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(both: spōkăn`), Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Salishan branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
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). In the early 19th cent., according to Lewis and Clark (see Lewis and Clark ExpeditionLewis and Clark expedition,
1803–6, U.S. expedition that explored the territory of the Louisiana Purchase and the country beyond as far as the Pacific Ocean. Purpose
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), they lived in the vicinity of the Spokane River in NE Washington and numbered some 600. Their culture was typical of the Plateau area (see under Natives, North AmericanNatives, North American,
peoples who occupied North America before the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th cent. They have long been known as Indians because of the belief prevalent at the time of Columbus that the Americas were the outer reaches of the Indies (i.e.
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). Today many Spokan live on the Spokan and the Colville reservations in Washington; others live in Idaho and Montana. In 1990 there were over 2,000 Spokan in the United States.


See R. H. Ruby and J. A. Brown, The Spokan Indians, Children of the Sun (1970).