In the Treaty of 1855, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla
Indian Reservation (CTUIR) reserved the right to hunt, fish and
gather in its usual and accustom places. During the treaty negotiations,
Governor Stevens assured all those at the treaty council that they
would continue to have access to and the right to hunt buffalo.
Less than six months later, Stevens negotiated and signed the Blackfeet
Fort Benton Treaty of 1855 in which an intertribal hunting area
was defined, which is part of the CTUIRs usual and accustom
buffalo hunting area. Generally speaking, the territory of the Blackfeet,
Shoshone, and Crow were the areas that were commonly used for buffalo
hunting by the CTUIR. These are the areas and tribes with which
the CTUIR has the greatest amount of evidence for past partnerships
and disputes within their travels to hunt buffalo.
Researchers agree that the CTUIR hunted buffalo before acquiring
the horse and expanded their buffalo hunting after acquiring the
horse. The CTUIR were part of the buffalo task groups that could
number over 1000 people when going east to hunt buffalo.
The oral tradition of the CTUIR still contains stories and knowledge
of traveling to and hunting buffalo. Going to buffalo
has long been a common phrase heard in the traditional oral stories
told by tribal elders on the Umatilla Reservation. The phrase, in
itself, can stand alone and resonate with specific meaning and understanding.
When placed in a historical context, the phrase also figures into
larger stories of travel, trade, hunting, warfare and treaty making.
In addition, the historic record provided by early explorers,
trappers, military, missionaries and settlers provide accounts of
the CTUIR traveling to the Rocky Mountains and into the Plains to
The close cultural relationship that the CTUIR share with the
Nez Perce tribe historically aligned the Nez Perce and the Cayuse
in times of peace, war and in particular, in traveling east to hunt
buffalo. The CTUIR are a cultural group that has been historically
understudied by researchers and is often left out or misinterprete
as Nez Perce in cultural and historical explanation.
is physical evidence in the archaeological record of buffalo in
the region documented in archaeological reports, such as in Gerald
Schroedls, The Archaeological Occurrence of Bison in
the Southern Plateau. As Schroedl demonstrated, not only is
a continuity of buffalo hunting from prehistoric to historic times
depicted in studies such as his, but evidence that buffalo remains
from the Plains were found here on the Plateau is also true. Conversely,
archaeological archaeological materials from the Plateau have been
found at archaeological sites in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Rock image sites in the CTUIRs homeland
depict warriors on horseback hunting buffalo.
Buffalo hunting by the CTUIR has been a long tradition that
is still an active part of the tribal communities memory and
oral tradition. These oral histories and accounts of buffalo hunting
keep the tradition of going to buffalo alive.
Several excerpts from the CTUIR Cultural Resources Protection
Programs oral history archive come in the form of a mention
of buffalo hunting within the larger context of an interview while
others relate cultural information and entire stories of buffalo
One traditional story passed down through the generations among
particular families on the Umatilla Reservation speaks to the relationship
the Cayuse people had with the Crow people as hunting partners.
The story goes on to inform that the Crow valued and highly sought
after the Cayuse horse. This special breed of horse, as the story
implies, allowed the Cayuse people to become exceptionally skilled
There was one man named Tehéysamqin. He was
from Nixyáawii. He was a real Cayuse Indian. He won a horse
gambling in the stick game. It was a real Cayuse horse. And he decided
to go on to the buffalo country to hunt buffalo. And there was only
a few of them, hunters and their families. And they traveled to
the Crow people. And there they camped. And the camp crier from
the Crow started making the announcement. He said, Everyone
get ready! We will hunt the buffalo early in the morning.
So they all got ready, just the few Cayuses that there were. And
when the morning came, they arrived there, to where they were coming
together. And their leader, or hunt boss, said to line up the horses
in a line. And so the Cayuse hunters started coming over. And the
Crow hunters saw them with their horses and they laughed at them.
Because they thought they were just pitiful. And the Crow leader
said, Get ready now! Were going to charge! And
so he gave the signal and they all started going or running. And
all the Crow hunters took off first and the Cayuse were following
behind. And they were running for some time, for
some distance, and the Crow horses started to give out. And the
Cayuse that were behind now passed them by. They were in front.
And there were only just a few - a handful of Cayuse - and they
were leading them. And these Cayuse, they got the best, or first
choice, in the kill. And so they were the first to finish their
hunt. And the others, the Crow, were hunting all day. And so the
Cayuse, they returned back to their camp and prepared their kill,
or their meat. And so a number of days passed and they were finishing
up there. And then one hunter of the Crows started coming to their
camp. And they would bring things to trade for their horses. And
Tehéysamqin said, No. And many more
started coming to the camp in the same way asking to trade. And
the Crow, they, the chief, one of the chiefs piled up all these
things. A big pile, war bonnets and other things like that asking
to trade and again he said No. And so, Tehéysamqin
informed them: We will not trade our horses. Because they
are precious, or valuable, to us. They feed our families. And they
help us to live, or survive. So this is why I say no. Because well
never give up our horses. And so, this is how Tehéysamqin
hunted with the Crow. And in the same way too, the Cayuse horse
came out on top of all of those. And so, that is the story.
That is all [OHP247].
Information provided by the Cultural Resourses Protection Program
of the Department of Natural Resources for the Confederated Tribes
of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.