Last modified: 2019-11-23 by rick wyatt
Keywords: coeur d'alene | idaho | native american |
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image by Valentin Poposki, 8 September 2019
map image by Peter Orenski based on input from Don Healy
Sharp traders! Hard bargainers! It was these traits that provided the modern Coeur d'Alene Nation with its current name. French Voyagers, in the days before the acquisition of the immense Louisiana Territory, so dubbed the Indians that lived just beyond the edge of that territory. Those Indians referred to themselves as "Schitsu'umsh," meaning "The Discovered People" or "Those Who Are Found Here." They still are called the Skitswish as an alternate name to that imposed by the Europeans. The Coeur d'Alene inhabited an area stretching from Montana to the Spokane River in Washington and from roughly the Canadian border south to the Snake River.
The modern Coeur d'Alene occupy a reservation covering some 345,000 acres (under 70,000 acres as recently as 1995) in western Idaho along the border with the State of Washington. Not surprisingly, both the Coeur d'Alene River and Lake Coeur d'Alene are at least partly within the boundaries of the modern reservation, although the city of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho lies beyond its northern border. The current enrollment of the Tribe is nearing 4,000 members.
With income from their various business enterprises, the Coeur d'Alene have managed to take their symbols and put them into "concrete" reinforcements of the ideas their symbols embody. They have built a $5 million school complex, a Tribal Wellness Center as part of the Benewah Medical Center, a college degree program in cooperation with Idaho's Lewis and Clark State College, and classes in the Schitsu'umsh language.
With the growth of the reservation's size and the investments in the reservation's future undertaken to improve the lives of the tribal membership, the modern business acumen of the Coeur d'Alene show that the French Voyagers named them very appropriately.
© Donald Healy 2008
The official website of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe explains the origin of the name of the tribe as follows:
"The name, "Coeur d'Alene" was given to the tribe in the late 18th or early 19th century by French traders and trappers. In French, it means "Heart of the Awl," referring to the sharpness of the trading skills exhibited by tribal members in their dealings with visitors."
[In French, "cœur" should be written with a ligature between the "o"
and the "e" (œ), and "alène" with a grave accent on the "e" (the form with a circonflex accent is deemed obsolete). "alène" is a technical world used only for a specific tool used by cobblers to pierce leather.]
Ivan Sache, 31 December 2007
Symbolizing the modern Coeur d'Alene is a circular seal proudly displayed on most of the Tribe's common buildings from outside the headquarters in Plummer to a large backlit image surmounting the main entrance to the Coeur d'Alene
Casino/hotel complex just north of the town of Worley. Over fifteen percent of the Tribe is employed at the complex.
The seal is surrounded by a white ring bearing the Tribe's name in black letters in the top half and two stylized Coeur d'Alene arrows pointing downward (usually considered a sign of peace). The arrows are depicted in brown with accents of red and blue and tips of yellow edged in red.
Within the outer ring, the inner portion is divided horizontally into an upper blue and lower brown halves. Toward the left of the blue area is a white rectangle bearing a green outline map of the State of Idaho. The green reflects the abundance of pine forests that cover the panhandle in which the Coeur d'Alene are found. To the left of the map is a Christian cross that can be depicted in various colors - brown, gray or light blue - but it is brown on the flag. It casts a shadow onto the lower section. The shadow, either gray, brown or black (as on the flag), can lean to either the left or right depending upon particular artistic interpretation - on the flag it leans to the left. The right half of the seal, overlapping both halves is a Coeur d'Alene chief's headdress with a blue band and red tipped feathers. The outer red-tipped feathers are sometimes depicted with yellow streamers as on the flag and the blue band that would fit around the forehead frequently has yellow and black triangular accents. The headdress signifies the leadership of the chiefs in governing the Coeur d'Alene people and the authority that stems from them.
The lower half of the seal contains a yellow quill pen in an inkwell, a peace pipe and an open book. The pen, inkwell and book all reflect the importance the Tribe places upon education. The pipe recalls "important occasions for prayers".
When employed on the tribal flag, the seal is placed on a royal blue background. Arcing over the seal, in golden yellow capital letters is the name Coeur D' Alene and below the seal, the word "Tribe". The copy kept indoors at the tribal headquarters in Plummer includes a gold fringe. Exterior flags do not employ the fringe.
© Donald Healy 2008
[Thanks to Richard James Mullen, Tribal Council Preservation Officer of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe for his taking the time to explain the flag of the Coeur d'Alene to Healy's "agents", his cousins Neal and Kathy Rosia who live not far from the reservation.]
© Donald Healy 2008
information provided by Peter Orenski, 30 December 2007