Walla Walla people

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Walla Walla
Total population
Enrolled members:
Regions with significant populations
 United States Oregon
English, Lushootseed dialect (endangered)
Christianity (incl. syncretistic forms)
Related ethnic groups
Sahaptin-speaking Umatilla, Cayuse, Yakama
Sahaptin tribal representatives to Washington D.C. (1890)

Walla Walla (/ˌwɒləˈwɒlə/ WOL-ə-WOL) are a Sahaptin indigenous people of the Northwest Plateau. The duplication in their name expresses the diminutive form. The name Walla Walla is translated several ways but most often as "many waters."[1]

Many Walla Walla live on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The Walla Walla share land and a governmental structure with the Cayuse and the Umatilla tribes as part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla. The reservation is located in the area of Pendleton, Oregon, United States, near the Blue Mountains. Some Walla Walla are also enrolled in the federally recognized Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.


The people are a Sahaptin-speaking tribe that traditionally inhabited the interior Columbia River region of present-day northwestern United States. For centuries before the coming of European settlers, the Walla Walla occupied the territory along the Walla Walla River and along the confluence of the Snake and Columbia River rivers in a territory that is now part of northern Oregon and southeastern Washington state.

The Walla Walla encountered the United States Lewis and Clark Expedition both in 1805, during their trip down the Columbia River to the Pacific Coast, and in 1806 during their return upriver. The Walla Walla chief Yellepit (whose name is also spelled Yelleppit and Yellepitt) welcomed the American party. Yellepit's village was on the Columbia River near the mouth of the Walla Walla River.[2] Yellepit, Washington was later named for him.

Lewis and Clark stayed for several days in April 1806 during their return trip. They exchanged presents with the Walla Walla and traded goods. Notably, Yellepit presented Clark with a white horse. The chief requested a copper kettle in return, but the Americans had already given away all their kettles, so Clark gave Yellepit his own sword, along with a quantity of gunpowder and musket balls.[3] Lewis and Clark also gave Yellepit a peace medal engraved with a portrait of President Thomas Jefferson, to be worn around the neck, and a small United States flag.

The next non-native to reach the Walla Walla region was David Thompson of the Canadian-British North West Company, who arrived in 1811. Thompson had placed a pole at Snake River junction with the Columbia, about five miles upriver from Yellepit's village. Thompson attached a letter to the pole claiming the territory for the British Crown and stating that the North West Company intended to build a trading post at the site. Continuing downriver, Thompson stopped at Yellepit's village and discovered the United States "claims" in the form of Yellepit's flag and medal.

Neither Lewis and Clark nor Thompson had much power to lay claim to the region; rather, these acts and tokens marked the activities of each nation in the region. Thompson's pole and letter was intended for the traders of the Pacific Fur Company, an American rival to the North West Company. Thompson found Yellepit very friendly and intelligent, and the two talked at length. Notwithstanding his friendship with the Americans, Yellepit encouraged Thompson's plan to set up a nearby trading post.[4] For various reasons the post was not built until 1818, when the North West Company established Fort Nez Perces at the mouth of the Walla Walla River.

Notable Walla Walla[edit]


  1. ^ "Indian Names Of Places", Native American Glossary. (retrieved 24 March 2011)
  2. ^ "Walla Walla Indians", Lewis and Clark, PBS
  3. ^ "Yelleppit and the Walla Walla", The Oregon History Project
  4. ^ Nisbet, Jack (1994). Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America. Sasquatch Books. pp. 202–203. ISBN 1-57061-522-5. 

External links[edit]