The Columbia River Plateau

The Columbia River Plateau, the area east of the Cascade Mountains and west of the Rockies, is divided into five regions, 1) the Subarctic includes the Carrier and Chilcotin groups, 2) the Northeast Area includes the Lillooet, Thompson, Shuswap, and Fraser, 3) the Northwest Area includes the North Thompson, Kamloops, and Kutenai, 4) the Southeast Area includes the Nez Perce, Lower Snake, Upper Snake and Cayuse, and 5) the Central Plateau is comprised of the groups below. The following chart is an epidemic history of the Central Columbia Plateau adapted from Eugene Hunn's N'Chi Wana, "The Big River": Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land in which he provides an epidemic history with citations and epidemiological information for the Plateau region. Although documentation is not available for the first outbreaks of smallpox in the 1770s and 1801, it is likely that each wave decimated 10 to 20 percent of the population among Plateau groups. In less than one hundred years as much as 90 percent of some populations were lost to disease.

Central Columbia River Plateau Epidemic History

 

EPIDEMIC AREA/ ETHNOLIGUISTIC UNIT

1770s
smallpox

1801
smallpox

1807-1808
"distemper"

1824-1825
"mortality"

1831-37
respiratory diseases

1844
pertussis, scarlatina

1848
measles

1853
smallpox

SALISH GROUP

Flathead

---

---

X

---

X

---

X

---

Pend Oreille/Kalispel

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

Spokan

---

---

X
1819 - "grate sickness"

(X)

---

S

X

X

COEUR D'ALENE

---

---

(X)
"grate sickness"

X

---

---

---

X

Okanagan group

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

Colville/Lake

---

---

---

---

X

---

X

X

Nespelem/Sanpoil/
Sinkekalt

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

SINKAIETK/
METHOW

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

X

OKANAGAN/
SIMILKAMEEN

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

(X)

COLUMBIA GROUP

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

(X)

Chelan

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

(X)

Wenatchee

---

---

---

---

---

---

X

X

Sinkiuse

 

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

(X)

NW SAHAPTIN

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

(X)

Kittitas

---

---

---

---

---

---

X

X

Yakima

---

---

---

---

---

---

(X)

X

Klikitat

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

---

CR SAHAPTIN

---

---

---

---

---

P

X

---

Tenino-Tygh

---

---

---

---

---

P

X

---

Wyam/Skin

---

---

---

---

---

P

X

X

Umatilla/John Day

---

---

---

---

---

P

X

---

NE SAHAPTIN

---

---

---

---

---

---

(X)

---

Walla Walla

---

---

---

X

X

P

X

---

Wanapum

---

---

---

X

---

---

(X)

---

Palus

---

---

---

---

---

---

(X)

---


Adapted from Eugene Hunn's, "Nch'i-Wana, 'The Big River':Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land," pp. 28-30.