History of The Yakama Reservation Flag

yakama reservation

History of the Yakama Reservation Flag

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Have you even heard of the Yakama Tribe?

The Yakama Nation is one of the 574 Native American Tribes located in the United States. They are unlike any other reservation, and the generations of this nation have fought for years to be where they are today.

Let’s walk through the history of this nearly 200 year old reservation together and learn about what the Yakama people do for their tribe.

yakama reservation
Located in the southwest of Washington State, the Yakama Indian Nation is a reservation made up of ~1,130,000 acres


On central Washington’s plateau and along the Columbia River is where the Yakama tribal people live. The Cascade mountains shelter this area from marine showers and the foothills and Yakima River are the eastern border.

First Chief of the Yakama Reservation

The first Chief of the Yakama was from 1856-1861. Chief Spencer’s tribal name was ‘Tah pa shah’, which interpreted to ‘Sharp Shooter’. He was appointed in White Swan, Washington and was paid $500 per year and was gifted an officer’s sword at the end of term.

yakama reservation

Way of Life

The tribal people of the Yakama Nation have lived in this area since the beginning of time. In the past, they spent the coldest months in winter villages located on the valley floor, where a reliable source of wood, water, and wind protection was. Villages were primarily located on or near waterways, where resources such as deer, elk, fish, and plants could be found.


In the springtime, as soon as the first edible greens appeared above ground, the Yakama people moved across the countryside for fresh resources. Some would stay near the rivers and run a sort of fishery (pictured below). Others would follow maturing plants up the mountains, ending with a huckleberry harvest in the fall. Then, foods would be stored or moved back to the winter village, and the people would settle in until the next spring.

yakama reservation

Treaty of 1855

Yakama lands (over 12 million acres) were given up to the federal government during the 1855 treaty signing, but elders have said that their distance of travel sometimes took them as far north as Canada and as far south as California.

In the mid-1990s, the Yakima nation renamed itself to the present-day ‘Yakama Nation‘, more closely reflecting the proper pronunciation in their native tongue

The Yakama Reservation Flag

The Yakama Nation (population ~10,850) has a flag that depicts the reservation in white against a sky blue background. Mount Adams is shown on the flag, it lies partly within the reservation and is sacred to the Yakama.

Above the mountain is an eagle. The eagle is also sacred and it shares a lifestyle with many Yakama people who earn their living by fishing for salmon in the waters of the Columbia River. Over the eagle is the ‘morning star‘, which is a symbol of guidance and leadership.

Why 14?

Arcing around Mount Adams on the Yakama flag are 14 gold stars and 14 eagle feathers honoring the bands of their nation. The feathers represent the 14 chiefs that signed the Treaty of 1855, while the 14 stars symbolize the Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakama Indian Nations (see lists below). Finally, the tribe’s name and the date of the treaty complete this flag.

yakama reservation

The 14 Tribes & Bands

Kah-miltpah, Palouse, Klickitat, See-ap-Cat, Klinquit, Sk’in-pah, Li-ay-was, Oche-Chotes, Wenatchapam, Pesquose, Yakama, Shyiks, Kow-was-say-ee, & Wish-ham.

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If you liked learning about the history behind the Yakama Reservation flag, let’s take a look at some of the history behind the American Flag!

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Can you visit the Yakama Indian Reservation?
Today, the Yakima Indian Reservation covers roughly 1.3 million acres (about 2,000 square miles) of south central Washington including the eastern portion of Mount Adams. Most of the reservation is closed to non-tribal members and the Yakama are rightfully protective of their land, rarely granting access to visitors.

What is the Yakama tribe known for?
The Yakama people are similar to the other native inhabitants of the Columbia River Plateau. They were hunters and gatherers well-known for trading salmon harvested from annual runs in the Columbia River.

How big is the Yakima reservation?
The Yakama is a Native American tribe with nearly 10,851 members, inhabiting Washington state. The Yakama Indian Reservation comprises 1,371,918 acres.

What religion did the Yakama tribe follow?
The Yakama believe that the Creator created the world and all its inhabitants. They believe that the Creator made laws that they must follow, and that he created the first man and the first women.


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