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Spokan Garry

Spokan GarryNative Netroots Logo

by: Ojibwa
Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 16:38:51 PM PST

Spokane Garry

In 1825, Governor George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company conceived the idea of selecting some Indian boys from the Columbia River tribes in present-day Washington and Idaho and sending them east to the Anglican mission school at Red River in Manitoba to be educated. His idea was that these boys could help in “civilizing” the tribes upon their return. Two teenage Indian boys – one from the Spokan in Washington and the other from the Kootenai in Idaho – were sent to the Red River School. The boys are renamed Kootenai Pelly and Spokan Garry. The name “Garry” was taken from the name of one of the directors of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the name “Pelly” from one of its governors. At the school, the boys were taught to read and write both English and French.

About the Spokan:
First, a note about spelling: I am using “Spokan” to indicate the tribe in order to avoid confusion with “Spokane” which is the name of a city in eastern Washington. Spokan is often translated as “Children of the Sun.”

The Spokan, a Salish-speaking people, were traditionally composed of three groups: (1) Upper Spokan who occupied the Spokane Valley; (2) Middle Spokan who occupied the Deep Creek and Four Lakes area; and (3) Lower Spokan who occupied the area around the Tchimokaine, Tumtum, and the mouth of the Spokane River. Traditionally, the overall Spokan territory extended from the head waters of the Chimokaine to the mouth of the Spokane River; down the south side of the Columbia as far as the mouth of the Okanogan; south to the head of the Snake River water shed; east to about the line of the present towns of Post Falls and Rathdrum.

As with other tribes along the Columbia River, fishing was an important economic activity. Downstream from Little Falls on the Spokane River, the Spokan would build a rock barrier across the river, and then place a willow-pole fish weir just upstream from this barrier. The fish were then speared and thrown to shore. This fishing site was also used by the Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel, Colville, Palouse, Sanpoil, and Sinkayuse.

While men traditionally fished for the salmon, only the women were able to obtain the lashings that bound the tripod of the fishing weir together. The men, therefore, were unable to build the weirs by themselves. Building fish weirs required the cooperation of women, thus the women had a crucial role in the important salmon fishing.

The salmon was dried in the sun and wind. The dried salmon would be pounded with a stone pestle in an oak mortar until it was finely pulverized. The salmon powder would then be tightly pressed into baskets lined with salmon skin. This dried, powdered salmon would keep for a long time.

The women usually prepared the fish. Once a woman had prepared the fish, it belonged to her and she made the decisions on how it was to be used. When salmon was used in trade, the trade items belonged to the women.

While hunting provided some of the Spokan nutrition, hunting is not always a dependable way of obtaining food. In order to ensure a successful hunt, individual hunters sought out spirit helpers and communal hunts required a hunt chief with experience, as well as an appropriate spirit guide. Before hunting, the men would often go through a sweat bath purification ritual and would make appeals to the animal spirits.

While much of the hunting focused on locally available big game-deer, elk, caribou-the Spokan would sometimes go on a communal buffalo hunt. This meant that they would travel from their home in eastern Washington, across northern Idaho, through western Montana, and cross the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains. This meant that they would be trespassing into territory claimed by the Blackfoot and the Blackfoot would often object to this. Thus, the buffalo hunt was often an inter-tribal affair as alliances provided some protection against the war parties of the Blackfoot and other tribes. The Kootenai, for example, often joined with the Coeur d’Alene and Spokan for the buffalo hunt. The hunt would usually last about four weeks.

Trade was also a major economic activity for the Spokan. The Spokane Falls area often served as a major trading center. Trading activities were often timed to occur during the fishing harvests. Prior to the coming of the Europeans, common trade items included stone tools from the glass volcanics (obsidian, vitrophyre, and ignimbrite) and marine shells, most commonly dentalium and olivella. The shells were often cut into beads which were then used as trade goods. In addition, manufactured products such as coiled baskets, parfleches, and tanned buffalo hides were brought into the area.

Spokan Garry and Kootenai Pelly returned to the northwest from the Red River School in 1829. Garry’s father, Illim-Spokanee, had died while the boy was at school, so the Spokan greeted him as a leader’s son who should be heard on matters affecting the welfare of this people. Spokan Garry brought with him the Christianity which he learned in school and preached it to the tribes in eastern Washington.

Garry’s preaching influenced leaders in other tribes. Soon after his return, for example, a young Nez Perce-Hol-lol-sote-tote, later known as Lawyer-heard Spokan Garry read from the Christian bible in Salish. Since Lawyer’s mother was Flathead (a Salish-speaking tribe), he was fluent in both Salish and Nez Perce. Lawyer was deeply moved and subsequently became Christian.

