Dancehouse of the Yakamas


A photo of a Dance house to the left side of the image, with a wagon on the right.  There is also a tipi in the right center background (1918).

Cultural Narrative: 

Dancehouse of the Yakamas: This area reminds me of the celebration grounds in White Swan. The arbor is very large and set up to house many people. I notice that their are teepees' set up behind the arbor so the event probably lasted for many days. In the picture I see men, woman, and children. The modern world stands out in this picture with a car on one side of the photo and a wagon with horses on the opposite side.  Jolena Tillequots, Yakama

Traditional Knowledge: 


Many families would come together with items to trade for ceremonies such as weddings, namegivings, first kill for young men (hunting of deer/elk) first digging & picking for young women (roots and berries)

Oral Tradition Lessons

Families would attend celebrations with arbors set up just like this picture.  Gatherings such as these would allow people to gather and share stories, songs, and ceremonies. Many family indian names may have passed down to younger generations.

Tribal Histories

Family heirlooms that now are part of museum displays were probably given out in honor of namegiving, wedding trades and various ceremonies for men and woman.

As a child we seldom travelled to social gatherings like pow wows.  My parents were part of the boarding school product who thought to leave behind their "Indianness."  I did get to go to such gatherings when I stayed with one of my "grandmothers" or friends whose parents still practiced traditional customs.

I remember the huge arbors like this that covered the drummers and dancers at a lengthy pow wow encampment.  I loved the naturalness of it, the nights with traditional drumming and dancing going on for hours and hours and the gambling games that even children could partake as a fun pastime.  We would play Waluksha, a card game, or dice and watch the stick games as they went on all night.  At these times, our parents didn't worry about us because we always had several aunts, uncles and family friends who watched over us.

It was a different society during my childhood in the 1950s.  I wish these natural arbors would once again be used for pow wows and gambling! Vivian Adams, Yakama


This would be a place that young men and elders would sing traditional war dance songs. Families would also pass down the history of the songs.  In washat beliefs, drummers/singers talk of the earth, light (sun), animals.  The men would sing in sequence of these songs.

Daily Life

Arbors of this size were normally used for celebrations.  Families would build a smaller one for the woman to utilize daily. The arbor was essential to helping ladies prepare many different types of foods and materials.  They would not have to worry about being confined in a teepee with limited space.

Rites of Passage

Ceremonies held at these arbors were usually when young men or woman would join the dancing circle.  Families would gather and give items away as a sign of respect.  Namegiving ceremonies were also held in arbors such as these with the same information listed above. 


In arbors such as this, many games would be played by adults.  Stick game and wahluksha were the most popular amongst many plateau tribes.


As at all gatherings, there would be word of mouth referrals among families and visitors about natural medicines, and Indian healers.

This early reservation living meant getting regular visits from a government nurse.  If illness was extreme, local hospitals would then be used as would the white doctors with their "traditional" medicine.  Indian healers with their "alternative" medicine would gather, and invite others to join, to sing medicine songs, and administer natural medicines and cures for those who did not enter the white man's hospitals.  Vivian Adams, Yakama


These gatherings would take place in different areas around the reservation.  The people would come together and share their foods, trade for materials, and visit with one another.  The women would show their latest beading, weaving or sewing project.  The men would show their latest fishing nets and or poles, trade knives and or blades.