Umatilla, Walla Walla & Cayuse
Traditional Culture
  Who's Who
Since Time Immemorial
Homelands
All My Relations
Camp Life & Seasonal Round
Horses, Trade, & Travel
Cultural Continuity
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Sovereignty & Tribal Government
Arts and Artists
Language
Education
Recommended Web Sites

  Relationship with U.S.
  Lewis & Clark and the Early Fur Trade
Establishment of Fort Nez Perces
Life at Ft. Walla Walla
Missionaries and Early Settlers
Making Treaties
The Shrinking Reservation
References Cited

 

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The place we call home.
Roberta Conner
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Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Homeland Heritage Corridor map.
Developed by Tamástslikt Cultural Institute.
 
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Thorn Hollow
Maj. Lee Moorhouse. PH 36, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon, #M5724
 
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Wallowa Lake, OR
K. Lugthart photo
 
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Sohon sketch "Crossing the Snake"
Library of Congress
 
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"Paloose Falls in Washington Territory"
From lithograph of Gustavus Sohon's 1855 rendition, drawn while on the Stevens Railroad Expedition.
 
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Palouse Falls
S. Thompson photo
 
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Squaw Creek
Photo courtesy Tamástslikt Cultural Institute
 
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Snow on the Blue Mountains ,
from Umatilla.
S. Thompson Photo
 
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Umatilla River
S. Thompson photo
 
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Big sage along the John Day River
R.J. Ottersberg photo
 
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Hat Rock
S. Thompson photo
 
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Looking across Imnahe Canyon towards Seven Devils and Hells Canyon on the Snake River.
K. Lugthart photo
 
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Image from the Cayuse-Nez Perce Sketchbook, possibly of Seven Devils.
University of Oregon Special Collections & University Archives SFM 61.

Umatilla River > Culture > Homelands
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Umatilla River flowing into the Columbia.
Maj. Lee Moorhouse. PH 36, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon, #M5738

Tiicám 'land, earth'

Roberta Conner, Director of Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, tells how the story of the people is portrayed in the tribal museum exhibit with the help of Ispilyay (coyote).


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Our ancient homeland was a diverse landscape, now widely known as the Columbia Plateau. The snowcapped Cascades to the west, the Okanagen Highlands to the north, the Great Basin desert to the south, and the Blue, Wallowa, and Bitterroot ranges to the east defined its rich topography. Cutting through this relief were three major waterways, the Columbia, Snake, and Fraser river systems.

Throughout the year, the land sustained a temperate to semi-arid climate. Air masses rising from the Pacific Ocean contributed to its moderately cool winters and dry summers. The vegetation ranged from the sagebrush and juniper of the lowlands to the subalpine habitat of the high elevations.

The importance of land and home to the Indian people is exemplified in their way of speaking about these things. One way to understand the Indian concept of homeland is to take a glimpse back to the discussions leading up to the signing of the 1855 treaty. Many differences in understanding of land, ownership, and property are apparent in this "talk".

"The Great Father has learned much of you. He first learned of you from Lewis and Clark; Pee-o-pee-mox-a-mox remembers Lewis and Clarke, the Lawyer does: they came through your country finding friends and meeting no enemies." -Governor Isaac Stevens, from the 1855 Treaty transcript

"…if we enter into a treaty now we can select a good country for you; but if we wait till the country is filled up with whites , where will we find such a place?" General Palmer

"From what you have said I think you intend to win our country, or how is it to be? In one day the Americans become as numerous as the grass; this I learned in California; I know that is not right. You have spoken in a round about way; speak straight. I have ears to hear you and here is my heart. Suppose you show me goods shall I run up and take them? That is the way we are, we Indians, as you know us. Goods and the Earth are not equal; goods are for using on the earth. I do not know where they have given land for goods." - Pee-o-pee-mox-a-mox, at the 1855 treaty council

 

Cayuse Sisters
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Historic photograph "Cayuse Sisters", of rock formation on Columbia, near La Grande, Oregon.
Jerry Gildemeister, photographer Used with permission from Tamástslikt Cultural Institute.
 

