The Nespelem Tribune
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Washington (State) - Nespelem.
Washington-born entrepreneur Frank Spalding Emert, a prolific publisher and editor stationed in Okanogan, Washington, established the Nespelem Tribune in 1934. It was marketed as a weekly subsidiary of the Omak Chronicle, which he published for 31 years. He owned and ran multiple local newspapers after returning home from his duties as a corporal in World War I, frequently buying and selling them. While he was best known for his ownership of the Chronicle, his other endeavors included the Chesaw News, Molson Leader and Oroville Gazette.
While the Nespelem Tribune dutifully covered the mining, timber, and agricultural interests of the small community settled at the edge of the Colville Reservation, it regularly covered tribal news and the construction progress of the much-anticipated Grand Coulee Dam. A new road had been built between Omak and Nespelem in 1929. By 1934 it was extended to the newly plotted town of Grand Coulee, opening up greater access for residents eager to be employed during the Great Depression. In 1935, federal New Deal funding, run by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), created the Civilian Conservation Corps and Indian Emergency Conservation Work (IECW) programs and a chance to work on one of the largest construction projects in the world. With so many critical changes in the landscape, resources, and the economy, the need for news was strong.
On June 18, 1934, Congress signed the Wheeler-Howard Act, also known as the Indian Reorganization Act, which allowed tribal members to vote on its acceptance. On the same day, dam construction bids finally opened after years of discussion, and the first issue of the Tribune came out closely after, competing with local publishers eager to establish their newspapers as the go-to source for news of the dam. The Tribune masthead boasted of "Nespelem—Nearest Permanent Town To The Grand Coulee Dam." It also covered the unfolding story of the local tribes and their opportunity to self-govern in their community.
Subscriptions were $2 per year, or $1 per six months, and were sold out of the Nespelem Drug Store. New issues were released every Wednesday for about two years, and were four pages in length, with local ads dispersed throughout. Regular features included editorials, school news, and the ever-popular rodeo and golf activities. Furthermore, since much of the readership was Methodist, as was Emert himself, local Methodist events and church activities were well advertised. Emert's newspapers, though, were generally less biased than one might suspect. Emert was politically conservative, but an ardent supporter of his writers and their right to free speech. One issue featured the words of nationally known Colville author Mourning Dove, also known as Christine Quintasket (ca. 1884-1936).
The Nespelem Tribune ceased production in 1936. It hadn't won the race to be the newspaper of the Grand Coulee Dam—that achievement went to the Grand Coulee News, launched in 1933 by another local publisher, Sidney Jackson. Emert eventually sold the Nespelem Tribune to Jackson in February 1936, who continued to release issues through March. The dam was completed in 1942, at which point the Nespelem Tribune was long out of publication, yet it remains a key piece of national, state, and tribal history.