The Chinook people were largely considered peaceful but still needed bows, axes, clubs and spears to hunt and ward off plunderers. Clubs were typically a decorative status symbol, up to 2 to 3 feet in length, double-edged and beautifully carved with designs. Bows and flint-tipped arrows, up to 2 feet in length, were used in both hunting and warfare.
Most warriors carried 4- to 6-foot long spears, as the Chinook were also avid fishermen. The spears were sometimes tipped with flint or simply sharpened into a point. Knives made of both flint and animal bone were also used. The Chinook armored themselves with hardened animal skins reinforced with tree bark in battle.
Lewis and Clark noted in 1805 that the Chinook were excellent warriors who would paint their faces and go to war when necessary but did not deliberately seek conflict. Most of their warfare surrounded protecting their plentiful rivers, beaches and lakes from neighboring tribes in the Columbia River region of the United States. The Chinook were successful traders with the American and British colonists, but the tribe was severely weakened by malaria, smallpox and other diseases brought by the traders. Chinook jargon was picked up by traders and became a notable linguistic trademark in the Pacific Northwest.