Environmental History 
of the Spokane River

Modern Relationship


The early Euro-American impact on the Spokane Tribe was similar to that of other tribes in the United States. In John Ross' book, The Spokan Indians, he explains that the tribe endured “the attitudes, laws, and federal policies” of settlers who “institutionalized their belief that the lands and other resources of the Spokane could be taken and exploited at will,” (Ross, 13). Paired with the decimation of the natural ecosystem upon which the Spokane Tribe relied, the arrival of white settlers ultimately caused a radical shift in Spokane culture. Reduced access to the river, as well as loss and degradation of land meant that the tribe could not continue many of their longstanding ways of life, including use of resources and practice of traditions and rituals. This has in turn created a necessity of recording and sharing information about traditional and transforming Spokane culture, so that future generations of tribal members and non-tribal members may understand more about this tribe who successfully adapted and thrived in a natural environment for 11,000 to 12,000 years prior to Euro-American presence in the land.

Today, the Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Spokane Tribal Headquarters are located in Wellpinit, Washington; the 157,376 acres of land are home to some of the 2,879 members of the tribe. The tribe is now focused on working with the United States Government to maintain tribal sovereignty and in doing so, " preserve and enhance [their] traditional values by living and teaching the inherent principles of respect, honor and integrity as embodied in [their] language and life-ways."

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