Eat Drink Walla Walla

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Seasonal Movements and Sustainable Living

Until the early 1900s, the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Indians followed a cultural tradition that revolved around a cyclical pattern of seasonal movements. These tribes primarily inhabited what is now northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington, residing in the Columbia River Region for over 10,000 years. Unlike areas with buffalo, their main food sources consisted of salmon, roots, berries, deer, and elk, each of which could be found in different locations and during different seasons. As a result, the indigenous people had to migrate from place to place throughout the year to access their food sources, process them for consumption, and preserve them for winter.

The tribes followed a well-established route, forming a large circle that took them from the lowlands along the Columbia River to the highlands in the Blue Mountains. In the spring, they congregated along the Columbia River at locations like Celilo Falls to engage in salmon fishing and trading activities with other tribes. They would dry and store the salmon for future use. During late spring and early summer, they journeyed from the Columbia to the foothills of the Blue Mountains to harvest and dry roots. As late summer arrived, they moved to the upper mountains to gather berries and engage in deer and elk hunting. In the fall, they returned to the lower valleys and the Columbia River to partake in the fall salmon run. Throughout the winter, they would reside in camps located in the low regions until spring arrived, marking the beginning of a new cycle.

This seasonal migration pattern allowed the tribes to effectively utilize the available resources, adapt to changing environmental conditions, and maintain a sustainable way of life. It also fostered connections with neighboring tribes through trade and social interactions. The yearly cycle, guided by the natural rhythms of the land, formed the foundation of their cultural practices, sustenance, and survival for thousands of years.