The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs is comprised of three tribes: The Wasco, Paiute, and Warm Springs Tribes. To begin we tell the story of the tribes on the Columbia River.
The Columbia River Plateau and Basin provided a rich life for the River people of the region. A dynamic culture flourished along this artery of life. The people shared similar languages, cultures, diets, religions, a history of interaction, and a sharing of common resources and trade. The Columbia River and lands provided salmon. The foothills and mountain slopes were plentiful with deer, roots and berries that sustained a healthy diet.
The Wasco bands on the Columbia River were the eastern-most group of Kiksht speaking Indians. Although they were principally fishermen, their frequent contact with other Indians throughout the region provided for abundant trade. Roots and beads were available from other River Tribes such as the Clackamas. Game, clothing and horses came from trade with Sahaptin bands such as the neighboring Warm Springs and the more distant Nez Perce. In exchange for these goods, the Wasco traded roots, berries, salmon meal and bear grass.
The Warm Springs
The Warm Springs bands who lived along the Columbia's tributaries spoke Sahaptin. Unlike the Wasco, the Warm Springs bands moved between winter and summer villages, and depended more on game, roots and berries. However, salmon was also an important staple for the Warm Springs bands and, like the Wasco, they built elaborate scaffolding over waterfalls which allowed them to harvest fish with long-handled dip nets. Contact between the Warm Springs bands and the Wasco was frequent, and, although they spoke different languages and observed different customs, they could converse and traded heavily.
The lifestyle of the Paiutes was considerably different from that of the Wasco and Warm Springs bands. Their high-plains existence required that they migrate further and more frequently for game, and fish was not an important part of their diet. The settlement of the Paiutes on the Warm Springs Reservation began in 1879 when 38 Paiutes moved to Warm Springs from the Yakama Reservation.
Early Reservation Years
Traditional ways of life changed greatly after the Wasco and Warm Springs tribes relocated onto the Warm Springs Reservation. Salmon wasn't as plentiful as it had been on the Columbia, and the harsher climate and poor soil conditions made farming more difficult. They quickly found that their former economic system was no longer workable. In addition, federal policies to assimilate the Indian people forced them to abandon many of their customary ways in favor of modern schools, sawmills and other infrastructure foreign to the tribes.
Spiritual and Cultural Traditions
Songs, dances, story-telling, feasts, ceremonies, prayers and celebrations establish paths for the rights of passage among societies. In Warm Springs country the people have successfully kept alive many traditions that are wrapped in spiritual and cultural significance. Traditional feasts, prayer songs in the longhouses, and stories and legends of Coyote and Animal People are shared and passed down from one generation to another.
In Warm Springs Country, we are finding the paths to revitalize the three languages of the Warm Springs Tribes. Language is the heart and soul of communication and heritage. Fluent speakers under the age of fifty years old are no longer with us. Much needed work is being done with traditional culture to bring language back through the Tribal Language Program. Coming together and revitalizing and learning the languages of the Warm Springs Tribes the Kiksht (Wasco), Numu (Paiute) and Ichishkin (Sahaptin) increases the circle of knowledge.
This is a brief history. Please visit us in person or see our website for more information. Today, we will end this story until we meet again
1233 Veterans Street, PO Box C, Warm Springs, OR 97761
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