Published on July 17, 2013 by Amy
The Klickitat (also spelled Klikitat) are a Native American tribe of the Pacific Northwest. A Shahaptian tribe, their eastern neighbors were the Yakama, who speak a closely related language. Their western neighbors were various Salishan and Chinookan tribes. Their name has been perpetuated in Klickitat County, Washington, Klickitat, Washington, Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon, and the Klickitat River, a tributary of the Columbia River.
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The Klickitat were noted for being active and enterprising traders, and served as intermediaries between the coastal tribes and those living east of the Cascade Mountains.
The ethnonym “Klikitat” is said to derive from a Chinookan word meaning “beyond,” in reference to the Rocky Mountains. The Klickitat, however, call themselves Qwû’lh-hwai-pûm meaning “prairie people” (X̣ʷáɬx̣ʷaypam).
Other names for the Klickitat include:
The ancestral lands of the Klickitat were situated north of the Columbia River, at the headwaters of the Cowlitz, Lewis, White Salmon, and Klickitat rivers, in present-day Klickitat and Skamania Counties. They occupied their later base after the Yakama crossed this river. In 1805, the Klickitat were encountered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lewis and Clark found them wintering on the Yakima and Klickitat Rivers and estimated their number at about 700.
In the early 1850s, the Klickitat Tribe raided present-day Jackson County, Oregon from the north and settled the area. Modoc, Shasta, Takelma, Latgawas, and Umpqua Indian tribes had already lived within the present boundaries of that county.
Between 1820 and 1830, an epidemic of fever struck the tribes of the Willamette Valley. The Klickitat took advantage of the drop in population in this region and crossed the Columbia River and occupied territory occupied by the Umpqua. This was not permanent, however, as they were pushed back to their original homeland.
The Klickitat War erupted in 1855. The Klickitat capitulated and joined in the Yakima treaty at Camp Stevens on June 9, 1855. They ceded their lands to the United States. Most of them settled upon the Yakima Indian Reservation.