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Long Jim – last chief of the Chelans

By on May 28, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments
Rod Molzahn

By Rod Molzahn

Innomosecha (Rainbow Robe), Long Jim’s father, was chief of the Chelan people in 1855 when the Yakima treaties were signed but he did not attend the council. 

Lahompt, a young Entiat, and Tecolekun, a P’squose, did attend. Tecolekun signed in exchange for the promise of a one- mile square fishery reservation at the Wenatchee/Icicle confluence. 

Innomosecha insisted the Chelans were not a party to the treaties and would stay on their ancestral lands.

The signing of the treaties brought war not peace to the Kittitas, Yakima and Klickitat valleys and episodes of violence to north central Washington. 

The first major battle between Indians led by Yakima Chief Kamiakin and troops led by Major Granville Haller was fought at Union Gap along the Yakima River in October of 1855. Innomosecha, the Warrior Chief, joined the fighting along side his Sinkiuse cousins, Quiltenenock and Quetalecan (later Moses), his friend Namunkin, an Entiat Warrior and Sarsarpkin, a northern Okanogan Chief described by Lt. Parnell in 1879 as “being a bad, dangerous, treacherous Indian.” 

The Indians defeated Haller’s troops.

When Quiltenenock was killed by a white miner near the Wenatchee River in 1858, Quetalecan became Chief Moses. 

In retribution for the killing of his brother, Moses planned an attack on a group of miners heading north to Canada. He enlisted his cousin, Innomosecha, to help. The Chelan Chief sent his warriors north to join other Okanogan fighters led by Chief Sarsarpkin in the attack on the 150-man party in a canyon south of Tonasket now called McLoughlin Canyon.

Three years later, 16-year-old Jack Splawn, on a cattle drive to Canada, met Innomosecha at a camp north of the Chelan River, on Chelan traditional land, about where the city of Chelan is now. Splawn later described the “noted warrior” writing, “his was not a pleasant face to look upon; a sullen, cruel expression and a combative head marked him as an ugly foe.” 

With the Chief was his 16-year-old son, Innomosecha Bill. Splawn and Bill were the same age and became close friends. Eight years later, also at the Chelan River, Bill saved Splawn’s life when a group of Indians attacked Splawn in an attempt to steal cattle.

In 1879 the Moses/Columbia Reservation was created by presidential order. It eventually included all the land from the south shore of Lake Chelan north to the international border and from the crest of the Cascades to the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers. 

The two aging chiefs, Moses and Innomosecha, rode with General O.O. Howard to look at the proposed site for Camp Chelan, the army post that would oversee the new reservation. In his memoirs General Howard wrote kindly of Innomosecha calling him, “a peaceful old Indian Chief.” 

He may have mellowed in his age but perhaps he was content that all the Chelan lands would be protected by the new reservation.

In 1881 Lt. Thomas Symons was sent to survey the upper Columbia to judge its potential for navigation. At Chelan Falls Symons found the old Chief fishing. He was ill by then but still following his traditional ways. He died the next year. 

His son, Bill, who would have become chief, also died that year, possibly on the same day. He was 36. His friend, Jack Splawn, wrote that Bill’s death was alcohol related but gave no further details.

Long Jim: Named for his height of six feet and the fact he walked and rode like a chief. Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center 012-51-1034

Innomosecha Jim, the chief’s younger son, was 18 when his father died. With his older brother also gone Jim became Chief Jim. 

At that time the Chelans numbered about 70 men, women and children. Most of them lived on ancestral lands along the foot of the lake north of the Chelan River. 

Changes to the Moses/Columbia Reservation were on the wind by late 1882 and became reality in February of 1883 when, under pressure from white miners and ranchers, the government removed a strip of land 15 miles deep from the top of the reservation and opened it to non-Indians.

Moses was angry. Sarsarpkin was furious. His people had always lived on land within the 15-mile strip along the border. 

The Okanogan Chief threatened violence at a meeting with Col. Merriam, commander of the army post at the mouth of the Spokane River. 

E. Richard Hart wrote that Merriam recalled Moses, Sarsarpkin and the “young Innomosecha” were present. However, Chief Jim was not along later that year when Moses, Sarsarpkin and Chief Tonasket traveled to Washington D.C. for meetings with the government. Those deliberations resulted in the entire 6,962 square-mile Reservation being returned to the public domain in exchange for a number of considerations including payments to the chiefs and permission for Sarsarpkin’s people to remain on their ancestral homeland. 

The Chelans were not so fortunate. Their traditional lands that had been swallowed by the Moses/Columbia Reservation were now opened to non-Indian settlement. 

In exchange the Indians could claim allotments on land within the boundaries of the reservation. They were given two years to make a claim or move to the Colville Reservation.

Innomosecha Jim refused to have the Chelan’s land surveyed and refused to take an allotment, as did most of his followers. 

He held to a belief followed by many Native Americans. The land was sacred, given to them by the Creator. Any effort to divide it into pieces owned by individuals was sacrilege. 

Called Long Jim for his six-foot height and his bearing (it was said that he always walked and rode like a chief) he made clear that he would never relent and take an allotment. Wapato John, an Entiat, had great respect for Long Jim and the Chelans. He waited until he was sure that the Chelans would not take allotments before he and his extended family claimed 10 parcels along the north shore of the lake including Wapato Point and the Manson area.

Long Jim and his small group of followers continued to live in their traditional village at the foot of the lake and ignored the two-year deadline to claim allotments. 

In 1890 troops came to forcibly remove the Chelans to the Colville Reservation where most of them stayed and settled. 

With no more land and no more people there was no more need for a chief. Long Jim was held in the guardhouse for nine weeks then released to return to Lake Chelan where he discovered that Charles Ballard had finished platting the new town of Chelan in the heart of Jim’s ancestral land.

In spite of Long Jim’s continued opposition to allotments, the government awarded him 525 acres on the north shore including Spader Bay. 

Long Jim was tired of the conflict and saddened by all that had happened and refused to live on his allotment. With his wife, Annie, he moved to the Brewster area and sold his lakeside allotment for $2,000. Much of it soon became part of the growing city of Chelan.

Long Jim, the last chief of the Chelans, eventually moved to the Colville Reservation where he died May 28, 1931, age 71.

Historian, actor and teacher Rod Molzahn can be reached at shake.speak@nwi.net. His third history CD, Legends & Legacies Vol. III – Stories of Wenatchee and North Central Washington, is now available at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center and at other locations throughout the area.

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