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Plateau Indians 

ANTH 422/522, AIST 422, RELS 422 - Fall 201

Overview and Study Questions

The materials on this page are intended for use by students enrolled in ANTH 422/522 Plateau Indians.  This page and its references are periodically up-dated.

Organize study sessions in a manner to that all family members gain a competency in these learning activity.  All individual family members are held accountable and are expected to be competent in his or her responses to all study guide questions. At the "in the round recitation" session, separate questions from this study guide will be asked of each individual family member, and he or she will be expected to respond to the question posed with competency.  At the conclusion of the each family member's particular response to a question, other family members may join into the conversation and supplement the initial response.  In your responses, consider not only what you convey, i.e., response content, but how you go about conveying it, i.e., the delivery style and technique.  Not all study guide questions will be incorporated into the recitation session.  The entire recitation could last up to two hours. The evaluation will be based on upon both individual family member response competencies, as well as competencies demonstrated from the family in support of and supplemental to individual responses.  The evaluative focus is thus on a "group family grade."   But the instructor does reserve the right to offer differentiated grades, if a student does not contribute or does not meet expectations, for example. Grading criteria:

Salmon Fishing at Kettle Falls - ca. 1930s


The Plateau culture area extends from the Cascade Mountains of Washington and British Columbia in the west to the Rocky Mountains of Montana in the east, encompassing the entirety of the Columbia River basin. The Fraser River valley of British Columbia marks the northern boundary, while the Columbia and Salmon Rivers of Oregon and Idaho mark the southern reaches of the Plateau.

In the example of Coeur d'Alene we have a wonderful illustration of how the oral traditions have helped mold the customs and lives of a particular tribe. After a brief consideration of pre-contact Coeur d'Alene society and of the historical changes brought by contact with Euro-American society, this lesson will focus on the continuity and continued importance of such cultural expressions as the "First Peoples," root gathering and deer hunting, traditional land tenure practices, the powwow, the ceremonies of the Sweat House and Jump Dance, and the Memorial Give Away. Like other Plateau peoples, the Coeur d'Alene lived a semi-nomadic, transhumance pattern, moving with the seasonal-round to specific localities within their home territory for salmon fishing or trading with other tribes, root digging, berry gathering, deer hunting, and finally winter encampment. They lived in a fundamentally equalitarian society, with relatively little warfare between tribes. Spiritual guidance was gained in vision questing.

Study Guide Questions, focusing primarily on the Schitsu'umsh - Coeur d'Alene and the Niimíipuu - Nez Perce.   Additional questions could be added. 

For the first In-the-Round:  

  1. How would you characterize the particular approach/methodology taken in this course and articulated in Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane (2001) and in the Carry Forth the Stories (2017) in pursuit of the goal of understanding and appreciating Plateau Indians? What are the key elements and components of "Huckleberrying and Tin Shedding," for researching (gathering information as well as interpreting it), for teaching, and for writing?  What are some of the implications for the student-participant in pursuit of this goals? Consider advantages and disadvantages of this approach.
  2. Identify the approximate aboriginal territory of the Coeur d'Alene and the Nez Perce.  Identify the traditional locations of ten (10) Plateau Peoples, along with their linguistic affiliations and key geographic associations (nearby rivers, mountains, etc.).  Be able to draw a map of the Plateau from scratch.
  3. Overview of Tribal Sovereignty: Plenary Powers vs. Self-Determination - Define Tribal sovereignty, and in what ways is it compromised by the United States government?
  4. How was intertribal conflict often resolved prior to European contact?
  5. Outline the traditional seasonal-round of the Coeur d'Alene, Nez Perce and mid-Columbia Peoples.
  6. What were fishing techniques and technologies were used by the Nez Perce and mid-Columbia Peoples?
  7. What was the nature of pre-contact Coeur d'Alene social organization (the band) and political power (the chief)?
  8. What role did the shaman play in pre-contact Coeur d'Alene society?
  9. Identify and discuss the prevailing Euro-American cultural values of the contact era.
  10. Identify and discuss the types and forms of contact pluralism and assimilation.
  11. Discuss "traditionalism," and provide examples.
  12. Develop an outline identifying how each of the following Euro-American influences effected Coeur d'Alene and Nez Perce cultures: the horse, diseases such as smallpox, the fur trade, the Jesuits and Presbyterians , military engagement with the United States, Treaties, Executive Orders and the Allotment Act, and mining.
  13. Discuss smallpox and other infection diseases - what were the effects of these epidemics on Indian society?
  14. Discuss Lewis and Clark, and the Fur Trader - what were the consequences of this early contact?
  15. Discuss the Missionaries: Circling Raven, 1831, St. Louis and the Catholics; Spalding, Whitman and Presbyterians; 1842, the "Black Robes" and the Cataldo Mission - What was the appeal of the missionaries, and the particular appeal of the Jesuits?  Contrast the missionary motivation to establish a "wilderness kingdom" among the Indian with the general goals of the emerging Euro-American society toward the Indian.  What is the lasting legacy of the missionary experience?
  16. Discuss the Yakama War of 1855, the Steptoe War of 1858, and the Nez Perce Conflict of 1877 - What were the consequences of these wars?
  17. Discuss Treaties, Executive Orders, and the Dawes Act - What were the motivations of the United State government to enter into treaty relations with the tribes?  What were the consequences of all these enactments?
  18. Discuss the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and the Self Determination Act of 1975- How did these acts effect tribal society, both positives and negatives?  Consider the role and implications of "Blood Quantum Laws."
  19. Discuss the Challenges and Growth of Tribal sovereignty: The examples of Salmon and fishing rights, Gaming, and the "Wounded."
  20. Who was Smohalla, and what were the central doctrines of the Dreamers?
  21. Identify the principle contemporary expressions of Coeur d'Alene and Nez Perce self-determination and the ways the tribes are attempting to re-establishing its sovereignty.

