Published on June 3, 2012 by Amy
The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, or simply Yakama Nation (formerly Yakima), is a Native American group with nearly 10,000 enrolled members, living in Washington. Their reservation, along the Yakima River, covers an area of approximately 1.2 million acres (5,260 km²). Today the nation is governed by the Yakama Tribal Council, which consists of representatives of 14 tribes and bands.
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Many tribal members engage in ceremonial, subsistence, and commercial fishing for salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon in the Columbia River and its tributaries within land ceded by the tribe to the United States. The right to fish is protected by treaties and has been re-affirmed through court cases such as United States v. Washington (the Boldt Decision) and United States v. Oregon (Sohappy v. Smith.)
The Yakama people were similar to the other native inhabitants of the Columbia River Plateau. They were hunters and gatherers well known for trading salmon harvested from the Columbia River. In 1805 or 1806, they encountered the Lewis and Clark Expedition where the Yakima River merges with the Columbia River.
As a consequence of the Walla Walla Council (1855) and the Yakima War of 1855, the tribe was forced to move onto their present reservation. The Treaty of 1855 identified the 14 confederated tribes and bands of the Yakama including “Yakama, Palouse,” (now written “Palus”), “Pisquouse, Wenatshapam, Klikatat, Klinquit, Kow-was-say-ee, Li-ay-was, Skin-pah, Wish-ham, Shyiks, Ochechotes, Kah-milt-pay, and Se-ap-cat, 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.
Yakama is a northwestern dialect of Sahaptin, a Sahaptian language of the Plateau Penutian family. In recent years there has been a concerted effort by some native speakers to use a traditional Yakama name for this language, which is “Ichishkíin Sínwit”. This usage has been promoted by the tribal Cultural Resources program to supersede the word Sahaptin, which means “stranger in the land”.