Tiller's Guide to Indian Country - First Edition

Introduction There are currently four Native American Indian Reservations within Idaho’s boundaries: the Kootenai Reservation, the Coeur d’Alene Reservation, the Nez Perce Reservation, and the Fort Hall Reservation. The Duck Valley Reservation, a Shoshone-Paiute land base, straddles the Idaho/Nevada border and will be discussed in the section on Nevada. While the groups which reside on these reservations are culturally and linguistically separate, because of the landscape and resources of the area they share certain traditional subsistence patterns. As a rule, ancestors of the current tribes traveled during the summer and spring seasons collecting foods to prepare, usually through drying, for use during the winter months. All the tribes hunted wild game, fished in the region’s bountiful streams and rivers, and collected native plants and roots. Salmon represented a vital economic and dietary resource for the region’s native people; for the Kootenai, however, salmon also held spiritual significance. In fact, the Kootenai people moved from the Columbia Lake region in British Columbia through Kettle Falls in northwest Washington and into Idaho in pursuit of salmon. They were often joined in these fishing expeditions by their neighbors to the south, the Coeur d’ Alene. The salmon was also an important resource for the Shoshone-Bannock of the Fort Hall Reservation, as well as for the Nez Perce. Even more significant to the people of the region was the buffalo, which provided many valuable resources such as a supply of dried meat for winter consumption, warm skins for robes, and hides used in the construction of tee pees. Hunting buffalo was necessarily a communal endeavor requiring the cooperation of different bands and tribes. After the introduction of horses in the 1700s, the people of Idaho would, by the hundreds, ride into Montana to hunt buffalo, often joined by the Spokanes, Kalispels, Colvilles, and the Montana Flathead. After the men killed and marked the animal with their tribal insignia, the women would prepare the meat by cutting it into narrow strips to dry in the sun. The Coeur d’Alene recall that the last great buffalo hunt occurred in 1864, signaling not only a drastic depletion of a traditional food source, but also an end to the ritualized interdependence of northwestern native people. Native plants also played an important role in the diet of the native people of Idaho. They collected wild herbs and berries, they depending particularly on the native camas root to supplement their diets. After moving from their original land site at the Cataldo Mission, the Coeur d’ Alene settled south of the lake at DeSmet, their traditional site for harvesting wild camas bulbs. The camas bulb was also a favorite food of the Shoshone and Bannock people. Anger over the destruction of these bulbs by settlers’ pigs and cattle led the Bannock people to declare war on the U.S. Army in 1878. [—. / ) \\ Lewis and Clarks famous trek across the northwest signaled the begiming of the end of the traditional lifestyle practiced by the region’s native people. The Nez Perce people aided Lewis and Clarks party after they crossed the Lolo Pass within the perilous Bitterroot mountains in 1804. Arriving in Nez Perce territory, the explorers were in dire need of basic necessities which the Nez Perce graciously provided. In addition a Lemhi Shoshone woman, Sacajawea, served as the group’s guide and translator throughout the journey, from which they returned with magnificent tales of the Pacific Ocean. This historic event initiated the opening of the “Northwest Territory” and was quickly followed by an influx of European fur traders, settlers, and gold-seekers. Lewis and Clark reported on this vast wilderness, full of fur-bearing animals such as mink, otter, fox, and the coveted beaver, consequently attracting hordes of trappers who quickly depleted the area’s resources. The furs of these animals were in great demand on the eastern shores of the United States, as well as in England, Spain, and France. Idaho’s Snake River area became a disputed borderlmd in which British and French trappers, based in Montreal 331