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Spokane & FAFB 1

Running Head: SPOKANE & FAFB

Spokane, WA and Fairchild Air Force Base: A Militarized Economy

Cherise Fuselier
The Evergreen State College
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In Wretched of the Earth (1961), Frantz Fanon describes colonial land:

The town belonging to the colonized people…the reservation is a place of

ill fame, peopled by men of evil repute. They are born there, it matters
little where or how; they die there, it matters not where, not how…The
native town is a hungry town, starved of bread, of meat, of shoes, of coal,
of light…For a colonized people the land is most essential value, because
the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring
them bread and, above all, dignity.

Spokane, Washington

Popular history contends that the city of Spokane, Washington was not “settled”

until the 1870s. However, this popular history fails to remember the native inhabitants of

the region, who had lived there for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the first white

settler. These Native people, the Spokane tribe, nestled themselves in permanent villages

against the volcano-formed Spokane River and enjoyed fishing for salmon plentiful in its


The Spokanes, whose name means “children of the sun”, were the first to live in

the present-day region of Spokane Country and the city of Spokane (Fig. 1). The

Spokanes have legends that predicted the coming of the white settlers, and they were

friendly and welcoming upon their arrival (Ruby & Brown, p. ix). So friendly, in fact, “A

white man once said that, were he to drop a twenty-dollar gold piece among a group of

Spokane Indians, he would more likely get it back than were he to drop it among his own

people” (p. xi).

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Figure 1. Map of Spokane Tribal Ancestral Lands and Current Reservation Lands.

The first Europeans the Spokanes encountered were from the Northwest Fur

Company’s Rocky Mountain House in 1800. Upon contact with these men, possibly the

French Canadian trappers Le Blanc and La Grasse, the Spokanes treated them with

kindness. However, with the arrival of the first Europeans brought new diseases, and the

Spokane began dying during the trappers winter stay and after their stay (p. 35). The

trappers were interested in trading commodities (such as metal knives) for animal furs.

Many more trappers were to follow, and by 1810, the Northwest Fur Company had
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established the Spokane House as its main fur trading post in the area. By 1814, the

British had established Fort Spokane. By 1824, under the Hudson Bay Company, Fort

Spokane was removed. This did not cut off all trade between trappers and Spokanes,

however. Spokanes soon were bringing furs to Fort Colville, which remained in

operation until 1872.

In 1805, the Spokanes caught word of a party of white men moving down the

Columbia River. Two Spokane runners were sent down to meet this expedition, which

happened to be Lewis and Clark on their famous exploration of the West. Lewis and

Clark’s map estimated the Spokane Native population to be 900 (and only 600 in their

journal). If this estimate is accurate, then the Spokane Native population had decreased

by about half to that of its estimated pre-smallpox epidemic population. Smallpox was

said to have come up from the Columbia Plateau, and in 1782 an epidemic hit the

Spokanes. Population estimates in 1780, prior to the epidemic, count 1,400 people (Ruby

& Brown, p. 36).

By 1818, the U.S. and Great Britain agreed to jointly control Oregon Country

(which encompassed all of present day Washington, Oregon, Idaho and parts of British

Columbia, Montana and Wyoming, see Fig. 2) for ten years. This treaty also called for

free settlement and navigation for its settlers with equal rights to “claiming” land in the

region. This treaty preempted the cede of Great Britain’s claim to Oregon Country in

1846, and further perpetuated the illegal theft of Native land by American settlers.
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Figure 2. Map of Oregon Country in 1846.


In 1830, a Spokane Native and converted Christian named Garry (who would

later become the famous Chief Garry) returned to his tribe from the East as the only

Native in his region who could read and write English as result of his Western education.

This inspired neighboring tribes to seek out the knowledge of reading and writing. This

call for knowledge was answered with Protestant missionaries, who taught from Christian

Bibles (Ruby & Brown, p. 60).

The Indian Intercourse Act of 1834 was the finalized result of earlier treaties with

the U.S. beginning in 1790. This finalized act established “Indian Country” as all of the

land west of the Mississippi River, excluding the states of Missouri, Louisiana, and

Arkansas. The act also started it was illegal for non-Native intrusion into “Indian

Country.” Shortly after this act was passed the 1850 Oregon Donation Land Claim Act
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was established, which acted as a precursor to the 1862 Homestead Act. The Oregon

Donation Land Claim Act allotted single white settlers 160 acres and 320 acres jointly to

married couples within Oregon Territory (established in 1848, Fig. 3). This is the first

Act granting women property ownership, and “half-blood” Native Americans were also

eligible for land. Isaac Stevens, the governor of Washington Territory (fig. 4) in the

1850s, officially declared the region open to white settlers in 1855. Washington Territory

split from Oregon Territory in 1853 (fig. 4) using the Columbia River as a natural border.

Washington Territory encompassed all of present-day Washington state and parts of

Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming (fig. 4). Washington achieved statehood with its present-

day borders in 1863 (fig. 5), with former Idaho and Montana Territory lands going to

Nebraska and Idaho Territories.

Figure 3. Oregon Territory in 1848.

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Figure 4. Washington Territory (green) and Oregon Territory (blue) in 1853.


