Chief Kamiakin leads warriors to victory 158 years ago.

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Chief Kamiakin and Granville Haller

Jacob McLain, Entertainment editor

Do you ever wonder about our school’s namesake, Chief Kamiakin?  Who exactly was he?  What was he important?  Well, 158 years ago next week, a really important event occurred that defined the history of the Northwest Indians forever.  Here’s the story…

158 years ago, Chief Kamiakin won the first battle of the Yakama war. Tensions had been rising between the white settlers and the Yakama Indians for years, finally erupting into an all-out war on Oct. 5, 1855. Chief Kamiakin led his 300 warriors in a standoff against Major Haller and his 84 men at Toppenish Creek. Haller and his men were greatly outnumbered against Chief Kamiakin, so he fled at night to the safety of the Dalles. Although it was a relatively minor conflict with few casualties on both sides, this battle started the Yakima war.

The war lasted for from 1855-1858, and was fought throughout the Northwest area. After the Whitman massacre, the Indians were forced to sign a treaty to the Americans. The treaty gave the Americans 6,000,000 acres in exchange for $200,000. The Indians were willing to live peacefully on their lands, but it did not last. Gold was discovered in British Columbia, and white miners constantly crossed the reservation area to get there. Conflict rose between the miners and the Indians, with theft and murder on both sides.

Finally, the Indians decided to join together and defend themselves from the white men. The tribes decided to unite under the Yakama chief, Kamiakin. Kamiakin was a brave leader and a wise tactician. When Major Haller Came out of the Dalles, tensions erupted, and the Yakama succeeded in repelling Haller’s forces.

The war ended at the Battle of the Four Lakes, when Chief Kamiakin went up against Colonel George Wright. Wright’s 500 men were armed with the new Springfield rifles and newly developed minie balls. The range of these deadly weapons was about three to four times longer than that of the bows of Kamiakin’s less than 500 warriors. Kamiakin’s losses were heavy before they even got close to their enemy.

During the battle, Kamiakin’s wife took him away from the conflict and healed him before the Americans could get him. Kamiakin was the only chief of the Yakima war that did not surrender and was never captured. The start of this entire war was the small, insignificant battle that took place Oct. 4, 158 years ago.