Colville Tribal elder Arnie Marchand near Oroville recently.

OROVILLE - At the beginning of his second book, Colville Tribal member Arnie Marchand gives readers important definitions needed to understand the text setout in front of them.

“Definition: 

BC (Before caucasions)

AD (After the Dam)

Two times the world of the Okanagan Indians stopped, and everybody had to change. BC, circa 1810, and AD, after the dam, 1937. The time in between is what people have written about and I call it the John Wayne Period.”

In “What is your name?”, which is expected to be available locally at the end of February, Marchand touches on all three eras described in part with history, in part with stories and in part with biographies, bringing together a picture of the Okanagan Indians and the region the Okanagans called and continue to call home.

He writes, “In this work, I am going to tell stories about Indian People. The stories are either by Indians or about Indians. To me the more you know about Indian People the more difficult it will be to misjudge our People.”

In person, Marchand - who is 75 years of age and jokes that as he enters middle age he has realized his need to write down the stories he carries - reiterates the point: “I just wanted to tell stories about the area that would keep you interested, to let you know something about the Okanagan,” said Marchand in talking about his upcoming book. “This is a great big, long area from Wenatchee to Revelstoke, from the Cascades to the Colville Valley. This is a big area. We governed a big area, and 90 percent of the people who live here - even the Indians - don’t know nothing about it, nothing.”

“I think Arnie, like most of us grandparents, gets tired of the young people not knowing,” said Mike Sibley, who Marchand introduces along with his wife Kay Sibley as his editors and publishers.

“This valley has so much to offer,” said Marchand.

Marchand’s first book, “The Way I Heard it,” was released in 2013 and was edited and published also by the Sibleys. In that book Marchand utilized a travelogue-esque format to retell stories of different locations and sites along the Columbia and Okanogan rivers from Wenatchee northward.

In Marchand’s new book, the author shares some history, citing regional historical writers like Jack Nesbit alongside a transcribed story from Ben Owhi, written down in 1919 by Dr. Walter B Johnson, the agency physician at Nespelem amongst other researched resources. Historical moments the author touches on include the Okanagan’s first contact with Lewis and Clark, the story of David Thompson, the 1855 Indian Wars, the battle at McLaughlin Canyon and the Last Indian Massacre. 

Marchand writes about ways of life of the Okanagans, writing on pit houses, the sweathouse, clothing, housing and living, daily life and adult life.

Marchand also writes a 25 short biographies of different “people I have known, or I think you should know something about,” including Eddie Palmanteer Jr., his father George Marchand, Isabel Friedlander, Lucy Covington, Bertha Matt, Earl Ervin McClung, Joseph Oklahomi, Mourning Dove, Suzette Showder and Princess Jessie Jim amongst others.

The book’s final section, Marchand titles, “These are stories we never tell white people,” and writes about the little people, sasquatch and ogapoga.

“I taught about Indians,” said Marchand. “I know Indian people who tell Indian stories and talk about Indian history. I just talk about Indians. Most of our people don’t know anything about their history. Nothing, I mean practically nothing. Instead of boring you with eons on history, my Okanagan history, which is prominently the Colville Tribes’ history, I throw it in there in the beginning and I give places you can go to find more. Then I talk more about people you should know if you live in this valley or if you are an Okanagan.

“Then at the end it is stories we never told White People, then the reason we didn’t tell them, white people. All the white people I told that story to they go, ‘Isn’t that racist?’ I say, ‘No. We only tell Indians this story … You’re the only ones who call us dumb for calling us these stories. That’s why we never tell you these stories. You make all kinds of reason we don’t tell you.’”

When asked why he tells the stories now - presumably to some white people who will pick up the book - Marchand doesn’t miss a beat: “If you don’t know a little about what we don’t tell you, just something about what we don’t tell you, you aren’t going to know nothing about us. I want to create a little mystery about us so you might want to talk to an Indian, or maybe an Indian might want to find out a little more about us.”

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