Plateau Indians

Plateau Indians

The Plateau Natives live in the area between the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains and north of the Great Basin. Much of this area is high flat land, but there are also mountains, canyons, and many rivers and valleys. Part of this area is now the eastern part of the state of Washington, [Washington] , including the place that is now the city of Walla Walla. Some of the tribal names were Snake, Cayuse, Umatilla, Yakama, Spokane, Palouse, Kootenai/Ktunaxa, and Walla Walla; all familiar place names in this area today. The people of the Plateau moved from place to place throughout the year to gather edible vegetables and fruits, including camas, bitterroots, serviceberry, chokecherry, huckleberry, and wild strawberries. The gathering of these plants is still a traditional way of life among many of the people of these tribes today.

They made woven bags of grasses, such as ryegrass, bear grass, or hemp. The bags, which varied in shape and size, were used for carrying a harvest, transporting items, or for carrying personal belongings.

All clothing, tools and utensils used by the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Native people were made from things provided by nature.

Tools were made from wood, stone and bone. Arrows for hunting were made from wood and tipped with arrow-heads chipped from special rocks. Antlers from animals were used for digging roots. For their tepees, they used poles and covered them with animal skins or mats woven from reeds.

Later, they used metal items like pots, needles, and guns from trade with Europeans in addition to their natural tools.

Because of their love of the earth and eye for beauty, the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Native people decorated the everyday things and special ceremonial articles with beautiful designs. Each had special purposes, they didn't just make them for fun. They wove strong bags that they used to gather, prepare and store food. Moccasins and other clothes were made from animal skins. Beads and porcupine quills were used to decorate many things.

Today the Natives still make their traditional clothing, bags, baskets, and other items. Although some knowledge of the art has been lost in the past, it is still an important part of their way of life. Mothers and grandmothers decorate their children's celebration and dancing costumes. Many different beaded things, drums, woven bags and other crafts are used in traditional celebrations and special occasions.

Their homes were movable tepees made of poles covered with mats made of tule (pronounced too-lee) reeds, a tall, tough reed that grows marshy areas and sometimes called bulrush. In winter they made more permanent homes. They dug a pit a few feet into the ground and constructed a framework of poles over it which was then covered with the tule mats. Earth was piled up around and partially over the structure to provide insulation. The large winter lodges that were shared by several families were rectangular at the base and triangular above. They were built with several layers of tules; as the top layers of tule absorbed moisture, they swelled to keep moisture from reaching lower layers and the inside of the lodge. In later years, canvas was used instead of tule mats.

In addition to hunting and gathering, these people were fishermen, with salmon making up a major part of their food supply. When horses came to the area, the world of the Plateau people expanded, allowing them to trade with the tribes on the plains east of the Rocky Mountains for things such as bison meat and hides. Groups of hunters rode far to hunt bison, deer, and elk.

The Cayuse were the Natives who lived in the area of the plateau where Walla Walla is today. Their territory was at the crossroads of the Oregon country. The Indian and trapping trails from north, south, east and west crossed their lands. The Plateau Natives lived near the great Columbia River which served as a highway for many of the Native tribes. The Plateau Natives used bows and arrows as hunting tools.

External links

* [ Indian Tribes of the Columbia Plateau - National Park Service]
* [ Encyclopaedia Britannica, Plateau Indian]

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