In 1855 the U.S. Government and the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes signed a treaty. In the Treaty, the tribes gave up, or ceded, to the United States more than 6.4 million acres in what is now northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. In exchange, a parcel of land was designated as the Umatilla Indian Reservation which the tribes would retain as a permanent homeland. As a result of U.S. Congressional legislation in the late 1800s that diminished its size and allowed purchase and ownership by non-Indians, the Umatilla Indian Reservation now consists of 172,000 acres. Nearly half is owned by non-Indians.
Also in the Treaty of 1855, the tribes reserved rights to fish, hunt, and gather traditional foods and medicines throughout the ceded lands. The Tribes still protect and exercise those rights within the 6.4 million acres of ceded land in what is now northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington.
It is important to understand that the U.S. Government and the Treaty did not "give" the Tribal people those rights to fish, hunt, and gather foods and medicines. They are rights that we have had and exercised since time immemorial. In the Treaty, our ancestors RESERVED those rights to ensure that the tribe's future generations would be able to maintain and exercise our traditions and customs.
Because of those reserved treaty rights in the 6.4 million acres, the tribes maintain a keen interest and involvement in the activities that occur in that area.