Rebel Chiefs of the Yakimas: Chi-mis-tah (Chi-mischa, Sinue-bow), Ryegrass Blanket and Shut-te-monen


A photo of three Yakama leaders (1913).

Cultural Narrative: 

Rebel Chiefs of the Yakamas: These men are important leaders within the tribe. Their attire suggests this because they all wear the important headdress of eagle feathers. The eagle feathers, ermine tails, bone beads, and attire emblished with glass beads, the eagle feather fans and the pipe denote their status. The feather bonnets are worn in the popular style shared from the Plains native men. Historically, Plateau men who wore eagle feather bonnets, wore the hat with the feathers standing straight up instead of flowing back. Vivian Adams, Yakama

Traditional Knowledge: 

National Wars

National wars were not a part of Plateau society. Individual conflicts between the federal military was usually between individual Plateau tribes for intrusion upon "reservation" lands. Some Plateau people became frustrated by the swarm of white settlement onto lands that were still being used by tribes and the government had not yet forced reservations and treatys upon Plateau tribes.  National wars were joined by tribal people during the U.S. World War I.  Warriors joined to protect what tribal land they had remaining...their reservation lands; the lands that held the bones of their ancestors since time immemorial.  Patriotism was not necessarily to fight for the new country, because at the time of the first world war, Indians had not yet been determined as fit for U.S. citizenship. Only after 1924 were Indians deemed "human" and deserving to become citizens of the new country.

Inter-tribal conflict

Inter-tribal conflict was all about land use:  who gathered which foods where, and village camp sites used during the seasonal round. Those who came to move into these areas were considered intruders unless they had been given permission by village leaders to enter and gather.  Ownership of horses was a status symbol and distant tribes weren't usually allowed to hunt for wild horses on lands considered for use by Plateau people. If tresspassing happened, then conflicts and battles would arise because of historical use concerns.

U.S.-Indian Wars

The Plateau people weren't necessarily a warring people. The wars recorded in U.S. history stemmed from native frustration at the white man's greed in getting land already set aside as "reservation" lands, or mining for precious metals located on "Indian lands," without the consent of the new Indian landowners.  Government officials hired to be watchdogs for infractions by the whites such as land squatting, panning for gold, or other forms of theft and intrustion, direly neglected their legal obligations and frustration and anger led to "wars." The inflation of white population was a fearsome change for all tribes and tribal people thought that these intruders could be sent away just as intruding, distant tribes had been chased off "use land" (see inter-tribal conflict), throughout native history.  This was not easy to do, there were so many white people and their army had weaponry that far outclassed what the Indians had always used for protection.

Volunteer Militia

Volunteer malitia was usually western farmers, or other non-military people who were anxious to get Indian lands or have the Indians removed so they could take over Indian lands.  Malitia were anxious to join the chase to track down Indians for the whiteman's jail or court, or to kill Indians as part of depleting native populations for land grabs.  Some Plateau people, or people from other tribes joined the military to hunt Indians who were considered criminals, murderers, or who had committed some infraction set down in the whiteman's laws.  The Indians who joined to hunt other tribal people were either being paid or recipients of some favor from federal officials, or acting out revenge or vengence.


Protests in "Indian Country" were historically mild occasions in the U.S.  and in various states. unless treatment by the federal government became so outright abusive or neglectful, delegations of tribal leaders decided to go to Washington D.C. to talk to the "Great White Father" about such treatment. The biggest protest was in the 1960s-1970s with AIM, the American Indian Movement, whose protests weren't necessarily condoned by all Indian leaders throughout the various tribes; but some of which were valid government mistreatments finally made public.


Warrior Societies are important organizations of honored protectors on reservation lands.  These societies differ from the clubs made before treaties and reservations although they share the honorable images of bravery and protection.

At contemporary native social gatherings (aka pow wows) the warriors of the event's reservation bring the tribal staff, tribal flag and the U.S. flag into the center to begin the event with a "flag" or honor song.  In this manner, native people see their protectors and have a chance to thank them and show their respect by inviting them to perform the opening ceremonies.

Many tribes now have their own veterans' program and the warriors are invited to present at several events on and off the reservation.  Much of their travel is supported by tribal funding, but the programs also hold fund-raising activities and are thankful for donations from friends and families.  This is a newer tribal government policy to honor and give thanks to those who have protected us and the lands to which our ancentors have been returned in burial.