Cliff SiJohn

Cliff SiJohn -  August 2002

Cliff SiJohn was a well-known elder and spiritual leader of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.   He was born and raised on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation.  His family ties go back to the original Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene people) inhabitants of the Pend Oreille and Coeur d'Alene Lake areas.  Cliff's relatives fought and died in the Steptoe Battle of 1858 near Rosalia, Washington, and the following punitive reprisal by Col. George Wright.  A Vietnam Veteran, he served his country, his Tribe and his family with distinction.  Having worked in Tribal government for over 30 years, Cliff was the Director of the Cultural Affairs for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.  Besides being the lead singer in his family's drum, the "Pierced Heart Singers," Cliff was also an accomplished traditional Indian flute player. Cliff's storytelling abilities had the power to take the listeners into the story to become participants with the Coyote and Bear, as they "swirled about you."  Cliff wrote and produced two documentary films and co-authored a book entitled, Native American Music.  Cliff devoted his life to the well-being of his family and to all the Schitsu'umsh, and, with his wife Lori, an enrolled Cayuse from the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon.  He so readily shared his love and compassion for his children and grandchildren, for all his relations, for all people.  Cliff SiJohn was that special kind of teacher – "elder brother – who had the power to reach out and touch the very hearts of those most in need, bringing about a healing.  Cliff passed away, surrounded by loving family and friends, on December 24, 2012.

Cliff with his uncle, Ike, at the family Drum  (July 2002, photo by Aaron Denham)


Cliff was a key consultant on such books as, Stories That Make the World: Oral Literature of the Indian Peoples of the Inland Northwest as Told by Lawrence Aripa, Tom Yellowtail and other Elders.  (University of Oklahoma Press 1995 and paper 1999), and Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane: The World of the Schitsu'umsh - Coeur d'Alene Indians, in collaboration with the Schitsu'umsh (University of Washington Press 2001; 2005).

To get a little background on Cliff, the following link takes you to the heart of some of his most important teachings, recorded in a 2002 interview (streaming video format): Traveling the Five SeasonsContinue following Cliff in 12 webpage links.

Cliff also introduced listeners to the oral traditions on the Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene) module (including some of the Lawrence Aripa stories included in Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane and Stories That Make the World), recorded in a 1993 interview (streaming video format): Approaching the Oral Traditions: Preparations

You can also listen to some of Cliff's flute songs, recorded in 1993: Songs: Introduction

To listen to an audio stream of Cliff's talk to the students in The Sacred Journey course on 20 September 2006: Yo-Yott.

To listen to these video and audio files you will need a BASIC RealPlayer.  

You can download a FREE version at: 


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