Coeur d’Alene Tribe
The modern Coeur d’Alene Tribe is the sum of uncounted centuries of untold generations. In the tribe’s own ancient language, it is called Schitsu’umsh, meaning “Those who were found here” or “The discovered people”. In this remains a land abundant in beauty and resources, a legacy of leadership, and a lineage that continues from the time immemorial. The Coeur d’Alenes are who they always were and who they will always be.
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Those who were found here.
The original name of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe was Schitsu’umsh, meaning “Those who were found here” or “The discovered people”. This has been our name since time immemorial. Before U.S. expansion into the area, the Schitsu’umsh would trade with French fur traders, who referred to the Schitsu’umsh as Coeur d’Alene’s, meaning “Heart of the Awl”. This too is our name and was received due to the sharp and disciplined trading practices of the Schitsu’umsh people.
Since time immemorial.
The land within and beyond the Coeur d’Alene Reservation has always been our familiar home. We would hunt tall forests, travel shadowy rivers, camp the lakeshores and meadows, and tell our story. For thousands of years our story has been told in song and dance. We spoke it in our own language. We shared it in celebration. In hardship. And through every cold and unforgiving winter. From old to young our story has rolled through the generations and into the present.
We still sing. We still dance. Our story is still told.
Today the Schitsu’umsh are sovereign within the bounds of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation, just a short drive South of Coeur d’Alene Idaho. That Sovereignty is inherent and has existed since time immemorial. Tribes were recognized as sovereign before the constitution was written. Tribes and the U.S. government have a long series of treaties and executive orders establishing reservations and tribal rights and authorities. Tribal treaty-making also existed with the British, French, Dutch, and Spanish governments before the birth of the United States as an independent nation.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe, like all tribes in the United States, is a government based on executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The Tribe’s government operates on a parliamentary system. The tribal council has seven elected members voted in by the tribal membership. The tribal council then elects a tribal chairman to serve as the chief executive. Although the tribal chairman serves as chief executive, the chairman still maintains only one vote on council, and does not have veto power.
What has been termed Salish by modern linguists is the ancestral language of the Schitsu’umsh. Dialects were spoken as far as the Pacific Coast, Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia. For thousands of years this was the language of family life in the Pacific Northwest. And it was the language spoken when the first French traders begin calling the Shitsu’umsh by a new name.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has been represented in every major U.S. conflict since WWII. Brave men and women of our tribal families have landed on the shores of Normandy, and served in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Coeur d’Alene tribal members continue to serve in branches of the United States military. A memorial now sits at the head of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in memory of Shitsu’umsh Warriors of the past and present.