Spokan Garry and Spokan Tribe -1830
Spokan Garry was born approximately 1811 at the Marian Indian village at the junction of the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers. He was chosen for education at Anglican Mission School in Winnipeg, Canada, by Hudson Bay’s Governor Simpson in 1825. Garry was educated for 6 years, learning English, French and the Episcopal faith. Garry returned in 1830, the best educated Indian in the Northwest, and the first Christian missionary to the Spokane Indians. He now dressed as a white man.
Garry’s boyhood had been forgotten, but Garry knew who his father was. Garry’s father’s name was Illim Spokanee. He was chief of the Middle Spokane’s. Illim’s people called themselves shama-hoo-men-a-ish, or salmon trout people. The Spokan’s were split into three bands: the Upper, the Lower and the Middle Spokan’s. Garry began teaching the Spokan’s in a small school house. But trying to teach the Spokan’s a different religion and new agricultural life style confused them, and so in 1841, Garry gave up teaching. Garry had married Lucy and lived near the Spokane House. They had one daughter, also named Lucy. In the early 1830’s Garry was meeting with a band of Umatilla Indians when he fell in love with a daughter of the chief and asked to marry her. Nina and Garry moved to a farm on Pleasant Prairie with a large dowry of horses. Garry and Nina had one daughter, Nellie.
After 1850 the Homestead Act made land in the West available to any citizen to claim and work regardless of where the Indians lived. Settlers starting arriving, putting up houses in Indian territory and that caused a big commotion. Garry spent most of his adult life as an intermediary between arriving white settlers and the Indian tribes. He said no to war. He had a kind heart and tried to help both Indian and white.
One Spring day in 1858 an American army officer named Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Steptoe marched his troops from Fort Walla Walla into Spokane territory. Chief Garry was confused, why were the soldiers there? So he went over to their camp one evening and asked Col. Steptoe. He said that the soldiers were just passing through and that they meant no harm to the Indians. They just wanted to go north to Fort Colville.
When Garry came back to his tribe and told them what was going on, some young warriors did not believe what the Colonel said was true. They went and joined angry warriors from different tribes even though Spokan Garry told them not to. Colonel Steptoe’s men were stopped the next day by nine hundred armed Indians near the town of Rosalia. The army fought back with guns and sadly several chiefs and Indians were killed. Still the soldiers were outnumbered and quickly slipped away at night heading south towards safety.
When the United States government found out about this defeat, Army officials were very angry and they told Colonel George Wright to punish the Indians. The following Fall, he rode out with hundreds of soldiers with new long rifles. They met the Spokans for the first battle in their territory. It was called the Battle of Four Lakes. The Indians were defeated without weapons to protect themselves.
Two days later, a battle started again and was called the battle of the Spokane Plains. Many Indians were killed but not one soldier was found dead.
Chief Garry tried to argue that it was not fair to punish all the tribes for what a few warriors did. But Colonel George Wright would not listen. His troops pushed the tribes, ruined crops, burned store houses, and then near Liberty Lake he ordered his troops to shoot 800 horses that belonged to the Spokan tribe. The soldiers destroyed everything; now the Spokan’s had nothing.
Colonel Wright gathered all the Indians at a mission east of Coeur d’ Alene Lake. Wright told the tribal chiefs that they must leave the whites alone and they must let them cross their land without being touched. He also said that if the tribes did not obey his orders, he would fight them till not one Indian was left.
Next Colonel Wright marched his troops to Latah Creek where one day he signed a treaty with the Spokans, Colville, and Pend Oreilles. The next day when more Indians came to the meeting, six Palouse Indians and Chief Qualchan were hung for their part in the Steptoe affair. The Spokan’s, Coeur d’Alenes and other eastern tribes never fought against the white men again, because they were afraid of another hard punishment.
Garry continued to try to negotiate that the Indians and whites could both live in the same territory. However the government never agreed. In 1887, Garry and 92 tribal elders ceded 3.14 million acres to the United States for $80,000, or $.32 per acre. The tribe was assigned a reservation north of the Spokane River near the confluence with the Columbia River.
Spokane Garry tried to become a citizen of the United States so that he could legally have title to his Pleasant Prairie farm. However, whites burned him out. He moved to Peaceful Valley and then to Indian Canyon several years later as settlers continued to push him out. His tribe was torn apart and he really did not have much of anything except his horse and teepee. He died on January 14, 1892, as a forgotten figure and was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery.
Thanks to Nona Hengen, painter of the series of paintings on the Steptoe/Wright campaigns against the native american tribes of the Inland Northwest. These 3' by 5' paintings are located in the Endicott School library (Endicott, WA). We have photographs of:
Battle of Steptoe
Horse Slaughter Camp
Peace Treaty at Coeur d"Alene Mission
Hanging of Qualchan
Greenwood Cemetery Association. “Spokane Garry,” 1967.
Wilma, David. “Spokane tribe cedes 3.14 million acres…on March 26, 1887.” Washington Historylink.org. February, 2003.
photo images from Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture Archives:
Spokane Garry - L91-167-290
Garry Teepees - L86-291
Garry with horse - L95-39-20
copyright (c)2003, Discovery School
All rights reserved.
Report: May, 2003
Web page: March 26, 2004; last modified Julyl 27, 2011.