Chapter 3 Native American Profile: The Colville


Chief Moses led the Colville during the second half of the nineteenth century. Under his leadership, the Colville roamed freely over the Columbia Basin even after many tribes had been placed on reservations. Moses inherited his position of chief from his father. Moses was well respected for his intelligence, diplomacy, and physical strength.

Chief Moses eventually had to negotiate with the white settlers. He chose negotiation over bloodshed for his people, but he was neither friend nor enemy to whites. The U.S. government promised Moses his own reservation for the Colville. However, when Moses went to sign the treaty, he was taken into custody. The government broke its promise to him, and the Colville were sent to a reservation with many other tribes.


The Colville established their home in the Northwest in the 1500s. They were a largely nomadic tribe, following food sources as the seasons changed. The Colville established Kettle Falls as the central location for their fishing, trading, and military activity.

In 1825, the Hudson's Bay Company took over Kettle Falls. After the arrival of the Canadian company, the Colville were forced to make drastic changes. Missionaries settled in the area and tried to rid the Colville of their pagan ways. The Colville were no longer able to conduct their own trade. The growing number of settlers and miners moving onto their territory alarmed the Colville, but they remained peaceful even as they became more and more uneasy.

The settlers steadily moved onto larger amounts of Colville land. The tribe realized that its land was dwindling and agreed to move onto a reservation in 1872. The reservation ran along the Columbia River and covered several million acres of diverse landforms. Members of 12 different tribes migrated onto the reservation and became the Confederated Tribes of the Colville. Just a few months later, the government moved the reservation to allow settlers to have control of this fertile land. The area was gradually reduced, leaving the Colville with a dramatically smaller amount of land than they had agreed to.

In 1887, the reservation Allotment Act was implemented. Over the next 15 years, nearly 330,000 acres of reservation land was given back to the Confederated Tribes. The allotment of land was a slow process, and it was not until 1957 that the government acknowledged its futile efforts and returned 800,000 acres to the Confederated Tribes.


The Colville were given many names. They were often called Scheulpi or Chualpay by tribes with a common language. The French named them Les Chaudieres, which means "the kettles." This name referred to their home in Kettle Falls. The most common name, Colville, comes from the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Eden Colville.

Colville tribes were among the many who spoke a dialect of the Salishan language. Of the three main branches of the Salishan language, the Colville spoke the Interior branch, the most popular of the three.

The Colville revered all things in nature. They believed that everything had a spirit, and they often called upon these spirits for help with daily living. Young members of the tribe spent time alone in the wilderness so that they could find and receive their own guardian spirit. Once obtained, a guardian spirit was believed to provide protection and aid for life. The shamans of the tribe had access to the most significant of the spirits.

When they died, members of the Colville tribe were often buried in or underneath a canoe. The canoes were believed to aid their souls in travels to other lands.


The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation was established in 1938. A constitution was developed and is upheld by a 14-member business council. Today, the Confederated Tribes are struggling to maintain a relationship with the federal government. That is, the tribes want to gain sovereignty and sustain government support.