more conservative and consistently support right-wing candidates and causes. It should be noted that the religious right has far less influence throughout the region than elsewhere in the U.S., although it is very strong in the Fraser Valley suburbs of Vancouver, B.C., and also that certain areas of the BC Interior, particularly the West Kootenay and some areas of Vancouver Islandmarker and the BC Coast, have long histories of labour, environmental and social activism.

The urban core in addition to certain rural districts known for supporting liberal political views, perceived as controversial in much of the rest of North America. Many jurisdictions have relatively liberal abortion laws, gender equality laws, legalized medical marijuana, and are supportive of LGBT rights, especially British Columbia, where gay marriage is legal. Due to the urban core's size and voting impact, their counties and states as a whole have generally followed their leads (often to the disgruntlement of the more conservative rural areas). Oregon was the first U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, with the Death with Dignity Act of 1994. Washington State was the second with I-1000 passed in 2008. Colegio Cesar Chavez, the U.S.'s first fully accredited Hispanic college, was founded in Mount Angel, Oregonmarker in 1973. King County, Washingtonmarker, of which Seattle is a part, rebranded itself in honor of Martin Luther King.

These areas, especially around Puget Sound, have a long history of political radicalism. The radical labor organizers called Wobblies were particularly strong there in the mines, lumber camps and shipyards. A number of anarchist communes sprung up there in the early 1900s (see Charles Pierce LeWarne's Utopias on Puget Sound, 1885-1915 for an excellent overview of this popular yet forgotten movement). Seattle is still the only major city in North America in which the populace engaged in a general strike and was the first major American city to elect a woman mayor, Bertha Landes. Socialist beliefs were once widespread (thanks in large part to the area's large numbers of Scandinavian immigrants) and the region has had a number of Socialist elected officials: so great was its influence that the U.S. Postmaster General, James Farley, jokingly toasted the "forty-seven states of the Union, and the Soviet of Washington," at a gala dinner in 1936 .

The region also has a long history of starting cooperative and communal businesses and organizations, including Group Health , REI, Puget Consumer's Co-ops and numerous granges and mutual aid societies. It also has a long history of publicly-owned power and utilities, with many of the region's cities owning their own public utilities. In part as a result, the region enjoys the lowest electrical power rates on the continent. In British Columbia, credit unions are common and popular cooperatively-owned financial institutions.

More recently, in 2003 a group of community organizers and academics following Eugene Mallove's fringe science established the New Energy Movement in northern California. Their grassroots activism in the area notably helped to promote research by Alden Bryant and Brian O'Leary to a hearing of the California Energy Commission, and they claim to have organised a "new energy" speaking tour around the world.


Some of the notable industries and products from the region:

Aluminium smelting was once an important part of the region's economy due to the abundance of once-cheap hydroelectric power and despite any bauxite reserves in the region. Hydroelectric power generated by the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River powered at least ten aluminium smelters during the mid-20th century. By the end of World War II these smelters were producing over a third of the United States' aluminium. Production rose during the 1950s and 1960s, then declined. By the first decade of the 21st century the aluminium industry in the Pacific Northwest was essentially defunct. The Alcan smelter at Kitimatmarker continues in operation and is fed by the diversion of the Nechako River (a tributary of the Fraser) to a powerhouse on the coast at Kemanomarker, near Kitimat.

The region as a whole, but especially the Seattle eastern suburbs along with Vancouver, is a hot-bed of high-tech business. It is also a leading "creative class" economic driver, with a thriving cultural sector, many knowledge workers and numerous international advertising, media and design firms.

B.C., Washington and Oregon together generate more than $450 billion worth of goods and services annually. If the three were a separate country, their GDP would be in the top 30 economies of the world.


The Pacific Northwest has a diverse culture resulting from the varied geography of the region.


Environmentalism is prominent throughout the region, especially west of the Cascades. Environmentally conscious services such as recycling and public transportation are widespread, most notably in the more populous areas. A recent statistical analysis ranked the 50 Greenest Cities in the United States, placing Portland, Oregon first, Eugene, Oregon fifth, and Seattle, Washington eighth. The region as a whole is also known for its bicycle culture as an alternative form of transportation; Portland is considered the second most bicycle-friendly city in the world. Portland is also the hub of American bicycle manufacturing; as a whole it generated over $68 million in revenue in 2007 alone. Politically, the Pacific Northwest is actively involved in environmental efforts. The international organization Greenpeace was born in Vancouver in 1970 as part of a large public opposition movement in British Columbia to US nuclear weapons testing on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians. Liberal and Conservative Northwesterners, such as former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) and moderate Democrats like former Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D-WA), have been prominent in the development of conservative approaches to environmental protection. Seattle in particular is also home to a large number of publications and institutions concerned with the environment and sustainability, including both Worldchanging and, the U.S.'s two largest online green magazines. The Pacific Northwest is also noted for a large number of gardening clubs, with Victoria having an annual flower count in February.