Soon after his return to the Spokan, Garry became recognized as a chief and acquired two wives: one from the Umatilla tribe and one from the San Poil tribe. His decision to take a second wife was viewed negatively by non-Indian missionaries.

With regard to his work as a native missionary preaching Christianity to the Indian people in the Upper Columbia area, Garry built a tule mat church and school along the Spokane River. He taught brotherly love, peaceful behavior, and humility. He also served as the translator for one of Francis Heron’s sermons at Fort Colville. In the audience were chiefs from the Spokan, Nez Perce, Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai, Pend d’Oreille, Sanpoil, and Kettle Falls tribes.

In 1836, Garry was involved in a large public Christian worship for the Spokan and Nez Perce at Loon Lake. Spokan Garry translated for the Spokan while a Nez Perce chief who understood some Spokan then translated from Spokan to Nez Perce.

In 1853, Governor Isaac Stevens met with the Spokan. Stevens wrote of Spokan Garry:
“Garry, the Spokane Chief, is a man of education, of strict probity and great influence over his tribe. He speaks English and French well.”

The treaties “negotiated” (some would say “imposed”) by Governor Stevens led to a great deal of unrest and set the stage for war. In 1854, a large intertribal council in Oregon’s Grande Ronde Valley is called by Yakama leader Kamiakin, Walla Walla leader Peopeo Moxmox, and Nez Perce war chief Apash Wyakaikt (Looking Glass). The tribes spent five days listening to Kamiakin’s account of what was happening to the Indian nations west of the Cascade Mountains. Kamiakin urged a confederacy so that the Americans (suyapos) could be fought with a united front. Kamiakin told the council:
“We wish to be left alone in the lands of our forefathers, whose bones lie in the sand hills and along the trails, but a pale-faced stranger has come from a distant land and sends word to us that we must give up our country, as he wants it for the white man. Where can we go? There is no place left”

Spokan leader Garry, Cayuse leader Stickus, and Nez Perce leader Lawyer felt that the Indians were not strong enough to wage war against the Americans. Among the Yakama, Teias and Owhi (both uncles to Kamiakin, and Teias was also Kamiakin’s father-in-law) opposed war.

The following year, Governor Stevens held a large treaty council at Walla Walla, Washington in which he announced his plans to establish two reservations: one would be located in Nez Perce country and would be for the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Spokan, and one in Yakama country for the Yakama, Palouse, Klikatat, Wenatchee, Okanagan, and Colville. The assembled tribal leaders disliked the Stevens’ proposal, so it was modified to include a third reservation: one to be located in Umatilla country for the Umatilla, Cayuse, and Walla Walla.

Following the treaty council at Walla Walla, Governor Stevens met with the Flathead, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai at Hell Gate and negotiated the treaty which would establish the Flathead Indian Reservation. In addition to the three tribes, the new reservation, according to Stevens’ vision, would also serve as home to the Coeur d’Alene and the Spokan.

By the end of 1855, the American vision called for the Spokan to leave their homeland and settle on either the Nez Perce or the Flathead reservations. Shortly after the treaties, Americans began their invasion of Spokan country looking for mineral wealth and paying little attention to any Spokan rights.

As a result of the treaties and American violations of Indian rights, war soon swept across the Plateau region. As a result Governor Isaac Stevens held council with some of the Columbia River tribes on the Spokane River in 1855. While the Americans were seeking to prevent the Columbia River tribes from joining the growing anti-American war, they heard the chiefs speak with some sympathy for the hostilities. In the rather stormy council, the Americans were unable to promise the Indians that the American army would not invade their territory. During the council, Spokan Garry told them:
“I think the difference between us and you Americans is in the clothing; the blood and the body are the same.”

As the war spreads, American forces under the command of Major Edward Steptoe were defeated by an intertribal war party with warriors from the Palouse, Coeur d’Alene, Spokan, Yakama, Pend d’Oreille, Flathead, and Columbia. Thus the Spokan were drawn into the war. Following the American defeat, the American forces swept though the Indians’ country from the Cascades to Lake Coeur d’Alene, attacking villages, burning provisions and supplies, taking hostages, and shooting and hanging Indians, with little regard to whether the Indians were actually hostile or friendly. The Americans defeated the Indians at the battles of Four Lakes and Spokane Plains. Two of Spokan Garry’s brothers were killed in these battles.

