Indigenous Historical Conceptual Framework

The Indigenous historical conceptual framework illustrated below draws upon the teachings of the Tree people or what Western science calls dendrochronology (the dating of past events through study of tree ring growth). At the core is the heartwood and earliest period that Native people often draw from to understand and feel a sense of who they are and where they are from; this is often expressed as Ancestral Teachings.

This period of time defies Western attempts to chronologically place it along a time continuum as is best explained in the context of Since Time Immemorial. There is an immense span of time before we reach the Early Contact Period (which includes the possibility of Asian and Russian contact prior to European arrival) which essentially encompasses a growing migration of non-Natives to what is now commonly referred to as the Pacific Northwest. This period of time was followed by a Colonization Period that resulted in the settlement and encroachment of non-Natives upon the aboriginal territories. This gave way to an Assimilation Period as a result of the plight experienced by many Native communities and eventually led to federal policy to evolve from the genocidal policies common throughout the colonization and early assimilation efforts. The devastating influence of assimilation efforts finally resulted in the period of self-determination and self-governance that characterizes the circumstances of Native people in modern times.

Key to Timeline Framework:

Ancestral Teachings of Plant & Animal People - Inner ring

Ancestral Teachings of Plant & Animal People - Inner ring

Early Contact Period (Approx 1200-1500)

Early Contact Period (Approx 1200-1500)

Colonization Period (Approx 1500- 1855)

Colonization Period (Approx 1500- 1855)

Assimilation Period (Approx 1856-1970)

Assimilation Period (Approx 1856-1970)

Self Determination & Self Governance (1970 to Present Day) -Outer ring

Self Determination & Self Governance (1970 to Present Day) -Outer ring


Makah Whale Hunt - May 17, 1999

Makah resume whaling after voluntarily suspending their treaty-protected fishing rights in the 1920s. Animal rights groups protest the humane killing of the whale via high-powered rifle after the initial ceremonially harpooning. They fail to understand that historically, a successful whale kill required excruciating and repeated harpoon blows.

The General Allotment Act - 1974 - 1887

Congress passed "The General Allotment Act," also known as the Dawes Act. Instead of a tribe owning and operating its reservation, the reserved land was carved up into "allotments" to be individually owned by tribal members who should then learn to farm their own land. These individual Indians became U.S. citizens. The remaining land would be opened to white settlement. This resulted in the loss of millions of acres of Indian land

138 million acres of Indian land in 1887

48 million acres of Indian land in 1934,

20 million of which was desert or semi-desert land left for Indians to "farm." Rendering much of Indian land as unusable. Leased land and lost land often made a "checkerboard" reservation of Indian and non-Indian owned land, making large scale farming or grazing difficult, if not impossible. (Canby, Jr. 22 - 23)

Indian Gaming Regulatory Act - 1988

Congress passes the "Indian Gaming Regulatory Act" acknowledging that "Indian-run gambling operations are a 'means of promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal government.'" (Sonneborn 358)

Horses - 1700's

Horses are introduced to Plateau people

The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 - Assimilation Period

The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, making all Indians U.S. citizens

Supreme Court Justice John Marshall - Colonization Period ~ 1823 to 1832

Supreme Court Justice John Marshall influenced Indian Policy and affirmed through his decisions known as "The Marshall Trilogy" the United States' trust responsibility to Indians for the next century and a half, though Andrew Jackson forced through his Indian Removal policies that continue to affect tribes today.

The Aztec have primary power in Mesoamerica - Early Contact Period ~ Ca 1430

1830 - Indian Removal Act

Indian Removal Act "authorized the president to 'negotiate' with eastern tribes for their relocation west of the Mississippi River." By 1843 most tribes' lands had been reduced to nearly nothing or they were coerced to move west.

The Boldt Decision - 1974

The United States Federal government sues Washington State on behalf of Northwest tribes in their efforts to exercise their treaty-protected fishing rights. Justice George Boldt rules that tribal people are entitled to 50% of the fish harvested on their "usual and accustomed" grounds. This decision is viewed both as a defeat and victory by local tribes. Tribes increase their efforts on habitat renewal and salmon restoration, for they realize the victory of the Boldt Decision would be an empty one if they were to harvest fifty percent of nothing.

Kill the Indian, save the child - 1900's

Thousands of Indian children are forced from their homes to attend boarding school in an assimilation policy described by Richard Henry Pratt as "Kill the Indian, save the child." An abysmal failure, the schools forbade any traditional Indian practices and often brutally punished and humiliated children, keeping them as virtual hostages for years so that when they returned to their families, they had no connection, culturally, familially, socially, or politically. Many argue that the rapid increase of alcohol and drug abuse, child abuse and neglect stems from this "lost generation" of tribal people

Indian Self-Determination - 1974

The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 authorized tribes to assume responsibility for the administration of federal Indian programs.

