Coeur d'Alene

The Coeur d'Alene Native American tribe is very much alive today. This tribe was most well known for their trading skills, and their massive amount of resources at hand. In the tribe's own language, they were called "Schitsu'umsh", meaning "Those who were found here" or "The discovered people". The name "Coeur d'Alene" was given to them by French Canadian fur traders in the late 18th or early 19th century.


Natives inhabited land thousands of years before European settlers came.
10000 BC - earliest human inhabitants were found who were nomadic hunters for mammoths and other animals.
9000 BC - In New Mexico people were found with special rigged edged arrows
75000 BC - people were found with leaf shaped arrow heads
7000 BC - Basic shelters of stone and stone weapons started being used
1501 - Spanish explorers claimed land
1775- the american revolution. Americans were all in the colonies on the east coast currently the settlers in the west were spanish for now.
1803- The US bought the Lousiana purchase which encouraged them to travel and explore west, conflicting with the current native americans living there.
1810 - 1814 - the earliest documentation of the Couer d'Alene tribe itself was from the journals of "ALexander the younger", a fur trader fm the North West fur company.
1830- Indian Removal Act self explanatory, the united states made an act to get rid of the Indians and be able to progress west.
1840s - the first chirstian (mostly catholic) missions were expanded through the NAtives land and continued to build churches.
1858 - The Couer d'Alene was (Spokane, Coer d'Alene, and Palouse tribes) attacked and defeated 164 US troops.
1865-1868 - Native Americans started getting forced on to reservations starting with the Bannock tribe.
1879 - The sheepeater war was the last war in the Pacific Northwest
1879 - After the war, the native Americans in Idaho surrender on September 1st.
1969 - Native americans in the Idaho region were finally considered US citizens


Map of Reservation
Map of Reservation

This is a map of the current reservation, but the tribe was originally almost 5,000,000 acres of what it now north Idaho, eastern Washington, and western Montana. They are neighbors to the Spokane, Kootenai-Salish, and Colville confederate tribes. The villages were established along the Cour D'Alene, St Joe, Clarkfork, and Spokane rivers. They traded with dozens of tribes along the Pacific Coast and also east for buffalo. Alot of the routes they traveled along to other tribes for trade are now highways, as you can see in the picture.


Until recently, it was very difficult to read or write Coeur d'Alene. The language was only spoken by the tribe, so to develop a decipherable language, one had to be trained in the linguistics of it. In 1973 the tribe began a program to develop and record the language, and the first task was to write a dictionary. The only way the men who were developing the language (Joseph N. Bitar and Lawrence G. Nicodemus) could think of doing so was to rely on the English language as much as they can, in an effort to make it as simple as possible. The problem with this was that many sounds the tribe used in their language were unidentifiable to the English language. Today, the language is called "Schitsu'umsh" and is fully developed, yet still very difficult to learn.

Social Organization and Government

Resources where this tribe lived were so plentiful that they lived in set villages rather than living a nomadic lifestyle. The Cour d'Alene tribe was separated into 3 loose bands, with certain big families, but also could leave their bands if they wished. The Cour d'Alene tribe reflected a fundamentally "egalitarian" social structure meaning they believed in the principle that all are equal and deserve equal rights. There was no class structure, or hereditary families that had more power because everyone was equal.


Like all Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest, the people of the Coeur d'Alene dressed in materials found in the region where they lived. Men wore breechcloths made of animal skins or woven grassland material, and when it got cold they wore cedar shirts and leggings as well. The women wore skirts and capes of cedar strips. In all seasons, people often went barefoot.
After Europeans came to trade goods, the clothing was woven from cloth and was more European in style. Many designs were ceremonial and were only worn in special ceremonies, like the button blanket below.

Diet and Food Sources

The Cour d'Alene tribe lived along the Spokane, Cour D'Alene, St Joe and Clarkfork rivers which are abundant in fish including, trout, salmon, and whitefish. They were also abundant in other animals like beaver, deer, and fowl. It was easy to produce fruits and vegetables as well. They all have set hunting and gathering activities for each person. The Cour d'Alene tribe was stable as far as resources go.


The Coeur d'Alene tribe and the other tribes near it were not nomadic. Coeur d'Alene villages were settled along the Coeur d'Alene, St. Joe, Clark Fork and Spokane rivers, as well as Lake Coeur d'Alene, Lake Pend Orielle and Hayden Lake. Lake Coeur d'Alene was used by the mining industry as a place to dump mine waste, destroying the natural beauty of the lake and cutting deep into the hearts of the tribe. The Coeur d'Alene Basin Restoration Project began in 1991 and is still active. This tribe along with almost all tribes in the northwest used huts and teepees to live in, and when Europeans settled and traded with them they advanced to wooden buildings.



Before settlers, they often walked on year long trips usually to the coast for trade, but also to the east. They walked on routes through other tribes and are still existent today as interstate highways. This was before European traders were introduced to the tribe who brought with them horses. After horses, they started to venture farther east for the vast herds of buffalo.

Tools and Weapons

weapons include knives, bows and arrows, tomahawks, and spears (mostly for hunting), They used nets, spears, traps, and gaff hooks in order to hunt. Below is a picture of a native american tomahawk, its appears to be like a modern day axe. After the Europeans came, they brought guns with them and they started to to use guns for hunting and war.
external image AT-1796-NC.jpg

Economic Activities and Trade

The Cour d'Alene tribe members were mostly fur traders because of all the animal resources in their area and also trips to the east for buffalo. The name "Cour d'Alene" was a nickname from French traders meaning "heart of the awl" because French traders who had came into contact with the tribe realized their greatly experienced skills at trading. One Frenchman described the tribe as, "the greatest traders in the world." They traded among themselves for food and tools and also with dozens of tribes far on the Pacific Coast. When horses were introduced, they went to the plains to hunt buffalo but it wasn't necessary for survival, it was seen more as youth who would emerge into manhood.

Religious Beliefs

It's difficult to find this certain tribes religion but native Americans religion in general is closely related to the land and the supernatural. Native tribes religions are all very diverse but usually all have to do with a "Universal force", "taboo", "birth puberty and death", "spirits", and ceremonies and rituals. They didn't so much as have a set religion, rather they see their everyday lives as a spiritual journey. Some major religions in the Pacific Northwest are the Waashat religion, the dreamer religion, and the feather religion. The Waashat originated in the Columbia Plateau Indians and included prophecies of foreigners coming, salmon feasts, and drums. The dreamer religion started because one had a dream that they claimed to have gone to the spirit world and saw that they needed to not let foreigners come. The feather religion is also known as the feather dance, which used sacred eagle feathers in rituals and dances.
Catholic missions were then introduced in the early 1840s.

Recreation and Games

With almost all Native American tribes, the Potlach is a complex event where people gather to celebrate a certain event. Most of these events are things like the raising of a totem pole or the election of a new chief. Usually they're held with other tribes, in which each tribe would participate in a competition to display the wealth of the tribe. The Potlach ceremony is when the chief would give ceremonial gifts to visiting tribes as a display of his power and wealth, and by accepting the gifts the visitors approve of the chief. Many feasts and musical ceremonies take place during the Potlach and displays of consumption such as throwing things into the sea or burning artifacts are also put on as a show. Most of the time a special building is established just for Potlachs. Musical ceremonies are also a very significant event to all Native Americans, in which drums made from animal hides and rattles made from wood are used to keep tempo. Watching a dancing ceremony is considered an honor. Art is another important part of Native American culture and usually involves the creation of totem poles and other beautiful practical objects.

Works Cited