The river system was the lifeblood of the people and it linked many different people by trade, marriage, conflict, and politics. The people fished, traded, and traveled along the river in canoes and over land by foot.
The Walla Walla, were mentioned by Lewis and Clark in 1805 as living along the Columbia just below the mouth of the Snake River as well as along the Yakama, Walla Walla, and Snake Rivers. The Walla Walla included many groups and bands that were often referred to by the village whence they originated from such as the Wallulapums and Chomnapums.
The Umatilla occupied both sides of the Columbia River from above the junction of the Umatilla River downstream to the vicinity of Willow Creek on the Oregon side and to Rock Creek on the Washington side. The river people were tied with other Tribes along the river with close family, trade, and economic interests in the Columbia River Gorge and the northern Plateau.
The Walla Walla and the Umatilla were a part of the larger culture of Shahaptian speaking river people of southeastern Washington, Northeastern Oregon, and Western Idaho.
The Cayuse, whose original language is known to linguists as Waiilatpuan, lived: "..south of and between the Nez Perces and Wallah-Wallahs, extending from the Des Chutes or Wawanui river to the eastern side of the Blue Mountains. It [their country] is almost entirely in Oregon, a small part only, upon the upper Wallah-Wallah river, lying within Washington Territory."
Prior to the horse the Cayuse were tributary fishermen. After the arrival of the horse and gun they sometimes were mounted warriors to protect their way of life. They lived throughout the lower Columbia Plateau from the Cascade to the Blue Mountains, and grazed horses on the abundant grasses of southeast Washington, the Deschutes-Umatilla Plateau. As horsemen the Cayuse had close ties to the horsemen of the Palouse and Nimipu.
The area from Wallula to the mouth the Yakama River where many members of the tribes lived could be considered the cross roads of the Columbia River System. This area was shared by many related bands and was a central hub of Tribal life on the Columbia Plateau.
Extended family relationships, social, and economic interests exists between many Tribal people from throughout the Columbia Plateau. The people on the Columbia Plateau were multi-lingual. Tribal members learned and spoke several trade jargons, other Indian dialects of Shahaptian, as well as, Salish, Chinookian, and Klamath. Later they adapted to French and English.
Return to Previous Page