The Kalispel Tribe of Indians

Many tribes were very poor and the Kalispels were no exception.The Kalispel Tribe of Indians is now one of the top five private employers in the Spokane region. The historically humble and hospitable tribe operates Northern Quest Resort & Casino, the region’s premier destination resort. Health and social service programs, supported by the resort and casino, have increased the quality of life for tribal members and surrounding communities.

The Kalispel Tribe of Indians has 470 members, with 34% under 18 years old. Elders are the smallest percentage of the membership at 10%. One-third of Kalispel tribal members reside on the Reservation, one-third live in Spokane, and the other one-third live throughout the United States. The Kalispel Reservation is located in Usk, Washington in Pend Oreille County. Today, Kalispel Tribal lands include 55 miles north of Spokane, Washington along 10 miles of the Pend Oreille River, 252 acres of trust land and 40 acres of reservation trust land in Airway Heights.

Business Enterprises

Tribal enterprises provide living wage jobs to nearly 2,000 people and contribute millions back to the local economy. In addition to Northern Quest Resort & Casino, they include Kalispel Golf and Country Club, Camas Center for Community Wellness, Crossroads Family Restaurant, Kalispel Linen Services, Kalispel Upholstery Services, 2 Fatburger franchise restaurants, and 2 Chevron fuel stations and convenience stores. Our success in business has allowed us to expand our land base and create ample housing opportunities and meaningful employment for our people, many of whom are self-employed.

Environmental Stewardship

The Kalispel Natural Resources Department (KNRD) is responsible for managing the historic properties, fisheries, wildlife, water and other natural resources of the reservation in Usk, WA and other ceded lands in the lower Clark Fork/Pend Oreille. The state of Washington recognizes KNRD as a co-manager for the Pend Oreille.

Charitable Giving

The Kalispel Charitable Fund supports the work of numerous non-profit organizations of Spokane and Pend Oreille counties. Since 2000, the Kalispel Tribe has donated more than $16 million to over 300 area charities.

Language Preservation

Kalispel traditions and language connect tribal members to their land and their past. At one time, there were only ahandful of tribal elders who could speak fluent Salish, the Tribe’s native language. The Kalispel Language Program was created to reclaim and preserve the language and teach a new generation of native speakers. Through the Language Program, a new generation of Salish speakers has given life to a part of Kalispel culture that was once in danger of extinction.

Tribal Sovereignty

Sovereignty existed long before Europeans settled in North America. It allows the Tribe to make its own laws and be governed by those laws. It is the right of Tribes to protect their members and Reservation lands and maintain ownership of resources that were established in the treaties and executive orders of the United States.


A hallmark of Kalispel governance is the stability of our leadership.

The Kalispel Business Council is a self-governing entity which oversees tribal services, programs, business endeavors, and policy-making. The Council consists of five tribal members with legislative authority. Council Members are elected democratically by the tribal membership and council members serve three-year terms.

Chairman Glen Nenema is the longest-serving Tribal Chair in the country having held his position for more than three decades.

“My heart is and always has been at home on our land with our people,” Chairman Nenema says. “Many of the things our Tribe has accomplished happened over many years. Things take time, vision and patience, and leaders need consistency in order to make things happen.”

The majority of current Council Members have also served several consecutive terms, further bolstering Council’s ability to move the Tribe forward. Under the leadership of Chairman Nenema and tribal council, the Tribe has experienced significant economic expansion and community development over the last two decades. The driver behind all endeavors is the vision of creating a safe, healthy, and prosperous community.



The Kalispel homelands extended from Plains, Montana down the Clark Fork River, all of Priest and Pend Oreille Lakes, down the Pend Oreille River into Canada encompassing 3.5 million acres.


Population of the Kalispels estimated to be between 1200-1600 people.


Increasing white settlement in the area.


The Upper Kalispel Tribe ceded its lands and moved to the Jocko Reservation in Montana at the request of the U.S. Government. The Lower Kalispel Tribe, ancestors of today’s Kalispel members, refused to give up ancestral lands and continued to work toward an agreement that would allow the Tribe to remain on its homeland.

LATE 1800S

While most other tribes were going through the process of having reservations established, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians had almost no relationship with the federal government. Congress proposed a treaty in 1872 that would have encompassed more than a million acres of land, but the terms were poor and the Tribe refused to sign it. By 1874, Congress stopped establishing tribal treaties altogether, leaving the Kalispel Tribe with no legal protection.


The tribal population had shrunk to only 395 people due to disease and poor living conditions.

1880 TO 1910

As more white settlers moved into Kalispel territory, the Tribe witnessed its land disappearing but could do nothing to prevent it. Many of the white settlers filed claims under the Homestead Act in order to “legally” obtain land which was rightfully home for much of the Tribe. This time period also introduced the widespread use of alcohol, which many consider to be a fundamental source of the breakdown of the family unit.


Tribal population declines to approximately 100 due to disease and poor living conditions.


For generations, Kalispel members experienced very poor living conditions. In 1965, only a couple of homes on the reservation had running water and there was only one telephone for the Tribe. The average annual income for a Tribal member was approximately $1,400.


Kalispel Tribe opens Northern Quest as a means to fund health and social service programs to improve the quality of life for tribal members.


The Tribe’s pioneering spirit, combined with sheer determination, resiliency and community cohesiveness, has allowed the Tribe to overcome many
difficult circumstances.



Besides utilizing the river for a major source of food, it was also an essential means of travel. The Kalispels traveled the Pend Oreille River in sturgeon-nosed canoes constructed of a cedar frame and a pine bark covering. The sturgeonnosed canoes are a unique part of the Kalispel cultural heritage. Averaging 16 feet in length, the canoe was a valuable possession.


