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About Chief Kamiakin

At Kamiakin High School, we are fortunate to have an epic namesake in Chief Kamiakin. It seems that many students know very little about this outstanding individual. This page is dedicated to the Northwest patriot who strived to be the best he could be for his people.

The following is an abbreviated history with information largely from "Finding Chief Kamiakin" by Richard D. Scheuerman, Michael O. Finley and John Clement. For a more in-depth read, we suggest this text. Please view the Wikipedia link for additional online resources.

Kamiakin was born around the year 1800 near present day Starbuck, Wash. His father was a member of the Palouse tribe named Ja-ya-yah-e-ha and his mother was a daughter of Chief We-ow-wicht of the Yakama tribe. Kamiakin had two brothers, one named Skloom and the other Show-a-way. When Kamiakin's father decided to take on another wife, his mother returned to the Yakama, taking him and his brother Skloom with her. As a youngster, Kamiakin was competitive and a skilled athlete. In almost every competition he was in, he was the victor.

When Kamiakin became the chief of the Yakamas, he had five wives. Some of these wives were from different tribes, causing the tribes to band together and strengthen them overall. Kamiakin was also interested in new ideas and concepts. For instance, Kamiakin was one of the first chiefs of the northwest to use irrigation as a way to grow crops. He also accepted Christianity. This however did not change the Yakama culture.

When the settlers started making reservations, Kamiakin did whatever he could to keep the U.S government from taking their land. When other tribes wanted to give into the demands of the pioneers, he steadfastly refused their requests. He led resistance forces against the cavalry that seized their lands. After several attempts to fend off the invaders, Kamiakin was defeated at the Battle Of Four Lakes. Luckily, Kamiakin was only wounded and was able to live on. He was the only chief who refused to surrender.

After a long life, Kamiakin died in 1877 in his home on the Palouse River. In his last years, Kamiakin lived in reverence. He was often offered food, clothing and supplies, but steadfastly refused them even in the face of defeat of the body and the soul. He was an honorable chief who believed in a cause that was more important than his own safety and health. Chief Kamiakin was a Northwest patriot who strived to "be the best he could be."