Chapter 3 Current Issues: Wenatchi Tribe

 

Background

The Wenatchi tribe included about 2,000 people before white settlers arrived in the Wenatchee Valley. The tribe was reduced to a few hundred after smallpox and other diseases killed many of them. The tribe's leaders eventually met with government officials to determine the future of the tribe.

A treaty signed in 1855 promised that the Wenatchi tribe would have a reservation and hunting and fishing rights at the Wenatchapam Fishery (the site where the Wenatchee River and Icicle Creek met). The treaty said the reservation would be 36 square miles, but the boundaries of the reservation weren't surveyed until 1893. Someone ordered the surveyor to move the reservation high in the mountains. As a result, the survey was inaccurate and didn’t follow the treaty, but the government did nothing. Most of the Wenatchi were forced to move onto the Colville Indian Reservation, which was far from their homeland.

Discussion Items

The Wenatchi argue that the 1855 treaty should be recognized and honored. They say that a treaty is the law. If the U.S. government doesn’t honor its agreements, then this action is a bad thing for all U.S. citizens. Do you agree?

The story of the struggle for this land is told in the movie "False Promises: The Lost Land of the Wenatchi". You can order the film at
http://filmakers.com/indivs/FalsePromises.htm

With your class visit the False Promises website at http://www.falsepromises.com/falsepromises/where.html and learn more about this controversy. What do you believe should happen? What do you think will happen? Are there any updates on this issue? Write a letter stating your opinion to a Wenatchi tribe elder or your Congressman.