About this place
While the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument features 40 million years of fossil history and animals that have been dead for eons, the monument is also home to many living species. Pronghorn, cougar, coyote, as well as many bird, reptile, amphibian, and fish species thrive alongside the John Day River, Bridge Creek and Rock Creek.
According to Floating in the Stream of Time: An Administrative History of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the upper John Day Basin was home to the Tenino and other Plateau peoples as well as Northern Paiute bands from the Great Basin. The Sheep Rock Unit appears to have been primarily occupied by the Northern Paiute in the early historic period, and the Tenino, Umatilla, Molala, Wasco, Cayuse, and Nez Perce may have been in the area at various times. Both Painted Hills and Clarno appear to be within the Tenino and perhaps the Umatilla and Northern Paiute culture area.
All three park units are within the territory ceded by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in the 1855 treaty. These groups retain the right to fish, hunt and gather berries at traditional places within aboriginal territory delineated by treaty. The monument is outside an area ceded by the Umatilla, Cayuse and Walla Walla people, but is within their larger aboriginal territory. Leaders of seven Northern Paiute bands signed a treaty in 1868. They did not cede any land, and the treaty remained unratified.
The monument was established in 1975 “to protect the paleontological resources of the John Day Basin and provide for, and promote, the scientific and public understanding of those resources.”