After 1863, the Nez Perce Reservation lay just east of Oregon, in Idaho, and the Warm Springs Reservation was located in central Oregon, south of The Dalles. So the Umatilla Indian Reservation, established by the 1855 treaty and located east of Pendleton, was the only one in northeast Oregon. Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla peoples began moving there in 1860.
The reservation quickly shrank as white farmers and townspeople demanded that it be “opened up.” The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 both divided tribal land into individual allotments that Indians sometimes sold and made the non-allotted land available to non-Indians. By 1890 only a little over 150,000 acres remained, and much of that was lost in the coming years or was rented to non-Indian farmers. The reservation had about 1,000 residents in the late nineteenth century, many of whom kept gardens and cattle while also engaging in fishing, hunting, and gathering. Catholic and Protestant schools educated their children and white teachers tried to get them to dress, speak, and act as Caucasians.
The Indian wars and the seizing of Indian land were dramatic episodes in a tradition of outsiders bringing rapid change to northeastern Oregon, a tradition that would continue to shape the area’s history.
© David Peterson Del Mar, 2005