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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

Chief Andrew Seltice, ca. 1900

Head Chiefs

Among the head chiefs of the Schitsu'umsh were:

Stallam ("Thunder"), also called Twisted Hair, the eldest son of Circling Raven, who served as head chief as early as 1760 and certainly by 1820, and continued until 1844

Vincent, son of Stallam, also known as Bassa, a "man of wisdom and courage" - 1844-1865

Andrew Seltice, known for his "wealth and intelligence" - 1865-1902

Peter Wildshoe - 1902-1907

Peter Moctelme - 1907-1932

Joseph Seltice, son of Andrew Seltice and "elected by the tribe" - 1932-1949


To continue the discussion on issues relating to tribal sovereignty, consider visiting:

  • Tribal Sovereignty - Historical and Cultural Origins, on the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's home page.

  • Self Determination and Sovereignty in the Nez Perce module.

  • Native American Rights Fund, an organization that works toward greater tribal sovereignty. The site also provides an updated "watch" on current developments effecting tribes throughout the country.

  • Click Here to get RealPlayer 28K 56K 256K
    HTML Transcript
    Listen as Ernie Stensgar, Former Coeur d'Alene Tribal Chairman, discusses the sovereignty of Indian tribes and the Coeur d'Alene Nation. (interviewed by Bob Botswick and Dan Kane, June 2001, and edited by Rodney Frey)

    Another critical dimension relating to understanding contemporary Indian society revolves around appreciating the issues surrounding tribal sovereignty. These issues are extremely complex and so often misunderstood by the general public. The following outline provides an introduction into the intricate and often contradictory legal basis for Schitsu'umsh sovereignty. This page considers both the United States treaty, executive order and congressional actions that uphold, as well as undermine Schitsu'umsh sovereignty.

    Sovereignty can be defined as the inherent and supreme power from which a people derive their social, political and economic governance. It is the basis upon which a nation is formed and a people govern themselves. Sovereignty is established and asserted by the will of the people, and not ultimately contingent upon some other nation granting it to that people. Indian tribes were sovereign nations long before Columbus set foot on the shores of "his new world," and long before Lewis and Clark exchanged "peace medals" with the tribes of the disputed Oregon Country (as England also claimed this area). Indian sovereignty must ultimately be defined, affirmed and asserted by Indians themselves. Nevertheless, how the U.S. government defines its relationship with the Tribes directly affects tribal sovereignty today. This history has been as if a pendulum, swinging between self-determination and dependency.

    Click Here to get RealPlayer 28K 56K 256K
    HTML Transcript
    Alice Koskela introduces you to Tribal sovereignty. Alice is the Legal Counsel and Legislative Affairs Director for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. How is an Indian nation any different than some other nation? (interviewed and edited by Rodney Frey, August 2002)

  • United States Recognition of Tribal Sovereignty and Self-Determination: In several landmark decisions and actions the United States government has reaffirmed the sovereign status of Indian tribes, and thus the sovereignty of the Coeur d'Alene Nation. Some of those decisions and their guiding principles include:

    • In the Supreme Court ruling - Worcester v. Georgia (1832) - the court recognized that Indian nations were "distinct political communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries." The court also acknowledged the sovereign nature of Indian nations as established and recognized through treaties with the federal government.
    • The legal status of the tribal entities is acknowledged to be that of an inherent "sovereign nations." State law, for example, is not legally applicable within reservation boundaries, unless abrogated by U. S. Congressional consent (e.g., Gaming Compacts with states).
    • As established in Article VI, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, treaties (and agreements) are the "supreme law of the land," and they are bilaterally-constructed, nation-to-nation agreements, intended to be legally binding for all time.
    • The reservations established by treaty and executive order were not grants of land from the United States to the Indian, but "reserved" lands of the Indian not relinquished to the United States.
    • Ownership of the land and the resources are to be held by the tribes unless explicitly relinquished in the language of an agreement or treaty. For example, the ownership of a lake or river, if not explicitly granted to the United States, would remain with the tribe. As such, the agreements entered into were not grants of rights to Indians, but rather grants of rights from Indians to the United States, i.e., "reserved rights doctrine." Property should not be taken without consent of the Indian. (e.g., United States v. Winans, 198 U.S. 371 1905)
    • Treaties and agreements are to be interpreted as their signers intended (Indian), an understanding known as the "statutes of construction."
    • In exchange for the cession of vast tracts of land and resources, i.e. "ceded territory," the tribes would receive educational and health benefits, and other services. Such services and allocations are thus "purchased" and "contracted" services, and are not "social entitlements" or "special rights."
    • Especially during the late nineteenth and much of the twentieth century, the U.S. federal government's record of adhering to these principles was far from exemplary. But simply because one party in an agreement does not honor the accords of that agreement, such action does not negate the legal status and continued integrity of the agreement or treaty.
    • Over 400 treaties and agreements (executive orders) were established between 1778-1902.
    • With U.S. citizenship granted to all American Indians in 1924, each Schitsu'umsh thus holds dual citizenship, a citizen of both the United States and the Coeur d'Alene nation. Having citizenship with one nation does not preclude citizenship in another.

    Click Here to get RealPlayer 28K 56K 256K
    HTML Transcript
    Alice Koskela discusses the legal basis for the ownership of Lake Coeur d'Alene and the nature of the "canons (statutes) of construction" in interpreting treaties and agreements between the federal government and tribes, all leading up to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 18, 2001. (interviewed and edited by Rodney Frey, August 2002)

  • Breaching Tribal Sovereignty by the United States and the Creation of Tribal Dependency: Indian sovereignty has also been infringed upon and compromised by the U.S. federal government in a number of ways, including:
    • The U.S. federal government and its courts have also maintained that the Indian tribes are not foreign nations, but constitute "distinct political" communities within the United States. The Tribes are "domestic, dependent nations" as declared by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in the ruling handed down in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia 1831. As such, the relationship of the tribes to the U.S. resembles that of a "ward to his guardian." This position has given birth to the federal trusteeship of Indian affairs.
    • Congressional actions have historically asserted plenary power (absolute power) over the tribes. For example, Congress has attempted to abrogate specified rights and guarantees acknowledged by treaty, pursuant to its plenary power. This was exemplified in the case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, 187 U.S. 552 1903, as well as in the Dawes Act of 1887, the Termination Policy of the 1950s, and Public Law 280 in 1953.
  • While the United State federal government may seek to use this language and assert the power of these words (e.g., "plenary" or "domestic, dependent nation"), it is ultimately up to each Indian Nation to decide on the degree they wish to bow to the power of these words, or assert their own definition of sovereignty.

    © Coeur d'Alene Tribe 2002

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