In the days before European settlement the shores of Shoalwater Bay were a mix of a bountiful natural environment and many native villages. The north end of the bay around the present day reservation was populated predominantly by Lower Chehalis speaking peoples. The Southern end of the bay, near present day Bay Center and southward was inhabited by Willapa Chinook peoples. The original territory of the Shoalwater Bay peoples was a vast network of waterways along the coast. For the Lower Chehalis Shoalwater’s village of “Naaphs Chaahts” (today’s reservation) was the southern tip of the territory. From there it extended northward to “ts-a-lis” the lower Chehalis word for Westport, meaning “place of sand”. Early explorers pronounced the word “Chehalis” and gave this name to the river and the people living up river who later became the Chehalis tribe. From Westport the territory went east up the Chehalis river to present day Satsop, Washington.
Today the people of the Shoalwater Bay no longer freely roam the Chehalis and Columbia Rivers. Our territory has shrunk to the present day reservation and a handful of nearby properties purchased by the tribe. Our people still have deep connection to our ancestral homelands however and many of our tribal members are living within those ancestral lands from Ilwaco to Aberdeen and everywhere in between.
Hiyu maśi means “many thanks” in our native language and is pronounced “hi-yu mah-see.”