Located in northeastern Washington State the native people of Colville lived a nomadic lifestyle. This name came from the Colville River and Fort Colville, a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post named after their governor Eden Colville. They were also known as the “Basket People” by the neighboring Europeans because of the large salmon fishing baskets they woven and Chaudière by the French. Nowadays the reservation covers 2,116.802 square miles and The Colville Reservation is made up of about 8,700 people from 12 separate aboriginal tribes. The tribes are the Colville, the Nespelem, the Sanpoil, the Lakes, the Palus, the Wenatchi, the Chelan, the Entiat, the Methow, the southern Okanagan, the Sinkiuse-Columbia, and the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph’s Band. Additionally some members of the Spokane tribe settled the Colville reservation.

  • 1782, a smallpox epidemic
  • 1807, the first trading post was established on the Columbia River
  • 1820, Hudson's Bay Company built a trading post at Kettle Falls
  • 1838, Missionaries arrived in the area
  • 1846, Oregon Treaty of 1846- A settled dispute over the by Britain and the U.S.
  • 1850s, Non-Indian miners came into the area
  • Mid-1800s, trade with settlers began
  • April 9, 1872, Colville Indian Reservation officially established
  • July 2, 1872, By a Presidential Executive Order the reservation moved west of the Columbia River reducing the size of their land
  • 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act that granted small plots of acreage to Indian individuals
  • February 26, 1938, A governing division and four voting districts were established
  • 1956, the government restored some land back to the tribe

Colville Indians live around the Kettle and Columbia Rivers. Nowadays most live in Ferry and Okanogan Counties of Washington.

Okanogan group of the Interior division of the Salish language family. The other tribes speak other Salishan languages and the Nez Perce and Palus speak Sahaptian languages.

Social Organization and Government
Each village was led by a chief and a subchief. These positions were lifetime offices and were hereditary but were mostly occupied by people who portrayed honesty, integrity, and diplomacy. Chiefs serve to judge, advise, and be the leader when approved. An informal assembly of all married adults established a new chief and managed other aspects of village life. Everyone residing in the village were considered tribal members.
Analyze the social implications of the tribe's method of government.

Typical traditional attire was a “bark breechclout or apron, a bark poncho, winter leggings (fur for men, hemp for women), and fur robes. Skin garments became popular beginning in the late prehistoric period. For decoration, people wore Pacific Coast shell ornaments as well as animal teeth and claws.” (staff n.d.)

Pictured Above: Chief Joseph and members of his tribe.

Diet and Food Sources
Because they were nomadic the Colville Indians diet changed seasonally based upon food availability. They stalked rivers for fish runs, searched mountain meadows for berries and deer hunting, and explored the plateau for roots. Food was usually gathered in family units rather than the village. Men caught the fish and women collected shellfish. Salmon was the most prevalent fish in their diet as well as trout and sturgeon. Women were also in charge of drying and preserving food. Typically the people ate two meals in the warmer months and one meal in the colder months.

This will necessarily involve discussion of social organization.
Include a visual.

Before the use of horses the people used dugout canoes and snowshoes.
colville reservation map
colville reservation map

Tools and Weapons
The men generally used their own hunting tools as weapons and wore rawhide or wooden armor when it was necessary.

Economic Activities and Trade
In modern times the people of Colville Reservation’s economy include agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, public administration, construction, wood products, arts, entertainment, recreation, educational services, utilities, public administration, health care, social assistance, and religion practices.
Trade fairs were held at Kettle Falls and near Fraser River. Trade increased with gaining horses.
Describe how the tribe created goods and acquired wealth (money and materials).
Through an economic lens, analyze how the tribe interacted with other tribes and with Europeans.
Analyze the economic nature of any social traditions that involve gifting.

Religious Beliefs
The Colville tribe believed in the presence of spirits in all natural things, living and nonliving. People sought out guardian spirits through songs, singing, fasting, praying, and performing acts of endurance. Prepubescent boys usually participated in a series of one-night vigils. A Shamans’ powerful spirit allowed them to cure illness and assist in troubling times.
“The Animal People of Long Ago” (Ferguson 2007)
In this part of Washington it was believed that for a long time there were animal people who did things just as humans till the end of the mythical period when “the world turned over,” and human beings were created and the animals shrank to their current size and grew more numerous than humans.

Recreation and Games
The Colville Indians played many ambling games with sticks. They also had many celebrations, such as marriages, puberty, and good fortune by which they would sing praises and feast.

Works Cited

Amy. 2012. The Colville Indian Reservation. December 20. Accessed February 2015.
2012. Colville Indians. July 1. Accessed February 2015.
2008. Creation Beliefs / Religion of the Plateau Indian tribes. Accessed February 2015.
Ferguson, Jennifer K. 2007. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Colville Reservation.
staff, Crankshaft’s Publishing. n.d. Colville (Native Americans of the Plateau). Accessed February 2015.
website, Native Languages of the Americas. 2015. Native Languages of the Americas: . Accessed February 2015.