Drawing of Kamiakin
Before the coming of the white man there was a young
Indian warrior name Ja-ya-yah-e-ha, whose father was of the Nez Perce and mother of the
Born at the present city of Lewiston Idaho he become known as one who bore a charmed life.
However as that may be, it is certainly a fact that his enemies feared him, for he was a
fierce and desperate fighter. A tall, commanding figure, a superb horseman, and reckless
beyond the point of danger, he would be a remarkable man in any battle. Restless by
nature, he was constantly on the move so that his fame became widespread and he was a
welcome guest in strange wigwams.
From: Ka-mi-akin Last Hero of the Yakimas, by A. J.
Because he was so shiftless in his pursuit of new
adventure he always seemed to not accrue as much material wealth as the other warriors
with their many war horses and other steeds. Though he was often instrumental in the
capture of the best animals, he gave them to the chiefs to his honor. In one such raid two
extraordinary animals were captured from the Shoshones of Idaho/Utah. A sorrel and a bay.
These went to two tribes who for years bragged of their speed until one of the main
discussions among the tribes concerned which was fastest. One of the largest gatherings of
tribes in this entire area occurred in the Palouse country to decide this matter.
Ja-ya-yah-e-ha had been rejected as suitor of Wa-ni-nah because he was not a blood chief.
Ja-ya-yah-e-ha was found bored at this time, and the only adventure he could find is that
he wanted to own the sorrel more than anything that he could think of. He knew
so much about horses that he was sure that the sorrel would easily win the race
and that no horse could ever catch it. It became an
obsession until he asked the help of a medicine man that gave him 2 powders. He rubbed one
powder on the sorrel's nose before the race making the horse so violent that no one could
come near him. This threatened to spoil the race. Ja-ya-yah-e-ha offered to ride the
horse, showing that he could approach the horse by petting its nose with the other powder.
The horse owner said he could but he should ride light, without his trappings.
Ja-ya-yah-e-ha refused this as he knew he would be needing his belongings.
The race began and it was a good close one, but
Ja-ya-yah-e-ha had held his horse calm until the turning point at the monument rock where he
loosed the horse's speed showing everyone who was to win, but after the rock, the rider
did not turn. Those stationed near the monument drew back in alarm. Has the man lost
control or is he feigning? Woe betide him if he is. The owner of the sorrel mounted
warriors and gave chase, but the sorrel flew like the wind, and did not stop until
reaching the Columbia River at the point called White Bluffs. His chasers gave up, but now
how could he ever return. He would miss Wa-ni-nah, but not much else. Where should he go.
The chief of the Priest Rapids tribe helped Ja-ya-yah-e-ha, because of his help in war in the past.
So-wap-so pointed to a more
powerful tribe whose chief was his friend. Ja-ya-yah-e-ha rode without stop again to this
tribe, and at the nightfall before entering the large encampment, he saw & heard a
wolf howling and decided to call himself a new secret name: Ki-yi-yah. This new tribe
brought him to a powerful chief We-ow-wicht, that had unified many tribes under his
control in the Kittitas, Ellensburg region. The chief asked why he came. Ki-yi-yah said
that he just wanted to learn from such a great chief as he, because Ki-yi-yah had fought
hand to hand with chiefs of the Blackfeet and wanted to learn more. The chief accepted him
and many stories were told that night over the peace pipe until the daughter of the chief
came into the teepee for the first time and met the eyes of Ki-yi-yah who was struck
silent at this.
Ki-yi-yah hunted with this tribe and prove himself
to them, but one day he found himself alone in the Cascades and was overcome by the beauty
of the peaks above and the grass and flowers below. Suddenly below he saw a giant grey
deer or elk. He instinctually slid into the grass to close distance while grabbing an
arrow and shooting as the huge buck's explosive launch into the air at hearing or smelling
something. Ki-yi-yah's largest arrow caught the buck in the heart, but it was like a pine
needle to the deer so that it ran at full speed down the mountainside. Ki-yi-yah ran after
at full speed on foot. Coming around a bush he saw the chief's daughter, Ka-e-mox-nith,
picking berries and he stopped and spoke. "I have been waiting for just this moment
to occur ever since your eyes met mine. Even though when we next pass each other in the
village we will be like two strangers, as long as the sun shines you will hold the heart
of Howling Wolf. I love you and I need you to know this. I came here to forget a woman
named Wa-ni-nah who you have helped me greatly with. Now I must continue to follow the
blood trail of the great grey deer."