Figure 5. State of Washington (green) and State of Oregon (blue) and former
territorial lands in 1863.
3.png/270px-Wpdms_washington_territory_1863_legend_3.png >

The Spokane Natives did not retreat without resistance during American

settlement on their Native lands, however. According to Churchill (1997), in the Oregon

Territory (fig. 3) “settlers loudly demanded’ that the army ‘annihilate’ the region’s native

peoples, [and] several campaigns for such purposes were undertaken” (p. 221). In the
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1850s a series of bloody wars were fought between the United States military and the

Spokanes and other neighboring tribes. Colonel George Wright, a Civil War and

Mexican-American War veteran with a history of fighting against the Florida Seminoles,

had an integral part in orchestrating these Indian Wars against the Spokane tribe. A war

campaign brought against the Natives was the 1857 Coeur d’Alene War. This war was

fought against the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane tribes along with those remaining of the

nearby Yakama, Palouse, Umatilla, and Cayuse tribes. Churchill describes these tribes

being pitted “against ‘a superior force…each man having been issued brand-new long-

range rifles’” (p. 222). After the Coeur d’Alene War, the tribal leaders were executed for

resisting dispossession of their lands (p. 222).

In an important act of Native resistance in 1858, Native fighters from the Spokane

and neighboring tribes defeated Colonel Edward Steptoe and his military forces. Colonel

Steptoe and his troops consisting of 158 men had come to Fort Walla Walla in an attempt

to punish Natives who were accused of killing settlers. Nez Perce scouts helped Colonel

Steptoe and his men ride up the Spokane River where the Spokane tribe refused to help

him march up any further. Colonel Steptoe’s pack train was captured by the tribes, while

Steptoe and his command escaped to safety in a nearby Nez Perce village. Colonel

Steptoe’s defeat by Columbia Basin tribes directly sparked Colonel Wright’s 1858

campaign of revenge.

The 1858 Battle of Four Lakes is a specific example of Indian Wars fought with

rifles, as Colonel Wright conquered some 500 Natives from Columbia Basin tribes

(including the Spokanes) with the help of Nez Perce scouts, while maintaining no U.S.

casualties. This battle was fought near the present-day city of Spokane at Four Lakes. It
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was about retaliation, as Wright attempted to punish the Palouse tribe for killing white

settlers as well as punish Columbia Basin area tribes (including the Spokanes) for the

defeat of Colonel Steptoe earlier that year (Wilma, 2003).

Four days after the Battle of Four Lakes, Colonel George Wright once again went

to war against the Spokane Natives and neighboring tribes on the Battle of Spokane

Plains. According to Wilma (2003), the soldiers and warriors are said to have fought over

a 14-mile distance, with only one U.S. soldier wounded. The soldiers began a march

from Four Lakes while burning prairie grass to stampede the pack train and conceal their

attack. Colonel Wright ordered a counterattack using infantry, cavalry and artillery. The

Natives were driven off and the troops eventually camped on the Spokane River in the

location of present-day Fort George Wright in Spokane.

Because of these Indian War military campaigns, an 1855 treaty instigated by

Colonel Wright had forced neighboring tribes to cede their land, but the Spokanes never

signed. The Spokanes continued to live in the same area, sometimes finding success in

farming or ranching, were while American settlers founded the city of Spokane (then

called Spokane Falls) and settled into the Spokane River. A reservation for the Spokane

tribe was established in 1881, but many tribal members refused to move there. In 1887,

however, the Spokane Natives ceded 3.14 million acres of their ancestral land at 32 cents

an acre to the United States (in 1966, the Spokane tribe accepted a $6.7 million

settlement held in trust for their lands). This cede represented the last joint effort of

Spokane Native and white cohabitation on the land. The Spokanes were ordered to

relocate fifty miles northwest of Spokane to the 1881-established reservation in Wellpinit,

Washington consisting of only 154,898 acres. This cede included all land which the city
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of Spokane was founded on and most of the surrounding county and Spokane River (fig.


After the illegal acquisition of land from the Spokane tribe, the region including

present-day Spokane was British owned until the 1846 Oregon Treaty that transferred

ownership of the region into American hands. It wasn’t until the 1870s that Spokane was

really “settled”, as the mainstream history goes. Spokane became the hub of industry for

the surrounding region known as the Inland Northwest, with industries such as mining,

timber, and railroad.

The Spokane Natives will never get all of their ancestral homelands back. They

will never be able to live their truly traditional lifestyles and fully utilize the Spokane

River as their ancestors once did. Instead, the Spokane Natives and Native Americans on

a whole were forced to live on tiny reservations, sometimes far away from tribal ancestral

land and thousands of acres less.

From the illegal acquisition of Spokane Native land brought white settlers to

establish the city of Spokane. The historic domestic conquest of the Spokane tribe and

other Native tribes by the United States military acted as a precursor for historic global

military action in foreign countries. The conquered land that Spokane was established on

became increasingly militarized. Spokane first became militarized with the establishment

of Fairchild Air Force Base during World War II.

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Fairchild Air Force Base

Figure 6. Picture of Fairchild Air Force Base Gates, circa 1950’s.


Fairchild Air Force Base was established in 1942. This base was constructed

twelve miles west of the city of Spokane in Airway Heights, Washington. According to

the U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet, this location was the result of a competition between the

Washington cities of Seattle and Everett: the War Department chose Spokane because of

better weather conditions, the location 300 miles from the coast, and the Cascade

Mountain range (Fact Sheet). Because of these reasons, the military felt that Fairchild’s

location provided a better natural barrier against Japanese attack than the cities of Seattle

and Everett did (Fact Sheet). Because of this barrier, its first duties consisted of serving

as a repair depot for aircraft in World War II.

In January of 1942, 1,400 acres were purchased for the construction of the base at

a cost of over $125,000. The money was result of business and citizen donations and

heavy rallying for the establishment of a military installation in Spokane. After this offer
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was presented to the War Department, the government designated $14 million dollars to

purchase more land and to begin construction for a new Spokane Army Air Depot.

