In Memoriam: Michael Finley, Former Colville Tribes Chairman

NESPELEM, WA – The Colville Tribes has announced the passing of former Chairman Michael Finley.

Finley was a three-time Chairman of the Colville Tribes and his accomplishments were numerous. He presided over Colville’s memorandum of agreement in 2008 with the Bonneville Power Administration for acquisition and management of habitat for resident and anadromous fish. While Chairman, Finley also served as Chairman of the Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association for Indian Trust Funds. In 2012, the Tribes settled a breach of trust lawsuit with the federal government for $193 million under Finley’s leadership. He also testified before Congress on numerous occasions on behalf of the Colville Tribes as Chairman.

Chairman Finley also distinguished himself outside of his service as Chairman of the Colville Tribes. He served on Eastern Washington University’s Board of Trustees, and was a co-author of the book Finding Chief Kamiakin: The Life and Legacy of a Northwest Patriot. He assisted with the Sinixt ethno-report, which informed the Colville Tribes’ successful litigation of the Desautel case in the Canadian Supreme Court that re-affirmed the Sinixt as a First Nations people in Canada. Finley received numerous awards for his academic and professional achievements and served as the First Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians.

Chairman Finley worked for the Tribes’ History and Archaeology Department and was a prolific researcher, often finding overlooked or new data while visiting museums and archives. He collaborated with scholars and historians and interviewed roughly 75 tribal elders to write several reports on traditional cultural properties. Finley contributed a chapter to Kennewick Man: Perspectives on the Ancient One in addition to working on archaeological surveys and excavations with a focus on the Upper Columbia River.

“Former Chairman Finley spent his life in service of the Colville people, both in preserving our history and in leading our way into the future,” said Chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes, Jarred-Michael Erickson. “He leaves behind a family and many friends who love him. Mike will live on as part of the Colville tribal history he loved.”