People living east of the Rocky Mountains in both the United States and Canada at times feel warm, dry Chinook winds blowing from the west. In the Swiss Alps and elsewhere, winds of this kind are called foehn winds. The Chinook name, pronounced shi-NOOK and derived from Tsinuk, the Chehalis name for them, was originally applied to moist sea breezes blowing from the coast in Oregon and Washington. There, early settlers referred to the winds by that name because they came from the general direction of the village of Chinook, or Tchinouk.
The Chinook ancestral homeland is situated at the mouth of the Columbia River where it opens up into the Pacific Ocean, mostly on the north side in territory now part of the state of Washington. On the south side of the Columbia River, in Oregon, and farther inland in both states lived other tribes who spoke similar Chinookian dialects of the Penutian language phylum. Other Chinookian-speaking tribes include the Cathlamet, Cathlapotle, Chilluckittequaw, Clackamas, Clatsop, Clowwewalla, Multomah, Skilloot, Wasco, Watlala (Cascade Indians), and Wishram. Some scholars divide them into the Lower and Upper Chinook depending on their location on the river, near the mouth (Lower) or more inland (Upper). The Chinook proper, Cathlamet, and Clatsop of those listed above are considered Lower Chinook.
One way to think of the Chinook proper and all the other Chinookian-speaking tribes along the Columbia River is as those people who provided the link between Northwest Coast Indians and Plateau Indians. The Columbia River was a main trading thoroughfare between coastal and inland peoples, and Chinookians met with Plateau tribes regularly at the Dalles, an area of rapids up the river. With the trading of food and objects, ideas and customs were also exchanged. The Wishram, living at the Dalles, are grouped by some scholars in the Plateau Culture Area rather than the Northwest Coast Culture Area.