Chief Garry's Last Campsite

Tucked away on a forested bench of land over Mystic Falls, is the final homesite of one of Spokane's most famous residents.

Past the northern trailhead of Indian Canyon Trail towards Mystic Falls, a large metal sign marks the last campsite of Spokane Garry, whose epic life including many of the most dramatic events for the Spokane Tribe.

Spokane Garry, whose Spokane name was Sough-Keetcha, lived a long life. Born in 1811 at the confluence of the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers, he was sent while still a boy to a missionary school at Red River. The idea is that he would be converted to Christianity and taught the ways of the white man and upon his return spread both among his tribe while serving as a cultural intermediary between whites and Natives.

Garry utilized the lessons learned from his unique position and upbringing to fill various other roles including trader, teacher, and respected sub-chief. In his life, he interacted with fur traders and missionaries, miners, and soldiers, always defending the interests of his people to the best of his abilities.

In 1883 his farm was stolen by Joseph Morscher, a German immigrant. Unable to get justice in the white legal system, Garry was forced to move as many Indians did to this rugged canyon west of the new city of Spokane. Soon known as Indian Canyon, this area was a refuge for Indians as they were forced out of the city at the turn of the 20th century.

As an old man in the 1880s and 90s, Garry was both a local celebrity and sometimes a figure of pity or even ridicule to the whites who had stolen his lands.

Edith Boyd, who had moved to the burgeoning city in the late 19th century, witnessed the eviction of Garry and other Native families. Years later she recalled seeing:

“Old Chief Garry on his lean white horse, piled with a huge bundle, was picking through the debris. Led by a strap around her head, his wife Nina, stumbled after them among rocks and obstacles. They were on their way to Indian Canyon. A boy standing by me shouted ‘You old brute! You get down from there and let her ride!’ He did not know that Garry was too lame to walk and Nina was blind.”

Their camp became a curiosity to tourists, who would travel to the clearing where Garry and many others had made their home. A painted glass negative photograph from the turn of the century captures the scene, depicting a clutch of tipis huddled close together in the snow. Native peoples continued to live in Indian Canyon until at least the 1920s.

In the late 1970s, a group of Boy Scouts constructed an initial sign at the site of Indian Canyon. This was replaced with the metal sign that stands here now in 2019. The sign was a project of the Spokane Parks Department, working in consultation with the Spokane Tribe of Indians.



Edith Downes on Indians in early Spokane.
In this 1970 interview. Edith Downes, now ninety-six, details her experience living alongside Indians in early Spokane. In it, she briefly alludes to the Indian's expulsion from the city as the flood of white squatters encroached on their homes,...
View File Record