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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Public Library formally acknowledges Spokane Tribal history, land

UPDATED: Thu., April 1, 2021

The downtown Spokane Public Library, shown on August 11, 2020, will have a hall on the third floor named in honor of the Spokane Tribe. The name will be nxʷyxʷyetkʷ Hall.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
The downtown Spokane Public Library, shown on August 11, 2020, will have a hall on the third floor named in honor of the Spokane Tribe. The name will be nxʷyxʷyetkʷ Hall. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Each Spokane Public Library branch will soon display a formal acknowledgment that it stands on the ancestral lands of the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

The library announced Tuesday that it partnered with the tribe to craft the land acknowledgment, which offers “gratitude to the land, river, and peoples who have been fishing, hunting, harvesting, and gathering here for generations.”

“May we learn from one another’s stories, so that we may nurture the relationship of the People of the Spokane Tribe and to all those who share this land,” the statement reads.

The library also committed to naming the third floor hall of its downtown branch, which is currently under renovation, in honor of the Spokane Tribe. The name will be nxʷyxʷyetkʷ Hall (pronounced n-whee-whee-et-k-wh), which is one of several traditional names for the Spokane River in the Salish language.

From that hall will be a view of the Spokane Falls, which were the traditional gathering and fishing place of the Spokane Tribe. The tribe relied on the river and its salmon for nutritional and spiritual strength until their lifestyle was displaced and largely erased by white settlers.

“The Central Library is one of the few places in Spokane where you can get such a commanding view of the river, and it’s hard to ignore the presence of the river there,” said Barry Moses, Spokane Tribal Member and Salish translator, in a statement. “Naming this space nxʷyxʷyetkʷ Hall, which translates to ‘Life in the Water,’ speaks to the ancestral significance of the river to our people.”

The library’s announcement follows a vote by the Spokane City Council on March 22 that adopted a land acknowledgment with a similar purpose.

In addition to recognizing that City Hall stands on unceded tribal land, the resolution called for the appointment of a tribal liaison in City Hall. Likewise, Spokane Public Library Director Andrew Chanse expressed interest in building the relationship between the library and tribe.

“We are committed to working with the Spokane Tribe of Indians to develop more collaboration in the future and look forward to this leading to more partnership aimed at community, outreach, and education,” Chanse said.

Devon Peone, an instructor at Salish School of Spokane, described the importance of connecting the language to public spaces in Spokane.

“We are just really adamant about getting the Salish language back into the native lands and having the presence of the language in our ancestral spot,” Peone said in a statement.

Editor’s note: this story was modified on April 1, 2021 to correct the spelling of nxʷyxʷyetkʷ Hall.

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