Tlehonnipts (those who drift ashore) become first European residents of Northwest lands near Satsop Spit (mouth of the Columbia) in about 1725.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 10/17/2006
  • Essay 7942
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In about 1725, Clatsops discover shipwrecked sailors whom they call Tlehonnipts (those who drift ashore) on a beach near Satsop Spit, which was located on the southern (Oregon) side of the mouth of the Columbia River. One of the sailors will be called Konapee the Iron Maker. They are probably the first European residents of the Pacific Northwest and will marry into Native American tribes in the region. The men may be Spanish or Mexican sailors engaged in the trade between Manila and Mexico.

Clatsop oral tradition records that an old woman from the village of Ne-Ahkstow, about two miles south of Clatsop Spit, encountered a whale or an immense canoe with trees growing out of it. A bear-like creature emerged and frightened the woman who rushed home to alert the village. Clatsops found two men with beards who possessed metals unknown to them. Somehow their ship caught fire, but the Indians were able to recover iron, copper, and brass.

Word spread quickly among the tribes of the coast and interior and all wanted to take possession of these strangers as slaves. Ultimately the Clatsops agreed to yield up one man to the Willapas on the north side of the Columbia River while they retained one.

The Clatsop slave was put to work converting metals into useful tools and he earned the name Konapee the Iron Maker. As he demonstrated his utility to the tribe he was granted more freedom. The area where he worked was called Konapee.

Explorer James Cook, the first European recorded to have visited the Northwest, noticed in 1778 that the natives seemed familiar with iron implements and weapons. In 1811, Gabriele Franchere recorded meeting a man of 80 who claimed to be the son of Konapee. Konapee was one of four sailors stranded on the Oregon beach. According to the old man, Konapee wanted to go east and was allowed to travel as far as the Cascades, where he married the man's mother.


James A. Gibbs, Pacific Graveyard (Portland: Binfords & Mort, [1950], 1964), 56-60.

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