Home Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Teacher’s Section
Maps and Cityscapes
People and the Humanities

Fishing at Celilo Falls
Bonneville Power Administration

December 1952. Representatives of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation signing a financial compensation agreement for the inundation of Celilo Falls fishing sites by The Dalles Dam. Oregon Historical Society. [+] More

In this week's Tribal Perspective, we look at Social Change in the 1950s through the history of Celilo Falls along the Columbia River Gorge.

Native oral tradition among the Wasco, Wishram, Klickitat, Yakima, Walla Walla, and Umatilla people convey that the waters of the Columbia River Gorge have been traditional fishing grounds since time immemorial. Recent archaeological excavations in the Dalles area provide additional evidence that salmon fishing at Celilo dates back to 10,000-11,000 years before present.

The Indian tribes continued to fish at Celilo Falls until the Dalles Dam was completed in 1957. While the U.S. government compensated the tribes $27.2 million in damages, and the tribes retained fishing rights in this "usual and accustomed" place, the loss of this area as a cultural, social, and economic resource extends far beyond the government's monetary compensation.

In the video clips presented below, tribal members share their knowledge and perspective of Celilo and the The Dalles Dam.

The Loss of Celilo Falls
Bobbie Conner, Umatilla
Director, Tamastslikt Cultural Institute

Celilo Falls: A Social, Economic and Cultural Center
Pat Courtney Gold, Wasco
Traditional Basket Weaver

Recollections of Celilo
Marjory Waheneka, Cayuse/Palouse

Fishing Ethics at Celilo
Terry Courtney, Wasco
Fish Commissioner

Terry Courtney, Wasco,
demonstrates The Art
of Net Making

Additional Resources:

The following links take you to some wonderful resources regarding historical and contemporary aspects of the Celilo Falls / Dalles Dam region:

This link takes you to the Winter 2008 edition of Wana Chinook Tymoo, a semiannual publication of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC). This issue is dedicated to the 2007 Celilo Legacy Commemoration, which served to acknowledge and remember the history and people of Celilo Falls since its flooding 50 years ago: http://www.critfc.org/wana_images/wana_wntr08.pdf

This publication can also be downloaded directly from the CRITFC website: http://www.critfc.org/ This website provides articles, pictures and educational resources pertaining to historical and contemporary fishing rights and fisheries management among the Columbia River tribes.

The Oregon Historical Society's History Project provides further information on Celilo Falls and the Dalles Dam area http://www.ohs.org/
Use this link to access a variety of photographs and historical information on Celilo Falls (see "Related Documents" link)

Historical Viewers interactive electronic images of Celilo Falls

William Clark's map of the area from Celilo Falls to the Klickitat River, 1805

The Mighty Columbia River, (1947)
See 03:27 for footage of fishing at Celilo (narrated).


Celilo Falls, Columbia River History
Main Index: http://www.nwcouncil.org/history/Default_Thematic.asp

Umatilla Indians Compensated for Celilo Flooding, Oregon Historical Society


Death of Celilo Falls by Katrine Barber (2005) UW Press

Documentary video, "Echo of Water Against Rocks: Remembering the Last Days of Celilo Falls," by Ian McCluskey.
The 14-minute video explores how the destruction of Celilo Falls on the Columbia River ended an ancient way of life for the Pacific Northwest native community.