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The Idaho Kalispel

[Commentary by Dr. John M. Anderson]

Lake Pend Oreille Was the Heartland

The large lake in northern Idaho called Pend Oreille was the heartland of the Idaho Kalispel, prior to the invasion of the Americans into this region. The Kalispel from this region were called the Lake Kalispel by some American historians.


The Lake Kalispel called the sandy point located where the Pend Oreille river drains west from Lake Pend Oreille, Qapquape which means the sandy place. Today it is called Sandpoint by the Americans, and it is the county seat of Bonner County, Idaho.

The [unratified] Sandpoint Treaty was signed in 1887, setting the stage for the forced removal of all native residents from the Lake Pend Oreille drainage by the beginning of the twentieth century.


History of the Idaho Kalispel

An excellent overview of the history of the Idaho Kalispel can be found at History. This article by Jane Fritz appeared in a 1997 edition of the Sandpoint Magazine. I would consider this web page a 'must read' for anyone interested in the Pend Oreille Indians.

The Role of the Kalispel In Contemporary Idaho

The Kalispel Indians continue to play an important role in modern Idaho society, in spite of the fact that they no longer have a reservation anywhere in the affiliated Lake Pend Oreille drainage.

In the last decade, Kalispel from the Usk, Couer d'Alene, and Flathead reservation have come to Sandpoint and other Idaho towns to speak about their ancestral heritage to school children and public groups. They have also traveled to attend meetings of government agencies responsible for protection of Kalispel archaeological sites and for environmental protection.

See Natural Resources for information about the role of Lower Kalispel (see Kalispel Reservation near the town of Usk) in environmental protection programs. Related web pages on Kalispel support [from the Couer d'Alene reservation] for state and federal environmental protection programs include Lake Couer d'Alene and Lake. And see High Country, a native American magazine, for commentary on the sacredness of north Idaho lakes and their waters.

The Mythweavers

North Idaho is fortunate to an active local organization dedicated to presentation of authentic Kalispel history and culture. This group is called the Mythweavers, and its members include both Indians and non-Indians. Kalispel tribal elder Francis Cullooyah has been an active member of this organization, speaking before local elementary students, environmental organizations, Panida Theater, and other public forums. The Mythweaver's "Idaho Keepers of the Earth" audio-cassette series is available through the Sandpoint library. See the link (below) called Kalispel Speakers Program, for further information. (J. Anderson, July 1999)

Albani Dam This site was called Shawewhy by the Kalispel, referring to the waterfalls, fishery, and cove located at this site. Shewe'wi means portage (Teit 1930, page 313), referring to the fact that all river traffic had to portage around the Shawewhy falls, which served as a defacto border between the Lake Kalispel and their downriver relatives (the Lower Kalispel, who now live on the Kalispel Reservation near Usk).

Bay Indians See Nakamep

Indian Meadows The American name for the Kalispel site called Nacemci. It is located at the mouth of the Clark Fork river and Lake Pend Oreille, near Denton Slough. Nacemci served as a major pantribal ceremonial cener in the summer and fall, when the flood plain was covered with grasses ideal for grazing horse herds.

Kalispelum Project This project was funded by a grant from the Blanc family, formerly of Sandpoint. It brought Kalispel speakers to the Sandpoint area in 1989 to speak to educators and public groups about their cultural heritage. Speakers included Francis Culloyah (Kalispel Reservation), Ron Therriault (Flathead), and Joanne Bigcrane (Flathead). Materials from this project are available through the East Bonnner County library and the Bonner County school district Curriculum Center. They include research findings by Dr. John Anderson, who was the project director. Anderson wrote a draft of a book on the Sandpoint Treaty (unpublished to date).

Nakamep The Kalispel name for the town site located at the southernmost end of Lake Pend Oreille. This site was renamed Blackwell Point by the Americans. Ncame'p means the doorway or gateway (Smith 1985; page 198), presumedly because this end of the lake served as a doorway into the lands of the Kalispel's neighbors called the Schee Chumsch (whose French nickname is Couer d'Alene).

In the 1830's to 1840's, Catholic priests visiting Nakamep used the nickname Bay Indians, to refer to the Nakamep community.. The Nakemep lands were eventually claimed by the U.S. military, which built the Farragut naval base on this site. This base was closed and the lands converted into the Farragut State Park. See  Navy for a Sandpoint Magazine article on this military base.

Pend Oreille The French nickname for the Kalispel Indians. It means hanging earrings, and refers to the distinctive shell ear rings worn by many members of this tribe.

Sandpoint The Kalispel name for the site of the modern town of Sandpoint is Qapquape, which means a sandy place.

This web page presents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent

the views of the Kalispel Indians, either individually or as a group

The Kalispel of Washington State
The Kalispel of Montana
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Kalispel Speakers Program