Old Bones Cemetery

The Palouse Indian Village at the confluence of the Palouse and Snake Rivers was home to many generations of Native peoples until the mid-1940s. The river provided the village with ample fish and waterfowl to live on. Chief Old Bones, or Charley Old Bones as he was sometimes called, was the leader of this village in the early 1900s.

Old Bones, born Waughaski, was a Cayuse-born Indian and the last of the Palouse Indian tribal chiefs. Before he died in 1916, he named white man and longtime friend of the Palouse, Jack Pettyjohn, as his successor. The chief’s body was laid to rest just above the Snake River in the Indian cemetery near the village. Pettyjohn placed the headstone on Old Bones’s grave, the only grave in the cemetery that was marked with a stone.

In 1969, the Lower Monumental Dam was completed. Before the water level was raised, the Indian remains were exhumed and relocated to a single large grave north of Lyons Ferry. The body of Chief Old Bones was also moved to this new location. Today, his gravestone is one of three stones marking the area. The other two pay tribute to the Palouse tribe and indicate that there are the remains of 135 Indians buried there. The new grave overlooks the Palouse and Snake Rivers.

Old Bones Cemetery is accessible from Highway 261 by taking the Ranger Station road to the west, just past Lyons Ferry State Park. It is about a quarter mile hike from the trailhead below the ranger station.