Walla Walla Tribe

Walla-Walla Native Indians

The Walla Walla Tribe
Summary and Definition: The semi-nomadic  tribe were fishers, hunter-gatherers and traders of the Plateau cultural group. The tribe lived along the Walla Walla river that bears their name and around the Snake and Columbia Rivers, in territory that is now part of northern Oregon and southern Washington State.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Walla Walla tribe?
The Walla Walla tribe were one of the powerful tribes of the Plateau Culture area. They lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle fishing, hunting, or gathering wild plants for food. The tribe's name means "Many Waters" because of the rivers that ran through their homeland. The introduction of the horse in the 1750's brought about a change in lifestyle and many of the people traveled to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo. They adopted some of the material culture of the Great Plains native Indians including the use of the tepee which were covered with buffalo hides and some items of clothing made from buffalo hides. The grasslands of the tribe's territory enabled the people to maintain large herds and become horse breeders and traders.

Who were the allies and enemies of the Walla Walla tribe?
The allies of the tribe were many of the other Native American Indians who inhabited the Plateau region including the Perce Nez, Cayuse, Spokane, Coeur D'Alene, Yakama and Palouse tribes. The main enemies of the tribe were the Great Basin groups to the south, including the Shoshone and Northern Paiute.

Where did the Walla Walla tribe live?
The Walla Walla are people of the Plateau Native American cultural group. The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the tribe.

  • The tribe lived along the river that bears their name and at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, in modern-day northern Oregon and southern Washington State

  • Land: Fast flowing rivers, lakes and forests

  • Climate: Warm summers and cold, snowy winters

  • Animals: The  animals included elk, deer, bear, mountain goat, groundhog, coyote, raccoon, fox, porcupine, weasel, beaver and hare

  • Fish: Salmon, steelhead trout

  • Natural Resources: Berries, bulbs, roots and seeds

What did the Walla Walla tribe live in?
The tribe were semi-nomadic and needed shelters that were easily erected and dismantled. The tribe lived in one of three types of shelters, depending on the season. The types of shelters were  a semi-subterranean pit house, a tepee or a tule-mat lodge.

  • Pit houses were shelters that were built with logs and sealed for insulation with dirt and grasses. Pit houses were built below ground with an entrance and ladder at the top and were generally used during the winter months.
  • The summer shelters were above ground: the tepee and tule-mat lodge.
  • Tepees were covered with animal skins but the tule-mat lodge was covered with mats of strong, durable, tule reeds (bulrushes).

What language did the Walla Walla tribe speak?
The tribe spoke in a Sahaptian dialect of the Penutian language.

What food did the Walla Walla tribe eat?
The food that the tribe ate included included salmon and trout together with a variety of meats from the animals that they hunted. They supplemented their protein diet with seeds, roots, nuts and fruits such as blackberries, strawberries and huckleberries.

What weapons did the Walla Walla use?
The weapons used were spears, knives, bows and arrows and clubs. They also used shields for defensive purposes and wore breatplates as protection.

What clothes did the Walla Walla men wear?
The original clothes worn by the men were made of shredded cedar bark, deerskin, or rabbit skin. However with the influence of the Great plains tribes they began to use buffalo hides to make their clothes.  The clothes worn by the men varied according to the season but generally they wore breechcloths, leggings, vests, shirts, moccasins and robes. Blankets and gloves were frequently used to keep out the cold. It was customary to decorate their clothes with fringes. Headdresses were made of feathers, some used a 'standup' design of headdresses. Their hair was kept long and decorated with beads and plaits for special occasions.

What clothes did the Walla Walla women wear?
The type of clothes worn by the women. The women of the tribe wore long dresses that covered them from the neck to their ankles. The women also wore high, knee length moccasins during the winter. Their clothes were decorated with beads made from a variety of materials that included shells, claws, bones, nuts, seeds, porcupine quills, horns, pieces of metal and bird talons.

What was the religion and beliefs of the Walla Walla tribe?
The religion and beliefs of the tribe was based on Animism that encompassed the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all natural objects animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains rocks etc have souls or spirits.   

Who were the most famous leaders and chiefs of the Walla Walla tribe?
The most famous leaders and chiefs of the tribe included Chief Yelleppit and Chief Yellow Bird (Piupiumaksmaks).

Walla Walla History Timeline: What happened to the Walla Walla tribe?
The following Walla Walla history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks and battles fought by the Walla Walla Nation. The Walla Walla history timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Walla Walla History Timeline

  • 1750's: The Walla Walla acquire the horse and their lifestyle is changed and they adopt some aspects of the gGreat Plains Native Indians

  • 1805: Contact was made between the tribe and the Lewis and Clark expedition. Chief Yelleppit, wanted the trade goods that Lewis and Clark could provide

  • 1806: In April 1806 contact with the Corps of Discovery was again made as Lewis and Clark started their long journey home

  • 1811: First contact with Hudson Bay Company fur traders

  • 1812: A trading post known as Spokane House was built near the confluence of Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers

  • 1825: The Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Vancouver as a trading post

  • 1836: Henry Marcus Whitman and Henry Spalding founded a Presbyterian mission at Waiilatpu  among the Plateau Native Indians. It was located on the east bank of the Columbia River about 20 miles from the Hudson Bay Trading post

  • 1843: The first major migration along the Oregon Trail took place which led to violent conflicts with the white settlers who traveled along the Oregon trail in wagon trains

  • 1843: Isaac Stevens met Chief Yellow Bird (Piupiumaksmaks) while headed east to chart a path for a Pacific railway

  • 1847: The white settlers bring various diseases to the Native Indians who lived in the surrounding areas of the Oregon Trail and many of the tribe are wiped out by a devastating measles epidemic

  • 1847: The Whitman Massacre led to the outbreak of the Cayuse War (1847 - 1855)

  • 1855: Isaac Stevens (March 25, 1818 – September 1, 1862) , governor of Washington Territory, negotiated the Walla Walla treaty. The tribe ceded most of their tribal lands, reserving the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation with the Umatilla and Walla Walla people

  • 1855: The Yakima War (1855-1858) erupted, fought by members of the Native Indian alliance including the Cayuse, Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Nez Perce tribes

  • 1855: The Battle of Walla Walla, also known as the Battle of Frenchtown (December 7–10, 1855) raged for 4 days against the Oregon Volunteers. Chief Yellow Bird met them under a white flag of truce and at their insistence, he and four other men became their hostages to prevent an immediate attack on his village. He was killed and his body mutilated by the Oregon soldiers

  • 1855: In the Walla Walla Treaty the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla agreed to cede 4,012,800 acres of land in return for $150,000, the creation of a 512,000-acre reservation and the retention of traditional hunting and fishing rights.

  • 1856: The Grande Ronde River Valley Massacre occured in June 1856 when Washington Territorial Volunteers led by Colonel Benjamin Shaw attacked peaceful settlements of Walla Walla and Cayuse Indians on the Grande Ronde River in Oregon. 60 Indians, mostly women, old men and children were killed

  • 1858: Colonel Wright ordered the destruction of 700 Palouse horses at "Horse Slaughter Camp," hanged Yakama Chief Qualchan, and several Palouse Native Indians. This action finally concluded the Coeur d'Alene and Yakima Wars

  • 1855: The Umatilla Reservation was established for the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Native Indians.

  • 1859: The treaty was broken, the US gave only half of what was promised

  • 1887: Dawes General Allotment Act passed by Congress leads to the break up of the large Indian Reservations and the sale of Indian lands to white settlers

  • 1949: The Walla Walla, Cayuse and Umatilla joined together as the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation

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