The ancestral lands of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe included a huge swath in northern Idaho, as well as chunks of Montana and Washington (including present-day Spokane). For a time, the center of much of their lives was the Cataldo Mission along the Coeur d’Alene River. Though their reservation is on that land, it encompasses a mere 15% of the area they once claimed.
And for even that, they had to fight. In 1858, the tribe realized that white settlers were streaming to the Idaho panhandle in search of gold. They had seen the results of this from other neighboring tribe who had lost everything to the whites. Most notably, they saw that the land promised by treaty to the Yakima tribe of central Washington was already stolen. Because of this, the younger members of the Coeur d’Alene tribe wished to join the Yakima in a war to save their land.
The Yakima had just lost one war, but weren’t quite beaten. They went north to the Coleville Reservation to try and gather strength.
For the most part, the elders were against the war. This wasn’t out of respect for the white settlers or the Church (as both would claim), but because they feared that they could not win and in losing would lose everything.
In the spring of 1858, a regiment of United States soldiers attempted to cross Coeur d’Alene land and were met in battle. Over 1,000 Indians sent the greatly-outnumbered soldiers running. The army, smarting from this defeat, was determined to beat the Indians into submission.
The late summer brought every available soldier into eastern Washington, defeating the combined Indian forces at the first battle and coming to a draw in the second.
A “peace” treaty was then forced upon them. If the Coeur d’Alene would hand over those responsible for the initial attack, the rest of the tribe would be allowed to live. With no other choice, they were rounded up into what can only be described as a concentration camp (as that is what most reservations were).
This worked out perfectly for the whites. Much of the land “given” to the Coeur d’Alene was already dredged for gold by huge machines. The waste material (mostly rocks) still liters the ground to this day. The good land was now opened to white settlement and mining operations.
The original boundary once extended to the Cataldo Mission, pictured here. But in 1878, it was diminished further still.
‘Restore the Fortunes’
Camera: Ricoh KR-10 (1980)
Lens: Revuenon Zoom 35-105mm f/3.8
Film: Seattle Film Works 400 (x-09/00)
Process: DIY ECN-2
Cataldo Mission, near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho