Many generations before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, the Wasco and Warm Springs (Walla Walla) tribes resided beside the Columbia River and Cascade Mountains. They followed a subsistence economy of fishing, hunting and gathering. In addition, they traded items with other tribes from as far away as the Puget Sound to California and east to the Great Plains. Their Wahsat religion stressed a spirit life in things animate and inanimate. Legends of animal people such as Coyote were orally transmitted from generation to generation. The Paiute ranged throughout the plateaus of southeast Oregon and beyond. Their lifeways varied significantly from the Warm Springs and Wasco tribes. Life on the high plains demanded wide and frequent migration in search of game. In addition, they did not fish as extensively.
With the onset of the 19th century, the traditional lifeways of the aboriginal bands in Oregon were disrupted by a trickle, then a flood of non-native outsiders from the east. In less than 10 years (1843-1852), the number grew from 1,000 to 12,000 settlers traversing Wasco and Warm Springs lands annually. The newcomers were aggressively hungry for land and bloody conflict erupted with the Indians who put up resistance.
To salvage their way of life, the Warm Springs and Wasco tribes inked a treaty with the United States in 1855. By the treaty terms, 10 million acres of aboriginal lands were relinquished to the United States. In exchange, 640,000 acres were reserved for the tribes' sole use. The parcel was dubbed the Warm Springs Reservation.
Aboriginal lifeways were altered drastically following the Wasco and Warm Springs tribes' move onto the reservation. It quickly became abundantly clear their former economic system was viable no longer. Moreover, federal policies intended to press the Indian people into the mainstream of white ways compelled the tribes to relinquish numerous traditional ways to make way for sawmills, schoolhouses and other alien introductions.
Thirty-eight Paiutes arrived at the reservation in 1879. They and other Paiutes had sided with the Bannock tribe in a bloody losing war against the U.S. Army, and were forced onto the Yakama Reservation and Fort Vancouver. More Paiutes would settle on the Warm Springs Reservation and become woven into the fabric of reservation life.
In 1934, the U.S. Congress passed into law the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), whose aim was to spark a fresh start for Native American communities and to foster tribes by means of autonomous governments of their own. The IRA acknowledged the wisdom of allowing tribal governments to run their own affairs and offered federal help to tribes agreeing its stipulations. After deliberation, the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute tribes signed on in 1937, confederated, drew up a constitution and bylaws, and accepted a charter from the government for their business affairs. A series of confederation businesses and other accomplishments began to blossom, beginning in 1942 with the Warm Springs Lumber Company.
See also Indian Wars Time Table .
Native American Cultural Regions Map.