The Coeur d'Alene Indian Tribe has a current enrollment of over 2,190
members. The tribe has
sovereign authority on a reservation covering 345,000 acres of mountains, lakes,
timber and farmland, spanning the western edge of the northern Rocky Mountains and
the abundant Palouse country.
The Tribe, like all tribes in America, has a government based on executive, legislative
and judicial branches. The tribal council has seven members and operates on a parliamentary
system, with members elected by tribal vote and the chairman elected by vote on
the council. Although he or she would serve as chief executive, the chairman has
one vote on the council and does not have veto power.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe and all federally recognized tribes in the United States
are sovereign in their own lands. That Sovereignty is inherent in the U.S. Constitution,
meaning that tribes were recognized as sovereign before the constitution was written.
Tribes and the U.S. government have a long series of treaties or executive orders
establishing reservations and tribal rights and authorities. Tribal treaty-making
also existed with the British, French, Dutch, and Spanish governments before the
birth of the United States as an independent nation.
As elected officials, members of this or any tribal council have a unique governing
experience. Their responsibilities include maintaining a
government-to-government relationship with federal and state governments.
The tribal government also must deal with elected officials from city and county
governments within the reservation.
Tribal council members meet with members of congress, members of the cabinet, governors
and even the president of the United States, resolving issues and conducting government
business. However, members of the tribal council must, first and foremost, respond
to the needs and issues of tribal membership. Their duties and responsibilities
range from their contributions to federal policy and laws to resolving even intra-family
disputes on the reservation.
The name, "Coeur d'Alene" was given to the tribe in the late 18th or early 19th
century by French traders and trappers. In French, it means "Heart of the Awl,"
referring to the sharpness of the trading skills exhibited by tribal members in
their dealings with visitors.
In the ancient tribal language, members call themselves, "Schitsu'umsh," meaning
"The Discovered People" or "Those Who Are Found Here."
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe employs about 1000 people in 16 departments of government
or in tribal enterprises. Employees answer to their supervisors or department heads.
Department heads answer to the Director of Administration, who answers to the council.
Tribal enterprises include the The
Coeur d' Alene Casino/Hotel operation north of Worley, Idaho. Tribal gaming
employs about 500 and generates about $20 million in profits annually, funding programs
and creating economic development and diversity. The tribal farm covers about 6,000
acres and produces wheat, barley, peas, lentils, and canola. The tribe also operates
the Benewah Automotive Center, the Benewah Market, and Ace Hardware.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe Wellness Center, Phase III of the Benewah Medical Center, opened in July of 1998. The center,
a $5 million facility that covers 43,000 square feet, completes an overall medical
operation that is nationally award winning and has evolved to be a national model
for both Indian health care and rural health care. The Benewah Medical Center, with
phase I opening in 1990, has grown to serve 10,000 patients. It provides services
to Indians and non-Indians.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe has its own tribal school, with a new $5 million facility,
which opened in 1997. The tribe's Department of Education provides programs for
adults, including a college degree program in cooperation with Idaho's Lewis and
Clark State College. The Language Department offers classes in the Schitsu'umsh
language, teaching tribal members, staff and anyone interested to maintain ancient
traditions and culture.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe has been in this homeland for many thousands of years. The
original homeland spans almost five million acres, stretching from Montana in the
east to the Spokane River Valley in present day Washington State, from near the
Canadian border in the north to near the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater
Rivers in north Idaho. Tribal traditions includes a respect and reverence for natural
law, and creates a powerful voice for responsible environmental stewardship.