Tribal Nations

Black and white photo of buildings made out of reeds by a river.
Tule reed mat houses in the Wanapum Indian village at Priest Rapids, probably 1941



The areas that became Hanford, Los Alamos, and Oak Ridge are the traditional lands of many Tribal nations whose cultures, lifestyles, religious beliefs, and traditions have shaped these lands and continue to be shaped by their ties to these places.  

Hanford, Washington 

Oral tradition and archeological evidence demonstrates the presence of American Indians in the area for more than 10,000 years. The near-shore areas of the river contain village sites, fishing and fish processing sites, hunting areas, plant gathering sites, and religious sites, while upland areas were used for hunting, plant gathering, religious practices, and overland transportation. The first White trappers and traders began arriving in the region around 1800. Lewis and Clark arrived in 1805 to establish the United States’ territorial claim to the region. They were followed by missionaries, military units, and settlers passing through on river passageways, forever altering the lives of the indigenous people who had lived in the region since time immemorial. 

The treaties of the Walla Walla Council of 1855 relocated most area tribes to permanent reservations elsewhere, but tribes reserved access to their usual and accustomed places for resources such as salmon, game, and medicinal plants. The Wanapum Band did not sign a treaty. They lived on the site year-round. Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the Nez Perce Tribe, lived on the land during the winter. With the arrival of the Manhattan Project in 1943, Tribes were excluded from this land as barbed wire fences and security gates delineated the boundary of the Hanford site.

Los Alamos, New Mexico 

The occupation and use of New Mexico’s Pajarito Plateau began as early as 10,000 BC, when foraging groups used the area for hunting and gathering. During the Coalition and Classic periods (AD 1150 to 1600), large pueblo villages were built on the plateau. The Pajarito Plateau was no longer used as a year-round residential area beginning in the mid-1500s as an extended drought moved into the region. At this time, new pueblos were constructed along the Rio Grande. The pueblo of Tsirege, occupied during the Classic period (AD 1325 to 1600), is on lands appropriated by the US government during World War II and is ancestral to Tewa speakers of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso. In 1680, the Pueblo peoples revolted against the Spanish. At this time, several Ancestral Pueblo sites on the isolated Pajarito Plateau were reoccupied because they offered natural protection and defense for groups of refugees. Evidence of Navajos and Jicarilla Apaches in the northern Rio Grande begins with the Spanish Colonial Period (AD mid-1500s to early 1800s). Pueblo, Athabaskan, Anglo, and Hispanic Americans with Mexican and Spanish ancestry continued the seasonal use of the plateau for hunting, gathering, and grazing during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

In late 1942, the U.S. government appropriated US Forest Service land and private property on the Pajarito Plateau for its secret atom bomb project. The US government subsequently built fences and established checkpoints to prevent any unauthorized entries by the public and that barred American Indians and former landowners from returning. 

Oak Ridge, Tennessee 

The area composed of the Oak Ridge Reservation includes evidence of human settlement dating back at least 14,000 years. Various American Indian tribes settled the area. European settlement began in what is now east Tennessee when the Long Hunters arrived in the second half of the 1700s. Treaties in the 1790s between the United States and the Cherokee Nation resulted in a wave of White settlers, displacing the indigenous people who occupied the area for centuries. After the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, the US government forcibly removed tens of thousands of American Indians of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Shawnee, and Seminole tribes, along with thousands of enslaved African Americans, from their homelands to Indian Territory in what is now the state of Oklahoma. Thousands died during the forced removal known as the Trail of Tears. Some members of the Cherokee Nation hid in the mountains and avoided forced removal. Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians purchased 57,000 acres in North Carolina in the 1800s and continue to own and reside on the land known as the Qualla Boundary, which consists of individuals who refused to leave and others who are descendants of Trail of Tears survivors. 

Associated Tribes 

The following tribes and bands have connections to the lands and resources that became the three primary centers of operation for the Manhattan Project. Want to learn more? Visit their websites below.

Hanford, Washington: 
Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation 

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation 

Nez Perce Tribe 

Wanapum Band 

Los Alamos, New Mexico:

Jicarilla Apache Nation 

Pueblo of Cochiti 

Pueblo of Jemez  

Pueblo of Nambe 

Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh  

Pueblo of Picuris 

Pueblo of Pojoaque  

Pueblo of Santa Clara 

Pueblo of San Ildefonso 

Pueblo of Taos 


Oak Ridge, Tennessee:
Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma 

Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma 

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma 

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina 

Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma 

Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma 

Poarch Band of Creek Indians 

Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma 

Seminole Nation of Oklahoma 

The Shawnee Tribe 

Chickasaw Nation 

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma 

Last updated: April 5, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Manhattan Project National Historical Park
c/o NPS Intermountain Regional Office
P.O. Box 25287

Denver, CO 80225-0287


Hanford: 509.376.1647
Los Alamos: 505.661.6277
Oak Ridge: 865.482.1942

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