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Reclaiming Identity: Colville Tribal Members Mull Name Change

Gary Wilson
Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will soon vote on changing the name of the tribe.

A group of eastern Washington tribes is joining a nationwide movement to reclaim indigenous identities and re-tell native stories. In this case, it’s all about a name change.

Andrew Colville was a Scottish businessman, best known for governing the Hudson Bay Company. Fort Colville was named for him. It was flooded during construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. His name was given to 12 bands that make up the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

“When you think about a white man that’s never set foot on the reservation, there really is no connection there,” said Meghan Francis, public affairs officer for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

This summer, the tribal council floated the idea to drop Colville from their name.

“So, with this whole modern movement of identity, we really want our future generations to have that connection,” Francis said.

In the next few weeks, the Colville Tribal Council will send ballots to nearly 9,500 tribal members across the region, with one question: should they change the name or not?

Ballots will be counted in February. If the referendum is approved, the name changing process will begin this spring.