The Pacific Northwest is also known for indie music, especially grunge and alternative rock, as well as historically-strong folk music and world music traditions. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Presidents of The United States of America, Heart, Built to Spill, Death Cab for Cutie, DOA, Foo Fighters, Elliott Smith, The Decemberists, The Dandy Warhols, Modest Mouse, Nickelback, Everclear, Swollen Members, Alice in Chains, the Subhumans, Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams and Pearl Jam were local artists who became ground-breaking rock bands of their times. Many are associated with the famous independent label Sub Pop. is a popular and nationally-noted Seattle-based public indie music radio station. Among the area's largest music festivals are the Merritt Mountain Music Festival, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, the Sasquatch! Music Festival in George, WA, Seattle's Bumbershoot, and Portland's Musicfest NW.


Cuisine of the area include wild salmon, huckleberries, a wide variety of Asian cuisines, and locally-produced fruits, vegetables, and cheeses. Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Greek cuisines are prevalent throughout Vancouver BC, and reflect the strong presence of those large communities in the restaurant industry there; similarly eateries featuring Persian, Asian Fusion, and Indo-Canadian cuisines are common throughout Greater Vancouver, as are ethnic specialty restaurants of all kinds. Ethnic staples ranging from frozen perogies to frozen dim sum are common in British Columbia supermarkets.

Locally-made craft beers and premium wines from various wine-growing area within the region are popular with drinkers and diners. Portland is considered to be the microbrew capital of America, and is home to the Widmer Brothers Brewery.

Cannabis use is relatively popular, especially around Vancouver BC, Bellingham, Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, Portland, and Eugene. Several of these jurisdictions have made arrests for cannabis a low enforcement priority. Medical marijuana is legal in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.


Skiing, snowboarding, climbing, hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, boating, and water sports are popular outdoor activities. Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland are home to numerous professional sports teams, including the BC Lions, Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders FC, Tacoma Rainiers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Portland Timbers. Fans in the region are particularly passionate; followers of the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team refer to themselves as the Sixth Man, while supporters of the Seattle Seahawks football team are known officially as the 12th Man.

Video Games

Seattle is considered by Digital Trends magazine to be the top gaming city in America, a possible indicator of markedly higher rates of video game usage throughout the Pacific Northwest. Companies include Microsoft (Seattle Metropolitan Area), Nintendo of America (Seattle Metropolitan Area), and video games maker Electronic Arts (Vancouver, BC).


In the US side of the region, Latinos make up a large portion of the agricultural labor force east of the Cascade Range, and are an increasing presence in the general labor force west of the Cascades. African Americans are less numerous in the Pacific Northwest, however the overall African American population has been growing in other smaller urban areas throughout the region, such as Spokane and Eugene. African Americans tend to be concentrated in western urban areas such as Tacoma, south Seattle, and Portland. Nonetheless, blacks have a very large presence in Tacoma's Hilltop and South Tacoma neighborhoods, Seattle's Central District and Rainier Valleymarker neighborhoods and in Portland's Northeast Quadrant. There are growing numbers of Africans in Vancouver BC as well as Jamaicans and blacks from the US. As of the 2000s, many Asians were moving out and into middle class suburbs, though some would voice concern about preserving historical communities particularly in Vancouver.

African-Americans have held the positions of Mayor in Seattle and Spokane; King County executive, while the state of Washingtonmarker elected a Chinese American Governor during the 1990s, Gary Locke.

British Columbians of many ethnicities are prominent in all levels of politics and government, and the province has a number of "firsts" in Canadian political history, including the first non-white Premier, Ujjal Dosanjh (who is Indo-Canadian) and the first Asian Lieutenant-Governor, the Hon. David Lam. The current Lieutenant-Governor, Steven Point, is of aboriginal origin, being Stó:lō (the dominant type of Coast Salish in BC's Lower Mainland) from the Chilliwack area. The current leader of the opposition party, the NDP, is Carole James, who is of partial Métis origin. Colonial governor James Douglas was himself mulatto of Guyanese extraction and his wife was of Cree origin.


