Spokane Tribe

Scalp Dance of Spokane women by Paul Kane

Scalp Dance by Spokane Native Indians

This article contains interesting facts, pictures and information about the life of the Spokane Native American Indian Tribe of the Columbia River Plateau region.

The Spokane Tribe
Summary and Definition: The semi-nomadic Spokane tribe were fishers, hunter-gatherers and traders of the Plateau cultural group who mainly lived by the Spokane River and in the west by the Columbia River on the Columbia River Plateau. The picture, by artist Paul Kane, was painted in 1847 and depicts the Scalp Dance by Spokane Native Indians.

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Facts about the Spokane Native Indian Tribe
This article contains fast, fun facts and interesting information about the Spokane Native American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions like where did the Spokane tribe live, what clothes did they wear, what did they eat and who were the names of their most famous leaders? Discover what happened to the tribe with facts about their wars and history.

What language did the Spokane tribe speak?
The Spokane tribe spoke in a Salishan dialect similar, the language use by the Northwest Pacific coastal tribes. The meaning of their name was "children of the sun". The tribe consisted of three bands known as the Upper, Middle and Lower Spokane Indians.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Spokane tribe?
The Spokane were influenced by the coastal tribes and many built villages of plank houses. Others built pit houses as their winter shelters. Their summer shelters suited their nomadic style and they lived in Tule-mat lodges that were fast to erect and easy to dismantle. After the introduction of the horse in the 1750's the Spokane people of the Plateau region traveled to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo and adopted the some of the lifestyle elements of this cultural group, including the tepee and similar clothing made from buffalo hides.

Who were the allies and enemies of the Spokane tribe?
The allies of the Spokane tribe were many of the other Native American Indians who inhabited the Plateau region including the Cayuse, Walla Walla, Coeur D'Alene, Palouse and the Nez Perce. The main enemies of the Spokane tribe were the Great Basin groups to the south, including the Shoshone, Blackfeet, Northern Paiute, and the Bannock tribes.


Where did the Spokane tribe live?
The Spokane are people of the Plateau Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map although the core of Spokane territory was in  modern day Washington, the tribe controlled additional territory in Idaho and Montana The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the tribe.

  • The tribe lived along the banks of the Spokane River, and in the west by the Columbia River
  • Land: Fast flowing rivers, lakes, forests and prairies
  • Climate: Warm summers and cold, snowy winters
  • Animals: The  animals included elk, deer, mountain goat, groundhog, coyote, raccoon, bear, fox, porcupine, weasel, beaver and hare
  • Fish: Salmon, steelhead trout
  • Natural Resources: Berries, bulbs, roots and seeds

Map showing Plateau Indian Tribes

The Scalp Dance by Spokane Indians: 1847 Painting by Paul Kane

Spokane Women Scalp Dance Attendants

Spokane attendant-women-dancers-scalp-dance-chualpay-kettle-tribe

The picture of the Spokane scalp dance was performed in a Spokane village near Kettle Falls on the Columbia River. It depicts the  central figure of a Spokane woman, whose husband had been killed by a Blackfoot Native Indian. The stick she waves has a Blackfoot scalp on top of it. The woman whirled around a fire flailing the scalp and kicking in revenge. Behind her, eight attendant painted women danced and chanted, as did the rest of the tribe, to the beat of drums. The painted faces of the Spokane women are taken from the Scalp Dance picture. The white paint worn by the women symbolized mourning and the black paint, a very aggressive color, symbolized strength, and in this instance, also symbolized power, revenge and striking terror in any onlookers or captives. Chalk deposits were plentiful and charcoal was easy to make resulting in distinctive white and black face painting.

The Spokane tribe and the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Lewis and Clark encountered the Spokane tribe in October 1805. The tribe heard about the Lewis and Clark expedition and sent two runners to meet them as the Corps of Discovery approached the Columbia River. Additional encounters with the Spokane were made at the Long Narrows of the Columbia at their ancient Wishram village and witnessed the tribe trading and enjoying leisure activities such as wrestling and horse riding.

