The Yakama Indian Reservation is a Native American reservation of the federally recognized tribe, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. The tribe is made up of Klikitat, Palus, Wallawalla, Wanapam, Wenatchi, Wishram, and Yakama people. The reservation is located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains in southern Washington state. According to the United States Census Bureau, the reservation covers 2,185.94 square miles and the population in 2000 was 31,799. It lies primarily in the Yakima and the northern edge of Klickitat counties. A small section crosses the southeast corner of Lewis County. The largest city on the reservation is Toppenish. The Yakama is a Native American tribe with nearly 10,851 members, inhabiting Washington state.
The Yakama Indian Reservation is comprised of 1,371,918 acres. Although the Yakamas ceded 10,828,800 acres of ancestral homeland to the U.S. government, they reserved their right to hunt, fish, access and use traditional cultural sites, gather traditional foods and medicines, pasture stock and have water in sufficient quantity and quality in all of their “usual and accustomed places” within this ceded area. Their right to fish is protected by treaties and has been re-affirmed in late 20th-century court cases such as United States v. Washington (the Boldt Decision, 1974) and United States v. Oregon (Sohappy v. Smith, 1969).
Scholars disagree on the origins of the name Yakama. The Sahaptin words, ‘E-yak-ma,’ means “a growing family”, and iyakima, means “pregnant ones”. Other scholars note the word, yákama, which means “black bear,” or ya-ki-ná, which means “runaway”. They have also been referred to as the Waptailnsim, “people of the narrow river” and Pa’kiut’lĕma, “people of the gap” which describes the tribe’s location along the Yakima River. The Yakama refer to themselves as the Mamachatpam. In 1805 or 1806, they encountered the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the confluence of the Yakima River and Columbia River. Not long thereafter, American and British trappers introduced ready-made goods to the Yakama. Homesteaders, miners and others would follow in increasing numbers.
To accommodate an insatiable white demand for land and resources, Washington territorial governor and Indian agent Isaac Stevens concluded the Yakama Treaty with the Yakama and 13 other tribes and bands on June 9, 1855. In signing the treaty, the Indians ceded 11.5 million acres to the United States. Although the Yakama themselves ceded 10,828,800 acres to the U.S. government, they reserved their right to fish, hunt and gather within the ceded area. The tribes and bands also agreed to move to a new reservation and receive federal benefits. The treaty stipulated two years to allow the tribes and bands to relocate on the new reservation, but Governor Stevens threw open Indian lands for white settlers less than two weeks after the treaty was signed.
A Yakama chief, Kamiakin, called upon the tribes to oppose the declaration. Some of the tribes joined forces under Kamiakin. The Indians managed to fight off U.S. soldiers for about three years in the uprising called the Yakima War (1855-1858). Other Indians in the territory rose up as well. In September 1858, at the Battle of Four Lakes near Spokane, the Indians were decisively defeated. Kamiakan escaped to Canada, but two dozen other leaders were apprehended and executed.
Most of the Yakama and other tribes then moved onto the reservation where numerous Sahaptin dialects, Chinookan, Salish and English languages converged. They led a harrowing existence. White agents ran the reservation intending to assimilate the internees into American society. A boarding school was established at Fort Simcoe on the reservation to educate and indoctrinate Indian children. Confinement on the reservation contributed to a social breakdown, ill health, alcoholism, and such other problems as high infant mortality. Agents also compelled Indians to grow crops on the reservation, but they farmed without enthusiasm. Many struggled to fish, hunt, and gather, but the old ways had been disrupted. The Yakama gradually lost access to fishing and hunting lands, as well as to areas with roots and berries; non-Indians had started farms and ranches on ceded Yakama land. Whites let their livestock feed on roots and berries. Irrigation projects destroyed Yakima River salmon runs and plowing ruined plant and animal habitat.
In accordance with a new federal policy in the late 1800s, government agents began to break up the reservation into 80-acre allotments for individual Indians, to encourage tillage. By 1914, 4,506 tribal members held 440,000 allotted acres, leaving 780,000 acres owned by the tribe as a whole.
Later in the 1900s, however, nearly all tillable acreage was purchased out of Indian hands. Such towns as Toppenish and Wapato were established on lands purchased from Indian allotments. Various entities threatened to confiscate Indian water. County, state and federal governments promoted development, including road and railroad construction, as well as the massive Wapato Irrigation Project. Whites sought through official channels to restrict the movement of Yakama people on the Columbia Plateau. In 1933, the Yakama organized as the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation.