Following the battles of Four Lakes and Spokane Plains, Colonel Wright directed Spokan Garry to send messengers to chiefs Moses, Big Star, Skloom, and Kamiakin and inform them that they should come in for a conference. Later Colonel Wright reported:
“I warned them that if I ever had to come into this country again on a hostile expedition no man should be spared; I would annihilate the whole nation.”

After signing the treaties with the Spokan and Coeur d’Alene, Colonel Wright adopts a policy to hang individual Indians, demonstrating to the tribes what would happen to them if they ever broke the treaties they had signed.

In 1859, Spokan Garry petitioned military authorities and the Indian agent for a reservation for his people. Brigadier General W. S. Harney forwarded the request to the Secretary of the Interior with the following comment:

“In justice to these Indians this step should be adopted by our government; they already cultivate the soil in part for subsistence, and unless protected in their right to do so, they will be forced into a miserable warfare until they are exterminated.”

No action results from the request.

In 1866, a party of Spokan were hunting buffalo in Montana. During the hunt, they captured several horses from the Blackfoot. In retaliation, the Blackfoot killed a Spokan chief and captured 160 Spokan horses. The horse-poor Spokan then captured some non-Indian horses on their way home. In Missoula, Spokan Garry was arrested, but the Indian agent arranged for his release.

In 1872, the Colville Reservation was established by executive order of President Ulysses S. Grant for the Methow, Okanagan, Sanpoil, Nespelem, Lakes, Colville, Kalispel, Spokan, Coeur d’Alene, Chelan, Entiat, and Southern Okanagan. Once again there was little interest in providing the Spokan with their own reservation.

In 1874, Spokan Garry met with the Commandant of the Department of the Columbia. He was told that the government had no interest in giving the Spokan a reservation and that they should be careful not to make any trouble.

In 1880, the United States government held council with the Colville, Upper Spokan, Okanogan, Coeur d’Alene, and Lower Spokan just above the falls in Spokane. Nearly 4,000 Indians were present at the council and most did not have a reservation. Spokan Garry argued for a reservation for his people. The Americans promised them a new and ample reservation, but did not sign an agreement to that effect.

In 1881, the United States ordered the Spokan to move to a reservation west of the Columbia River or to take allotments. Chief Spokan Garry replied:
“What right have you to dictate to us? This is our country and we will not leave it.”

Instead of forcing the Spokan to move, a reservation is established for them by Presidential executive order.

In 1887, Spokan Garry asked the Indian Department to cede to his people as a reservation the land on both sides of the Spokane River from the city of Spokane to Tum Tum. The request was denied.

At the 1887 Treaty of Spokane Falls, Washington, non-reservation Spokan agreed to give up all claims to lands outside of the Spokane Reservation and to move to the Couer d’Alene Reservation in Idaho or to the Flathead Reservation in Montana. The United States agreed to help them in moving and finding new homes.

In 1888, Spokan Garry was at a temporary fishing camp away from his farm when non-Indians took over his farm and the crops that he had planted. When he returned home, the men told him to stay off. While Spokan Garry filed suit in an attempt to regain his farm, he died in 1892 before a decision was reached. The pattern of non-Indians taking over farms already being cultivated by Indians is fairly common at this time, and the Indians have little legal recourse.
Garry was about 81 years old at the time of his death. During the last years of his life, Garry was homeless and lived in poverty. The crude tent which had been his last shelter from the winter’s snow and  cold became his mortuary.
This post is taken by permission from

Mining History

Finch Quarry
Finch Quarry

A series of Adobe Acrobat files telling the story of Mining in Stevens County Washington is now available on this site:

  • Mining Part I – Tells the story of the rocks that make up the county and the kinds of mines found in them
  • Mining Part II – Talks about early mines and miners up till 1883
  • Mining Part III – Takes a look at the flurry of important mines discovered around 1883
  • Mining Part IV – Finishes the story with a look at some current mines

Some of these are files up to 8 megabytes.  They may take awhile to load.

Native Culture

Among the ancient cultures of the world, Salish People from the interior of the Northwest and particularly the Sinixt People who inhabited a vast territory from the headwaters of the Columbia River to it’s junction with the Spokane River are recognized for their stewardship of the land.  Traditions that allowed the strongest runs of salmon to clear Kettle Falls and continue to spawning grounds upstream kept a healthy population of fish running in the Columbia for millenia.  While Egyptian, Sumatran, Greek and Roman Empires rose and fell, often as the result of unsustainable practices, local tribes lived on. They managed to fish amicably at the Kettle Falls, one of two major fisheries on the Columbia River (the other being at Celilo Falls) by keeping a peace between tribes who fished here, even when they were at odds during the rest of the year.  Caribou, Elk, Bear and other animals were similarly sustained and honored in Sinixt culture.

