When Lewis and Clark encountered them in October 1805, they called them “Pallotepellows” and estimated their number at around 1,600. The Palouse people were semi-sedentary hunter/gatherers. Acquiring horses early on, they became expert horsemen, breeders, and horse traders. The Appaloosa horse, with its distinctive spotted coat, speed, and stamina, takes its name from the tribe. Like other tribes on the Columbia Plateau, they also depended heavily on fishing in the many rivers of the region.
Though they initially traded with white fur traders and settlers, they soon came into conflict with them as the Palouse people suffered from diseases. In 1847, after a measles epidemic, they fought with the Cayuse in the Cayuse War. In 1855, they were recognized in the Treaty with the Yakama, but the treaty was never recognized by the tribe and they refused to lead the reservation life. However, when that treaty was immediately broken, they joined forces with the Yakama and other tribes in the Yakima War in 1855 and the Coeur d’Alene War of 1858. Some individuals eventually joined reservations. Their descendants today are called “Palouse” by the Yakama Nation and “Palus” by the Colville Confederated Tribes.
Today they are enrolled in the federally recognized Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and are represented by the Colville Confederated Tribes.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated December 2018.