Nespelem people

Edward S. Curtis Collection People 063.jpg
Nespelem woman, photo by Curtis, 1911
Regions with significant populations
 United StatesUnited States (Washington)
English, Salishan, Interior Salish
Related ethnic groups
Colville, Sanpoil, Sinixt, Palus, Wenatchi, Entiat, Methow, Southern Okanagan, Sinkiuse-Columbia, and the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph's band

The Nespelem people belong to one of twelve aboriginal Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation in eastern Washington. They lived primarily near the banks of the Nespelem River, an Upper Columbia River tributary, in an area now known as Nespelem, Washington, located on the Colville Indian Reservation. Alternate spellings include Nespelim or Nespilim.


The Nespelem are considered Interior Salish, a designation that also includes the Okanagan, Sinixt, Wenatchi, Sanpoil, Spokan, Kalispel, Pend d'Oreilles, Coeur d'Alene, and Flathead peoples.[1]

Ross classifies Nespelem as one of the Okanagan tribes, while Winans classifies them as part of the Sanpoil.[2]

In 1905, the United States Indian Office counted 41 Nespelim; in 1910, the census counted 46; in 1913, after a survey, the Office of Indian Affairs counted 43.[3]

Nespelem villages and tribes

  • Haimisahun, a summer settlement of the Suspiluk, on the north bank of Columbia River about a half mile above the mouth of Nespelem River.
  • Masmasalimk, home of the Smasmasalimkuwa, approximately a mile and a half above Skik.
  • Nekuktshiptin, home of the Snekuktshiptimuk, at the site of the present Condon's Ferry, on the north side of the river.
  • Nspilem, home of the Snspiluk, on the lower Nespelem from the falls to the mouth of the river.
  • Salkuahuwithl, home of the Wallakazam, across the river from the present town of Barry.
  • Skik, about a mile above Salkuahuwithl on the same side of the river.
  • Skthlamchin, fishing grounds of the Salkuahuwithlau, across the river from the mouth of the Grand Coulee.