"Me-ow-wah!" exclaimed the maiden. "I
saw him pass only a short time before you came and he was reeling as he ran."
Hastening on he came to the fallen monarch of the wilderness. Never since taking his first
scalp had his heart leaped with such joy. The deer was much too large to handle alone and
so he went into the village for help describing the great deer. All the warriors began
yelling Me-ow-wah! as for years they had been sending their arrows after the grand
specimen. Two men were required to carry the horns. A large ceremony was performed to
celebrate the adoption of Me-ow-wah's slayer into the tribe. We-ow-wicht bade Ki-yi-yah
welcome as one of his people. Ka-e-mox-nith sat quietly looking on remembering the telling
of love on the hill only hours earlier.
This was a ceremony of purist joy, but out from
among the black buffalo robes came an old medicine man that spoke seldom, but when he did
everyone listened to his prophecies. "I see as though a youth again, things that are
to come. You are happy now, but will not always be thus as palefaces will come after
Ki-yi-yah marries Ka-e-mox-nith and takes her to his tribe and they will have a son that
will lead all the tribes of this area against the hated race. This son will grow up among
this people strong and ready for battle but all will be lost to the new owners of this
land. These are the last words of Wa-tum-nah, as I have run my race.
Ki-yi-yah and Ka-e-mox-nith became lovers but not
with knowledge of any of the tribal members. Ki-yi-yah was refused by We-ow-wicht for his
daughter again because of lack of chieftain blood. Ki-yi-yah plotted how he could steal
her from such a strong tribe as this. In this time there was a gambling tribe that favored
their horse as the fastest in the land a brown pride of the Tapteals. Ki-yi-yah told his
tribe that his horse could beat the brown, but they paused, saying they were afraid that
none could beat the brown as they had seen it beat every fast horse around. Ki-yi-yah
assured them until they said that they had faith in their new brother and would bet
everything they owned on the race to entice the Tapteal to want to race.
Excitement ran high. The Tapteals were drunk with
confidence and bet their entire property. Off went the horses like whirlwinds neck in
neck, but the sorrel was run steady and smooth under the weight of its rider while the
brown slowly lost ground even though its rider whipped it on. Ki-yi-yah's tribe went home
happy with their spoils and the winter passed in the midst of plenty.
One night Ki-yi-yah met Ka-e-mox-nith and let her
know that the time was ripe to take the two fastest horses in the region into their use to
escape to their freedom to love one another. She answered that while he loved her she
would trust him and that the words of Wa-tum-nah should become truth.
We-ow-wicht awoke to find his daughter gone. He was
distraught, but told the warriors that Wa-tum-nah's words were true and that they should
be content to wait for her to return someday.
Ki-yi-yah's old tribe was all astir at the news that
their wanderer was returning with the princess of a very powerful tribe. The old owner of
the sorrel had died so there was no further concern there, and luck had it that
Ki-yi-yah's brother had taken care of his horses so he was not poor any longer. This
marriage was as happy as one could be for one year when a child was born to them. They
named him Kamiakin and he was destined to become the most powerful Indian of his time.
This was five years before Lewis and Clark arrived. For nine more years they were happy
with two more sons born and Ki-yi-yah was peaceful with hunting and fishing and hung his
war bonnet in the wigwam. One day Ki-yi-yah came home late and Ka-e-mox-nith was not
prepared to feed him. Ki-yi-yah yelled that she was too busy with children now and he
should add another wife. She asked if his love was still warm for Wa-ni-nah. He smiled and
it broke her heart.
That night she snared a fleet-footed horse and the
now old brown horse she had come on. With the boys on one horse she stole off on a little
used trail to throw everyone off. In four days she found her tribe. Her father had passed
onto the long trail, and had given responsibility to her four brothers for higher and
lower valleys. She stayed with the lower valley and over the years more and more of the
tribe moved down there until the greater portion were there, and they became known as the
Yakamas. (Called so by other tribes for short people with large bellies)
Kamiakin became known as a powerful man who was comfortable in all the
tribes of the region. At one point he owned the entire Ahtanum area and had
thousands of horses and cows.