What transportation did the Spokane use? Dugout Canoes
The Spokane tribe of the Plateau region built dugout canoes made from the hollowed-out logs of large trees. The men hollowed logs with controlled fire that softened the timber so they could carve and shape their canoe to have a flat bottom with straight sides.   The canoe was perfect means of transportation for travel along fast streams and shallow waters of the Columbia River.

Dugout Canoe

What food did the Spokane tribe eat?
The food of the Spokane tribe included salmon and trout and a variety of meats from the animals and birds they hunted. They supplemented their protein diet with roots, seeds, nuts and fruits.

What weapons did the Spokane use?
The weapons used were spears, lances, clubs, knives and bows and arrows. The Spokane also used shields for defensive purposes.

What clothes did the Spokane wear?
The clothes worn by the men the men and women of the tribe were similar to the clothing of the Nez Perce - please refer to this article for details.

What happened to the Spokane tribe? History Timeline
The following Spokane history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks and battles fought by the Spokane Nation. The history timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Spokane History Timeline

  • 1750's: The Spokane acquire the horse and their lifestyle changed as they were able to travel to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo

  • 1800: Two French-Canadian fur trappers, Le Blanc and Le Gasse, were the first white men to make contact with the tribe. They were sent by explorer and trapper David Thompson to spend a winter with the Native indians

  • 1805: The Lewis and Clark expedition met the tribe on their travels along the Columbia river.

  • 1812: A trading post known as Spokane House was built near the confluence of Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers

  • 1825: The Hudsonís Bay Company established Fort Vancouver as a trading post

  • 1825: The sons of Spokane Indian leaders are sent to the Red River mission school by the Hudson's Bay Company.

  • 1836: A missionary called Samuel Jackson made contact with the tribe

  • 1830: The Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress

  • 1843: The first major migration along the Oregon Trail took place which eventually led to violent conflicts with the white settlers who traveled in wagon trains along the Oregon trail

  • 1845: The white settlers brought various diseases to the Native Indians who lived in the surrounding areas of the Oregon Trail

  • 1847: Many of the Spokane tribe are wiped out by a devastating series of measles and smallpox epidemics

  • 1855: The Yakima treaty was signed on 9 July 1855 and ceded more than 10 million acres to the United States government in exchange for over 1 million acres of reservation lands

  • 1855: The Yakima War (1855-1858) erupted, fought by members of the Native Indian alliance including the Spokane, Cayuse, Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Nez Perce tribes.

  • 1857: The Fraser Canyon gold Rush began in 1857 after gold was discovered on the Thompson River in British Columbia at its confluence with the Nicoamen River. White prospectors rushed to the area

  • 1858: The Coeur d'Alene War (aka Spokane, Coeur d'Alene and Palouse Indian war) was fought in the Washington and Idaho areas. The alliance of Native Indian tribes attacked and defeated a force of 164 US troops under Major Edward Steptoe

  • 1858: Colonel Wright ordered the destruction of 700 Palouse horses at "Horse Slaughter Camp," hanged several Palouse Indians. This concluded the Coeur d'Alene and the Yakima Wars

  • 1859: The treaties with the tribes were broken, the US gave only half of what was promised

  • 1881: The Lower Spokane moved onto the newly formed Spokane Reservation.

  • 1887: Dawes General Allotment Act passed by Congress led to the break up of the large Indian Reservations and the sale of Indian lands to white settlers

Spokane History Timeline


  • Interesting Facts and information about the way the people lived
  • The clothes worn by men and women
  • Description of the homes and the type of food the Spokane would eat
  • Fast Facts and info about the Spokane
  • Interesting Homework resource for kids on the history of the Spokane Native American Indians

Pictures and Videos of Native American Indians and their Tribes
The Spokane Tribe was one of the most famous tribes of Native American Indians. Discover the vast selection of pictures on the subject of the tribes of Famous Native Americans such as the Spokane nation. The pictures show the clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes, such as the Spokane tribe, that can be used as a really useful educational resource for kids and children of all ages.. We hope you enjoy watching the video - just click and play - a great social studies homework resource for kids .


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