The Spokane (or Spokan) Indians are a Native American people in the northeastern half of the state of Washington.The city of Spokane takes its name, which literally means “children of the sun” or “Sun People”, from them. According to Lewis and Clark, they lived near to the Spokane River in the early 19th century. The census in 2000 reported the resident population of the reservation at 2,004 persons, living on a land area of 615.168 km² .For thousands of years the Spokanes lived near the Spokane River, living by fishing, hunting and gathering.The Spokane territory once sprawled out over three million acres (i.e. 12,000 km²) of land. They speak the language Interior Salish.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 traders. The traders traded many different materials like fur and weapons. 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.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 ancient villages, thethe suppression of orignial indian language and culture, and the raping of native women.
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Spokane means “children of the sun”. The Spokane Tribe’s reservation, bounded in the south by the Spokane River and in the west by the Columbia River, consists of 154,000 acres in the eastern part of the state of Washington on the Columbia River Plateau. All but 10 percent of the acreage is held in trust by the federal government. The reservation exists in the original area inhabited by the Spokane, which sprawled across three million acres.
The Spokane Tribe of Indians’ ancestors were the Spokan, a plateau people that shared numerous cultural traits with their neighbours. The Spokanes’ original tongue is a member of the Salish language family, and they are often categorized as a Salishan tribe. For unrecorded millennia, the Spokane tribe lived in the area around the Spokane River, leading a seasonal way of life consisting of fishing, hunting and gathering endeavors. The Spokane people shared their territory and language with several other tribes, including the Colville Flathead, and Kalispel tribes. The Spokane consisted of three bands that lived along the Spokane River. The Spokane Falls were the tribe’s center of trade and fishing.
The typical Spokane kinship unit was the nuclear family, plus the father’s and mother’s nearest relatives. The acceptable, but uncommon practice of polygamy was a potential family feature.
The spiritual life of the Spokane was closely interwoven with the land and living things. The beliefs of all Plateau Indians held many commonalities with religions of other North American Indians. The Spokane believed in a Great Spirit. There also were such atmospheric spirits as the wind and thunder, and numerous supportive animal spirits that people sought for personal guardians. Firstling rites were celebrated for the first-caught salmon, or the first berries, roots and fruits harvested during the summer season.
By the 13th century, the Spokane had developed permanent winter villages typically situated on rivers, especially along rapids and other places where fish were plentiful. Those dwellings were elongated and semi-subterranean. To hunt and gather roots and berries in the summer, they lived in camps on mountain valley meadows. Those shelters were cone-shaped huts covered with mats.
From the 13th to 17th centuries, gradual changes to the Spokane culture appear to have arrived from the west. The Plateau peoples became influenced by the rich and intricate Northweast Coast Culture of Washington’s and Oregon’s Paficic coasts. A few of the influences included plank houses, and wood and bone carvings depicting animals.
At the turn of the 18th century, other influences on the Spokane came from Plains Indians residing east of the Rockies — the major one being the horse (introduced to the continent by European explorers). The Spokane probably started using horses in 1730 when they were brought into the Palouse region of present-day eastern Washington.
Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries entered the region to convert the Native Americans and improve their lot. Missionaries usually meant well, but they deliberately sought to extinguish the natives’ religion as well as many of their customs.
Early in the 19th century, Indian and white fur trappers out of the east came into the northern Columbia Plateau forests. They were friendly with the native people they encountered. They often lived with them, took on their customs, and intermarriage was not uncommon. In 1810, the Spokane commenced major trading with white men. The Northwest Company’s Spokane House was established on their lands; it was moved to Fort Colville in 1826.
However, smallpox, syphilis, influenza and other diseases, unwittingly introduced by the white man, proved to be disastrous to native peoples, including the Spokane. Entire villages were wiped out.
Following the 1849 Gold Rush in California, prospectors looked for gold elsewhere in the West. Gold seekers arrived in Washington territory in the 1850s and ’60s. They were frequently unruly, caring little about Indians and their rights. If a white man was killed, U.S. soldiers would get involved — regardless of what he had done. Indian wars in the inland Northwest erupted as a result. Native veterans of the wars were assumed to be murderers and were killed.
From 1860 onward, the Spokane shared the fate of numerous other tribes in the Northwest and elsewhere. Land-hungry homesteaders poured into the Plateau region and forced off the original inhabitants. Indians from disparate tribes were concentrated onto reservations, which compromised their tribal identity. The Prophet Dance of the 19th century seems to have been a reaction against the increasing compromise of ancestral culture by the new influences.
Natural resources that Native Americans had depended upon were exploited to the point of destruction. Off-reservation burial grounds and ancient villages were often disrupted and destroyed by earthmoving and house construction. The Indian agent (federal reservation supervisor), imposed regulations and restrictions on his native charges. There was an open effort to suppress the Indians’ language and culture; for example, they were assigned English names. Indians endured the prejudice of the dominant white society. Alcoholism and other diseases exacted an awful toll.
All in all the Spokane Indians are like the other Indians: Poor and desquamated from the Goverment.
(written by: bocktyle, wahijama, zeisphil, stemmaja)