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Yakima War
Date 1855-1858
Location Washington Territory
Result United States victory
Flag of the United States (1851-1858).svg United States Yakama
Commanders and leaders
United States Isaac Stevens
United States Joel Palmer
United States Colonel George Wright
Chief Kamiakin
Chief Leschi
Chief Kanaskat
Units involved
Battalion of Territorial Volunteers
9th US Infantry
3rd US Artillery
6th US Infantry
4th US Infantry
Yakama tribe
Walla Walla tribe
Umatilla tribe
Nez Perce tribe
Cayuse tribe

The Yakima War (1855-1858) was a conflict between the United States and the Yakama, a Sahaptian-speaking people of the Northwest Plateau, then part of Washington Territory. It took place in the southern interior of present-day Eastern Washington.


This conflict is also referred to as the Yakima Native American War of 1855 and is often seen as a continuation of the Cayuse War, which began in 1848. Its last phase is also known as the Coeur d'Alene War or Palouse War, as it involved other tribes of the Northwest Plateau. Together the Cayuse and Yakima wars overall were the largest of the many Native American Wars in the newly declared Oregon (1848) and Washington (1853) territories. They were organized by the United States in the wake of the partition of the Oregon Country with Great Britain by the Treaty of Washington of 1846. The later Nez Perce War is generally more well-known.


In the mid-19th century, the Yakama Native Americans lived along the Columbia and Yakima Rivers on the plateau north of the Columbia, on the eastern or inland side of the Cascade Range. In addition to long-standing relations with neighboring tribes, they also had a long-established trade relationship with the British Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), based out of Forts Vancouver, Walla Walla and Okanagan. This dated to their first trade with European/whites via the Canadian traders of the North West Company (later absorbed by the HBC). The Cayuse and Yakama and other peoples of the region, all former clients of the HBC and friendly with the "King George" (British) and "Pasiooks" (French Canadian/Metis) traders of the Hudson's Bay, faced different attitudes and policies for dealing with aboriginal peoples when they encountered United States representatives. With the added pressure of an impending flood of settlers expected by the United States due to passage of a Homestead Act, this led to conflicts throughout the former Oregon Country.

In May and June 1855, Isaac Stevens, the first governor of the newly formed Washington Territory, and Joel Palmer, Superintendent of the Oregon Territory, enacted three treaties at the Walla Walla Council (1855). The Walla Walla, Umatilla and Cayuse tribes were coerced to move from 4,000,000 acres (16,000 km2) of tribal lands to a reservation in northeastern Oregon. Over time, this was reduced down to 95,000 acres (380 km2). In the second treaty, fourteen different tribal groups agreed to go onto the Yakama Indian Reservation, giving up a combined 29,000 square miles (75,000 km2) of land. Under the third treaty, the Nez Perce gave up land to be confined to a reservation that included parts of southeastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, and west-central Idaho. The same year gold was discovered on the recently established Yakama reservation. Conflicts erupted between encroaching white miners and tribes of the Plateau. The tribes eventually united together under the leadership of Yakama chief Kamiakin, marking the start of the Yakima War.


Cascades MassacreEdit

The Cascades Massacre on March 26, 1856 was an attempt by tribes to repel white settlers who had usurped the land of Native Americans at the Cascades Rapids. The native attackers included warriors from the Yakama, Klickitat, and Cascades tribes. Fourteen settlers and three US soldiers died in the attack, the most losses for the invading forces during the Yakima War. The United States sent reinforcements the following day to drive out the original inhabitants. The Yakima people evaded prosecution, but nine Cascades, including Chief Chenoweth, were charged and executed for treason.[1]

Puget Sound WarEdit

The U.S. Army arrived in the region in the summer of 1856. That August Robert S. Garnett supervised the construction of Fort Simcoe as a military post. Initially the conflict was limited to the Yakama, but eventually the Walla Walla and Cayuse were drawn into the war, and carried out a number of raids and battles against the American invaders.Perhaps the best known of these raids culminated in the Battle of Seattle, in which an unknown number of raiders briefly crossed the Cascade Range to engage settlers, Marines and the U.S. Navy before retiring.

Coeur d'Alene WarEdit

The last phase of the conflict, sometimes referred to as the Coeur d'Alene War, occurred in 1858. General Newman S. Clarke commanded the Department of the Pacific and sent a force under Col. George Wright to deal with the recent fighting. At the Battle of Four Lakes near Spokane, Washington in September 1858, Wright inflicted a decisive defeat on the Native Americans. He called a council of all the local Native Americans at Latah Creek (southwest of Spokane). On September 23 he imposed a peace treaty, under which most of the tribes were to go to reservations.


Kamiakin fled north to what was then the Colony of British Columbia (later a part of Canada). Twenty-four other chiefs were either hanged or shot. According to accounts by survivors, some of those who had surrendered, e.g. Qualchan, were summarily executed by the United States Army.[2] The Yakama people were forced onto a reservation south of the present city of Yakima.

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