Tribe Name

The Cayuse Indians of the Pacific Northwest were the first Indian tribe to acquire horses in the area from European explorers in the 1700s. With this advantage, the Cayuse soon became one of the most affluent native american tribes in the Columbia Plateau. By the 1800s, the Cayuse adopted much of the plains Indian lifestyle. Becoming more hostile towards their enemies. Up until 1847 when a small group of Cayuse Indians attacked a mission near Walla Walla known as the "Whitman Massacre". This event lead to the Walla Walla Council and relocation to the Umatilla Reservation. Within the reservation, the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla tribes banded together to form the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, who still lead the reservation to this date.


  • 13,000 BCE: First settlement of the Columbia Plateau
  • 1700s: Acquisition of horses
  • Late 1700s: Encounter with Plains Indian tribes, cultural syncretism
  • 1805: Encounter with Lewis and Clark, first encounter wit white men
  • 1814: Beginning of fur trade
  • 1830s: Christian missionaries begin settling the area
  • 1836: Cayuse Indians at their peak
  • 1847: Whitman Massacar, first violent event between Native Americans and white men in the northwest
  • 1848: Cayuse War, first conflict between Indians and the U.S. Government in the Pacific Northwest
  • 1855: Walla Walla Council, relocation to the Umatilla Reservation


  • Located in Southeastern Washington and Northeastern Oregon along the Columbia River
  • In 1855, the tribes of the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla Indians were relocated to the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, OR



  • Cayuse
  • Nez Perce

Social Organization and Government

  • The different tribal bands were lead by a single chief, the chiefs collectively made up the tribal council
  • Society was governed much like an oligarchy, where a small group of people (the chiefs) made all of the decisions for the tribe
  • Women were viewed as equals to men when it came to social status
    • Women had the same rights as a man and could hold a leadership position within the tribal council


  • Pre 18th Century
    • Bark and fur breeches
    • Aprons
    • Ponchos
  • Post 18th Century
    • Long Dresses
    • Shirts and leggings
    • Moccasins
    • Tanned skins


Diet and Food Sources

  • Spring/ Summer
    • Salmon
    • Berries
    • Camas Root
  • Fall/ Winter
    • Deer
    • Antelope
    • Bear
    • Horse
    • Dried/ smoked fish and berries


  • Summer homes consisted of woven mats of grass constructed over small temporary shelter
  • After contact with Plains Indians, the Cayuse adopted the standard tepee in the late 1700s
  • Winter lodges (Tules) were long lodges of woven mats and wood, usually up to 80 ft. long


  • Pre European contact
    • Canoes
    • Dog sleds
    • Walking
  • Post European contact
    • Horses

Tools and Weapons

  • Pre European contact
    • Bows and arrows
    • Stone axes and knives
    • Bone fishing hooks and sewing needles
    • Spears
  • Post European contact
    • Horses
    • Guns
  • Native American tools during this time were similar to the tools of foreign nations in the sense that they were highly specialized for one specific task. The Cayuse Indians had a tool for just about anything.

Economic Activities and Trade

  • The Cayuse acted as a middle man between different tribes thanks to the acquisition of horses.
  • They often traded many goods such as
    • Horses
    • Weapons
    • Food
    • Decorative baskets
    • Other luxury goods

Religious Beliefs

  • Many of the Plateau Indians believed in Animism
    • All things, living or nonliving, have a spirit
  • One of their creation stories was the story of Coyote and Wishpoosh
    • The Cayuse believed they were created from the arms of Wishpoosh, so they could be strong and warlike

Recreation and Games

  • Lots of gambling
  • Games were often revolved around religion
  • Lots of basket weaving
    • The Cayuse were highly sought after for there finely crafted baskets
  • Snow Snake
    • You slide a stick in the snow, and the person who slides their stick the farthest wins

Works Cited