Native American Photographs by Edward S. Curtis

Wishram Indians

Wishram Indian Photos by Edward S. Curtis

Tribal Summary

Dress

In primitive times the summer dress for both sexes was a small breech-cloth, and in winter the body was protected by a skin or a woven blanket obtained in trade. The region of the Dalles was a great trading center, and naturally the people quickly acquired alien customs. Thus they very early adopted the plains manner of dress. Tattooing, head-flattening, and the wearing of a dentalium shell in the nasal septum were common to both sexes.

Dwelling

The walls or the permanent houses were constructed of split cedar slabs placed upright around a rectangular framework of forked posts and horizontal connecting timbers. The ridge-roof was formed of pole rafters and thatching of cedar bark and rush-matting, and a smoke-vent was provided in the center. Inside the earth was excavated to a depth of about three feet. Each house was occupied by several related families. Summer habitations were made by leaning poles from a ridge timber to the ground on each side, and covering this roof and the end walls with matting.

Food

Fish (principally salmon, but with some sturgeon supplemented by lampreys) formed the great food staple. The salmon were dried, and for the greater part shredded and packed into baskets for storing and for barter. The Wishram enjoyed a wide variety of vegetal foods, some of the most common being acorns, camas, arrow-head roots, choke-cherries, and huckleberries. Mountain game in limited quantities was obtained.

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