More than a century after the United States government took over most of their land, the Confederate Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington state is getting a small portion of it back.
The non-profit Methow Conservancy handed over 328 acres of forest, sagebrush and salmon spawning grounds along the Chevuch River in the Methow Valley to Colville Tribes on May 19.
The deal follows the return of 9,200 acres of farmland east of the Methow Valley to Colville Tribes in October.
Andy Joseph Jr., president of the Colville Business Council, said: “It is heartwarming that some of our people may be able to spend some time in their homeland where their elders followed in their footsteps.” kuo
The Business Council is the governing body of the Confederate Colville Tribes.
Long before the Methow Valley became the cross-country skiing mecca and leisure playground of Seattle, it was home to the Methow tribe.
Methow is one of 12 tribes forced on the Colville Reservation near the northeastern corner of the state, along with the main Joseph bands of Chelan, Nez Pers, Colville, Antiat, Lakes, Moses-Columbia, Nespelum, Okanogan, Pallas, Sanpoil and Wenatchee. . Indians.
With a reservation of 1.4 million acres, Washington’s largest, the Confederate Colville Tribes are one of the largest landowners in the state.
The 12 tribes used to hold a lot of land, with traditional areas stretching from the North Cascades to the Idaho border.
Then the US government forced them for reservation and snatched a lot of that land.
An 11-million-acre Moses-Columbia Reservation briefly encompassed the Methow Valley. According to Colville tribal historians, the US government returned it to the public domain in 1883, just four years after it was established.
The Colville Reservation today is less than half the size it was created in 1872. An act of Congress in 1892 abolished what is now called the “Northern Half” from the reservation.
Five years ago, the tribal government approached the Methow Conservancy about the acquisition of Wagner Ranch along the Chewch River. The ranch covers a mile and a half of undeveloped riverfront, with grounds for Chinook salmon and steelhead.
“The property we are getting was also the former Moses-Columbia reservation, and that was also taken away from us,” Joseph said.
He said his own ancestry included the Methow, Okanagan and Arrow Lakes on his father’s side and Pallas, Moses-Columbia, Wenache and Antiat on his mother’s side.
“Our people were able to gauge the salmon growing in that area and lived the whole year to feed their families,” Joseph said.
Before the Methow Conservancy took over, the Western River Conservancy, a Portland-based conservation group, purchased the property. The goal of the Portland group was to sell the land to the Yakama Nation, which is working upstream away from its own territory in south-central Washington to restore spawning habitat for salmon that swim in the Columbia River.
That deal fell through, and Rivers Group put the farm back on the market, giving Colville Tribes and the Methow Conservancy a second chance to save the farm from being turned into vacation homes.
“The main thing is bringing it back to medicine,” Joseph said of the newly acquired land. “One of the best feelings you can get in your heart, that will always be with us, (is) that we got something like that back.”
Joseph said the Colville Tribes intend to manage the area for fish and wildlife, and traditional practices such as gathering edible plants, including bitterroot, camas and serviceberries.
In October, Seattle nonprofit Preservation Northwest returned another 9,200 acres of sagebrush country northeast of Omac to Colville tribes east of the Methow Valley.
According to Conservation Northwest, the former Figlensky family cattle ranch provides habitat for species such as grouse and badgers, as well as a major corridor that allows carnivores such as lynx and wolverine to migrate between the North Cascades, Northeast Washington’s Kettle Range, and the Rockies. allows. mountains beyond.
“We’re hoping there will be more to follow,” said Joseph, whose original name, Yǝx̌yǝx̌útxn, means “badger.”
Conservation Northwest executive director Mitch Friedman said in a statement that the Figlensky Ranch deal may be the most rewarding and meaningful action he has been involved in.
“We are making a statement here that injustice can be redressed,” Friedman said.
The Conservation Northwest Deal prohibits residential, industrial, or commercial use of land other than for agriculture or minimal commercial recreation.
Sarah Brooks, executive director of the Methow Conservancy, said her group donated Wagner Ranch land to Colville Tribes outright, with no strings attached.
“It was clear that we shared similar visions and values for the landscape. And out of respect for the land they cared for since ancient times, we felt it was the right thing to give it back with a sense of trust,” Brooks said.