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yakama nation history

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE YAKAMA NATION

The Yakama Nation is a confederation of 14 tribes and bands (Yakama, Palouse, Pisquouse, Wenatshapam, Klikatat, Klinquit, Kow-was-say-ee, Li-ay-was, Skin-pah, Wish-ham, Shyiks, Ochechotes, Kah-milt-pay, and Se-ap-cat) with over 10,000 enrolled members. The reservation covers an area of 1.2 million acres. The nation is governed by the Yakama Tribal Council, which consists of representatives from the 14 tribes and bands. They speak the Ichishkiin language, often referred to as Sahaptin by linguists.

The Yakama’s signed a treaty with the U.S. government on June 9, 1855 that ceded 11.5 million acres to the United States. The treaty stipulated two years to allow the tribes and bands to relocate onto the new reservation, but Governor Isaac Stevens threw open Indian lands for White settlers less than two weeks after the treaty was signed. This kicked off a war between the Yakama’s and the United States that lasted three years and culminated with all Indians being forced to live within the confines of a reservation that contributed to social breakdowns, ill health, alcoholism, and high infant mortality rates.

In the early 1900s almost all the farmable lands that belonged to the Yakama’s were either purchased or, in most cases, stolen out of Indian hands. The towns of Toppenish and Wapato were established on these stolen lands.

There are three major religions in the Yakama Nation-the Longhouse faith, The Indian Shaker Church, and Christianity.