Life changed for thousands of Native Americans in Central Washington 162 years ago Friday.
On that day, leaders of the 14 tribes and bands — including Yakama Chief Kamiakin — gathered near Walla Walla and signed what became known as the Treaty of 1855, which confederated the 14 tribes into the Yakama Nation, while requiring the tribes to give up 11 million acres of traditional lands.
The Yakama Nation will commemorate the treaty’s signing with events that began Thursday and run through Sunday.
Negotiated by territorial Gov. Isaac Stevens, the treaty forced the Yakamas onto a 1.3-million-acre reservation spanning from the slopes of Mount Adams to Granger, and from just south of Union Gap to near Goldendale. The federal government paid the tribe $200,000, to be paid out to tribal members in the form of annuities.
Two weeks after the treaty was signed, Stevens opened much of the ceded land to white settlers, reneging on a promise that he would give the Yakamas two years to get settled on the reservation. That led Kamiakin to clash with the federal government, sparking an uprising known as the Yakama War. The fighting, which began at Toppenish Creek, lasted three years before the Yakama surrendered and Kamiakin left the area, refusing an offer of amnesty if he would help the federal government bring order to the reservation
This year’s Treaty Day theme is “Water is Life,” which was also a slogan at the Standing Rock protest.
This year’s event also marks the 37th anniversary of the opening of the Yakama Nation’s Cultural Center. There will be a native artists’ market and demonstration at the center’s museum, as well as a free screening of the movie “A League of Their Own.”
The Treaty Day Pow Wow begins Friday, with a grand entry at 7 p.m. at the pavilion at 309-A Mission Road in White Swan. The Pow Wow runs through Sunday.
There will be a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday in White Swan, as well as men’s and women’s softball tournaments at the Yakama Nation Sports Complex Saturday and Sunday, and the Treaty Day Rodeo runs Saturday and Sunday in White Swan.