The base was first named the Spokane Air Force Base, and in 1948 received its

second of three official names as Fairchild Air Force Base. From 1942 until 1946 the

base served as a repair depot for damaged aircraft returning from the Pacific Theater.

The Pacific Theater was one of four major operations during World War II, and largely

involved the allied and Japanese troops over border conflicts between 1942 and 1945.

Aircraft bombing took place over the Pacific Oceans, largely excluding mainland Asia

but including areas of the Philippines, Australia, Netherlands East Indies, New Guinea,

the Bismack Archipelago, Solomon Islands and other Southwestern Pacific islands.

However, Fairchild was not only a repair depot during WWII. In 1942, the 92d Bomb

Group flew its first combat mission over Nazi-occupied France. By 1946, the 92d Bomb

Group was deactivated with over 300 combat missions to its name.

In the summer of 1946, the primary function of the base shifted to a Strategic Air

Command and assigned to the 15th Air Force. In 1947, The 92d Bomb Group, Heavy was

reassigned as the 92d Bombardment Group, Very Heavy and shifted to Strategic Air

Command. Along with the 92d Bombardment Group, Very Heavy, the 98th Bombardment

Group also arrived at Fairchild. Both of these Bomb Groups flew “the most advanced

bomber of the day” (Fact Sheet) and one of the largest service aircraft in WWII, the B-29

Superfortress developed by Boeing. The B-29 Superfortress aircraft became the primary

model used in the firebombing campaigns against Japan late in the war, and this model

carried the atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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Responding to the Korean Conflict, both the 92d and 98th Bomb Groups deployed

to Japan and Guam in 1950 as part of the Korean War. General MacArthur released the

92d back to the United States a few months later while the 98th stayed on, before being

reassigned to Nebraska. Upon returning to Fairchild, the 92d Bomb Group was re-

designated as the 92d Bombardment Wing (Heavy).

In 1951, a ceremony was conducted on the base in the memory of Air Force Vice

Chief of Staff, General Muir S. Fairchild, who was a Bellingham, Washington native.

General Fairchild died while serving at the Pentagon in March 1950. This ceremony

officially dedicated the base to General Fairchild and coincided with the arrival of the

92d Bombardment Wing’s first B-36 Peacemaker. These craft were built by Convair and

were the first aircraft to have intercontinental range as well as the first thermonuclear

weapon deliver vehicle. The B-36 Peacemaker remains the largest military combat

aircraft ever built.

During the Cold War, the base acted as a Strategic Air Command bomber wing.

In 1956 the B-52 Stratofortress was brought to the 92d Bombardment Wing, followed by

the KC-135 Stratotanker in 1958. The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range jet strategic

bomber developed to be a Cold War nuclear deterrent. The KC-135 Stratotanker,

developed by Boeing, is an air-refueling tanker aircraft. In 1957, the 92d Air Refueling

Squadron was established in 1957 and flew a modified B-29 Superfortress called a KB-

29 for refueling purposes.

The 92d Bombardment Wing became the first aerospace wing in the nation in

1961, with the acquisition of nine Atlas intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Atlas

missiles were important for the development of future aerospace technologies, as well
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important roles during the Cold War. Because of this acquisition, the 92d Bombardment

Wing was re-designated as the 92d Strategic Aerospace Wing. The missiles were

removed from the base in 1965; however, the name was not.

In 1966, the 3636th Combat Crew Training Crew was established at Fairchild. It

became a wing in 1971 and took control over all Air Force survival schools. The survival

school at Fairchild provided airmen combat survival training under any environmental

conditions as well as equipment training.

In the Vietnam War, Fairchild Air Force Base played a crucial role in Operation

Young Tiger. This operation involved refueling combat aircraft in Southeast Asia. Other

operations in the Vietnam War from Fairchild included the deployment of 92d Strategic

Aerospace Wing’s B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers to Andersen Air Force Base in

Guam for Operation Arc Light and bombing campaigns against North Vietnam and the

Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam. In 1972, a nighttime raid on Hanoi led to a 92d

Bombardment Wing B-52 Stratofortress crew being shot down. Five crew members died

and two crew members became Prisoners of War, returning to Fairchild 99 days after

capture. Bombing with B-52 Stratofortress aircrafts continued until the complete

cessation of the Vietnam War in 1975.

About the role of the Fairchild Air Force Base in the Gulf War, the Fact Sheet


Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, a total of 560 base

personnel deployed to DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM from
August 1990 to March 1991. The 43rd and 92d Air Refueling Squadrons
flew a combined total of 4,004 hours, 721 sorties, and off-loaded a total of
22.5 million pounds of fuel to coalition aircrafts.
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Furthermore, the Fact Sheet describes the role of Fairchild wings in bombing Iraq in the

1990s. It states, “Wing personnel answered the call for operations such as Desert Strike

and Phoenix Scorpion and routinely deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch

(OSW) and Operation Northern Watch (ONW).” ONW, in fact, required constant tanker

occupation to enforce the supposed UN-sanctioned no-fly zones in Iraq (there was no

such sanction). In 1999, deployments from Fairchild were also made to support

Operation Allied Force against the Serbian forces in Kosovo.

Under Air Force reorganization the 92d Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was re-

designated the 92d Bomb Wing, which emphasized the dual roles of bombing and

refueling. In June 1992, the 92d Wing became part of the Air Combat Command and was

re-designated the 92d Bomb Wing. The U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet notes, “As Strategic

Air Command finished 46 years of service to the nation, Fairchild bomber and tanker

crews took top honors at Proud Shield ’92…The wing won the Fairchild Trophy for best

bomber/tanker team as well as the Saunders Trophy for the tanker unit attaining the most

points on all competition missions.”

