Tribes & Trails: The Kalispel Tribe
Kalispel Country, spanning more than 2.3 million acres from the peaks of the Selkirk Mountains to the meadows of Montana, is home to some of the most beautiful rivers, lakes and mountains in the West. When visiting Kalispel Country, it’s important to recognize the connections the Kalispel Tribe holds with these places, as well as the current work being done to protect and maintain them.
The tribes of Washington state have thousands of years of experience managing and stewarding lands. In addition to preserving cultural heritage and sacred sites for generations to come, they restore and protect water and wildlife. They build and maintain public hiking trails. They work closely with other land management agencies.
Kalispel Country, spanning more than 2.3 million acres from the peaks of the Selkirk Mountains to the meadows of Montana, is home to some of the most beautiful rivers, lakes and mountains in the West. Amid such a large and diverse landscape, the mighty Pend Oreille River remained a constant support for the Kalispel people.
The Pend Oreille River provided a consistent source of food for the Kalispel people, and allowed them to travel easily among settlements with the use of hand-crafted sturgeon-nosed canoes. The canoe has since become a unique cultural symbol of the Kalispel people, and served as a connection between more than 5,000 tribal members.
Despite the size and significance of the Kalispel Tribe in the late 19th century, the federal government made little effort to build relationships with its people. By the mid 1870’s, the United States had left the tribe with no legal protection. Since then, Kalispel Tribal lands have been reduced to a small fraction by the onset of European settlers and use of the Homestead Act.
It was not until 1914, years after the reservation period, that the Kalispel Reservation was officially established in Usk, Washington, on the banks of the Pend Oreille. Even in the face of decades of undue burden, Kalispel members have not stopped advocating and caring for the land of their people.
Kalispel Natural Resource Department
In the early 1990s, the Kalispel Tribe formally established their own Natural Resources Department (KNRD) with the goal of maintaining and developing resources for future sustainable use, as well as preserving the land for cultural practices. As of today, the KNRD manages more than 5,000 acres of reservation land and 5,200 acres for wildlife mitigation, in addition to aiding in the restoration and protection of all Kalispel ceded lands across the Eastern part of the state and beyond.
Today, the Department is well known as a leader in natural resources management, and is currently involved with several large scale management efforts. Day to day, staff of the KNRD will be busy engaging in forest service planning, restoring wetlands, aiding in bull trout, grizzly bear and caribou recovery, working to restore fish passage to habitat, or supporting sustainable forest practices.
By participating in these programs, processes, and projects the KNRD hopes to improve conservation values in the landscapes and communities in which the Kalispel ancestors thrived, as well as support and promote the improved compatible use of these areas.
Hike kalispel country
When visiting Kalispel Country, it’s important to recognize the ancient, unbroken connections the Kalispel Tribe holds with these places, as well as the current work being done to protect and maintain them. Next time you hit the trail, take a moment to honor the land on which you stand and the many footsteps which have come before you.
Located just north of the Kalispel Tribal Headquarters within the reservation, the Manresa Grotto is marked by a simple and true sign “A beautiful grotto exists.” The Grotto itself is registered as a National Historic Place as it marks the site of early Catholic missionary efforts.
Pacific Northwest Trail
The expansive, 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest Scenic Trail traverses some of the wildest sections of Kalispel Country. Although the total mileage may sound daunting, sections of the PNT are doable as day hikes or weekend backpacks.
Browns Lake is bustling with activities from canoeing and camping, to fly-fishing and foraging. The interpretive signage along the trail makes this a great choice for those looking to increase their knowledge of local flora and fauna.