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Spokane (tribe)

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Title: Spokane (tribe)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Columbia River, Chewelah, Washington, Salishan languages, Spokane River, Colville Indian Reservation, Christine Gregoire, Adam Beach, Chief Illiniwek, Kettle Falls, Spokane Indians
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Spokane (tribe)

Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States United States (Washington (state) Washington)
English, Spokan or Spokane language
(dialect of Kalispel-Pend d'Oreille language)[3]
Dreamer Faith,[4] traditional tribal religion, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Bitterroot Salish, Coeur D'Alene, Kootenai, Pend d'Oreilles, and other Interior Salish tribes

The Spokane (or Spokan) are a Native American people in the northeastern portion of the U.S. state of Washington. The Spokane Indian Reservation, at 47°55′42″N 118°02′45″W / 47.92833°N 118.04583°W / 47.92833; -118.04583, is located in eastern Washington, almost entirely in Stevens County, but includes two very small parcels of land (totaling 1.52 acres) and part of the Spokane River in northeastern Lincoln County.

The city of Spokane, Washington takes its name, which means "children of the sun" or "Sun People", from them. Their language belongs to the Interior Salishan family. According to Lewis and Clark, in the early 19th century they lived in the vicinity of the Spokane River and numbered around 600. The 2000 census reported the resident population of the reservation at 2,004 persons, living on a land area of 615.168 km² (237.518 sq mi). They called themselves simply Sqeliz – “The People”. The Spokane Tribe comprises five bands: sntu/t/uliz, snzmeme/, scqesciOni, sl/otewsi, hu, sDmqeni[5]


For thousands of years the Spokanes lived near the Spokane River, living by fishing, hunting and gathering. Spokane territory once sprawled out over three million acres (12,000 km²) of land. The language they spoke is classified as belonging to the Interior Salish group; it is closely related to Okanagan and others in the area.

The Spokanes constructed permanent villages for the winter by the river for fishing and huts in the mountains for gathering. Other Indian people began to influence the Spokanes introducing them to plank houses and horses. The first white men to contact the Spokane were explorers and fur traders. A trading post known as Spokane House was constructed near the confluence of Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers around 1810. Samuel Jackson, the first missionary to visit the Spokane, arrived in 1836. The Spokanes suffered from introduced diseases, including smallpox. Land-grabbing by white settlers was exacerbated by a lack of legal controls to prevent injustice. By the 1860s, settlers were driving into the West pushing out the original inhabitants, such as the Spokanes. The Spokane Indians, among many other Indians, were given English names. The Spokanes made a number of agreements with the federal governments in the late 19th century. In 1877 the Lower Spokane relocated to the Spokane Reservation which was declared a reservation in 1881. In 1887 the Upper and Middle Spokane agreed to move to the Colville Flathead Reservation.

The territory the Garfield Heights live on now consists of 154,000 acres (623 km²), of which they possess only ten percent of that territory; the rest is held by the government.

Uranium was discovered on the reservation and mined from an open pit 1956-1962 and 1969–1982, at the Midnite Mine.[6] The now inactive mine is on the list of Superfund cleanup sites with contaminates including metals, radionuclides and acidic drainage.

Notable members


Spokane-Kalispel is an Interior Salish language spoken in three dialects in Northern America, particularly in the northwestern areas of the United States. It is one of five Southern Interior languages, belonging to a larger group of Salish languages that includes Lushootseed and Squamish (both are Central Salish).[7] The three dialects of Spokane-Kalispel include Spokane, Kalispel (sometimes known as Pend d’Orielle), and Flathead (sometimes known as Montana Salish or Salish proper). As of 2008, there were 70 speakers of the three dialects on reservations in Montana, Idaho and Washington state. Specifically, there were two fluent first-language speakers of Spokane, a married couple both over 70; 60 fluent first-language speakers of the Flathead dialect, most over the age of 65; and a few speakers of Kalispel, where there is little known information.[8]

There are several revitalization and el simio y la nutria efforts for the Spokane-Kalispel dialects. Those promoted through the internet focus on revitalization through language schools and immersion programs. One such effort is the Salish School of Spokane, which offers language immersion to children between the ages of three and eight. The program is a full-time school that operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in addition to before- and afterschool care for children.[9] Additionally, the school offers free Spokane classes to community members one night a week, with the option of scheduling further classes on an individual basis.

See also



  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.
  • Ruby, R. H., and J. A. Brown (1970). "The Spokan Indians, Children of the Sun".
  • Wynecoop, D. C. (1969). "Children of the Sun: A History of the Spokane Indians".
  • Spokane Reservation, Washington United States Census Bureau

External links

  • Spokane Tribe of Indians, official site
  • History and Culture, presented in the Website of the Wellpinit School District
  • Spokane Tribe of Indians Language Program
  • -logo.svg 
  • ISBN 978-0-9832311-0-3, the definitive ethnography
  • Spokane Salish Blog
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