colville reservation
confederated tribes of the colville reservation nezperce tribe okanogan tribe chelan tribe
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colville reservation




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What were once twelve separate indian tribes live on the Colville Reservation. They are now confederated into one federally recognized indian tribe officially named the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The original eleven tribes were singularly known as the Colville Tribe (Scheulpi or Chualpay), the Wenatchee Tribe (Wenatchi), the Nespelem Tribe, the Moses-Columbia Tribe (Sinkiuse-Columbia), Methow Tribe, Okanogan Tribe (Syilx), Palus Tribe (Palouse), San Poil Tribe (Sanpoil), Entiat Tribe, Chelan Tribe, and the Lake Tribe (Sinixt). Later, in 1885, Chief Joseph's band of Nez Perce were the last tribe sent to the Colville reservation in Washington state and are now part of the Colville Confederacy, while the other Nez Perce bands were assigned to the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho and recognized by the US Government as a separate tribe.

The Colville Reservation is located in an area known as the Okanogan Highlands in the southeastern section of Okanogan County and the southern half of Ferry County in eastern Washington. Grand Coulee Dam is just outside the reservation's border and part of the town of Coulee Dam is within the reservation. At the other end of the reservation, the eastern portion of the town of Omak is within the reservation, while the rest of the town is not.

The Colville Reservation indians also have trust lands throughout Eastern Washington, including lands located in Chelan County, just to the northwest of the city of Chelan. Relatives of the tribes on the Colville Reservation who were separated by the drawing of international boundaries also reside on lands within the borders of Canada in the province of British Columbia.

The Colville Reservation was named after Col. John Colville of the U.S. Army who served as the local agent. The indians who are referred to as 'Colville Indians' today received this designation because they were the indians who lived closest around Fort Colville, and were the first group of indians to be placed on the Colville Reservation. Their English name, Colville, comes from the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Eden Colville.

In 1807 the first trading post was established on the Columbia River and the Hudson's Bay Company built a trading post at Kettle Falls in 1820. The Americans and Great Britain both claimed the Oregon Territory until the Treaty of 1846 established U.S. ownership, fixing the boundary line at the 49th parallel with England taking Vancouver Island. Indian tribes who had villages on both sides of the border were eventually forced to stay on their respective side of the border, regardless of their tribal affiliation.

On March 2, 1853, President Filmore signed a bill creating the Washington Territory which included today’s State of Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana. Only seven months later, Govenor Stevens recommended the establishment of indian reservations.

Late in 1854, an historical five-day "council" took place with nearly every tribe from present-day eastern Washington State participating so that each tribe could mark and claim specific reservation boundaries for the individual tribes.This council and dividing up of the land was negotiated by the federal government so that no land would be for sale and no payments would be made to any Indians.

The Point Elliott Treaty was signed in January, 1855, the Yakama Treaty in June, 1855, and the Hells Gate Treaty in July, 1855. From 1859 until 1865, the federal government allowed the non-treaty Indians of North Central Washington State to live without a treaty or an "Indian Agent" to oversee them.

On April 9, 1872, the Colville Indian Reservation was created. The Methow, Okanagan, San Poil, Lakes, Colvilles, Kalispels, Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, and other scattered tribes who were not parties to any treaty were confined to the original reservation.

The original reservation contained several million acres and included the areas between the Okanogan River and the crest of the Cascade Mountain Range in the Methow Valley and between the Columbia and Pend d’Orielle Rivers and all of the Colville Valley.

Less than three months later, the reservation was reduced in size to 2,825,000 acres. All the lands mentioned in the paragraph above were excluded, (all the prime agricultural lands and areas rich in minerals) and the boundary was redrawn on the west side of the Columbia River. Ironically, the tribes' native lands along the Okanogan River, in Methow Valley, and other large areas along the Columbia and Pend d'Orielle Rivers, along with the Colville Valley, were excluded. The areas removed from the reservation were some of the richest.

On April 19, 1879 and March 6, 1880, two tracts of land where the present day City of Wenatchee lies, north to the Canadian border between the crest of the Cascades and the Okanogan River, were established by another Presidential Executive Order for the Chief Moses tribes consisting of the Columbia, Chelan, Entiat and Wenatchi.

Three years later, on July 7, 1883, this reservation land was taken back and Chief Moses and his people were given the choice to either move to the Colville Indian Reservation or accept an allotment of 640 acres for the head of each family. A few families took the allotments on Lake Chelan, but most moved to the Colville Reservation.

In 1885, the federal government had planned to finally remove the remnants of Chief Joseph's band of Nez Perce indians from Oklahoma and return them to the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho. However, there was an outcry from white settlers in the area who didn't want them there, so they were assigned to the Colville Reservation instead, separating them from the rest of the Nez Perce tribe.

In 1887, the Congress passed the General Allotment Act that granted small parcels of acreage to Indian individuals, including some of the Colville. Allotments were created with tribal lands, including the Colville Reservation.

Over the next several decades, various societal and governmental pressures would chip away at the size of the Colville Reservation. In the late 19th century, encroachment by gold miners and other prospectors began to swallow up Colville lands. In 1892, a huge segment of northern acreage was removed. In the 1930s, dams along the Columbia and increased American settlement further compromised Colville jurisdiction.

