Yakima Indians

Yakima Indians. Meaning “runaway.”

Also called:

  • Cuts-sah-nem, by Clark in 1805 in Lewis and Clark Journals (1904-5).
  • Pa’ kiut`1ĕma, own name, “people of the gap.”
  • Shanwappoms, from Lewis and Clark in 1805.
  • Stobshaddat, by the Puget Sound tribes, meaning “robbers.”
  • Waptai’lmln, own name, “people of the narrow river.”

Both of their names for themselves refer to the narrows in Yakima River at Union Gap where their chief village was formerly situated.

Yakima Connections. The Yakima belonged to the Shahaptian division of the Shapwailutan linguistic family.

Yakima Location. On the lower course of Yakima River.

Yakima Subdivisions

As given by Spier (1936), quoting Mooney and Curtis

  • Atanum-lema, on Atanum Creek.
  • Nakchi’sh-hlama, on Naches River, and hence possibly Pshwa’nwapam.
  • Pisko, about the mouth of Toppenish Creek.
  • Se’tas-lema, on Satus Creek.
  • Si’-hlama, on Yakima River above the mouth of Toppenish Creek.
  • Si’la-hlama, on Yakima River between Wenas and Umtanum Creeks.
  • Si’mkoe-hlama, on Simcoe Creek.
  • Tkai’waichash-hlama, on Cowiche Creek.
  • Topinish, on Toppenish Creek.
  • Waptailmin, at or below Union Gap.

It is quite possible that under the term Yakima several distinct tribes were included.

Yakima History

The Yakima are mentioned by Lewis and Clark under the name of Cutsahnim, but it is not known how many and what bands were included under that term. In 1855 the United States made a treaty with the Yakima and 13 other tribes of Shapwailutan, Salishan, and Chinookan stocks, by which these Indians ceded the territory from the Cascade Mountains to Palouse and Snake Rivers and from Lake Chelan to the Columbia. The Yakima Reservation was established at the same time and upon it all the participating tribes and bands were to be confederated as the Yakima Nation under the leadership of Kamaiakan, a distinguished Yakima chief. Before this treaty could be ratified, however, the Yakima War broke out, and it was not until 1859 that its provisions were carried into effect. The Palouse and certain other tribes have never recognized the treaty or come on the reservation. Since the establishment of the reservation, the term Yakima has been generally used in a comprehensive sense to include all the tribes within its limits, so that it is now impossible to estimate the number of true Yakima.

Yakima Population. Mooney (1928) estimated the Yakima proper at 3,000 in 1780. In 1806 Lewis and Clark give an estimated population of 1,200 to their Cutsahnim (see above). The census of 1910 gives 1,362 “Yakima,” and the Report of the United States Indian Office for 1923, 2,939, but as already stated, this name now covers many people beside the true Yakima tribe. In 1937 the population of the same body of Indians was given as 2,933.

Connection in which the Yakima Indians have become noted. The Yakima first attained prominence on account of the extension of their name over a number of related, and some unrelated, peoples as above mentioned, and its use to designate the Yakima Reservation. It has attained greater permanence as the designation of a branch of Columbia River, a county in Washington, and a town in the same County and State.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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