Until the mid-1800s, the ancestors of the Tribes were nomadic. They followed the seasons while moving from place to place to occupy fishing sites and harvest berries and native plants. In their travels, the Tribes’ ancestors met other indigenous native people of different speech and cultural practices.
The indigenous native people living in those valuable territories were considered non-entitled but the United States, England and other foreign interests still wanted their trade. Non-entitlement for our forefathers and all other indigenous native people was the prelude for taking what had been the Tribes’ homelands since the time of creation.
Late in 1855, an historical five-day "council" took place with nearly every tribe from present-day eastern Washington State participating so that each tribal leader or Chief could mark and claim specific reservation boundaries for the individual tribes. This council and dividing up the land was done purposely by the federal government so that no land would be for sale and no payments would be made to any Indians. Governor Stevens carried out his duties by successfully negotiating: the Point Elliott Treaty in January, 1855; the Yakama Treaty in June, 1855; and the Hells Gate Treaty in July, 1855.
The indigenous native peoples who would later become the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation were not forgotten. In December 22, 1855 letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Governor Stevens told of meeting with some Indians, as he had promised during the Yakama Treaty negotiations, but "they did not sign a treaty although they pledged to take no part in the Yakama War which broke out that year."
At its inception by a President Grant’s Executive Order on April 9, 1872, the Colville Indian Reservation was in a different location from today’s reservation. The first reservation covered several million acres of diverse properties including rivers, streams, timbered forests, grass lands, minerals, plants and animals. The aboriginal tribes of 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.
On July 2, 1872 a President Grant's executive order moved the Colville Indian Reservation to its present location on the west side of the mighty Columbia River and diminished its size to less than three million acres or 2,825,000 acres. 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 the Colville Valley were excluded from the second and final reservation. None of the tribes affected by the Presidential Order were consulted. The areas deleted from the original reservation were rich in minerals.
On April 19, 1879 and March 6, 1880, two tracts of land called the Moses Columbia Reservation--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, Chief Moses and his people agreed to either move to the Colville Indian Reservation or accept an allotment of 640 acres for the head of each family.
Some tribal families took the allotment of 640 acres and remained in their ancestral homelands along the Columbia River and at majestic Lake Chelan outside the established boundaries of the reservation. In 1885, Chief Moses, who had moved to the Colville Indian Reservation, invited Chief Joseph and his tribe of Nez Perce, to live on the reservation. Chief Joseph and his people were never allowed to return to their former homeland in the Oregon Territory. He died at Nespelem, Washington in 1904. Many descendants of his band reside on the Colville Indian Reservation today and still belong to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
Twenty years after the Colville Indian Reservation was moved to its present location, the north half of the reservation was ceded to the United States by an act of Congress (27 Stat. 62). At that time 660 Colville Indians were allotted 51,653 acres located in the ceded area. In that same year, the United States negotiated an agreement with our tribal forefathers for the purchase of the unallotted acreage located in the north half and paid them $1.5 million dollars for 1.5 million acres, priced at $1.00 an acre.
The Colville tribal leaders of 1892 were able to reserve the right for members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation to hunt and fish on the former north half of the reservation for time immemorial. Later, a Presidential Proclamation on October 10, 1900, opened the south half of the Colville Indian Reservation, totaling 1,449,268 acres, to homesteading which began six years later in 1916.
In 1997 and 1998, the Colville Confederation celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the Colville Indian Reservation in recognition of 125 years of survival with a prayer to our Creator that some day when we, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, a confederation of First Americans, will hold all of our lands in trust for our people, we will truly be able to claim this beautiful nation as ours once again.
Updated June 13, 2014 by Media Services as requested by Human Resources Director Kara Finley.