Trails led for generations to the Falls and back to home villages.  Most long distance travel was accomplished by canoe.  The Sinixt developed a unique style, the sturgeon-nosed canoe, that allowed them to paddle up swift-moving streams without swamping because the bow of the canoe parted the waters without swamping, much like a kayak.  They also developed extensive trail systems, known as “Grease Trails” because the principle trade item was bear fat, highly prized for its ability to keep without developing a rancid flavor.  These trails often included rope bridges made of hemp.  As the major crossroads for this network of water trails and foot paths, Kettle Falls was the central trading hub for the region.

Around 1760, Pawnee Indians brought Spanish Ponies from the Great Plains to the Northwest.  Traditional trade routes such as the Kalispell Trail then extended to the Bitterroot Valley in Montana and down to Celio Falls near The Dalles Oregon.  There it connected with trade routes from the Chinook tribes on the coast.  Buffalo robes, obsidian for knapping and shells became inland trade items.  But along with the wealth of extended travel came disease.  As early as 1770, 40 years before White People arrived on the scene, Small Pox was reported near Kettle Falls.

Traditional Indian life involved passing on knowledge and building character in each new generation.  Every member of a tribe had duties that took training from one generation to the next.  Over the next half century, European disease decimated Native Peoples.  Some estimates are that only a tenth of the original population remained by the time of local first contact with White People.  The lore and history that was lost in these epidemics can hardly be overestimated.

At the time David Thompson arrived representing the Northwest Company, local people were anxious to trade for steel and guns.  Great Plains tribes already armed with industrial technology had begun raiding Sinixt territory.  The Northwest Company was largely staffed by French-Indian mixed blood people.  When their time working for the company was over, they became “Free Men”.  Many of them settled near Chewelah even before David Thompson arrived in the Colville Valley in 1811.  Today, many of the surnames of local tribal members have French roots.

The Freemen also brought with them their Catholic religion and eventually Jesuit missionaries.  In 1845 St Paul’s Mission was established near Kettle Falls as well as St Regis Mission near Chewelah by Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet.  Native People’s were willing to learn from the religion of some of the Fur Traders.  It did not completely eclipse their experience with the spirits of nature.  By then crude vaccinations for Small Pox administered by the priests saved many from death and increased Native appreciation for the healing powers of these new spirits.  They were not as impressed with the beliefs of Protestant Missionaries Cushing and Myra Fairbanks Eells and Elkanah and Mary Walker, who established the Tshimakain Mission near Ford Washington in 1838 and left in 1848 without converting a single soul.

In 1825 the Hudson Bay Company established its principle “factory”, Ft Colvile (spelled with one “l”) on a wide floodplain north of Kettle Falls.  Ft Colvile supplied food and trade goods to traders in the territory north and east of the Falls and was the principle trading post for the interior of the Pacific Northwest.  The post grew huge crops of potatoes and grain, raised beef and pork and grew fruits and vegetables.  Local tribes learned to cultivate land and began farming throughout the Colville Valley.  Their crops were included in the trade goods of Fort Colvile.

With the boundary treaty of 1846 that established the 49th parallel as the northern boundary of the United State, a new government came to replace the British-backed Hudson Bay Company.  The American representative, Issac Stevens came in 1853 and began a campaign to relegate all Native Tribes to reservations.  American settlers moved into the area and the American Army established Fort Harney, which soon became Fort Colville, 3 miles north of the present town of Colville in 1859.  By 1866 the Spoielpi, now called the Colville Tribe, were forced out of the Colville Valley and onto a reservation on the west side of the Columbia.

What followed was a long litany of broken treaty promises as rich mineral deposits were discovered throughout the region and the government worked to exploit the reservation where they a had already forced many tribes from throughout the region to live together.  White men’s vices of liquor and gambling further impoverished the Native Nations.  Only in the last 50 years through a series of successful court battles and the establishment of viable tribal businesses such as timber and gambling, have the local tribes begun to consolidate and control their reservations and bring more health and prosperity to their peoples.

For further reading, follow these links:

The Crossroads Project

Stevens County Crossroads on the Columbia Digital Archive

Since the ice sheets retreated 10,000 years ago, Native Peoples fished at Kettle Falls until the falls were submerged beneath waters backed up by Grand Coulee Dam in 1940.  Rivers were the highways of early travel, where they came together villages arose.  Native people gathered through the summer at the falls to catch and dry salmon.  This is the oldest and greatest of the Crossroads on the Columbia.

