About Chief Kamiakin
At Kamiakin Middle School, we are fortunate to have an epic namesake in Chief Kamiakin. He was a powerful historical figure in the history of the Northwest, who strived to be and do the best he could be for his people, who unified tribes in the Yakima and Kittitas valleys, and whose inventive spirit made agriculture more productive for his growing tribe. We celebrate him and dedicate this page to his memory.
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 which you can find in our library. Please view the links below 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 his 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 who won nearly every competition he entered.
Kamiakin eventually became the chief of the Yakamas. He had five wives, some of whom were from different tribes, which brought the different tribes together and strengthened them overall. Kamiakin was also interested in new ideas and concepts. For instance, he was one of the first chiefs of the northwest to use irrigation as a way to grow crops.
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 his body and 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 hero who strived to "Be the Best he could Be."