In the five months between December 1993 and May 1994, all of the B-52

bombers stationed at Fairchild transferred bases. After 52 years, the bombing mission of

the 92d wing ended. This also marked a transition within the base to that of refueling. In

1994, to reflect this change, the 92d Bomb Wing was re-designated as the 92d Air

Refueling Wing and the base was transferred from an Air Combat Command to an Air

Mobility Command. The creation of the 92d Air Refueling Wing marked the largest

refueling wing in the Air Force. According to the U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet, “Dubbed as
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the new ‘tanker hub of the Northwest’, the wing was capable of maintaining an air bridge

across the nation and the world in support of US and allied forces.”

Since the important shift to refueling, Fairchild has “…been involved in virtually

every contingency mission around the world” (Fact Sheet). Fairchild tankers act as

“force extenders” (Fact Sheet) to US and allied forces to successfully complete missions.

Additionally, the Fact Sheet assures that the “…92d Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135s have

routinely supported special airlift missions in response to world events or international

treaty compliance requirements.”

In 1995, the 92d Air Refueling Wing flew to Travis Air Force Base in California

in its first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) mission, which transported Russian

inspectors to sites in the Western US. START was a treaty proposed in and signed in

1991 to set a cap of arms for the US and USSR. Since the first mission in 1995, Fairchild

aircrafts have flown an annual START mission. In May 2000, the 92d Air Refueling

Wing became the first active duty KC-135 to transport US inspectors on a START

mission to Ulan Ude, Russia.

After 9/11, the U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet clearly illustrates Fairchild’s important

role in the “Global War on Terrorism.” The U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet states, “Following

the terrorist attacks on our nation, the wing began providing around-the-clock air

refueling of Combat Air Patrol fighter aircraft and initiated 24-hour ground alert

operations in support of Operation Noble Eagle, the defense of our homeland.” Also

during this time was the creation of extended deployment of aircrews, maintainers, and

medical personnel and support for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan.

According to an article in the Spokesman Review, Fairchild tankers have refueled more
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than 8.8 million gallons of jet fuel in OEF and another 1.5 million gallons for Operation

Noble Eagle. Between 9/11 and September 2002, Fairchild tankers logged 1,500 flights

for those operations (Camden, 2002).

In 2003, more than 100 2d Support Squadron personnel loaded missile packages

on B-52s headed to Iraq. Colonel Bret T. Klassen, commander of the 2d Maintenance

Group, states, “You can guarantee that the 2nd Support Squadron was not a silent partner

in the war on terror…Most of the air-launched cruise missiles fired during shock-and-awe

campaign in Iraq came out of Fairchild” (Cannatta, 2006).

Through this brief history of Fairchild Air Force Base, the rising power of the

base is clearly illustrated. This is a reflection on the rising military strength of the United

States on a whole after World War II. Shifts in military strategy can also be seen using

Fairchild as an example. Fairchild was chosen for its strategic location, and the shift

from bombing to refueling and addition of aerospace technology illustrate a shift in

military strategy in overseas operations from Fairchild. Because of increasing military

power and new innovations in air operations, Fairchild Air Force Base continues to be a

very significant base in the areas of refueling squadrons and bomber aircraft.
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Figure 7. Map of Spokane.


Spokane, Washington

As Owens (2001) states:

America never became postcolonial. The indigenous inhabitants of North

America can stand anywhere on the continent and look in every direction
at a home usurped and colonized by strangers who, from the very
beginning, laid claim not merely to the land and resources but [also] to the
very definition of the Natives (pp. 14-5).

Spokane, 300 miles east of the densely populated western Washington, is the

central hub of retail, financial, and medical for the eastern Washington and northern

Idaho panhandle region. The largest employers in Spokane are Sacred Heart Medical
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Center and Empire Health Services. Manufacturing jobs, which have been dwindling, are

being replaced by service and technical jobs such as retail and medical positions.

However, Spokane never became quite the industrial hub it was hoped to have

become. Seattle quickly surpassed Spokane as the biggest and most economically

significant city in Washington State. Today Spokane has a population of about 200,000

residents and is the third-largest city in the state. In 2003, the Spokane Valley

neighborhood was incorporated into the city of Spokane Valley. (Prior to 2003, Spokane

has been the second largest city in Washington after Tacoma.) Population increase in

Spokane mirrors U.S. trends, and between 1970 and 2000 there was a 15 percent


Today the Spokane tribe’s reservation is still located northwest of the city around

Wellpinit, Washington. The Spokane tribe operates eight casinos in Eastern Washington,

many of them smaller locations. Chewelah Casino, the tribe’s largest, is located 50 miles

north of Spokane. Chewelah Casino underwent a $1.5 million expansion and remodel to

22,000 square feet in 2000. In 1999, Governer Gary Locke met with Washington state

tribal leaders to find out how much money the tribes were brining in with their casinos.

In an act of resistance, the Spokane tribe chose not to participate. As Joseph Pakootas

accounts, “The study’s a good thing in the hands of the public. But in the hands of the

state officials, it can be another toll to use against the tribes and push cutbacks on tribal

health care and housing” (McDonald, 1999). While gambling revenues may help some

tribes near population or tourism centers, most tribes in the Northwest lack access to

capital investments, markets, and skilled labor.

