Published on October 16, 2010 by John
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Scalp Dance by Spokane Indians
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, 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 literally 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).
For thousands of years the Spokanes lived near the Spokane River, living by fishing, hunting and gathering. The Spokane tribe 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 Johnson, the first missionary to visit the Spokane, arrived in 1836.
As with other tribes, the Spokanes suffered from introduced diseases (including smallpox, syphilis, influenza) and land-grabbing brought by white settlers and exacerbated by lack of legal controls to prevent injustice. By the 1860s homesteaders were driving into the West pushing off the original inhabitants, such as the Spokanes. Some consequences of the movement of the white men were the destruction of the burial grounds and ancient villages, the suppression of original Indian languages and cultures, and the raping of native women. 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 Spokanes 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. The now inactive mine is on the list of Superfund cleanup sites with contaminates including metals, radionuclides and acidic drainage.
The author and filmmaker Sherman Alexie is of Spokane (and Coeur d’Alene) ancestry.
Chief Lot and Chief Garry were well-known 19th-century tribal leaders.
Charlene Teters, artist and anti-mascot activist
The indigenous name of the important historical Chief Nicola, “Hwistesmexteqen”, who ruled a large portion of the southern part what is now British Columbia but who was of Okanagan origin was from the Spokane language.
Lcpl. Nathan BrownEagle, USMC