11″ x 17″
Watercolor on historical map
Watercolor Historical Maps – Colville, WA Homesteader Map
11″ x 17″
This map of the Entire North Half of the Colville Indian Reservation as of 1900 depicts an era as clearly as a painted rural picture might do. The unseen landscape beneath the abstract squares has been described by a witness of the time: “No part of the United States…is so rich as the Colville Reservation. On the North Half alone, the area is open rolling bunch grass…richly timbered…untold hidden mineral wealth waiting for development.” Splendid acres to be doled out by the U.S. government to non-Indian settlers who smelled the Promised Land in mining claims and 160-acre kingdoms.
In a clumsy effort to be fair, the government first created allotments of what was still reservation land, owned by all—80 acres to every tribal member, young or old, who wanted to take up farming. Mining claims then superseded all other rights, native or newcomer. Only then were homesteaders permitted to claim their land. Thus, the North Half of the Reservation was cut up into pieces like a birthday cake. Identifying where prospectors and farmers could stake out their claims was the entire purpose of the map.
The names listed by number identify the Indian families’ homes on their surveyed share of prosperity. Allotment lands were the richest prizes on the best land (subject to interpretation).By the time of the formal opening of the North Half to settlement in October 1900, around 700 allotments of approximately 56,000 acres were set aside. Title to all tribal lands remained vested in the U.S. government—that very distant White Father– for 25 years, “for protection of the Indians”. It was slow in coming West.
Claiming a homestead wasn’t so easy; survey lines on the map are not fences on the ground. Land seekers depended on “homestead locators”, few of which were qualified surveyors—we can only imagine the frenzy of being First. Then wait for the opening bell on October 10 th —Zero hour was precisely twelve noon—at the Land Office to file a claim which could be a 125-mile trip to Waterville. Along with hundreds of other desperate people, which included women; Georgia Warren made the first filing in the North Half.
It is worth noting that the North Half covers three counties which only added to the conflict and confusion created by the Opening. No one became King of the Mountains.