The name Spokane means "Children of the sun". In 1775 the population of the tribe was estimated between 1400 and 2500. In 2009 the population was 2,570. They are considered to be a Salishan tribe along with a few other tribes.


The Spokane tribes traveled a lot because they were Plateau Indians and finding food wasn't as easy as it was on the coast. They mostly lived in Northeast Washington, Northern Idaho, and Western Montana for many centuries. They stayed near the Spokane and Columbia rivers for food supply. Now their preservation is in Wellpinit, Washington.


They speak the Salish language, which is also spoken by neighboring kalispel and flathead tribes. Between the three different tribes the dialect is so similar that most consider them to be just one language. The use of this language extends from Montana to Washington. This language includes its own alphabet. Now there are only about 200 people speaking this language, they are now trying to include it in the school at the preservation.


Traditional dress of Spokane Indians included breechcloths (a long rectangular piece of hide or cloth tucked over a belt, so the flaps fell down in the front and back) and leggings for men, while women wore skirts, or one-piece dresses, and leggings. During the winter months men and women would use cloaks, or fur parkas to stay warm. They also wore moccasins (a sturdy leather shoe).
In the picture below, the two ladies are dressed in ceremonial dresses.
Spokane Indians 2.jpg

Diet and/or Food sources:

They hunted for deer, ducks, geese, and beaver. In the Spokane and Columbia river they fished for Salmon, Link cod, and devilfish. When they could they would gather vegetables like wild carrots and camas root. They also liked to eat black moss because it supposedly taste like licorice.
Every year the men did the did the Salmon run and all of the fishing, while the women gathered berries and dug up roots.


They developed permanent villages in the winter months along the rivers in places where fish and animals were plentiful. In the summer when they wanted to gather roots and berries, they lived in camps on mountain valley meadows. These camps were cone shaped huts made from poles forming a large circle at the bottom and a small circle at the top. They places a tulle mat on the frame to enclose it and make it warm. They used this form of shelter because it was easy to take down, put up, and carry when they were traveling. In between the 13th and 17th century the Plateau Indians became more influenced by the coastal Indians taking in their ways of making plank houses..
Spokane Indians.jpg


In the beginning of course they walked everywhere. They were not a stationary tribe, most of the time they were moving from place to place, so to transport their belongings they strapped them to canoes and dogs. When European explorers arrived in 1730 they introduced horste to the Spokane tribe and they started to used them as well.

Economic Activities:(trade):

They had extensive trade with other tribal groups within the Columbia Plateau area. Each year, at the time of the salmon run, tribal groups from across the Columbia Plateau region would gather at Spokane Falls for fishing, trading, and socializing. In 1810, the Spokane started major trading with white men. During the Salmon run other tribes joined the Spokane for fishing, games, trade, celebration, and socializing.
spokane fisherman.jpg

Religious Beliefs:

Many of the Spokane Indians belong to the Protestant or Catholic religion. Some of the other tribe members combine Christianity with their own personal beliefs, including the great spirit, the spirits of the wind and the thunder, and the animal spirits that they used as their own personal guardians.


The Winter Spirit Dance is the considered the most important ceremony. It is where humans interact with their animal guardians.
Another important ceremony that they have is the Salmon ceremony this is held the first four days of the salmon run. Only men were invited. The first catch of salmon would be cut the day they caught it. One chosen man would cut the salmon into seven pieces and then it was cooked a special way. All of the salmon caught these first four days had to be eaten by men. They believe that if they keep this legend going that the salmon will keep coming back each year.

Tools and Implements:

The used a tool called the pebble tool which was used to smooth water-worn tool. There are 10 different types of pebble tools. The Big ones are used for the harder work such as cutting, chopping, crushing, cracking, shredding, pulping, scraping and, smoothing.

Recreation and Games:

Hand games has been apart of the Spokane Tribe for many years and has been past down for
centuries. One type of hand game is called the Stick Game. They use money for gambling when they are playing this game.


The Spokane Indians used bow and arrows, spheres, harpoons, clubs, bolts, and slings. They used a tool that was called a Pebble Tool, which is a water worn tool. They used it for cutting, chopping, crushing, cracking, shredding, scraping, and smoothing. They also had a bone-point tool.

Governmental Structure:

In 1975 the Self Determination Act took place and the authority of the Government was reaffirmed and the right to effect the tribal self-governance was added in 1975. The Tribal self-government was quickly evolved as an effective organization. Today the Spokane Tribe's government is governed by a constitution and is led by 5 tribal business council members who are voted into office every 3 years.

Spokane Creation Story

The earth started trembling one day and the waters started to rise and rise. The tribe climbed the mountains to try to escape the waters, when ash started covering the land and causing the animals to flee. Most of the people died from starvation and those who made it went to the Spokane Falls.

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