Skitswish Indians

Skitswish Indians. From their own name; significance unknown. Also called:

  • Coeur d’Alene, a French appellation meaning “awl heart,” said to have been used originally by a chief to indicate the size of a trader’s heart.
  • Q’ma’shpal, Yakima name, meaning “camas people.”
  • Pointed Hearts, derived from the word Coeur d’Alene.

Skitswish Connections. The Skitswish belonged to the inland division of the Salishan stock, their closest relatives being the Kalispel or Pend d’Oreilles, and other eastern tribes.

Skitswish Location. On the headwaters of Spokane River from a little above Spokane Falls to the sources, including Coeur d’Alene Lake and all its tributaries, and the head of the Clearwater.

Skitswish Villages

Teit (1930) reports the following divisions and villages, noting that the last in reality may have included two sections, the Coeur d’Alene Lake Division and the Spokane River Division:

St. Joe River Division:

  • Ntcaamtsen (.ntcäa’mtsEn), at the confluence of the St. Joe and St. Manes Rivers.
  • Stiktakeshen (.sti’qutakEcEn?), near the mouth of St. Joe River, on the river, or nearby on the lake.
  • Stotseawes (stotsEäwES), on St. Joe River, at the place now called Fish Trap by the Whites.
  • Takolks (ta’x.olks) (?), on upper Hangman’s River, at a spring near the foot of the hill just south of De Smet.
  • Tcatowashalgs (tcat’owacalgs), on St. Joe River a little above Stotseawes.
  • Tcetishtasheshen (tcêti’ctacEcEn), probably on the lake, near the Stiktakeshen, on the north or east side, not far from the mouth of the river.

Coeur d’Alene River Division:

  • Athlkwarit (algwarit), at Harrison.
  • Gwalit (gwa’lit), near the lake and close to Harrison.
  • Hinsalut (hfnsii’lut), on Coeur d’Alene River a little above Smakegen.
  • Kokolshtelps (gogolc’telps), a little above Nestagwast.
  • Nalstkathlkwen (nalstqa’lxwEn), a little above Senshalemants.
  • Neatskstem (ne’atsxstErn), on Coeur d’Alene River a little above Athlkwarit.
  • Nestagwast (nest’a’gwast), at Black Lake, at a tributary river and lake here.
  • Senshalemants (sEnca’lEmants), a little above Hinsalut.
  • Smakegen (sma’qEgen), at Medimont.
  • Skwato (sk’wat’o’), at old mission.
  • Tclatcalk (tcla’tcalxw), on Coeur d’Alene Lake, close to the mouth of Coeur d’Alene River.

Coeur d’Alene Lake and Spokane River Division.

  • Ntaken (nt’a’q’En) Hayden Lake), north of Coeur d’Alene Lake.
  • Tcelatcelitcemen (tcelatcelitcr:mEn), halfway down Coeur d’Alene Lake, on the east side.
  • Ntcemkainkwa (ntc’Emga’ingwa), at Coeur d’Alene City.
  • Smethlethlena (srnElnle’na), near the last on the same side.
  • Tpoenethlpem, very near the preceding, on the same side.
  • Nsharept (nca’rEpt), a little below the next to the last.
  • Stcatkwei (stcatkwe’i), a little below the last.
  • Kamilen (q’ami’len), at Post Falls.
  • Hinsaketpens (hinsaq’a’tpEns), about one mile above the Spokane bridge.
  • Newashalks (ne’Ewa’calgs), a little below the preceding.
  • Ntsetsawolsako (ntsetsakwolsa’ko?), on Tamarack Creek, toward the mountains.
  • Neshwahwe (nesxwa’xxwe), on the river a little below the last two.
  • Nesthlihum (nesli’xum), a little below the last.
  • Tcanokwaken (tcanokwa’kEn?), a little below the last.
  • Mulsh (mule), at Green Acres.
  • Tcatenwahetpem (tcatenwa’TetpEm), a short distance below Green Acres, and about 20 miles above Spokane City.

Skitswish History. There is no tradition of any Skitswish migrations. Like so many other tribes in the region, the Skitswish were first brought clearly to the attention of Whites by Lewis and Clark. Although suffering the usual heavy losses following contact with Europeans, they continued to live in the same country and were finally allotted a reservation there bearing their name.

Skitswish Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that the Skitswish may have numbered 1,000 in 1780, but Teit (1930) raises this to from 3,000 to 4,000. In 1905 the United States Indian Office returned 494, all on the one reservation. The census of 1910 gave 293, probably below the true figure, as the United States Indian Office reported 601 on the reservation, including probably some Spokane, and in 1937 it returned 608.

Connections in which the Skitswish have become noted. Coeur d’Alene Lake in northern Idaho and a town on its shores preserve the memory of the Skitswish, as they bear the name given this tribe by the French.


Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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