In 1934, Congress commenced to close down the government's allotment policy that began 1887. A year later, the Secretary of the Interior signed an directive to terminate the withdrawal status of Colville reservation lands.

On February 26, 1938, the American government endorsed the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation’s new constitution and bylaws. From this document, a governing unit and four voting districts were established.

In 1995, each member of Washington’s Colville Confederated Tribes received a federal check in the amount of $5,989 to compensate for acreage confiscated to construct the Grand Coulee Dam in 1933.

Today the Colville Reservation contains 1.4 million acres (2,100 square miles) and is bordered on the west by the Okanogan River and on the south and east by Lake Roosevelt and the Columbia River. The reservation is occupied by 7,587 residents (2000 census), about 5,000 are Colville tribal members and their families and the rest are non-Colville members, living either in small communities or in rural settings. This is a population density of 5.7 people per square mile, which is very low.

Approximately fifty percent of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Rerservation membership live on or adjacent to the reservation.

The Colville Reservation is governed by a tribal council of 14, four from each district, except the Keller District, which has two council members. The reservation is divided into four legislative districts:

Omak District: The largest district population wise, which makes up the western portion of the reservation the Omak Okanogan Valley and half the town of Omak.

Nespelem District: Making up the west-central portion of the reservation including part of the city of Coulee Dam and the Nespelem Valley. The Reservation Headquarters is located here.

Keller District: The district making up the east-central region of the reservation namely the San Poil Valley to the edge of Lake Roosevelt.

Inchelium District: Makes up the Eastern most region of the reservation.

Each year an election is held for half the number of council members in each district.

In 2005 the estimated median household income on the Colville reservation was $31,900, compared to $49,262 in non-reservation areas of Washington.

The median house/condo value on the Colville reservation was $106,100, compared to $227,700 off reservation.

The unemployment rate on the Colville reservation for people over 25 is 22.3%.

28.3% of residents on this reservation had income below the poverty level in 1999, compared with 10.6% for the whole state.

11.7% of Colville Reservation residents had income below 50% of the poverty level in 1999, compared with 4.6% for the whole state.

0.5% of households on the Nez Perce reservation lack functional kitchens (meaning a sink with piped water, an elecric or wood burning stove, and a refrigerator). 27.8% of households don't have a telephone and 12.6% don't have any cars.

For population 25 years and over on the Colville Reservation, 75.6% have completed high school or higher, 13.2% have a bachelor's degree or higher, and 4.2% have a graduate or professional degree.

The Colville Reservation does not have a hospital or any colleges or universities on the reservation. Nespelem, Omak, Inchelium and the San Poil Valley have community health centers.

The Colville tribe has 14 business enterprises including gaming, recreation and tourism, retail, construction and wood products, which are managed by the Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation (C.T.E.C).

There are three Colville tribal casinos: the Mill Bay Casino on Lake Chelan, the Coulee Dam Casino and the Okanogan Bingo Casino. A new casino is also currently being built in Omak (2008).

The reservation has two cemetaries: the Indian Cemetery and Fort Okanogan Memorial Cemetery. Chief Joseph is buried in the town of Nespelem. Chief Moses and his wife are buried near the Indian Agency in Nespelem, 2 ½ miles south of town.

Omak Stampede Suicide Race is a traditional event for the Colville tribe. The Colville tribes are famous for a 'Suicide Race' they have held for hundreds of years. It used to be held at both Inchelium and Keller until 1935 when the Grand Coulee Dam flooded the original sites. The race was then moved to Omak where promoters of the Omak Stampede (Rodeo) needed an event to draw bigger crowds. The race is run down a steep, nearly perpendicular, 225 foot hill, where the horses and riders then have to swim the Okanogan River and then complete a 500 yard dash into the arena before the race is completed. The horses have to be at least five years old to have bones strong enough to run this race. Today, the race is open to both natives and non-natives, but most of the riders and horses are still from the Colville tribe.

The 4th of July Pow Wow is the Colville Tribe’s largest cultural event.

Most common industries for males on the Colville Reservation:



  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (18%)
  • Public administration (14%)
  • Construction (11%)
  • Wood products (10%)
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation (7%)
  • Educational services (5%)
  • Utilities (4%)

Most common industries for females on the Colville Reservation:



  • Public administration (23%)
  • Educational services (14%)
  • Health care (11%)
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation (7%)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (6%)
  • Social assistance (3%)
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations (3%)
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What's New:
Nespelem Oral History
The town of Nespelem, situated on the Colville Indian Reservation derived its name from an Indian word meaning "large meadow beside a stream."



Sinixt Lake indians
Most Sinixt or Lake indians are now part of the Colville tribe in Washington state, but once roamed both Washington and British Columbia.

Chelan Indians
The Chelan Indians were historically located at the outlet of Lake Chelan in Washington State.

Marriage and Wedding Customs
Men of the Plateau Tribes usually had at least two wives at the same time, more if they were wealthy.

Burial Customs of the Colville
Burial / Funeral Traditions of the Plateau Indians

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