The Columbia Basin Treaty Tribes

The Nez Perce Tribe

The Nez Perce homeland once consisted of 13 million acres in what is now Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The original land base included significant portions of six different drainages. Today, the reservation consists of 750,000 acres, of which 13 percent is owned by the tribe.

The management of land and natural resources continues to be paramount for the Nez Perce. The tribe is trying to buy back some of the 7.5 million acres originally reserved in the 1855 Treaty with the Nez Perce. The tribe’s strong fish program employs nearly 50 full-time and part-time workers. Nez Perce co-management responsibilities extend to the Columbia, Snake, Tucannon, Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Clearwater, and Salmon drainages. Tribal members fish on the Clearwater River, which runs through the reservation near its northern and eastern borders, and on the Columbia, Rapid, and Selway rivers.

The General Council, which includes all voting-age members of the tribe, elects the nine-person Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), the tribe’s governing body. The tribe’s fish and wildlife committee is made up of appointed members of NPTEC. The tribe, whose enrolled membership is about 3,000, is headquartered in Lapwai, Idaho.

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The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

When the leaders of the Walla Walla, Cayuse, and Umatilla peoples signed a treaty with the United States in 1855, they ceded 6.4 million acres of homeland in what is now northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. Today the three-tribe confederation numbers 1,500. The 172,000-acre reservation, almost half of which is owned by non-Indians, includes significant portions of the Umatilla River watershed. The Umatilla and Grande Ronde rivers have been the focus of the tribe’s fish restoration activities for more than a decade. Under the tribe’s leadership, salmon were reintroduced in the Umatilla river in the early 1980s. The tribe, along with the state of Oregon, operate egg-taking, spawning, and other propagation facilities that are helping restore salmon runs. The first fall chinook, spring chinook, and coho salmon in some 70 years returned to the Umatilla River in 1984.

In the Grande Ronde watershed, the Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes along with state and federal agencies developed a state-of-the-art salmon habitat restoration plan for the USDA Forest Service. Other river basins in which the tribe has co-management responsibilities are the Columbia, Snake, Walla Walla, Tucannon, Grande Ronde, John Day, and Imnaha. In recent times, tribal fisheries have occurred only on the Umatilla and Columbia rivers.

The Umatilla are governed by the Board of Trustees composed of nine members elected by the General Council. Tribal headquarters are located in Mission, Oregon.

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The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon

A 640,000-acre reservation in north central Oregon is home to a confederation of three tribes: the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute tribes. The Warm Springs Tribe is made up of the Upper Deschutes (Tygh), Lower Deschutes (Wyam), Tenino, and John Day (Dock-spus) bands. The Wasco tribe is made up of The Dalles (Ki-gal-twal-la) and Dog River bands. Several Paiute bands from southeastern Oregon were removed to the Warm Springs Reservation in 1869. In 1855 the Warm Springs and Wasco tribes treated with United States in the Treaty with the Middle Oregon Tribes of Oregon. In the treaty, 10 million acres of aboriginal lands were ceded to the United States. Today, the enrolled membership of all three tribes totals nearly 3,000. Most members reside on the reservation.

The reservation government is led by an 11-member tribal council. Three are chiefs who serve life terms, and the remaining eight are elected from reservation districts for 3-year terms. The Warm Springs Tribe co-manages the Columbia, Deschutes, Fifteenmile Creek, John Day, and Hood River watersheds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates a chinook hatchery on the reservation. Tribal headquarters are in Warm Springs, Oregon.

The Cascade Mountains flank the reservation on the west, and the Deschutes River forms its eastern border. The river now supports spring chinook, fall chinook, and steelhead. Tribal members still fish with dip nets and set nets from wooden scaffolding at the falls near Sherars Bridge.

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The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation

Mount Adams, the Klickitat River, and the Yakima River are among the defining features of the 1.2 million-acre Yakama Indian Reservation in south central Washington. In the 1855 Treaty with the Yakama, 14 bands and tribes ceded 11.5 million acres to the United States. The bands and tribes in the Yakama confederation are the Kah-milt-pah, Klickitat, Klinquit, Kow-was-say-ee, Li-ay-was, Oche-chotes, Palouse, Pisquose, Se-ap-cat, Shyiks, Skinpah, Wenatshapam, Wishram, and Yakama.

Today, representatives of the 14 bands and tribes make up the Yakama Tribal Council. A general council includes all tribal members over 18 years of age. The tribe, which uses an interdisciplinary and sustainable approach to care for the land and natural resources, operates a fisheries program with approximately 40 employees. Among its fisheries projects is its unique work with the US Department of Energy to use abandoned intake settling ponds at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to acclimate about 500,000 fall chinook juveniles before releasing them into the Columbia. (The concrete pools were tested and found to have no contamination.) The Yakama Indian Nation co-manages the Columbia, Wind, White Salmon, Klickitat, Yakima, Wenatchee, Methow, Entiat, and Okanogan rivers.

The tribe has usual and accustomed fishing places in many locations in the Columbia River Basin and some outside the basin. Salmon continue to be the lifeblood of the nearly 8,400 Yakama tribal members.

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