Dining Room at an Indian Village


A black and white photograph of men, women and children eating in a cloth and timber shelter. Inscribed caption at the bottom of the photo "A 60 Dinning Room At A Indian Village" (undated).


This looks to be a "short" house where families gathered if a longhouse was too distant. Traditional families wanted to keep practicing their medicine, aka religion, and would do so by gathering at a short house to celebrate...much like mainstream families gather for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Cultural Narrative: 

Dining room at an Indian village: This gathering looks to be in a smaller winter lodge type dwelling or a very large canvas tipi; and is probably of an extended family. The women wore their new style cotton wing dresses and many covered their heads with scarves. Cooking and eating utencils were now metal but eating on the ground on tule mats, or blankets as shown here, was still a part of meal service. Vivian Adams, Yakama

Traditional Knowledge: 

Tribal Histories

This image shows the changed attire now worn by native women in early reservation times.

It was more acceptable to the white people if an Indian dressed in imitation of a white person. These fabrics were also less labor intensive to process and less time consuming to make so they became everyday wear and the hide clothing started serving as special occasion clothing.

Plateau women wore cloth dresses called "wing" dresses daily during this era of reservation life, the dress has an underslip with long sleeves and a top dress with open sleeves that fluttered like a bird's wings. Head scarfs were also replacing the twined basket hat at this time (an artifact which specifically idetified a Plateau woman as Plateau) and the woven hats became special occasion specific and moved from secular (utilitarian) to sacred (Waashat and other ceremonies)  use.  Vivian Adams, Yakama

Men dressed in woolen pants and long-sleeved shirts, sometimes with a vest. He still wore his hair long and loose or braided, as did the women,  and usually wore moccasins but leather boots were becoming popular as was the large brimed western hat.

Extended families still lived together in canvas dwellings, some choosing to do so even though a stick-built house had been constructed for them. Small villages made of families/relatives began to change to individual, distant wooden homes built on allotted lands owned by individuals. Bands begin to break up in this manner to settle on allotted lands, but immediate family members still lived together: a husband-wife, their children, the in-laws, maybe aunts and uncles. And they begin to travel to specifically located longhouses to practice ceremonies that were once intregal in each village.

Later, villages of canvas dwellings would be built at special gatherings, perhaps a healing, a rite-of-passage, or an annual ceremony like medicine dances. After the automobile was introduced as a main method of transportation, distant gatherings became more popular and historical, traditional gatherings were shifted to suit the holiday calendar of the white people but keeping in mind the origins of the traditional feasts. Vivian M. Adams, Yakama .

Daily Life

This is an early reservation time image. Canvas cloth for dwellings and blankets for floor covering were becoming favored, less labor intensive utilitarian items as well as for use in making clothing.

Natural materials were in short supply because of restricted land base and restricted travel to reservation tribes.

Metal containers became vital to household chores. Huge coffee pots and buckets with dippers were popular, tough and could serve big portions in service to extended families or groups gathered for ceremonial purposes.

Flour, sugar, and coffee became common staples in a cooks supply of food.  Canned goods purchased at a general store also became a daily part of meals. The daily life of Plateau people, in fact, all indiginous people of the U.S., changed dramatically by the demands of the huge population of white people who overtook the lands once roamed and harvested by the first people.

The Plateau manner of gathering subsistence, the dress and appearance, our language, the traditional "religion," the dwellings and the seasonal travel, plus  the social and ceremonial gatherings all changed to suit a new lifestyle that greatly differed from the atonomous villages and extended families of ancient times.  Vivian Adams, Yakama

Rites of Passage

One must also remember that the lands from which the Plateau people gathered for centuries where closed off to them. Hides were not as easy to get because of restricted travel on reservations, hunting became more infrequent and many times a boy's rite-of-passage as a hunter was not performed.

The greatest impact on rites of passage happend to the men.  The path to maturity, to gaining knowledge of hunting and fishing, to developing these skills as a family provider was affected by a reservation land base and restricted travel. 

This also meant plant gathering was in short supply because of a smaller land base for digging and picking by the women and manufanctured materials began to replace the natural materials used for centuries prior to the onset of the white man into Indian country.

It took many years and litigation of tribal treaty rights for Plateau people to actually practice their ancient gathering traditions. 

The white population overtook the use of N Chi Wana, the great Columbia River, and almost depleted the salmon run with their canneries and multiple  dams they built for energy.  Plateau tribes worked tirelessly to seek cooperation of state and local authorities to rebuild the salmon runs, to guard the waters against pollution and hold the whites accountable for their trespasses on treaty rights.  Vivian Adams, Yakama


Plateau people used to gather for huge trade camps along the Columbia River, as well as the rivers that run from each Plateau reservation into the Columbia.  Tribal people from Alaska, Hawaii, the Plains, the Southwest, and the eastern woodlands found their way to these trade centers.

However, once the white people overtook these lands, the famous trade center of Celilo Falls was flooded over by a dam built to supply energy and an ancient historically important gathering site was drowned.

In a wide area between the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, now named Ellensburg, another important gathering center was overtaken by the white people for farming and ranching.  Tribal peoples from north, south, east and west came to trade and the site was a part of the gathering path into the Cascades. Vivian Adams, Yakama