For the second In-the-Round:

  1. Know the particular oral traditions of your own family (lé·pwey, waĺáwa, q’emiln, chatq’ele’, and s'maq'l) and integrate them into your responses to the questions listed below.
  2. Discuss the meaning, structure and dynamic, and the implications of hnkhwelkhwlnet and tamálwit. What are the primary ontological principles upon which the Indigenous world of the Plateau Peoples is based and created?   What is Heart Knowledge?  And how is reality experienced?  How does this world and reality differ from the world built upon Head Knowledge?  Illustrate your responses with specific examples.
  3. Who is the Amotqn and what are the Titwatityáaya?
  4. Contrast the character of Coyote with that of Crane and Chief Child of the Yellow Root.   How are they similar and how are they different?
  5. What are the five fundamental miyp - "teachings" of the Coeur d'Alene?  Based upon the specific story narratives offered in Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane: The World of the Coeur d'Alene Indians, provide references from those stories that illustrate each of the five "teachings."
  6. Why do the elders continue telling the oral traditions?  What are their importance?
  7. What is the fundamental nature, and the role and key responsibilities of the Human Peoples?  
  8. Discuss the traditional seasonal round of your family, from winter to spring through summer, into fall and back to winter.  For each of these seasons provide discussion on, which members of your family would be involved and doing what activities, what primary foods would your family be seeking and which technologies would they be using and associated with, and what ceremonial and culturally expressive activities would be conducted?
  9. What are camas and water potato, and what role do they play in Coeur d'Alene culture today?
  10. How would you characterize a family's relationship with their "home territory?"
  11. What are the primary structures, qualities and roles of the family, providing illustrative examples for your discussion?
  12. Outline the general features and procedures you might experience at a Coeur d'Alene or Nez Perce powwow. What is the meaning often associated with the songs and dance associated with the powwow?
  13. Define the concepts of Súumesh or Wéyekin. Of what significance do they play in contemporary Coeur d'Alene and Nez Perce? How it is acquired"  In what ways is it applied?  How does it work - reflecting on its efficacy?
  14. What is the meaning of the phrase, "then, the end of the trail," traditionally heard at the conclusion of the telling of a story? What are the implications of this phrase for the meaning and role of the oral traditions?
  15. Discuss the role of sharing in plant and animal rituals, offering examples to illustrate your discussion.
  16. Outline the general features and procedures you might experience at a Coeur d'Alene powwow. What is the meaning often associated with the songs and dance associated with the powwow?
  17. What are the purposes of the Sweat House Ceremony?
  18. What are the purposes of the Jump Dance Ceremony, and what does it mean to Blue Jay?
  19. What are the purposes of the Memorial Give Away, and what is the meaning in the phrase, the deceased go on ahead of us to have a big tipi camp ready for us?
  20. When a Coeur d'Alene speaks of "home," what might the concept mean?
  21. What is snukwnkhwtskhwts'mi'ls and what is it significance?
  22. What were you're most important "huckleberries" you gathered this semester?  As discussed in class, what are the desired big "take-aways"?

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