Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Summer 2020

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Daniel Herman

Second Committee Member

Jason Dormady

Third Committee Member

Marna Carroll


The Treaty of 1855 between Indigenous groups in the middle of the Washington territory and the United States government consolidated fourteen tribes under the Yakama Nation. The combination of Governor Isaac Stevens proclaiming their land open for settlement and nearby gold miners assaulting Yakama women led to the ensuing Yakama War, leading the US Army to build Fort Simcoe. Reverend James H. Wilbur was hired in 1860 by the Office of Indian Affairs to establish the Yakima Indian Agency at Fort Simcoe, following the war. Wilbur also opened one of the first on-reservation boarding schools for Native American children, where he was enforced a strict work ethic through forced labor. With Washington D.C preoccupied with the Civil War and Westward settlement, Wilbur had sparse funding and unlimited power. This thesis analyzes the paternalistic relationships that Wilbur sought to impose on the Yakamas, the events that caused the Yakamas to lose trust in his colonial authority, and the legacy of his twenty-year tenure as Indian Agent. Wilbur cultivated authority by creating an alternative fictive “paternity,” which was undermined by the Office of Indian Affairs when the bureaucracy took more control over the reservation. This thesis does not argue that the Yakamas did not resist colonialist authority, but that the resistance became much more apparent after the trust between the Yakamas and Wilbur was broken by bureaucratic colonialism.