Linguistically, the Umatilla people spoke a tongue that was part of the Sahaptin division of the Penutian language family — closely related to other peoples of today's Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington, and the Idaho panhandle. These included the Nez Percé, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and the Yakima. These peoples were ravaged by smallpox and other infectious diseases contracted from European colonists during the first half of the 19th century and their populations depleted, as they had no immunity.
Today the Umatilla share land and a governmental structure with the Cayuse and the Walla Walla tribes as part of the federally recognized Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Their reservation is located near Pendleton, Oregon and the Blue Mountains.
A number of places and geographic features have been named after the tribe, such as the Umatilla River, Umatilla County, and Umatilla National Forest. The impoundment of the Columbia River behind the John Day Dam is called Lake Umatilla.
- "Umatilla," in Barbara A. Leitch, A Concise Dictionary of Indian Tribes of North America. Algonac, MI: Reference Publications, Inc., 1979; pp. 490-491.
- Humphrey, Seth K (1906). " The Umatillas". The Indian Dispossessed (Revised ed.). Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Wikisource. OCLC 68571148.
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