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David P. Hession, former City Council president, is the current mayor of Spokane

after the Jim West was recalled for his involvement in a sex scandal, and Cathy McMorris

is the Republican U.S. Representative and a member of the House of Representatives

Armed Services Committee. In a meeting with Air Mobility Commander Major General

Hawkins, McMorris was quoted, “’By eliminating encroachment around the base,

promoting the use of electronic medical records, and supporting military construction

projects to ensure the readiness of forces we can continue to make Fairchild Air Force

Base and Eastern Washington a leader in military operations” (US Fed News service).

Expansion in Spokane has led to fears of encroachment for Fairchild Air Force

Base. In 2006, Spokane County’s Planning Commission held hearings on development

plans for Spokane. Military and aviation officials urged the Commission to adopt

regulations that would bar further residential and airport development near Fairchild. The

moratorium was passed by Commissioner Phil Harris. The fears of encroachment stem

from a measure passed earlier stating that residential development could take place in

light-industrial areas, which is the zone for a significant amount of land surrounding

Spokane International Airport and Fairchild. Both are largely important to Spokane’s

economy (Fairchild being Spokane County’s largest employer), and encroachment is a

top reason for base closures nationwide due to limited land for base expansion.

A Spokane non-profit group called Leadership Spokane sought to build closer ties

with Fairchild in 2004. This program seeks to develop and foster leaders of business,

civic and government organizations, education and the arts by offering a course covering

community issues and challenges. About forty members of this leadership training group

wanted to ensure closer ties by touring the base, taking flights in KC-135 tankers and
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knowing the key officers and spokespeople on the base. They also want the base to have

a detailed catalog of the area’s social, economic, and cultural assets. Leadership Spokane

chose Fairchild as its 2004 focus.

Another group was fighting for Fairchild. Forward Fairchild, formed by the

Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, had the goal in 2003 to keep Fairchild off the

federal list of bases to be closed in 2006. This group is comprised on 25 civic leaders,

business, and aides to Washington’s congressional delegation. Some of the duties of the

group include paying part of the salary of a newly-hired D.C.-based lobbyist. Additional

plans included forming four committees to address planning and infastructure issues,

communicating Fairchild’s story, growth, and the stakeholders. The committee

addressing stakeholders planned to work with the Kalispel Tribe, which owns the

Northern Quest Casino near the base and other property in Airway Heights. Scott Morris,

incoming chairman of the group and president of Avista Utilities said, “If there’s an

anchor tenant for this region, it is Fairchild Air Force Base” (Cooley, 2003). Cooley

states economic analysis estimates by Barcus. If Fairchild were to grow, than 75,000

additional jobs would be added in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene, Idaho region and the

population would grow by 146,000 by 2015. If Fairchild were to maintain its current

missions but not grow, than 60,000 jobs would be added and the population would grow

92,000. If Fairchild were to shut down, Barcus stated, “It would be the end of civilization

as we know it in this community” (Cooley, 2003). Obviously, Fairchild is still open and

operating, with an important role deploying airmen to Manas Air Force Base in

strategically-important Kyrgyzstan and supporting the ongoing Iraq War.

Fairchild Air Force Base

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Figure 8. Map of Fairchild Air Force Base.


Fairchild is currently home to the 92d Air Refueling Wing made up of the 92d

Operations Group (which provides air refueling), 92d Maintenance Group (which

maintains aircraft), 92d Mission Support Group (which provides support and morale),

and the 92d Medical group (which provides medical services). Fairchild also maintains

its survival school (referred to as the Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape

school) with the 336th training school operating within. Fairchild also houses the 141st

Refueling wing of the Air National Guard. Also included, according to the official

Fairchild website, are “…medical detachments, a weapons squadron, and the Joint

Personnel Recovery Agency”. In 2005, the survival school received $8.2 million to build

a Resistance Training Center (Spokesman Review, 2005). As of June 30, 2006, the 2d

Support Squadron and Fairchild’s bomber era was officially dismantled.

Spokane & FAFB 23

According to a 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) on Fairchild, the

installation laid-off 26 military and 176 civilian personnel. BRAC also recommended

moving 8 KC-135R aircraft to Sioux Gateway AGS, Iowa while the 256th and 242d

Combat Communications Squadrons from Four Lakes and Spokane are moved onto

Fairchild. These two squadrons were previously geographically separated, and this move

together allows for more efficient use of the squadrons. Consolidation of military

facilities in Spokane also occurred, with Mann Hall Army Reserve Center in Spokane’s

Hillyard neighborhood and Walker Army Reserve Center in Spokane Valley closed and

units transferred to the Armed Forces Reserve Center on the base. Geiger Field, once

another small military installation in Spokane, saw consolidation as well. The Geiger

Field Armory and Organizational Maintenance Shop was moved onto the base at a cost of

$31 million. This change was significant with the BRAC stating,

This recommendation transforms Reserve Component facilities throughout

the State of Washington. The implementation of this recommendation will
enhance military value, improve homeland defense capability, greatly
improve training and deployment capability, create significant efficiencies
and cost savings, and is consistent with the Army’s force structure plans
and Army transformational objectives (Base Realignment and Closure
2005: Washington).

In addition to military operations, Fairchild Air Force Base is a comfortable place

to be stationed at for military personnel and their families. The base includes free

housing for families in the form of duplexes and single-family homes and dorms for

single personnel. Also offered is temporary housing for military personnel and their

families at the Fairchild and Survival Inns as well as several campsites available for rent.

