Bertha Finley Brisbois

Bertha Finley Brisbois Brings Schools to the Reservation

From Boarding School to a University Scholarship

Bertha Finley Brisbois was born in 1890, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Her father, John Finley, was a Flathead from Montana and her mother, Annie Lafleur, was Spokane. Bertha was one of the children taken to the Fort Spokane Indian Boarding School, where she would have learned the usual curriculum of the English language, Christianity, and domestic skills such as cooking and sewing.

In 1914 Bertha married Nazaire Richard "Dick" Brisbois, and together they started a family. Perhaps it was her time at the boarding school that encouraged Bertha to develop schooling opportunities closer to home for her own children and those of the reservation. She was responsible for the founding of the first two public schools on the Spokane reservation in the 1930s. A key reason being that before the schools were open on the reservation children had to travel to Oregon to receive an education. Bertha wanted to keep them close to home.

Bertha died in 1944, but the Brisbois children went on the accomplish great things. Joseph Oliver Brisbois joined the Army and flew 85 missions as a turret gunner on a B-25 bomber during World War II. This was an impressive feat since 25 missions granted you a ticket home and 50 missions was considered a miracle.

In 1987, Bertha’s children and grandchildren set up a memorial Scholarship at Eastern Washington University, which is meant for students from the Spokane tribe that would attend EWU’s college of Science and Technology.