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Dr. Michael Marchand: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series

The National Museum of the American Indian interview series Meet Native America continues today with Dr. Michael Marchand.

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

I'm Dr. Michael E. Marchand, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Can you share your Native name and its English translation, or your nickname?

It's Qualth-a-meen. It means Wolverine.

Where is your tribal community located?

The Colville Indian Reservation covers 1.4 million acres in north central Washington.

Where is your tribe originally from?

The 12 tribes that make up the confederation—their English and French names are the Colville, Nespelem, San Poil, Lake, Palus, Wenatchi (Wenatchee), Chelan, Entiat, Methow, southern Okanogan, Moses Columbia, and Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce—were from a large area, including parts of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. They hunted buffalo over an even larger area of the Great Plains in Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Alberta. 

What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share?

I would choose the time in the 1970s when termination was stopped. The Klamath Tribe had just been terminated, and we were next in line. A determined effort by us and tribes across the nation stopped this policy, and we were saved.

How is your tribal government set up?

The Colville Tribes adopted a constitution in 1938. It replaced 12 traditional chiefs with a 14-person elected Council. The Council has full powers to manage the tribe's lands and assets, and all activities on the reservation.

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Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

Yes, but it varies amongst the 12 tribes.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Terms are two years long. Seven seats are up for election each year.

What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?

My goals are to protect and manage our lands, protect and enhance our culture and traditions, and protect our sovereignty. Also to help our members achieve their own potentials.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

I worked my way up through the tribe's organization from bottom to top. Went to college. Lived on the reservation, hunting and fishing, participating in community events and traditions, and was lucky to have role models including grandparents and uncles and cousins who helped raise me.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My grandfather was a chairman, too, and he spent time with me. Dennis Banks was important too—I met him when I was a teen.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?

My grandfather John Cleveland, the grandfather who was one of our chairmen. My family also descended from many of our chiefs, including Chief Silcosasket of the Entiat Tribe and Chief Aurapahkin of the Arrow Lakes Tribe. Both chiefs were important to our people in their day.

To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.