Sanpoil Indians

Sanpoil Indians. A native word in spite of its French aspect; meaning unknown. Also called:

  • Hai-ai’-nlma, by the Yakima.
  • Ipoilq, another Yakima name.
  • Nesilextcl’n, .n.selixtcl’n, by Sanpoil, and probably meaning “Salish speaking.”
  • N’pooh-le, a shortened form of the name.

Sanpoil Connections. The Sanpoil belonged to the inland division of the Salishan linguistic stock, and were related most closely to its eastern section.

Sanpoil Location. On Sanpoil River and Nespelem Creek and on the Columbia below Big Bend. They were later placed on Sanpoil and Colville Reservations.

Sanpoil Villages

The Nespelim of Nespelem Creek were often given independent status. Ray gives the following villages and camps:

  • Nespelim villages:
    • Haimisahun, a summer settlement of the Suspiluk, on the north bank of Columbia River about a half mile above the mouth of Nespelem River.
    • Masmasalimk, home of the Smasmasalimkuwa, approximately a mile and a half above Skik.
    • Nekuktshiptin, home of the Snekuktshiptimuk, at the site of the present Condon’s Ferry, on the north side of the river.
    • Nspilem, home of the Snspiluk, on the lower Nespelem from the falls to the mouth of the river.
    • Salkuahuwithl, home of the Salkuahuwithlau, across the river from the present town of Barry.
    • Skik, home of the Skik, about a mile above Salkuahuwithl on the same side of the river.
    • Skthlamchin, fishing grounds of the Salkuahuwithlau, across the river from the mouth of the Grand Coulee.
  • Sanpoil villages:
    • Enthlukaluk, about a mile and a half north of the mouth of the river.
    • Hahsulauk, home of the Shahsulauhuwa, near Plum.
    • Hulalst, home of the S-hulalstu, at Whitestone, about 8 miles above Npuiluk.
    • Hwatsam, a winter camp, about 3 miles above Snukeilt.
    • Kakamkam, on the islands in the Sanpoil River a short distance above the mouth.
    • Kathlpuspusten, home of the Kathlpuspustenak, about a mile above Plum, on the opposite side of the river.
    • Ketapkunulak, on the banks of the Columbia just east of the Sanpoil River.
    • Naak, home of the Snaakau, about a mile below Plum but on the north side of the river.
    • Nhohogus, fishing grounds of the S-hulalstu.
    • Npokstian, a winter camp, about 2 miles above Hwatsam.
    • Npuiluk, home of the Snpuiluk, at the mouth of Sanpoil River, made up of the following camps:
      • Snkethlkukwiliskanan, near the present landing of the Keller ferry; a branch of the last called by the same name, several hundred yards north of the first between the cliff and the Sanpoil River, on the west side.
      • Kethltselchin, on the first bench above the Columbia, west of the Sanpoil River.
    • Nthlahoitk, a winter camp of the Snpuiluk, about halfway between Skthlamchin and Naak.
    • Saamthlk, home of the Saamthlk, on the opposite side of the river from Kathlpuspusten.
    • Skekwilk, on the west side of Sanpoil River about a mile above the mouth.
    • Snputlem, on the east bank of Sanpoil River, about an eighth of a mile above the mouth.
    • Snukeilt, home of the Snukeiltk, on the west side of Columbia River about 2 mile above the mouth of Spokane River.
    • Tkukualkuhun, home of the Stkukualkuhunak, at Rodger’s Bar just across the river from Hunters.
    • Tsaktsikskin, a winter camp of the Snpuiluk, about a half mile below Naak.
    • Wathlwathlaskin, home of the Swathlwathlaskink, 3 mile up the river from Nthlahoitk.
  • Temporary camp sites of the Sanpoil on Sanpoil River; beginning with the first temporary camp beyond Npuiluk:
    • Achhulikipastem, about half a mile north of Alice Creek.
    • Aklaiyuk, ½ mile above Ksikest.
    • Enluhulak, about 3 miles above the mouth of the river.
    • Ksikest, on the west side of the river about halfway between the Columbia River and Keller.
    • Lulukhum, at Devil’s Elbow.
    • Malt, ½ mile above Thirty-mile Creek.
    • Nhatlchinitk, on the west side of the river at Cash Creek.
    • Nhwiipam, a mile above Alice Creek on the east side of the river.
    • Nklakachin, on the east side of the river, at Thirty-mile Creek.
    • Nloklokekuelikten, about 2 miles south of Cash Creek.
    • Nlupiam, 1½ miles above Snthulusten, on the same side of the river.
    • Nmhoyam, about a quarter of a mile north of Keller.
    • Pupesten, at the present site of Keller.
    • Seaachast, at Alice Creek.
    • Slakumulemk, directly across the river from Nlupiam.
    • Snkloapeten, a short distance below Keller.
    • Snthulusten, on the east side of the river at the foot of a cliff, about 34 mile above Cash Creek.
  • The following possible camp sites are higher up:
    • Akthlkapukwithlp, 8 miles below West Fork.
    • Kthliipus, at the present site of Republic.
    • Tkwiip, near the creek at West Fork.

Sanpoil Population. Mooney (1928) estimates 800 Sanpoil Indians in 1780 but Ray (1932) raises this to 1,600-1,700, and considers that there were about 1,300 immediately following the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1905 the United States Indian Office returned 324 Sanpoil and 41 Nespelim; in 1910 the census gave 240 and 46; in 1913, as the result of a survey, the Office of Indian Affairs returned 202 and 43.

Connection in which the Sanpoil have become noted. Sanpoil River, a northern tributary of the Columbia, perpetuates the name of the Sanpoil. Nespelem River is named for the subgroup, and a town.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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