The Pacific Northwest English accent is considered to be "very neutral" to most Americans. It does, however, possess the low back vowel merger, or the Cot-caught merger. Pacific Northwest English is one of the closest living accents to conservative General American English. It lacks the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, and does not participate as strongly in the California Vowel Shift or the Canadian raising as do other regional accents. Because of its lack of any distinguishing vowel shift, the accent is very similar to and hard to distinguish from conservative speakers in other dialect regions especially the Northern Midlands, California, and the prairies.

Chinook Jargon was a pidgin or trade language established among the indigenous inhabitants of the region. After contact with Europeans, French, English and Cree words entered the language, and "eventually Chinook became the lingua franca for as many as 250,000 people along the Pacific Slope from Alaska to Oregon". Chinook Jargon reached its height of usage in the 19th century though remained common in resource and wilderness areas, particularly but not exclusively by Native Americans and Canadian First Nations people, well into the 20th century. Today its influence is felt mostly in place names and a handful of localized slang terms, particularly the word skookum, which remains hallmark of people raised in the region.

Besides English and indigenous languages, Chinese has been common since the gold rushes of the mid-19th century, most particularly in British Columbia. Since the 1980s the Toishanmarker, a Cantonese-based dialect which was predominant in the area, has been replaced by mainstream Cantonese and by Mandarin because of large-scale immigration from Asia. Punjabi is also common in Vancouver, which has very large Sikh communities.

Spirituality and Religion

The Pacific Northwest has the lowest rate of church attendance in the United Statesmarker and consistently reports the highest percentage of atheism; this is most pronounced on the part of the region west of the Cascades. A recent study indicates that one quarter of those in Washington and Oregon believe in no religion.

Religion plays a smaller part in Pacific Northwest politics than in the rest of the United States. The religious right has considerably less political influence than in other regions.

That said, three of the four major international charities in the region are religious in nature: Northwest Medical Teams International, World Concern, World Vision International, and Mercy Corps. This is part of a long tradition of activist religion. The Skid Road group, a shelter offering soup and sermons to the unemployed and recovering alcoholics, was launched in Vancouver, with the Salvation Army having deep roots in the Gastownmarker district, dating back to the era of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1880s) and attained prominence in the same centers during the Klondike Gold Rush.

The region is also known a magnet for a wide range of philosophical and spiritual belief systems. Eastern spiritual beliefs have been adopted by an unusually large number of people (by North American standards), and Tibetan Buddhism in particular has a strong local following. The Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association, claimed to be the largest organization of its kind in the world, was founded in Portland in 1993.

The region is home to many unique Christian communities, ranging from the Doukhobors to the Mennonites. The Mennonite Central Committee Supportive Care Services is based in Abbotsford, BC. Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Disaster Service enjoy a heavy rate of enlistment and donations from the strong Mennonite community in British Columbia's Fraser Valley. Also within the region there is a fairly strong representation of Orthodox churches (Greek, Russian, Serbian and others) as well as the Ukrainian Uniate Catholic church.

Yogic teachings, Sufism, tribal and ancient beliefs and other philosophies are widely studied and appreciated in the region. The Lower Mainlandmarker of British Columbiamarker has a very large Sikh community. There has been major growth in Chinese Buddhist temples since the increase in immigration from East Asia in the 1980s, especially in Vancouvermarker.

Also in Vancouver, there is a small Hindu population, a number of Parsee (Zoroastrians), and an emerging Muslim population from India, the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

Some people in the area also embrace alternative religion, such as New Age spirituality and Neo-Paganism.

See also


  1. Communism in Washington State - History and Memory Project
  2. HistoryLink Essay: Group Health Cooperative - Part 1: Planting the Seeds, 1911-1945
  3. Aluminum, Columbia River History, Northwest Power & Conservation Council
  10. Can We Still Speak Chinook?
  11. Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest
  12. - Charting the unchurched in America
  13. Religious identification in the U.S
  14. Crosscut Seattle - Why Washington Republicans got creamed in 2006 and what they can do about it
  15. NY Times Advertisement
  16. Mennonite Central Committee Supportive Care Services
  17. ABC News: School Says Halloween Disrespectful to Witches
  18. Oregon Historical Society article about Old Believers Retrieved February 9, 2007

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