Yakama Tribe

Yakama Indian Warrior

This article contains interesting facts, pictures and information about the life of the Yakama Native American Indian Tribe, aka Yakima, of the Columbia River Plateau region.

The Yakama Tribe
Summary and Definition: The semi-nomadic Yakama tribe were fishers, hunter-gatherers and traders of the Plateau cultural group who joined extensive inter-tribal commerce with the tribes of the plateau. The Yakama lands extended in all directions along the Cascade Mountain Range to the Columbia River in Washington. Chief Kamiakin led his people in the Yakima War (1855-1858).

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Facts about the Yakama Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Yakama Native American Indian tribe.

Find answers to questions like where did the Yakama tribe live, what clothes did they wear, what did they eat and who were the names of their most famous leaders? Discover what happened to the Yakama tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What language did the Yakama tribe speak?
The Yakama tribe spoke in a Sahaptian dialect of the Penutian language and called themselves Pakintlema meaning "people of the gap," or Waptailmim meaning "people-of-the-narrows," reflecting the location of their villages near Union Gap on the Yakima River. After the introduction of the horse the Yakama people hunted buffalo on the Great Plains and adopted the some of the lifestyle elements of this cultural group. The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, or simply the Yakama Nation (formerly Yakima), was a consolidation of 14 bands, or tribes.


Where did the Yakama tribe live?
The Yakama are people of the Plateau Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map in the modern day state of Washington. The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Yakama tribe.

  • The Yakama tribe lived along the banks of the Columbia, Wenatchee, and northern branches of the Yakima Rivers

  • Land: Fast flowing rivers, lakes, forests and prairies

  • Climate: Warm summers and cold, snowy winters

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

  • Fish: Salmon, steelhead trout

  • Natural Resources: Berries, bulbs, roots and seeds

Map showing Plateau Indian Tribes

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Yakama tribe?
The Yakama tribe lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle fishing, hunting, or gathering wild plants for food. The Yakama tribe lived in pit houses in the winter and tule-mat lodges or tepees in the summer. The Lewis and Clark expedition encountered the Plateau Yakama tribe during their explorations in 1806. The Yakama adopted many of the ideas of the Great Plains Indians including the use of the tepee which were covered with buffalo hides and some items of clothing also made from buffalo hides.

The Yakama tribe and the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Lewis and Clark encountered the Yakama tribe in October 1805 and met Chief Kamiakin, the war leader of the Yakama Nation.

Picture of a Tule-mat lodge

What did the Yakama tribe live in?
The Yakama were semi-nomadic and needed shelters that were easy to set up and take down. They lived in one of three 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 winter shelters that were built with logs and sealed for insulation with earth (sod) and grasses. They were built below ground with an entrance and ladder at the top
  • The summer shelters were the tepee and tule-mat lodge, both above ground.
  • Tepees were covered with animal skins but the tule-mat lodge was covered with mats of strong, durable, tule reeds (bulrushes).

What transportation did the Yakama use? Dugout Canoes
When the tribe inhabited the Plateau region they built dugout canoes made from the hollowed-out logs of large trees. The men hollowed logs with controlled fire that softened the timber so they could carve and shape their canoe to have a flat bottom with straight sides.  The canoe was perfect means of transportation for travel along fast streams and shallow waters of the Columbia, Wenatchee and Yakima Rivers.

Dugout Canoe

What food did the Yakama tribe eat?
The food of the Yakama tribe included salmon and trout and a variety of meats from the animals and birds they hunted. They supplemented their protein diet with seeds, roots, nuts and fruits.

What clothes did the Yakama wear?
The clothes worn by the Yakama men and women of the tribe were similar to the clothing of the Nez Perce - please refer to this article for details.

What weapons did the Yakama use?
The weapons used were spears, lances, clubs, knives and bows and arrows. The Yakama also used shields for defensive purposes.

