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Lewis and Clark
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image: Cayuse Indians
Photograph of Cayuse woman by Edward S. Curtis/Corbis
Cayuse Indians

First Noted by Expedition
October 1805

The Cayuse tribe lived on the Columbia Plateau in what is now southeast Washington and northeast Oregon, along the tributaries of the salmon-rich Columbia River. In addition to fish, their main food sources were deer, small game, and roots and berries.

Like the Palouse and the Nez Perce, the Cayuse were famous horse breeders and horse traders. A small breed of horse, the cayuse, is named after this band of Indians.

On their way down the Columbia River in October 1805, the Corps stopped at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers to rest and repair broken equipment. Several tribes gathered to visit with the expedition members and it is likely the Cayuse were among them.

In their journals, Lewis and Clark noted the architecture of the Indians' lodgings. Woven mats over long poles formed oval-shaped homes up to 80 feet (25 meters) long. When the nomadic Cayuse would move, following their migratory food sources, they would pack up the mats but leave the poles behind. It was easier to make new poles when they got to their new destination than to haul the long, awkward lengths of wood.

By 1855 the Cayuse were settled with the Umatilla and Walla Walla on the Umatilla Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon. In 1990 they were among the smallest tribes in the United States, numbering a mere 126 members.
image: Cayuse Indians
Photograph of Cayuse woman and child by Edward S. Curtis/Corbis

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