18th Century - Explorers

Russian explorers arrive on the Pacific Northwest Coast.

ca 1400

The Iroquois Confederacy is established

Tribal sovereignty enjoyed by all nations since time immemorial

Armand Minthorne (Cayuse - Nez Perce)

There is no migration story. We were created here. We did not cross any land bridge. We have our creation story here. It would take me three days to tell you that story, but we were created here, we have always been here. Our traditions and our language, specifically, has not changed. We have songs, we have customs that are handed down generation to generation. And because of that we've been able to maintain a way of life that has been carried for thousands of years. And when we can go back, and say this spot and this spot and this area was used at this time by these people, that's what continues for us a way to keep our past a part of our everyday life.

Kettle Falls - 1940

Kettle Falls is inundated to create Lake Roosevelt, a reservoir behind the Grand Coulee Dam

Indian Reorganization Act - 1934

The Indian Reorganization Act or Wheeler-Howard Act of 1934 Express purpose was "to rehabilitate the Indian's economic life and to give him a chance to develop the initiative destroyed by a century of oppression and paternalism." (Pevar 6)

Based on the assumption that Indians should be allowed to exist.

Sought to protect remaining tribal lands

Permitted tribes to re-establish legal structures

Established a $10 million credit fund for loans to tribes

Established Indian preference in hiring employees within the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Established tribal self-government, but still subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior

Unsuccessful, on the whole

It required tribes to adopt a federalist system (executive, legislative, judicial) though it was unsuited for most tribes

Ancestral Knowledge - Ca 1000

The Norse begin trading with indigenous peoples.

Quicktime Video "Why Were Indians so good at bartering?"

Ancestral Knowledge

The nations had organized governmental systems.

The continent was mapped, complete with landmarks and boundaries.

Ancestral Knowledge The nations had distinct cultures, languages and practices Northwest tribal people live according to the Seasonal Round

Centennial Accord - 1989

Washington's governor and the leaders of the state's 29 federally recognized tribes sign the "Centennial Accord," pledging to respect the sovereignty of each government and work on a government-to-government basis on common issues and concerns.

Tribal Economy - 1997

Washington State tribes, both federally and non-federally recognized over $56 million in federal and state taxes annually, employ over 14,000 tribal and non-tribal employees, and contribute significantly to the state's economy.

Governor Stevens Treaties - 1854 - 1855

Tribes in the Washington Territory enter into treaties with the US government. Governor Stevens threatens that tribes will "walk in blood knee deep" if they do not sign.

Kamiakin's Words at the Council

The Walla Walla treaty was signed by all the chiefs present, including the unhappy Kamiakin. William Cameron McKay, a stockman and later physician to the Cayuses, and present at the council as an interpreter, witnessed Kamiakin's signing: [W]hen the Indians hesitated, the Governor said to tell the chief, "if they don't sign this treaty, they will walk in blood knee deep." To illustrate, Mam-ia-kin [Kamiakin] was about the last to sign by making his cross. When he returned to his seat, his lips were covered with blood, having bitten them with suppressed rage.


Columbus encounters the Americas

Other Spanish explorers follow and bring with them disease

Ancestral Knowledge

The nations had organized commerce and trade. Celilo Falls on the Columbia River was often regarded as the "Wall Street" of the Northwest.

Julie Cajune


To a lot of people in America it's really disconcerting to look at American history in a very different way. And I know that it's unsettling because we like to believe that people are good, we want to believe that our leaders are good, we want to believe that their intensions are good, and we want to feel good about that, but we can't always look at history and feel good. But I think it's really important for America to become honest about that we need to rethink how we relate to other people and how we treat other people, and being honest and being honest about that in telling our story. I think that's important for America to come of age, in that way. So, I think that this is one way that we can start to do that, by telling the truth about how this country evolved, about how this country came to be, and who paid the cost.

1805 Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark are the first non-tribal people to see the Columbia River and Celilo Falls

The Dalles Dam - 1957

1776 - America

Americans gain independence as tribes lose theirs; Indian land is divvied among French, Spanish, English, and Americans without Indian consent

Fish Wars

Self Determination

"Fish Wars" escalate as Washington and Oregon state governments assert their perceived jurisdiction over treaty-protected tribal fishing.

Pat Neal, a longtime outdoors writer from the Olympic Peninsula had a great column recently about the history of fisheries management and the Fish Wars. Here it is, in its entirety: The Fish Wars

ICWA - 1978

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 ended the practice of removal of Indian children to state welfare agencies. Nearly 1/3 of all Indian children were removed from their homes and families and placed in foster care, with adoptive families, or in institutions.

Most placements were with non-Indian agencies or families. Nearly all were taken away from their homes because they were Indian and poor. Entire tribes were being depleted of their youth.

Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968

Prohibited any states from acquiring any authority over Indian reservations without tribal consent. Imposed upon tribes most of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Right(some tribes feel this is a limitation of rights they already had)

Boldt II - 2007

Tribes continue their battle for salmon recovery, thus beginning the second phase of the Boldt Decision, known as "Boldt II" where tribal and non-tribal governments equally share the cost of salmon habitat recovery. Tribes insist that state and local governments fulfill their obligation by unclogging or widening the over 1,000 road and highway culverts that block salmon spawning. The state estimates they would have to spend ten times what they currently spend on culvert repair.