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Coeur d'Alene
Expedition Culture Geography People Maps Nature
  Setting the Stage: Acknowledgements and Review Process
Setting the Stage: Cultural Property Rights Agreement
Approaching this Module: Pedagogy
Approaching this Module: Principles of Sovereignty
Will of the People: Governance and Contemporay Programs
Gaming: Coeur d'Alene Tribal Casino
Natural and Cultural Resources: Focus on the Lake
Cultural Preservation: Language Center
Cultural Preservation: GIS Names-Place Project
Health Care: Benewah Medical and Wellness Center

  Native American
  Approaching the Oral Traditions: Preparations
Story: Coyote's Identity
Story: Coyote and the Rock Monster
Story: Coyote and the Green Field
Story: Coyote and the White Man
Story: Coyote and the Falls
Story: Chipmunk
Story: Four Smokes
Reflections on the Stories: Laugh, Learn and Perpetuate
Songs: Introduction
Songs: from the Animal People
Songs: of the Powwow
Songs: of the July-amsh Powwow
Songs: of the Sweat House
Heart Knowledge: Listening to the Ancestors
Heart Knowledge: Clean Hands

  Horses, Bugs and Furs: Early Contact
Manifest Destiny: War and a Reservation
Manifest Destiny: Allotment
Wilderness Kingdom: Jesuit Mission
Wounded: Facing the Continuing Challenges


To learn more about the culture and oral traditions of the Schitsu'umsh outlined on this and the subsequent web pages refer to the following books:

  • Frey, Rodney, ed. 1995. Stories That Make the World: Oral Traditions of the Indian Peoples of the Inland Northwest. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

  • Frey, Rodney in collaboration with the Schitsu'umsh. 2001. Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane: The World of the Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene Indians). Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.

  • Teit, James. 1930. "The Salish Tribes of the Western Plateaus," Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for 1927-28, pp. 23-396. Washington, D.C.:Smithsonian Institution.


  • Me-Y-Mi-Ym - "He/she is going to tell stories" - Project

  • "Coyote Legends" by the Foundation for Water and Energy Education

  • Click Here to get RealPlayer 28K 56K 256K
    HTML Transcript
    Listen as Cliff SiJohn helps prepare you for the oral traditions that are shared in this module. How can you best appreciate and listen for the meaning within the stories in this module? What does it mean to "sit back and open your heart up"?

    Part 1 (originally developed as part of the 1993 Me-Y-Mi-Ym Project; recorded and edited by Dan Kane; project director Rodney Frey)

    For the Schitsu'umsh, the oral traditions refer to a vast body of stories that chronicle the actions of the First Peoples, such as Coyote, Chipmunk, Salmon, Grizzly Bear, Crane, Rabbit and Jackrabbit, and Chief Child of the Yellow Root. These powerful beings transform a dangerous land and prepare the world for the coming of human peoples. They exhibit the qualities of both animals and humans, with the names of animals, yet able to speak, have desires and frailties like humans, and live in families like our own. And they have tremendous powers, suumesh songs (Spokane word for spiritual power), to create mountains and river, animals and plants, and eventually, human people themselves.

    Click Here to get RealPlayer 28K 56K 256K
    HTML Transcript
    Cliff SiJohn continues with your preparation for the oral traditions that are shared in this module. Why do the oral traditions offer you an indispensable and unique pathway into the lives and culture of the Schitsu'umsh people? What is to be learned from the stories?

    Part 2

    The land was once inhabited by a variety of "man-eaters," dangerous monsters, such as Rock Monster and Gobbler Monster. It was the Amotqn, the Creator (often translated: "the one who presides at the head mountain"), who sent the First Peoples, and in particular, Coyote and Chief Child of the Yellow Root, to slay these beasts. Chief Child of the Yellow Root journeyed around Lake Coeur d'Alene and killed Pestle Boy, Foolhen, Comb, Awl, Bladder, and others, telling them to no longer be "man-eaters," but help the people who are about to come. Having been captured by the Swallow Sisters at Celilo Falls, it is Coyote who releases the salmon to go up river. It is also Coyote who slays Gobbler Monster and from the parts of its body creates the various human peoples. From the heart of the monster the Schitsu'umsh are created. But having been denied the woman he desired, it is also Coyote who creates Spokane Falls and Post Falls, thus preventing the salmon from entering Lake Coeur d'Alene.

    Through their actions the First Peoples also create the plants and animals upon whom the human peoples will depend for subsistence. The First Peoples originate the great ceremonies and family structures that the human peoples will need in order to properly relate to one another, and to the animal and plant peoples. And finally, it is the First Peoples who establish and embed in the mountains, lakes, and prairies, in the Trees, Animals and Wind, the mi'yep, the "teachings from all things." It will be these teachings that guide the people, defining what it means to be Schitsu'umsh. Among the most important of these teachings is the ethic of sharing - of giving to all those in need, to the grandparents and grandchildren, to the sick and those "wounded" in any sort of way, and doing so unselfishly, without thought of getting something in return.

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    HTML Transcript
    Bingo SiJohn discusses the importance of oral traditions and the role of the Coyote.

    (originally developed as part of the 1993 Me-Y-Mi-Ym Project; recorded and edited by Dan Kane; project director Rodney Frey)

    When the creation time ended, the First Peoples became the animals of the forests and rivers, and the Animal Spirit Peoples themselves. It would be an Animal Person, such as the Wolf or Eagle, who might come to a vision quester while fasting on a distant mountain summit, and grant him or her a suumesh song. That Animal Person would become a guardian spirit, nurturing and protecting that person all his or her life. And when the grandmothers retold the stories in the ancient language, it would be the Animal People who would come alive and swirl around the listeners. The grandsons and granddaughters would journey with the First Peoples along the trails walked since time immemorial. In the act of storytelling the creation time is re-witnessed and re-traveled, and brought forth into this time. The stories that occurred in a distant past are continued into the present. The First Peoples are always close at hand.

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    HTML Transcript
    Listen as Lawrence Aripa discusses the importance and role of the oral traditions, and the special considerations when the stories are only told in English. Also, Lawrence talkes about the role of rivers and lakes in Schitsu'umsh country.

    (originally developed as part of "Coyote Legends" video by the Foundation for Water and Energy Education in 1998.)

    Listening with your heart, now journey with Lawrence, Bingo and Richard, as they tell of Coyote, Chipmunk, and Four Smokes.

    © Coeur d'Alene Tribe 2002

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