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The Colville Confederated Tribes

Sprawling across more than 1,000,000 acres (AID, 38) or 2,300 square miles of northeast Washington State is the Colville Reservation - that is larger than the state of Rhode Island. The reservation is named after Fort Colville, a British outpost established in the 1820s. ("Who are the Colville Indians, Colville Tribal Museum, Grand Coulee, WA). It was established as a reservation in 1872 by Executive Order of President Ulysses S. Grant, but was not fully populated until the 1880s.

Originally home to the Nespelem, San Poil, Okanogan and Lakes nations, they were later joined by the seven others. These included the Wenatchee, Entiats, Chelan and the Methow. The Moses Band was directed by the United States Government to move onto the reservation in 1884 despite the wishes of those already residing there. There they merged with the Moses-Columbia Band already residing on the reservation Completing the original ten bands was the Palouse. The last to arrive was Chief Joseph's Band of the Nez Perce following his people's unsuccessful attempt to flee to freedom in Canada. Because of the large number of bands populating the reservation, the government started referring to all eleven tribes simply as the Colville Indians (What is the History of the Native People of this region", Grand Coulee Dam Area Visitors Guide, The Star Newspaper, Grand Coulee, WA). Today those individuals whose ancestry is made up of multiple bands simply call themselves "Colville".

The modern Colville reservation supports itself through many industries. Within the confines of the reservation can be found timber, ranching, construction, tourism, hunting and fishing, a fish hatchery, a convalescent home, and gaming - one bingo hall and two casinos.

The flag chosen to represent the close to 3,800 (AID, 38) Colville Indians is a very complex and elaborate design. A handmade copy of the flag flies over the entrance to the Colville Confederated Tribe's Museum in Grand Coulee, WA. It is basically a red flag.

Across the top, slightly below the actual top of the flag, is a yellow band fimbriated on the top by a green stripe and on the bottom by a blue stripe. On the yellow band appears the name of the tribe "Colville Confederated Tribes" in blue capital letters.

Below the name appears a yellow disc, recalling the tribal shield used by warriors. This too, bears blue and green fimbriations, blue innermost and an outer green. Centered upon the yellow disc is a black map of the reservation. Below this disc and overlapping the lower portion of it is a coyote standing upon a green grassy hillock. The coyote, a significant animal in the beliefs and iconography of the Colville, baying at the moon, is shown in natural colors. On the particular flag on exhibit at the museum, the coyote is actually represented by fur, possibly coyote, possibly coyote, but actual fur! This is a totally unique occurrence amongst the flags of the Native Peoples of the United States, and possibly the only such flag in existence. To either side of the disc and coyote are two lances appearing in yellow.

The lance to the hoist has five large eagle feathers extending hoistward. The lance on the fly end bears six similar feathers. On each of the feathers is written the name of one of the bands residing on the reservation. On the hoist feathers, starting at the top are the Moses-Columbia, the Palouse, the Okanogan, the Entiat, the Chelan and the Methow. The fly end feathers bear the names Nez Perce, Wenatchee, Nespelem, Colville, San Poil, and Lake. This addition, like the fur coyote are most likely unique to the hand made flag and not found on regular copies of the flag of the Confederated Colville Tribes.

This flag served the tribes until changed in 1996. At that time, it was decided to have the flag of the Colville Confederated Tribes manufactured commercially. This was done through Elmer's Flag and Banner of Portland, Oregon and actually printed by Dettra Flag Co. of Oaks, Pennsylvania. It was delivered to the Colville in early 1997.

The new flag adopted in 1996 follows the pattern of the former flag in most detail, however, there are many subtle changes and at least one major addition. Some of the subtle modifications can be attributed to cost savings, others may have been conscious alterations to the design.

The major addition to the flag is a broad light blue stripe crossing the bottom of the flag. The stripe is slightly up from the base of the flag and it does not reach all the way to either edge. Within this new stripe are two yellow stripes, a wider one near the top, a narrow one near the bottom of the blue. Connecting these two stripes are series of vertical and diagonal yellow stripes. The area above the yellow diagonals, yet within the boundaries or the upper broad yellow stripe are green, not blue. Upon the upper yellow stripe appear a series of red over black blocks, one each above the nadir of the green triangles formed by the diagonal lines. At the apex of the diagonal lines - which actually enter the upper yellow stripe, are a pair of very small green triangles, highlighting the upper point of the yellow diagonals.

Although the author has received no explanation for this new addition, his immediate reaction was to associate the entire new design with the bridge at Grand Coulee Dam, the major entrance way to the reservation from the south. This bridge serves as the gateway to the reservation for tourists, and the tourism business is a major economic interest to the town of Grand Coulee, and thus the entire reservation.

Amongst the minor changes, the most noticeable is the alteration of the color of the coyote. He now appears in white, yellow and black. The flag, as commercially produced contains six colors, eliminating the additional colors needed to depict the coyote in natural colors was an obvious cost-cutter.

Other changes include the elimination of the white fimbriation between the blue and green circles in the center of the flag; the shortening of the yellow bar across the top of the flag - it is now equal in length to the new "bridge" addition; changing the name of the tribe from black to red on that stripe; altering the blue throughout the flag to light blue and the green to light green. also the green stripe above the name and the blue stripe below the name are gone. They have been replaced with a narrow band of light blue over light green just below, but not touching the yellow stripe that bears the tribal name. The feathers that bear the names of the individual tribes have been enlarged and the names of the tribes are now printed, no longer in script. The individual tribal names are now in light blue, edged in white (still too small to depict on the accompanying artwork). Lastly, the green mound of grass, now light green, has been given a base of black upon which to lie.

This litany of changes make for a completely different flag for the Colville's tribes while continuing the basic design that hangs proudly over the entrance to the tribal museum.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603