"The Walla Walla Indians call these the "Rocks of the Ki-use girls," of which they relate the following legend, which was told to me by an Indian, whilst I was sketching this extraordinary scene. It must be borne in mind that all Indian tribes select some animal to which they attribute supernatural, or, in the language of the country, medicine powers: the whale, for instance, on the north-west coast; the kee-yeu, or war eagle, on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, supposed to be the maker of thunder; and the wolf on the Columbia River. Now the great medicine wolf of the Columbia River—according to the Walla Walla tradition, the most cunning and artful of all manitous—having heard that a great medicine grasshopper was desolating the whole of the country which of right belonged to himself, and was especially under his protection, immediately resolved to trace him out, and have a personal encounter with him. With this view, he proceeded down the banks of the river, and soon fell in with the object of his search. Each of these formidable manitous thought it best to resort to stratagem to overcome his opponent. Being afraid of each other's "medicine" powers, they accordingly commenced by exchanging civilities, and then, with a view of terrifying each other, began boasting of their wonderful exploits, and the numbers they had killed and eaten. The grasshopper said to the wolf that the best way to ascertain who had devoured the largest numbers would be to vomit up the contents of their respective stomachs, and he who threw up the most hair—that being an indigestible substance—by showing who had swallowed the most animals, should be considered as the superior. To this proposal the wolf consented, and they commenced retching and vomiting up all in their stomachs. The grasshopper, in the violence of his exertions, naturally closed his eyes, and the wolf, perceiving this, adroitly drew a great part of his opponent's share over to his own side without being detected. The grasshopper, when he perceived how much larger the pile before the wolf was than his own, gave up the contest, and proposed to the wolf an exchange of shirts in token of amity and forgiveness. To this also the wolf consented, but requested the grasshopper to take off his shirt first as he was the first proposer; but the grasshopper refused, and wished the wolf to commence the ceremony.

"The wolf finally even agreed to this, and striking himself suddenly on the breasts, his shirt immediately flew off; the grasshopper was greatly astonished, and not being possessed of any charm by which he could strip himself so expeditiously, was obliged to take off his shirt in the common way of drawing it over his head; the wolf now watched his opportunity, and while the grasshopper had his head and arms entangled in the shirt, he killed him.

"The wolf having thus got rid of his troublesome and dangerous rival, commenced his return home. On arriving within a few miles of the Walla Walla he saw three beautiful Ki-use girls, with whom he fell desperately in love: they were engaged in carrying stones into the river, in order to make an artificial cascade or rapid, to catch the salmon in leaping over it. The wolf secretly watched their operations through the day, and repaired at night to the dam and entirely destroyed their work: this he repeated or three successive evenings. On the fourth morning, he saw the girls sitting weeping on the bank, and accosted them, inquiring what was the matter: they told him they were starving as they could get no fish for want of a dam. He then proposed to erect a dam for them, if they would consent to become his wives, to which they consented sooner than perish from the want of food. A long point of stones running nearly across the river is to this day attributed to the magic of the wolf-lover.

 

"For a long time he lived happily with the three sisters (a custom very frequent amongst Indians, who marry as many sisters in a family as they can, and assign as a reason that sisters will naturally agree together better than strangers); but at length the wolf became jealous of his wives, and, by his supernatural power, changed two of them into the two basalt pillars, on the south side of the river, and then changed himself into a lark rock, somewhat similar to them, on the north side, so that he might watch them for ever afterwards. I asked the narrator what had become of the third sister. Says he, "Did you not observe a cavern as you came up?" I said that I had. "That," he replied, "is all that remains of her" (Kane: 1859)! image
Basaltic Towers,
from woodcut by A. Joliet (Domenech:1860).

 
Lewis and Clark in our Homelands
 

"Getting back to the trails of Lewis and Clark, it was passed on from my Aunt at Lapwai that our grandparents fed Lewis and Clark's expedition up at what they call Wawáwai, that's north of Clarkston along the Snake River. When they saw these people come, they didn't know what they were and said, Tuk yawo wa(?), "What are they?" and after they saw Crooked Hair, they told them that they were an expedition from the east. So they fed the expedition there and when they left, they went on down the river and the first group from our people was at the mouth of Tucannon River. There's a permanent home there at Tucannon and a few miles down the river was the mouth of Palouse River, and there was another encampment there. This is where they dug up some artifacts that were dated back to 12,000 years, but when the dams came in, they inundated that cave. The only good thing the dam did was cover up the graveyard or the encampment. And the other permanent home was at the mouth of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Qotutspa is the name of that place. When Clark was there, they told him there was a large encampment up the river at the mouth of the Yakima River. From what I read, when Clark got up there they were harvesting salmon. Women folks were knee deep in the water and they were gutting salmon but what the explorers wrote is that the women folks were topless and just had a hider on and their hair was just a mess and I guess that doesn't speak very good for our people.

"...The next encampment was at Wanaket, at the mouth of the Umatilla River. There's a permanent home there. That's where they saw the hundreds of natives, and farther on down is Kenaspa, which is by Patterson on the Oregon side. Ákakpa is on the north side by Patterson, and Qwenankii is further down on an island of the river. That's where our people probably were.

"The Grand Ronde Valley was our eden. Everything was there for the people. Grand Ronde had everything there, the root camas was just in abundance but when the seasons came there, then people from here went over to Grand Ronde Valley and dug the camas. Catherine Creek was a main source of salmon and steelhead. There were permanent homes all along Catherine Creek. Grand Ronde River was one of the main sources from Hilgard to Perry and on down where Elgin was a main crossroads for the people to travel from Walla Walla over into Wallowa country" (Dan Motanic: TCI Convocation 2000).



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Homelands Heritage Corridor

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Every place and every thing has a story.
Roberta Conner
 
 
Background: Portion of 1864 Colton's Map of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia and Montana
Courtesy of The University of Montana, Mansfield Library