We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.
Native American

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Who are the Walla Walla Indians?

M.C. Huguelet
By
Updated: May 17, 2024

The Walla Walla Indians are a Native American tribe who formerly dwelled at and around the convergence of the Walla Walla and Columbia rivers in southeastern Washington state. In the past, much of their lives centered on gathering food, and they moved around their home territory throughout the year to hunt and pick seasonal foods. This traditional way of life became increasingly difficult as non-native settlers began moving to the West in large numbers. With the signing of the 1855 Nez Perce Treaty, the Walla Walla Indians as well as several neighboring tribes ceded over six million acres of land to the United States. Most of the tribe relocated to the Umatilla Reservation in northern Oregon.

As they subsisted almost wholly on hunted and collected food, the Walla Walla Indians led a nomadic lifestyle, traveling the length of their homeland to gather foods such as salmon, elk, roots, and huckleberries as they came into season. These items were typically gathered in large quantities and then dried for use throughout the year. Due to their nomadic tendencies, the Walla Walla Indians usually lived in tent-like dwellings called longhouses, which could be easily disassembled and transported from place to place.

Walla Walla society was democratic. A group of elders and designated leaders presided over the tribe’s affairs, making decisions based on the needs and desires of tribe members. Labor was divided according to members’ strengths and talents.

A tradition of trade existed for centuries between the Walla Walla Indians and many of the tribes that dwelled farther east. The Walla Walla peoples offered foods such as salmon in exchange for items like buffalo skins. When non-native explorers — such as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who visited the Walla Walla tribe in 1805 and 1806 — began to arrive in the area, the local tribes at first considered their presence favorable, as it presented opportunities for extensive trade. As non-native settlers began arriving in great numbers, however, the local peoples soon found their traditional way of life under threat.

Walla Walla land was appropriated by these settlers, and indigenous wildlife populations began to suffer from overhunting as well as the loss of natural habitat. Diseases brought in by non-native peoples ravaged local tribes. The normally peaceful Walla Walla peoples and their neighbors sometimes responded to this destruction by striking out at the newcomers.

In 1855, representatives of the US government met with delegates from many of the tribes of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. The result of this meeting was the Nez Perce Treaty, which aimed to end turmoil in the region by officially awarding more than six million acres of tribal land to the United States. In exchange, the tribes were offered three designated reservation areas.

Following the treaty, many of the Walla Walla Indians as well as the neighboring Cayuse and Umatilla Indians relocated to the 500,000 acre Umatilla Reservation in northeastern Oregon and formed a confederation. Late 19th century legislation further reduced the size of this reservation to 172,000 acres. As of 2010, there are approximately 2,800 remaining members of the three-tribe confederation, of which approximately half live on the Umatilla Reservation. Although the Walla Walla peoples continue to preserve their native cultural traditions, it is no longer possible for them to live as hunter-gatherers. Instead, many of them work in agriculture and the entertainment industry.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including America Explained. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
Learn more
Share
America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.