Summary of Contact History: Collision of the Indigenous and the Euro-American Worlds



No community exists in isolation from other communities,
and from the acculturation and assimilation forces that can be unleashed.



Imagine yourself a member of an Apsáalooke (Crow) or Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene) family,
with sovereignty, a high quality of life, and all expectations generally met.




 Confluence of the Two Rivers:
The St. Joe and the Coeur d'Alene Rivers
(First Peoples and Euro-American Peoples)


John Gast's "American Progress"



A. Legal and Moral Premise: Sovereign independent nations prior to and with treaty relationships.   Define "tribal sovereignty"? 


Bush on Tribal Sovereignty (on the difficulty in defining Tribal Sovereignty.  YouTube)


Sovereignty (outline of Federal Policy toward Indigenous Peoples)



With Sovereignty, typically positive adaptation to external change; 
Without Sovereignty, typically negative consequences to external change






B. First Contact:     Disease: Smallpox   and Suyepmsh  “white people” Lewis and Clark in May of 1806


demographic collapse - transmission of wisdom curtained - hope for future undermined






C.  Horse:     Transformation and Relocation - for sedentary horticulturalist with ascribed social system to transhumance buffalo hunters with achieved social system.     War Deeds


e.g., Cheyenne
1750s: east of the Mississippi, sedentary, earthen-lodges, horticultural, ascribed socio-religious status/positions.

1770s: move onto the Plains, transhumance, buffalo-skin tipi lodges, buffalo hunters, achieved socio-religious status/positions -vision quest and Sundance


enhanced means of transportation, and for Crow and other Plains Tribes transformed entire ecological, social, political and religious fabric






D. Fur Trade: David Thompson established the Kalispel House (near Hope, Idaho) in 1809, and fur trade begins.   Collapses by 1840s


introduced new technologies, a "unique" type of Euro-American role model, and "fire water"





E. Black Robes:   First Indian delegation to St. Louis in 1831, Fathers Nicholas Point and DeSmet arrive 1842 and establish mission at mouth St. Joe River, Mission of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Cataldo established in 1848, mission moved to DeSmet in 1872


Religious Winds of Change


Cultural Assimilation by Federal policies in consort with Missionaries. The government established "Indian offensives" by 1884, including practice of "giveaways," feasts, Sundancing, Medicine Dances, and most other forms of dancing and ceremonial expression (limited to once a month, daylight hours, mid-week, and none under 50 could take part), including being a "medicine man." 


While each Christian denomination approached assigned Reservations differently, typically it was a battle with Satan for the souls of Indian.  Children were forced to attend boarding schools, cut hair short, eliminated language, attacked family structure and role of elders, prohibited religious practices, all in order to instill Christian values and practices, as well as American farming and household skills. 


created cultural void, undermined religious infrastructure and ceremonial life, resulted in psychological dysfunction






F. War: Battle of Steptoe in 1858


 dismantled military capacity






G. Land and Resources: Reservation established in 1873 and 1891, finalized in Executive Order Tribe 1889.


Demise of resources: Buffalo


Treaties and Executive Orders, and Allotment


Allotment Act 1877 (Prior to Allotment, the Schitsu'umsh were successful Palouse famers on 2,000 acre farms, using state of the art farm equipment and White laborers; were economically self-sufficient). 


Allotment: 160 acres per enrolled member; rest of reservation opened to homesteading), For the Schitsu'umsh today, live on a 345,000 acre reservation with 70,000 owned by Tribe.  


Of the 140 million acres of Indian reservation land within the United States in 1887, the Dawes Act reduced the total reservation lands to some 50 million acres by 1932.  Ninety million acres were transferred to non-Indians ownership within reservations boundaries.        


economic depression and dependence







H. Self-Determination: Indian Reorganization Act 1934 and Self Determination Act of 1975, Tribal Initiatives today such as Benewah Medical Clinic, tribal school, language, and gaming.

virtually no unemployment, and reassertion of sovereignty and cultural identity.



return to 101 Schedule