The Cayuse tribe was one of the most powerful and most powerful tribes of the plateau culture region. They lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle of fishing, hunting or gathering wild plants for food. Cayuse was given the name by French-Canadian fur traders, who called them Caloux, meaning “Rock People”, due to the rocky environment of parts of their homeland. The introduction of the horse in the 1700s brought a change in lifestyle, and many people from the Cayuse traveled to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo. They adopted some of the ideas of the Native American Indians of the Great Plains, including the use of tepees, which were covered with buffalo skin, and certain items of clothing made from buffalo skin. The grasslands of the Cayuse region enabled the tribe to become horse breeders and traders and raised the Cayuse horse breed.

Allies of the Cayuse tribe were many other Native American Indians who lived in the plateau region, including the Perce Nez, Walla Walla, Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Yakama, and Palaus tribes. The main enemies of the Cayuse tribe were the Great Basin group in the south, including the Shoshone and northern Paiute.

The Cayuse Plateau people are a Native American cultural group whose territories span hundreds of miles in northeastern Oregon and southeast Washington. The location of the Keyus tribal homeland is shown on the map. The geography of the area in which they lived determined the lifestyle and culture of the Caius tribe.

  • The Cayuse region extends from the mountains on the east to the Grand Ronde across the Blue Mountains to the John Day River.
  • Land: fast flowing rivers, lakes, forests and valleys
  • Climate: Hot summers and cold, snowy winters
  • Animals: Animals included elk, deer, bear, mountain goat, groundhog, coyote, raccoon, porcupine, fox, mongoose, beaver, and rabbit.
    Fish: Salmon, Trout
  • Natural Resources: Berries such as blackberries, strawberries, huckleberries, bulbs, bitterroot, onions, nuts and seeds.

The Cayuse were semi-nomadic and needed shelters that were easy to erect and take off. Keuse lived in one of three shelters, depending on the season. The types of shelters were a semi-underground pit house, a tepee or tulle-mat lodge.

  • Pit houses were shelters that were built with logs and sealed with dirt and grass for insulation. Pit houses were built below ground with an entrance and a staircase at the top and were typically used during the cold, winter months.
  • Summer shelters were above ground: tepee and tulle-mat lodges. Tepes were covered with animal skins but tulle-mat lodges were covered with strong, durable, mats of tulle reeds (bulrush).

The Cayuse tribe spoke their own language in contrast to the Sahaptian dialect spoken by the neighboring Plateau Native Indian group. They call themselves ‘Nimipu’, which means “people”.

What transport did the Caius tribe use?

When the Cayuse tribe inhabited the plateau, they used dugout canoes made from hollowed-out logs of large trees. The men hollowed out the logs with controlled fire to soften the wood so that they could carve their canoes and form a flat bottom with straight sides. Dugout canoes were important to the Cayuse’s way of life as semi-nomadic fishermen and hunters and an ideal means of transportation for travel along the fast currents and shallow waters of the John Day River.

The food that the Cayuse tribe ate included salmon and other fish and a variety of meats from the animals they hunted. About half of their diet was fish, and the other half came from large game animals and small birds. He supplemented his protein diet with seeds, roots, nuts and fruits.

The weapons used by the Keuys were spears, knives, bows and arrows and clubs. The Cayuse also used shields for defensive purposes.


Originally keyuz clothing was made of shredded cedar bark, deer skin or rabbit skin. However, with the influence of the Great Plains tribes they started using buffalo skin to make their clothes. The clothing worn by the men varied according to the season but generally they wore breeches and leggings, shirts, moccasins and robes. Blankets and gloves were often used to ward off the cold. It was customary to decorate their clothes with fringes.

Breastplates were worn for decoration purposes such as armbands, wristbands and anklets. Headdresses were made of feathers, some used the ‘standup’ design of the headdress, others were luxurious feather headdresses that stuck to the floor. Keuse wears a halo style headdress with equestrian bison horns. Their hair was kept long and decorated with beads and bandages for special occasions.

The women of the Cayuse tribe wore long dresses that covered them from neck to ankle. Women also wore knee length moccasins during winters. Cayuse clothing was decorated with beads made from a variety of materials including shells, pebbles, claws, bones, nuts, seeds, porcupine quills, horns, pieces of metal, and bird claws.

The religion and belief of the Cayuse tribe was based on animism which included the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all natural objects, animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains, etc., have spirits or spirits.

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