A Woman to Know: Tsin-is-tum

I, Tsin-is-tum, otherwise known as Jennie Michel, say: I am a Clatsop Indian. — Tsin-is-tum

I, Tsin-is-tum, otherwise known as Jennie Michel, say: I am a Clatsop Indian. — Tsin-is-tum

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

When Tsin-is-tum was born — likely some time around the 1810s or 1820s — her tribe was in peril. The Clatsop people once lived all across the Oregon coast, but around the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition, only 200 Clatsop remained. A series of smallpox epidemics and other diseases ravaged Tsin-is-tum’s people, and so she and her family fled.

Tsin-is-tum and her second husband helped establish “Indian Place,” a community of Native Americans, in Seaside, Oregon. Tsin-is-tum — known as Jennie Michel to local whites — became an Oregon tourist attraction, with people traveling to take photos of her and her basketwork. She told stories of Clatsop life and relayed her mother’s memories of the Lewis and Clark expedition. A 1905 obituary in the Morning Oregonian reported “it is doubtful if any person, man or woman in the State of Oregon has been photographed so frequently.”

When she posed for the photograph above, she told people she had just celebrated her 100th birthday. Historians debate whether or not she exaggerated that for the benefit of a tall tale, but they agree that at the time of her death in 1905, she was likely the last of the full-blooded Clatsops.

Add to your library list: 

Read more:

See more:

Send your own recommendations for women to know! Reply to this newsletter with your lady and she could be featured in an upcoming edition.