Washington, D.C. (August 09, 2023) — The Indian Gaming Association (IGA) joins the rest of Indian Country in mourning the loss of Colville Tribes Former Chairman Michael Finley, who passed away on Wednesday, August 09. He was 44 years old.
Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. said, “We are saddened to hear about the passing of Michael Finley. His commitment and passion for advancing the Colville Tribes Community were exemplary and left an example to follow. He was a great Warrior for all Indian country and will surely be missed.”
Stevens remembered, “Michael exemplified a passion for leadership at a young age. He stood firm on the front lines for Indian County, protecting and defending tribal sovereignty.”
From 2008 to 2013, Finley served as chairman of the Colville Business Council. He also served as vice chairman for two years.
In 2010, Finley received the “Native American 40 under 40” award from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. In 2011, he received the Cecil Dryden Alumni Award from EWU’s Department of History in recognition for his outstanding accomplishments in both scholarship and service.
According to a press statement by the Colville Tribes, The Colville Tribes is saddened to announce the passing of former Chairman Michael Finley. The Lucy Covington Government Center will begin flying flags today at half-staff in his honor.
Michael Finley was a three-time Chairman of the Colville Tribes, with numerous accomplishments. Mike presided over Colville’s MOA in 2008 with the Bonneville Power Administration to acquire and manage habitat for resident and anadromous fish. While Chairman, Mike served also 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 Mike’s leadership.
He served as Chairman during the DNA testing that confirmed the Ancient One’s genetic link to the modern Colville Tribes, and he worked passionately for the return of the Ancient One. Mike testified before Congress on numerous occasions on behalf of the Colville Tribes as Chairman.
Michael Finley also distinguished himself outside his service as Chairman of the Colville Tribes. He earned a B.A. in American Indian studies and history in 2003 and a Master’s degree in history in 2005 from Eastern Washington University and served on the EWU Board of Trustees. He was a co-author of the book “Finding Chief Kamiakin: The Life and Legacy of a Northwest Patriot.”
He assisted with the Sinixt ethnoreport, 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. Mike received numerous awards for his academic and professional achievements.
Mike was the First Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians.
Mike worked for the Tribes’ History and Archaeology Department and was an outstanding researcher, often finding overlooked or new data while visiting museums and archives. Mike collaborated with scholars such as Richard Scheuerman and historians such as Richard Hart. He interviewed roughly 75 tribal elders to write several reports on traditional cultural properties. He contributed a chapter to Kennewick Man: Perspectives on the Ancient One. Michael also worked on archaeological surveys and excavations on the Upper Columbia River.
The Chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes, Jarred-Michael Erickson, said, “Former Chairman Finley spent his life in service of the Colville people, both in preserving our history and leading our way into the future. He leaves behind a family and many friends who love him. Mike will live on as part of the Colville tribal history he loved.”
A celebration of life and vigil for Finley will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, August 14, and a final farewell ceremony on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. at Inchelium School in Inchelium, Washington. The public is invited to both.