Fairchild is like its own American town, with a hospital, veterinary center, base

newspaper called the Fairchild Connection (converted to online only edition called e-
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Connection in April 2007), gas station, grocery store, chapel (offering Protestant and

Roman Catholic services), bank, tax-free liquor store, fast food restaurants (including

Burger King), many places for recreation, and retail shopping. Recreation opportunities

include community centers, a bowling alley and roller arena, Sports Ranges with a

shooting galley, and a gym with swimming pools and running tracks. Retail amenities

include a furniture store, a thrift store, and a military department store inside a mini-mall

complete with a food court. Planned community activities range from kayaking lessons

to a turkey shoot to Mongolian grill dinner nights. There is also an airmen readiness

center and readiness in base services with an Honor Guard and mortuary.

Educational and training opportunities include a Community Colleges of Spokane

branch, a Community College of the Air Force branch, and other college programs from

Park University, South Illinois University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and

Webster University. Job opportunities for civilians are available on the base, as they

outsource jobs such as grounds keeping. All of these facilities and services available on

the base help convince the military community that base life is better than civilian life.

One would almost never have to leave the base.

Current names of roadways at Fairchild include those named after people, cities,

trees, and national symbols. Examples of roadways named after people include Van

Buren Street, Fort Wright Oval, and Kamiakin Trail, named after Chief Kamiakin of the

Yakama tribe. It’s particularly ironic because Kamiakin Trail and Fort Wright Oval

intersect, just as Colonel George Wright intersected and defeated the Yakama tribe and

other Columbia Basin tribes in the Coeur d’Alene War of 1858. Examples of roadways

named after cities include Seattle Avenue and Olympia Avenue. Roadways such as Oak
Spokane & FAFB 25

Street and Maple Street demonstrate those named after types of trees. Patriot Boulevard

and Vet Road illustrate roadways with nationally symbolic names.

Comparing U.S. Census Bureau data (from “American FactFinder”, 2000) for the

cities of Spokane and Airway Heights and Fairchild (which has its own zip code of

99011) gives you an interesting look at socioeconomic status in the year 2000. Spokane’s

total population was 195,629 compared with 4,500 for Airway Heights and 4,688 for the

99011 zip code tabulation area. Spokane’s median age is 34.7 years while 99011’s

median age is 23.3 years. Spokane’s racial demographics include 89.5 percent white, 2.1

percent black or African American, 1.8 percent American Indian or Alaskan Native, 2.2

percent Asian, 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 0.9 percent of

other race, and 3 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race. In Airway Heights and 99011,

the percentages of people of color increase. Airway Heights has a 10.5 percent black or

African American population, while 99011 has 7.4 percent. Airway Heights’s Hispanic

or Latino population is three times higher than Spokane’s, while the American Indian or

Alaskan Native population is almost double. Interestingly, 99011’s American Indian or

Alaskan Native population is only 0.6 percent compared to Spokane’s 1.8 percent and

Airway Heights’s 3.2 percent.

In economic terms, Spokane’s 1999 median household income was $32,273 with

11.1 percent of families below the poverty level. Airway Heights’s 1999 median

household income was $29,829 with 14.8 percent of families below the poverty line.

99011’s 1999 median household income was $33,560 ($1,287 more than the city of

Spokane) with only 4.7 percent of families below the poverty line, about half the national

average of 9.2 percent. The rate of employment of those ages 16 and older is also higher
Spokane & FAFB 26

in 99011 at 80 percent, compared with 40.3 percent in Airway Heights and 64.2 percent

in Spokane.

Economically, Fairchild has a huge impact on Spokane County and the city of

Spokane. Sommers (2004) states that almost nine percent of all Spokane County

economic activity is directly or indirectly linked to the base. As of 2004, the base

employs 6,262 military and civilian workers, which constitutes for about three percent of

Spokane County’s total workforce. The labors earnings of Fairchild employees make up

almost four and a half percent of countywide labor earnings. Directly and indirectly, the

base accounts for 12,850 jobs in Spokane County and almost 13,800 statewide,

comprising almost nine percent of country wage disbursements. Other Fairchild

economic activity includes pension payments to retired military personnel, TriCare

medical insurance payments to private providers, service and goods contracts, and on-

base retail spending. The net direct impact of the base in 2003 was $462.3 million.

However, by 2009, Fairchild will lose about 260 jobs as the Pentagon plans to cut 40,000

full-time Air Force positions. Personnel asked to leave will receive honorable discharge

and benefits.

Considering the economic importance of Fairchild Air Base to Spokane and

Spokane County, the base most likely will not be closed in the near future. Resistance to

closure has been demonstrated from government and military officials in Spokane in the

past. Fairchild is also important for military operations, with its refueling wing and

survival school. In this increasingly militarized society and with an economy often

dependent on the military-industrial complex, Spokane’s largest employer will not be

closed without a fight from personnel, civic leaders, and citizens.

Spokane & FAFB 27


Robert Carriker was a professor of history at Gonzaga University in Spokane,

Washington for 39 years. He finished his teaching career at the end of May 2007.

Carriker is an expert on the expedition of Lewis and Clark, and has also written several

historical books on other subjects. I conducted an e-mail interview with him to find out

more about Spokane.

Lewis and Clark, although extremely significant on the area and neighboring

tribes, seemed to have little impact on the Spokane tribe. Spokane Natives did have

direct contact with Lewis and Clark, but this contact was brief and limited. I asked


Fuselier: Describe the significance of the Lewis and Clark expedition

historically and currently, especially as it relates to the Spokane area and
the Spokane tribe.

Carriker: There is only one reference to the Spokane tribe and Spokane
Falls and Spokane [River] in the journals of L&C. The Spokanes were out
of reach to L&C Expedition so on both ends ([Euro-American] and
[Native American]) there was no impact.

