Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery
Pacific Region

The Land and The People

OUR ANCESTORS -Wascos - Walla Wallas - Paiutes

Indians fishing from platforms at falls
Indians once fished the abundant waters below Celilo Falls during the salmon runs until The Dalles Dam was completed in the 1950's inundating this natural and cultural resource

The Land

The Warm Springs Indian Reservation covers nearly 640,000 acres, much less than the original territory ceded by the tribes to the U. S. Government under the Treaty of 1855. Tracing their ancestry to the Wascos, Paiutes, and Upper and Lower Deschutes bands of Walla Wallas, the membership of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon currently numbers more than 3,500. Since time immemorial, the Tribes have derived their physical and emotional sustenance from the region's land, water, fish, game, berries, and roots.

Their Ancestors


The Wasco bands on the Columbia River lived in permanent settlements and spoke the Chinookan language.  They were principally fishers and traders who exchanged their root breads, salmon meats, and bear grass for other commodities.


The Upper and Lower Deschutes bands of Walla Walla (now Warm Springs) lived upriver from the Wascos and spoke Sahaptin.  Salmon was also an important staple for them, but they moved their winter and summer villages in order to follow game, dig roots, and harvest berries. 


The Paiutes lived south of the Columbia River, high plateau country, and spoke a Shoshonean dialect.  Fishing was not as important to them as for tribes nearer the Columbia River.  Their hunting and gathering activities required a more nomadic existence. 

Their Salmon Fisheries

The Wascos and Deschutes bands of the Walla Wallas built scaffolding over falls in the Columbia and its tributaries, where they used long-handled dip nets to harvest the migrating salmon.  These and other tribal groups developed an extensive economic network that centered on the mid-Columbia region and depended heavily on the Columbia River and its resources, particularly the salmon.

Historically, catching the first spring salmon involved extensive ceremony and approval of the tribal chiefs.  Most recently, Indians continue their pursuit of salmon for sustenance and as a part of their cultural heritage; however, few sites such as Celilo Falls, destroyed by the Dalles Dam in 1956, remain. 

 Indians fishing with dip nets at Celilo Falls
An Indian fishing with dip net at Celilo Falls

You may still see Indians fishing at Sherar's Falls on the Deschutes River.



Last updated: July 16, 2013

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