Book Review: Lost Homeland: The Methow Tribe and the Columbia Reservation

  • Posted 11/14/2017
  • Essay 20478

By E. Richard Hart
Shafer Historical Museum, 2017
Photographs, index, notes, bibliography, appendix
ISBN: 978-0-97797-6-1

From deep research and with unabashed empathy, historian E. Richard Hart has produced a detailed narration of how the Methow Tribe lost its homeland. Hart has an impressive background of experience with North American Indian tribes, having testified before Congress and served as an expert witness for tribes, the U.S. Department of Justice, and various states.

Living for thousands of years in what is now North Central Washington, the Methow Tribe was reduced in number by smallpox and other diseases after non-Indians began arriving in the region. The way that tribal members were forcefully removed from their traditional lands in the Methow Valley is the focus of this book.

There are letters, documents, and intricate descriptions that reveal the way in which the U.S. government established reservations for the tribes in North Central Washington. During this time the Methow people continued their way of life in their homeland while Chief Moses -- who was considered by the U.S. government, if not necessarily all the tribal members involved, to be chief of many tribes in the region -- negotiated with the U.S. government to establish a Columbia Reservation that encompassed the homeland of the Methow, among other tribes. When this land was shortly relinquished to the government, the Methow were told they were now one of the 12 tribes of the Colville Reservation. The Methow were not involved in any of these transactions that took away their homeland. They were forcefully removed. They were told, however, that they would have continuing hunting and fishing rights on the former Columbia Reservation.

There are descriptions by white settlers of members of the Methow Tribe who returned from time to time to fish, hunt, and collect berries and process the food:

"In the early fall when the huckleberries began to ripen in the Mts, the Indians from the reservation 80 miles away would come up the Valley on their way to pick berries and catch fish, both of which they dried for winter use. They would come along by our place in the cool of the evening about milking time. I'd watch them go by and sometimes wished we were Indians. They traveled in caravans of five or six cayuse-drawn hacks piled high with camping equipment."

Today the Methow continue to maintain their rights to hunt, fish, and gather in their former homeland and they continue to carry on the age-old traditions of their ancestors, which are being passed on to their children.

Lost Homeland is replete with photographs of tribal members dating from 1890 to the early 1900s. Notably, through conversations with descendants, identification of many in the images was accomplished. There are 30 pages of notes, a bibliography, an appendix of Methow allotments, photograph credits, and an index.

 By Mary Henry, November 14, 2017

Submitted: 11/14/2017

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