Surely, although the direct contact between the Spokane tribe and Lewis and Clark was

limited, there was an impact. Lewis and Clark impacted all Native peoples, as their

expedition was military in nature and attempted to establish trade relations with Native

peoples. Also, Lewis and Clark helped solidify white settlers’ claims to the Western

region and verify the importance of the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark’s

expedition was important in gathering valuable information on the geography, flora, and

fauna of the areas for use of Americans to settle the explored regions.
Spokane & FAFB 28

I also questioned Carriker about the exploration of natural resources. I wanted to

know how resources such as rivers and fur pelts were significant in white settler

expansion in Spokane and how exploitation of these resources affected Spokane Natives:

Fuselier: How was the Columbia River significant in Washington

expansion? How was the Spokane River significant in eastern Washington

Carriker: The Columbia [River] is, of course, the lifeblood of the region.
Everything in the region was influenced by the river through World War II
when Puget Sound became a second dominating influence.
The Spokane [River], as a tributary of the Columbia [River],
played much the same influential role as did the Columbia, except on a
smaller scale for a more limited land area. Both had dams, both were
watery avenues for exploration, etc.

Fuselier: Describe the significance of fur trading companies on the

Spokane tribe.

Carriker: The Spokanes came in contact with the [Euro-American] world

of western civilization because of the fur traders at Fort Spokane and
Spokane House. But it was also a two-way street, as fur traders learned
some geography from the tribesmen. So there was an exchange. But do
not get overly interested because from about 1825 to nearly 1840 was a
dead time in [Euro-American] contact in the Spokane [River] Valley. So
the contact was not so wonderful between fur traders and Indians that the
two parties were consumed with continuing the relationship. No, the
relationship moved north to Fort Colville.

The fur trade brought the first European-Americans the Spokane tribe had contact

with in the early 1800s (Ruby & Brown). By 1824, the Hudson Bay Company removed

the fur post Fort Spokane. However, Spokanes traveled north to Fort Colville for fur

trading until 1872 (Ruby & Brown). Exploitation of natural resources is what brought

the fur trappers to the Spokane area. Carriker describes an exchange between fur trappers

and Spokane Natives. The fur trappers used Native labor by exchanging commodities
Spokane & FAFB 29

(such as metal knives) for fur pelts (Ruby & Brown). Fur trappers also, as Carriker

implies, learned geographical information from the Natives in the area.

I was curious to ask Carriker about any historical resistance to westward

expansion in eastern Washington State. The wars against the Spokane tribe in the 1850s

were acts of resistance (especially the Battle of Four Lakes), but besides these I know of

no more examples. Carriker mentions Fort Spokane (earlier called Camp Spokane) here,

which was a military post established in 1880:

Fuselier: Describe any historical resistance to western expansion in the

eastern Washington region, especially by Native Americans.

Carriker: The story of Fort Spokane (1880-1929) is the story of a military

post built across the Spokane [River] from the Spokane Reservation for
the purpose of observation. The post did not even have a stockade. It was
not there to make war, but to be a peaceful presence for peaceful Indians
and peaceful settlers. After the 1850s one does not think of the Spokanes
are a warlike people. Fort Spokane became a school for Spokane (and
Colville) Indian children and, later, a TB hospital for tribesmen.

During this time, the Spokane Natives were attempting to peacefully co-exist with

white settlers in the area. Settlers had begin to encroach on allotted Spokane Native land,

despite surveillance from Camps Coeur d’Alene and Chelan, and Fort Spokane was

established on the mouth of the Spokane River and overlooking the Spokane Reservation

lands (Ruby & Brown). In 1881 the reservation in Wellpinit, Washington (50 miles north

of Spokane) was established for the Spokane tribe, and some Natives moved there.

However, it was not until 1887 that the Spokane tribe officially ceded 3.14 million acres

of land to the U.S. government and moved onto the 1881-established reservation. This is

relatively late in the century for a tribe to sign a treaty ceding land, as neighboring tribes

had signed land treaties in 1855.

Moving on to questions about Fairchild Air Force Base, I asked Carriker:

Spokane & FAFB 30

Fuselier: Why do you think Spokane received an Army Air Depot (later
becoming Fairchild) in the 1940s?

Carriker: I suspect it had something to do with the fact that Spokane was
home to one or both of Washington U.S. Senators in that period of time
and that meant clout. The same kind of clout that got Grand Coulee Dam.
Democrats had chits to give and our senators earned them.
The answer I’ve found as to why Spokane received the Air Army Depot in 1942 is

because Spokane provided a strategic location. The Fact Sheet states that Spokane won

out over Everett, Washington and Seattle, Washington because of its location 300 miles

inland, and the Cascade mountain range provided a better buffer against Japanese attack

in World War II. Also, the Fact Sheet states that Spokane’s climate helped draw the Air

Army Depot into the area. The Fact Sheet only cites geographic reasons why Spokane

was picked and ignores any political or economic reasons. Politics were very much

involved in Spokane receiving the Air Depot, as intense lobbying for Spokane occurred.

The economic impact of an Air Depot was surely a factor in the lobbying for an Air

Depot in Spokane.

Moving on to more current times, I was interested in any acts of resistance to

Fairchild Air Force Base observed by a Spokane citizen. In the days of mass movements

against the Iraq War, I wondered if any protests could be witnessed in or around

Fairchild. Spokane’s Peace and Justice Action League conducts several anti-war protests

and vigils in Spokane, but none at or around Fairchild. Additionally, while the League

conducts anti-war protests, they do not conduct protests against the presence of Fairchild.

On resistance to Fairchild, Carriker had this to say:

Fuselier: Describe any current resistance to Fairchild Air Force Base,

including anti-war and peace movements, especially by Native Americans.