The first official contact between Native Peoples and White People at Kettle Falls occurred in 1811 when David Thompson arrived at the falls and constructed a canoe to take Beaver pelts to Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia.  This connection began an era when Kettle Falls became the principle Fur Trading Post in the interior of North America West of the Rockies. It’s key position in an international trade loop to China and back to England made it a crossroads on a much larger scale.

The Fur Trade ended around 1850 just before gold was discovered on the Columbia near Waneta on the border of the US and Canada.  Mining dominated development over the next 100 years as gold and other minerals hidden in the complex geology that formed the Kettle Falls led to the rapid development of travel by river and then by railway.  National and local governments clashed, built stongholds and wagon trails, and provided security for the dominant culture.  Industrial and agricultural boom towns peopled by immigrants from Europe and Asia sprang up along the waterways and eventually the railways of the region.  These new crossroads towns grew in turn from waves of homesteaders, many fleeing turmoil in the US and abroad.  They settled in even the most remote ends of the roads wherever water and soil would support a cow and the forest would provide trees for a cabin.

In some ways the forces that built the region stole its glory.  Railroads that brought industry and took minerals found more lucrative crossroads in Spokane and Seattle.  Rivers became sources of industrial power and ceased to serve as highways for fish and boats.  Mines boomed and busted forcing many to abandon the ends of the road and flee to bigger cities for work.

These themes meet and crisscross each other: Native People, The Fur Trade, Government, Mining, Boats, Railways and the Ends of the Road.  Each of them provides a way to organize our history.  Like any arbitrary convention, they may fall short of telling the whole story.  But they do provide roads into the territory and we encourage you to explore each of them to understand how they influenced each other.

For those of us who call the Kettle Country home and the thousands more who have their roots here, but live elsewhere, the crossroads on the Columbia have many stories to tell.  This archive is designed to hold the pictures, stories, records and other pieces of the past in a digital form, where researchers can piece together their own stories, share them with each other and with the rest of the world.  It is also designed to back up the physical treasures of our local museums and family collections so that even if they are lost to flood, fire or a weak economy, they will be here at least in a virtual form for the world to see.

Like any crossroads town, this website depends on its patrons to build valuable, accessible and attractive works together. Every dollar of the Preserve America Grant that funded its beginning needs to be matched with labor and material from the community itself.  There are opportunities and resources to encourage that effort in the History Detective categories of this website.

We need to strengthen, not replace our museums. There is no subsitute for being here,  This project will enhance efforts to develop tours and tourism to the museums and the rest of this historic area.  If you are not already familiar with the museums of Old Stevens County, a territory that covers much more than today’s jurisdiction, visit them soon.  You will be glad you did.

Although some history is written in stone in grave yards and the corner stones of historic buildings, none of it is complete and all of it is open to interpretation.  There are always facts to add and facts to dispute, this site will provide forums so that we can improve what is written.

A town that stops changing dies.  Similarly, technology keeps providing new opportunities to see the world in different ways.  Social Networks, Mobile Technology, Augmented Reality, Location Based Service, Gesture-based Computing and the Semantic web are some emerging technolgies that can enhance our understanding of the past and enrich our interactions with the present.  There is room for a lot of growth in this archive and rich resources to work with.  If you have ideas and projects that dovetail with this one, get involved.  We can find ourselves at the crossroads.

Get Your Story Told

This project depends on “History Detectives” to help with all phases of collecting information and putting it together in stories.

For a quick slide show of the process check out Building the Archive.

Curiosity is the first quality of a good detective but you don’t have to be an expert at history or computers to be a big help.  Everyone is good at something.

  • If you are curious, you probably want to know what kinds of things “History Detectives” do.  To start with, you can work at home on your own schedule or at a nearby museum or library organizing material or scanning.
  • There are a lot of hand-written documents that we can use help with typing up or just indexing their contents.
  • There are other papers with people’s names that we want to be keep track of.
  • If you have your own photo or story collection, that could help us too.
  • If you write or even just tell old stories, that could be very valuable.
  • You could plan a tour or inventory collections.
  • If you know genealogy  that could be huge.


So if you like to poke around in the past for any reason, this project needs you.  An easy way to contact us is to just post a comment to this page.  Give us a phone number (We won’t publish it on this website.)  We’ll call you and take it from there.