In the floodplain of the Pend Oreille River, camas root grew in abundance and provided a vital staple for the Kalispels’ diet. Every June the Kalispels harvested this nutritious onion-like root.


The Kalispel Tribe demonstrated innovative skill by catching fish with hook and line, spears, harpoons, nets and even the bow and arrow. However, one of the most effective methods was by using basket traps set into brush weirs. The weirs were used to catch a large quantity of fish that were dried and used during the harshest winter months.


In the summer months, after gathering food for the winter, the Kalispels would invite relatives and friends from the Spokane, Colville, Coeur d’Alene and Kutenai tribes to join in the stick game, a traditional form of gambling. This was a time of coming together in summer camps along the Pend Oreille River.


A typical winter village was comprised of a few round tipis and several long lodges. The tipis were large enough to house one or two families and the exterior was covered with skins, bark or mats. The tule-mate lodge, or long lodge, served exclusively for winter dwelling purposes and was large enough to house several families.


Annually, an entire village would participate in the Winter Deer Drive tradition to replenish the winter food supply. Men, women and children would remain on the hunt for three to four weeks. Meat harvest and its preparation assured food year round.


A core philosophy of the Kalispel Tribe’s business strategy is to  pursue projects that benefit everyone—positively impacting not only the Tribe but also the greater community.

The Kalispel Tribe of Indians

• Top Pend Oreille County employer
• Top 5 Private Spokane County employers*
• 2,000 living-wage jobs
• Annual payroll of $50 million*
• 80% of employees are non-tribal*
• $52.7 million annually on (mostly local) goods and services*
• Since 2000, the Kalispel Tribe has donated over $1 million
annually to over 300 charities in our local community.

Business Enterprises

• Northern Quest Resort & Casino
• 2 Fatburger franchise restaurants
• 2 Chevron fuel stations and convenience stores
• Kalispel Golf and Country Club
• Crossroads Restaurant
• Camas Center for Community Wellness
• Kalispel Linen Services (a commercial laundry facility)
• Kalispel Upholstery Services

Building Our Workforce

In an effort to reduce regional unemployment, the Kalispel Tribe and community partners collaborate to provide vocational training and education for Pend Oreille County youth and adults so that more community members can access living wage jobs.

• Invests $2.2 million annually in education and workforce development.*
• Operates the Kalispel Career Training Center in Usk, Washington, which provides career and technical education for youth and adults
• Partners with the Pend Oreille Skills Center in Newport, Washington offering career counseling, an automotive technology program, and Pend Oreille River School, an alternative high school with individualized and flexible schedules for non-traditional students

*FY 2015


Dedicated to Giving Back

The Kalispel Tribe is a strong community partner committed to supporting its neighbors. The Tribe’s Charitable Fund helps numerous non-profit organizations throughout Spokane and Pend Oreille counties.  Since 2000, the Kalispel Tribe has donated over $1 million annually to over 300 charities in our local community.

Charitable Areas of Focus

• Education
• Healthcare
• Arts & Culture
• Social Services
• Environmental Conservation

Here are just some of the ways others have benefited from the Tribe's charitable giving.

“As a premier provider of hope for local families battling childhood cancer, it is our goal to provide support for the whole family from the beginning of their journey. Usually for cancer patients, this trying ordeal starts at an emergency department. Because of the tremendous support we have received from the community, especially the ongoing support from the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, we partnered with Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital and provide them with a $3 million gift to establish a new state-of-theart emergency center for children and adults. The Rypien Foundation Children’s Emergency Center features a completely separate waiting and treatment area for children.”
-Amber George, Rypien Foundation, Spokane, Washington

“The Kalispel Tribe Charitable Fund has assisted the Newport Hospital and Health Services (NHHS) Foundation by giving to Pend Oreille County children in need through the weekly Healthy Kids Snack Bags program. Since 2012, the Tribe’s $14,000 contribution has provided over 2,300 weekly snack bags for nearly 200 students. Children receive three healthy snacks daily for every day the week including weekends. The Foundation hopes to sustain this program to feed elementary school children in Newport, Oldtown, Priest River, Priest Lake, the Kalispel Career Training Center, and Cusick. The Kalispel Tribe is a respected key partner in Pend Oreille County and truly demonstrates kindness and generosity in their daily interactions,
at local community gatherings, and within business relationships.”
-Jenny Smith, Newport Hospital and Health Services Foundation, Newport, Washington

“The impact of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians on the women and children served by the YWCA of Spokane has been extraordinary. Annually, the YWCA provides services to nearly 16,000 women and children experiencing domestic violence, homelessness and unemployment. Our long-term partnership with the Tribe has enabled us to complete the main facility where our agency provides services, including a new home for the Spokane Family Justice Center. The Tribe’s support was key in helping us renovate our 100-year-old Safe Shelter for victims of domestic violence. The renovation created private, more autonomous living spaces, reducing the stress of a shelter environment. Most importantly the Tribe’s ongoing support has allowed
us to sustain the counseling, legal, shelter, and job-readiness services that so many women have come to rely on during what is often the most traumatic moment in their life to a new life of hope, healing, and security.”
-Regina Malveaux, YWCA, Spokane, Washington

“Heart disease continues to be a problem locally and is the leading cause of death nationally. On average, Providence Sacred Heart provides specialized cardiac care for more than 5,000 patients every year. The Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ generously contributed $500,000 towards
an open-air courtyard with the newly expanded and modernized Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). This feature will provide a welcome reprieve for patients who may be in the hospital for weeks at a time. The Kalispel Tribe Outdoor Courtyard and the CICU is of vital importance to the entire region and their donation will help ensure Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center remains at the forefront of cardiac care for generations to come.”
-Joyce M. Cameron, Providence Health Care Foundation