Umatilla, Walla Walla & Cayuse
Traditional Culture
  Who's Who
Since Time Immemorial
All My Relations
Camp Life & Seasonal Round
Horses, Trade, & Travel
Cultural Continuity
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Sovereignty & Tribal Government
Arts and Artists
Recommended Web Sites

  Relationship with U.S.
  Lewis & Clark and the Early Fur Trade
Establishment of Fort Nez Perces
Life at Ft. Walla Walla
Missionaries and Early Settlers
Making Treaties
The Shrinking Reservation
References Cited


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Antone Minthorn, former Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes recalls when the casino was built…

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Antone Minthorn discusses the return of the salmon and the tribal children whom he hopes will someday manage them…

Umatilla Basin Project, courtesy of the Confederated Umatilla Journal


Umatilla River > Culture > Sovereignty and Tribal Government
Tribal Government
The earliest photograph of the Tribes' Board of Trustees
is this one taken in 1951 of Arnold Lavadour and Steve Hall, standing, and seated, left to right, Elias Quaempts, Anna Wannassay, Edgar Forrest, Louis McFarland, David Liberty and Richard Burke. Courtesy of the Tomastslikt Cultural Institute
We, the people of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in the State of Oregon, do hereby ordain and establish this Constitution and Bylaws.


The tribal organization shall be called the "Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation", and shall include Indians of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes.


The purpose and powers of the Confederated Tribes shall be, within law, to exercise and protect all existing and future tribal rights arising from any source whether treaty, federal statute, state statute, common law, or otherwise; to achieve a maximum degree of self-government in all tribal affairs; and to protect and promote the interests of the Indians of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.


This Constitution and Bylaws, having been proposed and duly ratified by the adult voters of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Oregon, on November 4, 1949, at a referendum called by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, is herewith approved.

William E. Warne, Assistant Secretary of the Interior
Washington D.C., December 7, 1949
From left: Wish-low-too-la-tin (Umatilla Chief Raymond Burke), Wet-yat-muss-till-lie-la-kop-pit (Walla Walla Chief William Burke), Uma-pie-ma (Cayuse Chief Jesse Jones), and Peo-Peo-Mox-Mox (Walla Walla Chief Carl Sampson).
Courtesy of Confederated Umatilla Journal

These ceremonial tribal chiefs are descendents of past tribal leaders (or headmen) of the Umatilla,Cayuse and Walla Walla people, representing the CTUIR in the historic style of dress, known as "regalia".

Visit our tribal government website:
This is the official page of the confederated tribes' tribal government.


"It is but fifty years since the first white man came among you, those were Lewis and Clark who came down the Big River — the Columbia. Next came Mr. Hunt and his party, then came the Hudson Bay Co. who were traders. Next came missionaries; these were followed by emigrants with wagons across the plains; and now we have a good many settlers in the country below you.

"Who can say that this is mine and that is yours? The white man will come to enjoy these blessings with you; what shall we do to protect you and preserve peace? There are but few whites here now, there will be many, let us like wise men, act so as to prevent trouble" (General Palmer: 1855 Treaty).

Joel Palmer,
Cayuse Indian War
Peace Commissioner
and Superintendent
of Indian Affairs,
ca. 1860 (ORHI 362).
Website for more info
on Gen. Joel Palmer:

"As long as we are diligent in protecting our treaty rights and interests, we will survive and prosper" (Himéeqis Káa'awn -Antone Minthorn). We are adaptive to the forces of change. Since the formal establishment of our land base, a new political consciousness has emerged among our people.

"Now we are a sovereign nation. We have always sought to protect our treaty rights, homelands, and cultural lifeways. Throughout our history, our men and women leaders have always responded to the most vital questions of our time.

"By the 1940's, our leaders forged a clear path for our future by bringing into existence a new system of governance. Today, as in times past, our Tribal leaders are guiding us into the 21st century" (Tomastslikt Cultural Institute exhibit).

"What I'm saying is sovereignty, and I think as you look at history, you look at the development of that, is an esoteric word. It's abstract. Too often it's used just in rhetoric. I think of younger people who would have been children of mine need to understand what that is about. The word is empty when it's used in the rhetoric, in the halls and in the conflicts with non-Indians and the conflicting jurisdictions. Sovereignty is an exercise of tribal government and the related part of that is you are not part of that sovereignty unless you are a member of that tribe. It's not an individual attribute. An individual can't be sovereign" (Ron Halfmoon: Convocation 2000).

Today the Tribes attempt to rebuild the economy mostly through gambling and tourism. Places like Tamastslikt Cultural Institute help to carry on the culture and history of the Plateau Indians. The Three Confederated Tribes work to balance the demands of society with the need to maintain plants and animals in their homeland.

Columbia River Dams
The creation of dams along the Columbia in the 20th century flooded ancient fishing and gathering spots and dented the Plateau Indian culture further. And irrigation systems for farming had practically dried some rivers, like the Umatilla.

Visit the Center for
Columbia River History Website

Now, after a 70 year absence, salmon populations have been revived in the Umatilla River in northeastern Oregon. For eight of the past eleven years, enough fish have bypassed the dams and returned to provide a salmon fishing season for both Indian and non-Indian residents. Even though the dams along the Columbia were responsible for the destruction of an Indian way of life (to people here, salmon are a cultural as well as a natural resource), the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and local farmers and irrigators have successfully worked together to restore salmon and maintain the agricultural economy of the area.

CRITFC website (Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission)

Celilio Falls
The Dalles
John Day
Willow Creek
Background: Indian Paintbrush in the Wallowa. K. Lugthart photo.