Carriker: Spokane knows a federal payday when it sees one. Rep. Tom
Foley made sure Fairchild was good for Spokane because it meant money
Spokane & FAFB 31

in the economy. When Rep. George Nethercutt took over from Foley
there was a lot of concern that Fairchild would be on the list of bases to be
closed. We avoided that bullet, however. I do not remember a single anti-
war or peace movement protest taking place outside the gates of the base.
Those kind of unseemly activities get more publicity at the U.S.
Courthouse (Foley Courthouse) because it is located directly across the
street from the newspaper’s editorial offices. If you want publicity, make
it easy for the newspaper reporters and photographers.

Carriker says he does not know of a single protest held in or outside of Fairchild.

But according to Spokane’s Spokesman Review newspaper, ten anti-war protestors were

arrested outside the gates of Fairchild in March 2003. (This protest occurred before the

invasion of Iraq officially began.) The protestors stretched banners across Highway 2

and sat down, blocking access to the base gates, and were arrested for disorderly conduct.

The protestors arrived at nearly seven in the morning and stretched out banners on the

busy highway near the base gates. Twenty minutes later, the ten protestors were arrested

on charges of disorderly conduct and cleared from the roadway. One of the protestors

was Mike Kness, an Air Force Gulf War veteran. Kness was quoted as saying that a new

war in Iraq, “could destroy not only Fairchild families, but possibly the world as we

know it” (Camden 2003).

Finally, I was interested in how Fairchild Air Force Base affects the city of

Spokane. I asked Carriker:

Fuselier: How does Fairchild Air Force Base affect the city of Spokane?

Carriker: There have been studies done by the Chamber of Commerce

about how much [money] pours into the Spokane economy because of the
base. A secondary attribute is that many men/families stationed there
return to retire or live in Spokane. New blood for the community.
Spokane & FAFB 32

The economy in Spokane (and Spokane county) seems to be thoroughly

dependent on the Base. Fairchild is Spokane County’s single largest employer, with over

6,000 military and civilians employed, or about three percent of Spokane County’s total

workforce (Sommers, 2004). The 2003 direct impact of Fairchild on Spokane County

was $462.3 million (Sommers, 2004). Not included in that statistic is the indirect impact

Fairchild has on Spokane County. As Carriker mentions, military personnel and their

families, once stationed at Fairchild, might come to emigrate to Spokane. Immigration

into the city means more money into the city’s economy.

The Spokane tribe first had direct contact with Europeans and European-

Americans because of the exploitation of natural resources in the form of fur trapping.

The exploitation of natural resources helped fuel white settlement on Spokane Native

land, especially the Spokane River.

In 1942, during World War II, Spokane received an Air Force Base due to

political, economic, and geographic reasons. Currently the Base significantly impacts

Spokane County’s economy. Fairchild’s economic significance to the County could

explain why there is little resistance to its closure, and instead there is intense support for

Fairchild remaining open. Spokane and Fairchild Air Force Base illustrate a military-

dependent economy in this increasingly militarized age.

Spokane & FAFB 33

List of References

(2005). Base Realignment and Closure 2005: Washington. Retrieved

May 09, 2007. <>.

“American FactFinder”. (2000). U.S. census bureau American factfinder. Retrieved April

11, 2007. <>.

“Rep. McMorris meets with air mobility commander Major General Hawkins”. (2006).

US Fed News service. Retrieved May 09, 2007, from ProQuest.

Camden, J. (2002). Fairchild crews the ‘tip of the spear’; Refueling tankers keep war

against terrorism aloft. Spokesman Review. Retrieved May 09, 2007, from


Camden, J. (2003). Protestors arrested at Fairchild; Entrance to Air Base blocked

by war foes;. Spokesman Review. Retrieved June 03, 2007, from ProQuest.

Cannatta, A. (2006). Missile squadron closes: Deactivation end of a bomber era at

Fairchild. Spokesman Review. Retrieved on May 09, 2007, from ProQuest.

Churchill, W. (1997). A little matter of genocide: Holocaust and denial in the Americas

1492 to the present. San Francisco: City Light Books.

Cooley, M. (2003). Chamber: Protect Fairchild. Journal of Business. Retrieved May 09,

2007, from ProQuest.

Fanon, F. (1961). The wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.

McDonald, R. (1999). Tribes profitable for Washington study tries to dispel myth that

reservations are economic drag. Spokesman Review. Retrieved May 09, 2007,

from ProQuest.

Owens, L. (2001). As if an Indian were really an Indian. In G. Bataille (Ed.), Native

Spokane & FAFB 34

American representations: First encounters, distorted images, and literary

appropriations (pp. 11-24). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Ruby, R.H., & Brown, J.A. (1970). The Spokane Indians. Norman, OK: University of

Oklahoma Press.

Sommers, P. (2004). Economic impacts of the military bases in Washington: Fairchild

AFB in Spokane County. Washington State Office of Financial Management.

Retrieved May 09, 2007, from ProQuest.

“Survival School gets $8.2 million;;”. (2005). Spokesman Review. Retrieved May 09,

2007, from ProQuest

“U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet”. Fairchild Air Force Base History. Retrieved April 11, 2007.


Wilma, D. (2003). U.S. Army defeats Native Americans at Battle of Four Lakes on

September 1, 1858. Essay 5143. Retrieved May 2, 2007, from History Link

Encyclopedia. <>.

Wilma, D. (2003). U.S. Army defeats Native Americans at Battle of Spokane Plains on

September 5, 1858. Essay 5144. Retrieved May 2, 2007, from History Link

Encyclopedia. <>.