Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy. The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.
Centuries before Euro-American settlers migrated to the Yakima Valley, bands of indigenous people roamed throughout the Yakima Valley and Central Washington making it their home. Plentiful salmon and game supported these extended families. Their diets were also complimented by crops and natural foods that could be cultivated or found within the region. In the early 1800s Anglo exploration and trade changed tribal cultures forever. With the onset of white settlement and the establishment of trading posts throughout the Pacific Northwest, it was only a matter of time before native tribes were absorbed by the United States.
In 1855, 14 bands came together to sign a treaty and form the Yakama Nation. These people ceded large parts of their original territories in exchange for a permanent reservation at the base of Mount Adams near the Yakima River. Today the tribe manages 1,118,149 acres, which include 600,000 acres of timber. There also are 15,000 acres of cultivated land. In addition, the tribe irrigates 90,000 acres from the Wapato Project and leases farming and grazing acreage to non-Indians. The confederation maintains its own police force and tribal court. Today the Yakama Nation’s headquarters is in Toppenish.
The Yakamas have over 10,000 enrolled members who generally live between Yakima and the Columbia Rivers. Many Yakamas still enjoy fishing, hunting, food gathering, and other traditions. The Yakamas also operate a sawmill, a casino, an RV park, a juice processing facility, and numerous other enterprises that help provide their members employment opportunities. In addition to these enterprises, the Yakamas own one of the nation’s oldest Native American museums encompassing 12,000 square feet of exhibit space, restaurant, theatre, and meeting rooms. Visitors and residents can enjoy the museum’s exhibits and participate in events that teach people about the Yakama’s proud heritage. The Yakamas have an indelible impact on the region’s culture and history and they will undoubtedly continue to exert a major influence on our lives in the Yakima Valley.
To learn more about the Yakama Nation Museum and attractions, click here.