As a consequence of the Walla Walla Council and the Yakima War of 1855, the tribe was forced to cede much of their land and move onto their present reservation. The Treaty of 1855 identified the 14 confederated tribes and bands of the Yakama, including “Yakama (Lower Yakama or Yakama proper, autonym: Mámachatpam), Palouse (now written Palus, Yakama name: Pelúuspem), “Pisquouse (P’squosa, now Wenatchi), Wenatshapam (Yakama name: Winátshapam, now Wenatchi), Klikatat (Yakama name: Xwálxwaypam or L’ataxat), Klinquit (a Yakama subtribe), Kow-was-say-ee (Yakama name: Kkáasu-i or K’kasawi, Tenino subtribe), Li-ay-was (not identified), Skin-pah (Sk’in tribe or Sawpaw, also known as Fall Bridge and Rock Creek people or K’milláma, a Tenino subtribe; perhaps another Yakama name for the Umatilla, which were known as Rock Creek Indians), Wish-ham (Yakama name: Wíshχam, now Wishram, speaking Upper Chinook (Kiksht)), Shyiks (a Yakama subtribe), Ochechotes (Uchi’chol, a Tenino subtribe), Kah-milt-pay (Kahmiltpah, Q’míl-pa or Qamil’lma, perhaps a Klikatat subtribe), and Se-ap-cat (Si’apkat, perhaps a Kittitas (Upper Yakama) subtribe, Kittitas autonym: Pshwánapam), confederated tribes and bands of Indians, occupying lands hereinafter bounded and described and lying in Washington Territory, who for the purposes of this treaty are to be considered as one nation, under the name ‘Yakama’…”. (Treaty with the Yakama, 1855) The name was changed from Yakima to Yakama in 1994 to reflect the native pronunciation.
The Yakama Reservation is primarily agricultural on the valley floor, range or grazing in the foothills and forested to the west and south. The city of Toppenish is located east of the Yakama Indian Nation’s headquarters in the eastern part of the Reservation. The Yakama Reservation covers 1,573 square miles in the south-central Washington counties of Klickitat and Yakima. This territory offers many and varied food sources such as fishing, hunting, and gathering of seasonal wild roots and berries. The members of the Yakama Nation have historically depended on the Columbia River and the salmon for their sustenance. Traditional routes for subsistence were, and continue to be on the Columbia River, starting above Priest Rapids to the traditional fishing site on Celilo Falls, and extending west on the lower Columbia River beyond the Klickitat River tributary. The Yakama Reservation and its members are governed by the Yakama Nation Tribal Council. Self-government was re-established among the Yakamas in 1935.
Since the Indian Nation was made up of 14 bands and tribes, each group selected a representative, forming the modern tribal government. In 1947 a rule change provided for election by the General Council of half of the Tribal Council members every two years for four-year terms. All enrolled Yakamas become voting members of the General Council on their eighteenth birthday.
The reservation is over a million acres, apparently nearly half of Yakima County and part of Klickitat County. The 1,377,034-acre reservation is located in south central Washington, along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range.
Local Communities include: Glenwood, Harrah, Parker, Satus, Tampico (part), Toppenish, Union Gap (part), Wapato, and White Swan.
Language Yakama is a northwestern dialect of Sahaptin, a Sahaptian language of the Plateau Penutian family. Since the late 20th century, some native speakers have argued to use the traditional Yakama name for this language, Ichishkíin Sínwit. The tribal Cultural Resources program wants to replace the word Sahaptin, which means “stranger in the land”. . In addition, the public schools and some adult education classes offer the Yakama dialect of Sahaptin.
The Yakamas actively preserve numerous elements of their heritage. A focal point is the all-purpose Cultural Heritage Center, which hosts numerous tribal projects to uphold traditional arts & crafts, history, language, literature and other topics. Powwows, celebrations and sporting events are an integral part of modern Yakama life throughout the year.
The Yakama have focused on self-sufficiency and economic independence since World War II. The federal government had acknowledged Yakama fishing rights in the treaty of 1855, but later, county and state officials opposed native fishing rights. As a result of legal battles culminating in the historic Boldt decision of 1974, the federal government reaffirmed Yakama fishing rights and made the tribe a co-manager of fishery resources with the state of Washington.
Tribal enterprises include: Heritage Inn Restaurant, Mt. Adams Furniture Factory, Production Orchards, Real Yakama Fruit Stand, Wapato Industrial Park, Yakama Forest Products, Yakama Nation Credit Enterprise, Yakama Nation Cultural Center, Yakama Nation Land Enterprise, Yakama Nation Legends Casino, and Yakama Nation RV Resort.
The tribe operates a fisheries program with about 40 employees. One of its projects is its collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy to use discontinued (radiation-free) settling ponds at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to condition about 500,000 juvenile Chinook salmon for release into the Columbia River.
The Yakama Indian Nation also co-manages the Columbia and eight other rivers with the state of Washington. The tribe has “usual and accustomed” fishing places in numerous locations in the Columbia River Basin, as well as some beyond the area. Salmon continue to be an important nutritional and symbolic commodity of the Yakama Nation.
The tribe manages 1,118,149 acres, which include 600,000 acres of timber. There also are 15,000 acres of cultivated land. In addition, the tribe irrigates 90,000 acres from the Wapato Project and leases farming and grazing acreage to non-Indians. The confederation maintains its own police force and tribal court.
The tribe fills approximately 600 full-time employment positions, and in the summer, up to 800 with such seasonal work as forestry.
Principal industries: agriculture, food processing, wood products, manufacturing.
The Yakama Indian Reservation is comprised of 1,371,918 acres. The Yakamas ceded 10,828,800 acres of ancestral homeland to the U.S. government. More than 8,800 people are enrolled in the Yakama confederation of tribes, and there are more than 13,700 people living on or close by the reservation.
City: Toppenish, population 6,550, elevation 757.
County: Yakima, population 184,400, 7,546 Native American or 20% of nonwhite and 4% of total population. 4,271 square miles.).
County’s assessed value averages $1,623 an acre.
Rainfall 8.3, temperatures 36-62 (at Yakama)