Old friends return for golf match
"We'll start with a prayer for this historical event for the Coeur d'Alene
Indian people, the reuniting of our people with the fur-men, the traders,
who came to us 196 years ago," began Cliff Sijohn, Coeur d'Alene elder and
master of ceremonies for the event. "This is a very historic event for this
little community, this little reservation. These men have done honor to us
by coming here from across the waters."
So began a seemingly unusual cultural exchange with a group of golfers from
the Royal Dornoch Golf Club, the third-oldest golf club in Scotland - the
land where golf was born. The event far surpassed a golf match between
Scottish and Coeur d'Alene golfers; it was hailed as a return of old
friends from across the sea.
On Sept. 18, 1809, members of the northern group of the Schee-chu-umsh
Tribe first had contact with European traders. They came out of Canada with
the David Thompson group, establishing trading posts and providing some
tribes with their first iron implements: pots, tools and knives. They were
Scottish, with names like Finnan McDonald, "Joco" Finlay and William
SiJohn heard the stories of this meeting from his father and his
grandfather, who had heard it from their elders. "The Kootenai sent runners
down to us to say the fur-men would be here soon. We sent 16 canoes to meet
with these men and to trade with a large amount of furs. We touched each
others' hands. We have never been the same. We have become good traders. We
have become good with thinking and I believe these men brought us a new way
SiJohn explained that these traders gave them the name Pointed Hearts. From
that name, the French name of Coeur d'Alene was established, a term meaning
heart of the awl, or pointed heart. So the tribe once known as
Schee-chu-umsh, meaning The Discovered Ones or The Ones Who Were Always
Here, is known today as the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.
The traders established a post in northern Idaho called Kullyspell House,
the first non-Indian building in Idaho. They also established Saleesh House
in western Montana and Spokane House in nearby Washington, each of which
was used by the Coeur d'Alenes at times for trading. The Coeur d'Alene
traded furs and horses for iron utensils and knives, and they traded for
guns. Other tribes to the east already had guns and it was important that
they acquire guns as well. "It was a benefit to us and a benefit to them,"
SiJohn said. "We pretty much had very good relationships with them. We
enjoyed many years of trading with the fur-men. They were right on the
heels of Lewis and Clark. The difference was that Lewis and Clark just
passed by, waved at the Indians, went to the ocean, turned around and came
back; waved at them and never established a trading post. These guys went
clear to the ocean trading and would bring different things back with them
to trade with us."
Thus when a visit was arranged for a group of Scottish golfers to visit the
Coeur d'Alene Tribe and compete with tribal golfers in matches at the
Circling Raven Golf Course, plans were made to greet and treat them as
The ceremonies commenced with riders in full regalia arriving to the sound
of a drum, followed by a Scottish group with bagpipes and drum. The team
from Scotland was dressed in kilts while the Coeur d'Alene golfers wore
shirts designating them as members of the Circling Raven Golf Course.
Francis Sijohn, Cliff's son and vice chairman of the tribal council,
presented a pipe to Andrew Skinner, club pro and leader of the group from
Dornoch. A medicine stick made from the rib of a buffalo was given by Coeur
d'Alene military veterans, the Warrior Society, to Royal Air Force member
Michael Mackay to take back to the veterans at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club.
Skinner, commenting on behalf of the team, said, "Since we've arrived here
we've all been overwhelmed with the hospitality and the friendship. We're
very much looking forward to the golf and the social aspect of the week as
well. We'll all have a good week, a good time. We wish you all the best.
Thank you very much." Mackay echoed those comments and added, "Since we've
been here it's been unbelievable what has been give to us, and the
hospitality has been absolutely tremendous. I can't fault anything. The
veterans of the club and Dornoch will be very proud to accept this and I'm
proud to accept on their behalf."
Cliff Sijohn commented, "These men were the first to speak with us in
sincerity, the first ones we trusted. There were others that did not last
that long when they lied to us, but these men came in friendship and trade.
They will always be welcome with the Schee-chu-umsh." Laughter erupted when
he spoke of other ways they left their mark. "Our chairman is Chief Allan.
An Allan is one of the leaders of the Dornoch people." Scottish names like
Matheson, Campbell and others are common on the reservation. Another laugh
broke out when he spoke to the golf enthusiasts and "hole-in-one
Wakai Pluff and Sam Eli were two tribal members selected to play against
the visitors. When asked what they knew of their opponents, Pluff replied,
"I understand they're pretty good! I met one with a 1-handicap and I'm in a
match with him today. It should be fun!" Eli said.
But golf is secondary to the primary reason for the event. It's the value
of a cultural exchange, the making of new friendships, and the rekindling
of friendships that began through mutually beneficial trading nearly 200
When the week ended, Michael Mackay commented, "It's hard to say what it's
been like because you run out of words for 'excellent' and 'superb.' It's
been the trip of a lifetime. I hope we can arrange something half as good
again for these guys coming back to Scotland at some point to play a return
game. Nothing's been organized yet but I think it will happen. After
receiving the friendship and hospitality we've found here, we can't leave
it at this: it definitely needs to continue."
Alex Campbell, secretary for the Scottish team, voiced his thoughts: "It's
been immense, awesome - there aren't enough superlatives. The way we've
been treated by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and others we've met from other
tribes - they're just a great bunch of people...The significance of it at
the opening ceremonies when Cliff Sijohn spoke, it started to hit home."
Circling Raven players rallied the final day to take an overall win, with a
final score of 13-11, but this was much more than a golf match - and in
that regard there were no losers.