Inland Northwest History and Culture  >  Indian-White Encounters  >  Spokane: 1877-1890

Throughout American history, alcohol has occupied a distinguished, yet infamous position.  By the late 19th century, Manifest Destiny was achieved, with white settlements established in the western-most regions of the nation.  While the white citizens of the nation rejoiced at this accomplishment, the indigenous peoples displaced by this feat saw few, if any, reasons to celebrate.  With their lands in the hands of white settlers, Indians that were not moved onto reservations were forced to find refuge in the communities established by white settlers. Wherever there were settlers, however, there also lurked the dark specter of alcohol.  In Spokane, the impact of intoxicating sprits on both the Indian and white populations proved to be an issue that threatened the very social fabric of the community.


 “Firewater”: This essay shows how alcohol was essentially used as an excuse for white members of Spokane to ostracize the local Indians, with their ultimate goal being the removal of all Indians from the region.

White Men and Whiskey”:  This essay details the problems associated with alcohol over-consumption among members of Spokane’s white population during the mid 1880s.


Overview: This list provides a brief description of, and links to, transcribed articles that document the issue of alcohol and its relationship to both the Indian and White populations of Spokane during the late 19th Century.  The articles date from between October, 1885 and March, 1887.


“That Drunken Indian,” Spokane Evening Review, October 20, 1885, page 1 - The sight of another drunk Indian on the streets of Spokane caused some citizens to consider using torture to force drunk Indians to reveal the identity of those who supplied the alcohol.

“On Their Ears,” Spokane Evening Review, October 23, 1885, page 1 - A group of Indians attempt to forcibly rescue another Indian from the local jail by cutting through the door with an axe.  All were arrested and joined their intoxicated comrade behind bars.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, January 21, 1887, page 2 - The costs associated with preventing the sale of alcohol to Indians by white dealers should serve as a signal to local officials to take action and remove all Indians from the city and place them on reservations.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, January 21, 1887, page 4 - Local whiskey peddler convicted of selling alcohol to an Indian.  Sentenced to pay a fine plus court costs.  Unable to pay, the man will spend the winter in jail. 

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, February 1, 1887, page 4 - Local business owners are advised not to sell Indians either lemon or vanilla extract as both substances are intoxicating.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, February 19, 1887, page 4 - Police officer encounters intoxicated Indian in the vicinity of Howard Street.  Not wishing to incarcerate the man, the officer instructs the Indian to leave town.  As the Indian walked away, he began to sing.  The officer chased the Indian across the bridge and fired a shot over his head to facilitate the exodus.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, February 27, 1887, page 4 - Unidentified individual provides alcohol to jail prisoner by passing a bottle through the jail’s window.  The receiver of the spirits became so intoxicated that jail guards were concerned as to whether the man would recover.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 1, 1887, page 4 - Previously arrested man creates a small riot in downtown Spokane.  The police officers that arrived on the scene were thrust into a full-pitched battle with the drunken perpetrator, as well as some of the spectators.  Two of the arresting officers were injured in the melee.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 4, 1887, page 4 - Local stable operator informs police of a drunk Indian on his property.  Officers managed to apprehend the intoxicated Indian as well as the white man who sold him the whiskey.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 12, 1887, page 4 - An Indian male, intoxicated by gin, attacks another male Indian while seeking shelter in the Hangman creek area.  The drunk Indians’ wife attempted to intervene and was struck by her husband with a club, resulting in a fractured arm.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 13, 1887, page 4 - Police respond to a complaint about drunken Indians creating a ruckus near the Monroe street railroad crossing.  The alleged perpetrators escaped, but officers did manage to capture the white man who reportedly furnished the alcohol.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 16, 1887, page 4 - Local law enforcement officers break up an alcohol distribution deal that resulted in the arrest of two mixed blood Indians and the white man who tried to sell them the whiskey.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 18, 1887, page 4 - Local authorities respond to a report of a large group of intoxicated Indians creating a disturbance, but only find a drunk female Indian.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 19, 1887, page 4 - Extremely intoxicated soldier arrested by local law enforcement officers.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 25, 1887, page 4 - Drunken detainees nearly burn down the jail after forgetting to blow out a candle.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 25, 1887, page 4 - Police arrest an Indian at a local bakery for drunkenness.  As they opened the jail, a drunk prisoner attacked the officers with a blunt object and attempted to escape.  The sight of a firearm prevented any further argument.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 26, 1887, page 4 - Local liquor vendors are reminded that mixed-blood citizens are allowed to buy alcohol, but one of those citizens specifically should not be sold any alcohol due to the fact that he turns around and sells it to the Indians.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 27, 1887, page 4 - Mixed blood man requests that the local newspaper correct a mistake it made when it claimed that he was arrested for supplying Indians with whiskey.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 30, 1887, page 4 - One of two men arrested for selling alcohol to the Indians was bound over to appear before the United States grand jury.

“Local Jottings,” Spokane Falls Review, March 30, 1887, page 4 - Notorious violent drunk attacks officers at the jail after they attempt to handcuff all of the occupants of the facility for the night.  Even after they managed to put the cuffs on, the man continued to attack them, which forced the officers to physically restrain the prisoner.