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

The Yakima War
Tensions amongst the Native Indians throughout the Plateau region were increasing due to the white encroachment of tribal lands.  In 1847 The tribe fought with their Native Indian allies in the Cayuse War (1847-1855). In 1855 Isaac Stevens (March 25, 1818 – September 1, 1862), the governor of Washington Territory, negotiated a treaty with the Yakama. The Yakima treaty was signed on 9 July 1855 and ceded more than 10 million acres to the United States government in exchange for over 1 million acres of reservation lands in which no white settlers could travel or settle without Yakama approval. Governor Stevens opened Native 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 and the Yakima War (1855-1858) erupted. It was fought by members of the Native Indian alliance including the Yakama, Cayuse, Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Nez Perce tribes. Their leaders were Chief Kamiakin, Chief Leschi and Chief Kanaskat. The Battle of Toppenish Creek in Yakima Valley was fought on October 5, 1855 and was a major victory for Chief Kamiakin. The Battle at Union Gap was the second engagement of the Yakima War and fought on November 9 and 10, 1855. 700 American soldiers, under the command of Major Gabriel J. Rains, discovered Chief Kamiakin's village of about 300 warriors and the Yakama tribe were forced to retreat with their women and children. In 1857 the Fraser Canyon gold Rush began after gold was discovered on the Thompson River in British Columbia at its confluence with the Nicoamen River. White prospectors rushed to the area and in 1858 the Yakima War escalated to the other Native Indian tribes. The U.S. Army drove them further east of the Cascades and across the Snake River. The Battle of Four Lakes on September 1, 1858 saw the end of the Yakima War. The losses were so great that the Native Indians were forced to sue for peace and settle onto reservations. Some members of the Yakama tribe then participated in the short lived and ill-fated Coeur d'Alene War.  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.

Chief Kamiakin

Who were the famous chiefs of the Yakama tribe?
The most famous leaders and chiefs of the Yakama tribe included Chief Kamiakin, Chief Qualchan and Chief Leschi of the Nisqually Native American tribe.

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

Yakama History Timeline

  • 1750's: The Yakama acquire the horse and their lifestyle changed as they were able to travel to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo.

  • 1805: Contact was made between the Yakama tribe and the Lewis and Clark expedition in October 1805 near the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia rivers

  • 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 founded a Presbyterian mission at Waiilatpu and made contact with the tribe

  • 1840's: Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, was sent by U.S. government to explore the Pacific Coast.

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

  • 1845: The white settlers brought various diseases to the Native Indians who lived in the surrounding areas of the Oregon Trail

  • 1847: Many of the Yakama tribe are wiped out by a devastating series of measles and smallpox epidemics

  • 1847: The Whitman Massacre led to the outbreak of the Cayuse War

  • 1847: The Yakama tribe fought with their Native Indian allies in the Cayuse War (1847-1855)

  • 1855: Isaac Stevens (March 25, 1818 – September 1, 1862) , governor of Washington Territory, negotiated a treaty with the Yakama.

  • 1855: The Yakima treaty was signed on 9 July 1855

  • 1855: Governor Stevens opened Native Indian lands for white settlers less than two weeks after the treaty was signed. Yakama chief, Chief Kamiakin, called upon the tribes to oppose the declaration.

  • 1855: The Yakima War (1855-1858) erupted

  • 1855: The Battle of Toppenish Creek in Yakima Valley was fought on October 5, 1855 and was a major victory for Chief Kamiakin and the Yakama tribe

  • 1855: The Battle at Union Gap was fought on November 9 and 10, 1855.

  • 1857: The Fraser Canyon gold Rush

  • 1858: The Yakima War escalated to the other Native Indian tribes

  • 1858: The Battle of Four Lakes on September 1, 1858 saw the end of the Yakima War

  • 1858: The Coeur d'Alene War (May 17, 1858 - September 5, 1858)

  • 1858: The events at "Horse Slaughter Camp" concluded the Coeur d'Alene and Yakima Wars.

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

  • 1860: The first government school for Native American Indians was established on the Yakima Reservation, Washington Territory

  • 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

  • 1933: The Yakama tribe was organized as the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation.

  • 1994: the Yakima Nation adopted the spelling of its name as "Yakama," which they feel is the more correct historical spelling of their name.


  • Interesting Facts and information about the way the Yakama people lived
  • The clothes worn by men and women
  • Description of the homes and the type of food the Yakama would eat
  • Fast Facts and info about the Yakama
  • Names of famous chiefs and leaders of the Yakama tribe
  • Interesting Homework resource for kids on the history of the Yakama

Pictures and Videos of Native American Indians and their Tribes
The Yakama Tribe was one of the most famous tribes of Native American Indians. Discover the vast selection of pictures on the subject of the tribes of Famous Native Americans such as the Yakama nation. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes, such as the Yakama tribe, that can be used as a really useful educational resource for kids and children of all ages.. We hope you enjoy watching the video - just click and play - a great social studies homework resource for kids .


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