The information on this page
has been taken from a former exhibit called Dark
Times, Bright Visions. Although this exhibit
is no longer on view, we welcome you to tour highlights
of it online.
For many generations before
the first contact with white explorers, tribes of
Native Americans inhabited the Central Plateau between
the Cascade and Rocky Mountain Ranges. Their
cycle of living was closely tied to nature.
Food was the major material
concern and Native American households in this region
migrated from place to place gathering various foods.
In early spring, they travelled to root grounds and
dug for bitterroot, camas, and other edible root plants.
When the salmon came, they congregated at spots where
the Creator had provided natural fish traps.
Major fishing spots were at Prosser Falls (Tapteil),
the Wenatshapam fishery (near Wenatchee), Celilo Falls
on the Columbia, Selah, Soo-nooks on the Tieton River
where Rimrock Dam now stands, and on the upper reaches
of Lake Cle Elum.
Deer, elk, and game
were sought in the higher country, and just before winter,
fields of huckleberries that grew near the timber line were
harvested. In winter, the families gathered at traditional
riverside sites, living off the foods which they had gathered
and prepared throughout the year. Their diet was well-balanced,
and peoples of the Central Plateau were healthy.
The Central Plateau
Peoples had acquired horses from Spanish explorers by the
early 1700s, and they became highly skilled horsemen.
Horses allowed longer expeditions and led to increased contact
with other peoples.
This way of life was in rhythm with nature. Even the
tools and utensils used in hunting, fishing, and gathering
were made from materials borrowed from the earth.
of Land Ownership
When settlers from other
countries came to North America, they brought with
them centuries-old traditions of land ownership.
These European views allowed individuals to fence,
plow, and hold legal title to the land.
Native Americans believed that land had both spiritual
and material value; it was to be used for the common
good by all and held in trust for future generations.
This differing philosophy
was one of the basic reasons Native Americans and
the newly arrived settlers from Europe eventually
came into serious conflict. Native Americans
were reluctant to surrender the land to people who
plowed the soil, and the new white settlers were reluctant
to allow Native Americans to hunt, fish, and roam
anywhere they wished.
This conflict occurred
throughout North America since the 1600s, but it did
not come to a head in this area until the mid-1800s.
At that time, increasing waves of white settlement
from the East pressured officials of the new Washington
Territory to grant titles to land. In the early
1850s, local tribes could no longer ignore the whites
and negotiations began between Washington Territory
representatives and Tribal leaders.
To tour the exhibit
Dark Times,Bright Visions, click on
the above image
- You must have
Flash Player installed
June 9, 1855, the tribes of the Central Plateau ceded 16,920
square miles of their homeland in exchange for a 1,875 square
mile reservation along the banks of the Yakima River in
what is now Yakima County. 14 separate tribes, some
of whom did not even speak the same language, were joined
together on the new reservation to form the Confederated
Tribes of the Yakama Nation.
The Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation are:
||Yakama (Upper and Lower Bands)
Treaty of 1855 was ratified by the United States Senate
on March 8, 1859, and proclaimed by President James Buchanan
on April 18, 1859.
The years 1880
to 1940 were dark times for American Indian peoples.
Even though treaties had resettled most Native Americans
on reservations, Indians still made whites uncomfortable.
Their lives and values were different from those of the
whites, who felt that Indians should live as they did.
educate the Indian is to prepare him for abolishment of
tribal relations, to take his land in severalty, and in
the sweat of his brow and by the toil of hands to carve
out, as his white brother has done, a home
for himself and family.
-U.S. Commissioner of
Indian Affairs, 1903
Beginning in the 1870s, Native American children were forced
to attend often faraway U. S. Government operated boarding
schools, where they were taught to reject their parents'
ways. Through a process called assimilation, the government
deliberately labored to exterminate Indian culture and replace
it with European culture.
cultures did persist across the nation. Deep rooted
Yakama artistic traditions and technologies, which had been
used for generations to make cooking utensils, storage containers,
and clothing, were adapted to make items that were sold
to the new white settlers. Many of the objects in
this exhibition illustrate the resilency of the Central
Plateau American Indian peoples, who maintained and adapted
their traditions through changing times.