What is the Colville Reservation?

Stacy C.
Stacy C.
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The Colville Reservation is a 1.4 million acre (5.6 billion m2) American Indian reservation located in the U.S. state of Washington. It is home to more than 5,000 people from 12 Native American tribes. They are collectively known as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation is made up of 12 tribes: the Colville, the Okanogan, the Palus, the San Poil, the Entiat, the Chelan, the Nez Perce, the Lake, the Methow, the Wenatchi, the Nespelem, and the Moses-Columbia. The majority of these tribes were nomadic before the mid-1800s, with a trading post at Kettle Falls, in what is now Washington. They began to locate themselves more permanently in the northwestern part of the country when non-native settlers started to claim land.

In 1872, the Colville Reservation was established by President Ulysses S. Grant to contain these 12 tribes. At that point in time, the reservation outlined by Grant's executive order included several million acres of land that included rivers, streams, forests, grassland, and minerals, in what was then known as the Washington Territory. The area set aside for the reservation was downgraded just a month later to less than three million acres. It is suspected this was done because mineral-rich deposits were found in the areas that were removed from reservation property. The government continued to reclaim pieces of the land that had been allotted for the tribes until it was a fraction of what they were originally given. In 1956, the U.S. government returned 800,000 acres (3.2 billion m2) of land to the Colville Reservation in recognition of how badly the Native American tribes had been treated in the past.

Today, the Colville Reservation is in the north-central part of Washington state, just northwest of Spokane, the state's capital. It is divided into four districts for legislative purposes. These are the Omak District, which is the west-central part of the property; the Nespelem District, which is centrally located and contains the reservation headquarters; the Keller District, which is the east-central portion of the reservation; and the Inchelium District, which is the rest of the easter division.

Nearly 10,000 descendants of the 12 tribes are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, but only about half of these people actually live on the its land. Many members live, work, and go to school in small communities adjacent to the property.

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