Jack McNeel
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe still occupies a portion of its historical homeland with the lakes always being a central aspect of their lives.

10 Things You Should Know About Coeur d’Alene Tribe

Jack McNeel

The lakes country of northern Idaho has long been the homeland of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, or Schitsu’umsh as they call themselves, meaning ‘Those who were found here’ or ‘The discovered people.’ French trappers gave them the name Coeur d’Alene which translates in French to Heart of the Awl for their sharpness in trading.

That homeland was reduced from roughly five million acres to 345,000 acres by treaty action plus intrusion by others following the Allotment Act. Despite that, they remain on a portion of their historic homeland.

Circling Raven prophesied in 1740 that men in black robes would come to the tribe but it wasn’t till 1842 that Father DeSmet visited the tribe and in 1848 the Mission of the Sacred Heart was established at Cataldo, built largely by tribal members, and is the oldest building still standing in Idaho. That long history with the Catholic Church remains to this day.

Indian Country Today Media Network asked several prominent Coeur d’Alene tribal members to respond to what readers should know about the later history of the tribe. Chairman Chief Allan and Ernie Stensgar, former Chairman and current Vice Chairman are two of those.

Cataldo Mission was build primarily by Coeur d’Alene tribal members and no nails were used. It still stands and is Idaho’s oldest standing building. (Jack McNeel)

They had to fight that fight

In 1858 the tribe had a clash with U.S. Army troops. Stensgar explains, “Joseph Seltice kept a manuscript in his own handwriting. He talks about a time when contact was made with the non-Indians. They’d heard many stories and were afraid of what was coming. Should they escort him through the territory or stop him at the border and say no, this is our property and you can’t come? The war started and they had to fight that fight and here we are with no horses and getting moved. What an upheaval. I think the missionaries coming down and bringing that religion maybe stopped our tribe from being completely removed from our homeland – at least we were able to stay on the southern part.”


A stone monument recognizes the short war the tribe waged with the U.S. Army and the 800-plus Indian horses slaughtered at this locale along the Spokane River. (Jack McNeel)


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