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Colville Tribes may change their name


Leaders of The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are seriously considering changing the tribes’ name to “The 12 Confederated Tribes of the Big Water,” or a variation of such.

“Big Water” is a translation of what the tribes called the Columbia River before contact with Europeans. The name is meant to reflect the culture of the tribes, who lived along the Columbia and its tributaries for thousands of years.

A bit of a heated discussion took place on Colville Business Council Chairman Michael Marchand’s July 6 Facebook post about the topic.

The original post written by Marchand says, “In Colville Tribal Council Special Session we voted to amend the Constitution to take back the traditional name of the 12 Confederated Tribes of the Big Water. Next step will be a special Secretarial Election to the membership. If a majority of members approve that will be the new name of the Tribe.”

Marchand explains some of the reasoning behind the decision in further comments, and many people spoke their own minds on the topic.

“Probably many know, but the word Colville actually came from a Mr. Colvile who was a major owner of the Hudson Bay Company, which at the time was one of the richest, if not the richest, companies in the world,” Marchand explained. “The local Fort was named after him. That ended up being our tribe’s name. It was common to name Indians after the local forts. The name has nothing to do with us really. The man was no special friend of ours but we did help make him rich. I always think it’s akin to naming yourself after Adolph Hitler or someone.”

People have concerns about the name change, such as finding the right name, and consulting more tribal members about what they’d like to be called.

“‘Big River’ instead of ‘Big Water,’” one comment from Lucy Stanger reads. “Big water sounds like you’re describing the ocean!”

“I think we should be able to choose from a list of names,” said Eagle Feather-Sovereign.

Councilmember William Womer spoke about the name change idea being presented to the various districts within the CCT. “Big River and Big Water were examples and the majority of the people sided with the Big Water Nation. All districts supported taking our name back, and felt it was time. It still needs to go through the process and the tribal members will vote to take our name back or keep the European name.”

“My Aunt (who raised me from Birth), hated that we don’t have our original name,” said Gwen Gua. “She would tell me ‘he (Colvile) was a white man, we are indians!’ Many Elders gone on are happy. Thank You CCT!”

“I like the name change… but crap my tattoo says CCT.” said Toni Robinette. “Oh well, it can change too.”

Brian Phillips wrote about the relevance of the river to traditional local tribal culture. “To me Big Water does fit very well just because of our relationship to the river,” he stated. “Our history is about us as a people and the river. How we lived, what we ate, when we moved to one location or another location was based around the river. To me the river was our life blood. … Having a name that defines us as a people from our traditions and language is better than a name of a man that never stepped on our ground or even cared about us as a people. The river sounds fitting because it does fall into that realm of tradition and language.”

Larry Allen, also on the council, said, “We are bringing back our language, culture and history and this is one step in that direction. It took generations of the Jesuits to beat it out of our ancestors and it will take generations to bring it back. We are developing the base and will build from there.”


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