Cultural Resource Protection & Management

Project Background & Activities

The lake management department’s cultural resource management personnel are involved in various cultural resource projects that deal with investigating, documenting, protecting, curating, and managing archaeological and cultural resources within aboriginal Schitsu’umsh (Coeur d’Alene) territory.

Current project activities entail implementing ongoing cultural resource management plan activities within the Coeur d’Alene Reservation for the Spokane River hydroelectric project license. Personnel have also completed half a dozen projects for Coeur d’Alene Basin restoration project activities under the Coeur d’Alene Trust in the past decade.

Tribal Cultural Resource Management

Tribal personnel are in a unique position to manage cultural resources that occur within the Tribes aboriginal homeland. Special attention can be paid to Tribal needs, beliefs, and values as they align with applicable Tribal, state, county, and federal laws, regulations, and professional scientific standards. The modification of methods and activities is always made when possible to best accommodate all projects that directly involve the Tribes heritage. Further, personnel utilize a holistic approach to best document and manage cultural resources. The following information sources are always accessed: examination of the archaeological record, landscape knowledge, oral history, historic documentation, and traditional knowledge

Archaeological / Cultural Resource Importance

The aboriginal homeland of the Schitsu’umsh spans over five-million acres and is centered on the Coeur d’Alene Lake Basin. Tribal oral history and tradition state that the Tribe originated from the land; that they have been a part of their homeland since time immemorial. Archaeological record dates are limited within aboriginal territory, but confirm occupation as far back in time as 10,000 years. As such, over 99% of Schitsu’umsh history is pre-colonial (before European settlement) subsistence gathering and traditional activities. The transhumance or seasonal movements of family encampments to and from centralized villages over thousands of years within an immense homeland territory has contributed to a vast number of sensitive sites.

The Shitsu’umsh homeland is an ancestral ground and a heritage legacy that the Tribe is deeply connected to and has venerated for thousands of years. As such, these traditional or pre-colonial sites are very sensitive areas for descendants to visit, remember, and respect Tribal ancestors and traditional heritage. Further, these sites provide a wealth of new archaeological information about the Tribes activities before the arrival of Europeans.

Historic-era sites represent the remaining 1% of Tribal history and are just as significant as traditional sites. The transitional period or historic-era is the time period that corresponds with European contact (roughly the 1810s to modern day). Historic sites are very significant in their ability to provide information about initial European contact, colonization, and settlement. Historic sites may have been generated by Tribal individuals or Europeans or both. Good archaeologists will distinguish whether a historic site is Tribal or European in origin. This clarification is very important for ensuring correctness and continuity in both Tribal and European documented archaeological records. Incorrect reporting generally means a lack of documentation and a written gap in the Tribes heritage that could otherwise provide insight into the occupation and use of Tribal homeland.

These local cultural resources enhance the landscape for everyone’s enjoyment. Visitors of all backgrounds will benefit from seeing a diversity of materials from different ethnicities and times when left in place. Please respect these places and the different meaning and value they hold to everyone. They are not personal property to be collected, looted, or vandalized. Please consider that cultural and archaeological resources are non-renewable; that is, once removed the site is destroyed and can never be replaced.

Archaeological Resource Protection

The best and broadest definition for archaeological resources is: the modified tangible material or human remains from past human life, including the adjacent landscapes that are associated with cultural practices and beliefs. This includes objects from all ethnicities and from the precolonial or historic time periods. Examples of precolonial objects are: ground stone tools, net weights, points, etc. Examples of historic-era objects are: glass, metal, ceramics, wood out building ruins, etc.

Individual objects are referred to as artifacts, while groups of objects that are typically immobile are called features. Together, artifacts, features, and the landscape make up a site. When objects are removed from the landscape they destroy contextual information that tells a lot about the site (ex. site use, site age, site distribution, prevalence of materials, etc).

Unfortunately many people are unaware of the harm that can come from removing one artifact from a site. Often times when these people are asked “what are you collecting” they reply “anything I can find.” There are however individuals that are dedicated to collecting, and looting specific objects from sites on a regular basis regardless of the harm it causes.

Please be aware that sites are protected and that there are harsh fines and penalties for any alteration of a site. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs both have regulations in place to protect archaeological cultural resources within the Coeur d’Alene Reservation. Also be aware that there are local county, state, and federal laws that provide similar protections. In general, it is unlawful to disturb, alter, destroy, remove, or deface sites and items. These activities are punishable crimes with prison terms.
Some examples of illegal activities include:

  • Removing artifacts
  • Possessing or collecting artifacts
  • Probing the ground for artifacts
  • Digging for artifacts with any kind of tool (ex. hands, sticks, garden equipment, etc).
  • Digging for Native American remains
  • Possessing Native American remains
  • Vandalizing cultural properties

Law Enforcement Coordination

Project personnel have been coordinating with local law enforcement officers as well as local land managers to provide an awareness of archaeological resources and applicable local, state, Tribal, and federal protection laws. Many of these individuals have received training certification provided by the Columbia River Intertribal Fisheries Enforcement (CRITFE) officers out of Hood River, Washington. CRITFE officers have conducted numerous archaeological crime investigations and convictions while working with multiple agencies to protect Tribal treaty fishing rights within a 147-mile stretch of the Columbia River.

The archaeological protection work of local law enforcement will ensure the heritage and history of the Schitsu’umsh and local communities are sustainably managed and protected for future generations to learn from and remember.

Law Enforcement Implementation

While visiting or recreating at Coeur d’Alene Lake you might notice posted ‘no collecting artifacts’ signs as well as informational cultural resource protection brochures (please link to brochure). These are communication aids informing and reminding the public that collecting, looting, or vandalism activities are prohibited by law. Anyone caught by local law enforcement breaking the law will be dealt with more stringently since restrictions are posted.

Public Participation

Public involvement is key to protecting cultural resources. Land managers and law enforcement are not always around to educate individuals and provide protection. When the public is informed and take an active role in prevention, they are making a personal difference and may be influencing those around them to make the same responsible choices. Together we can ensure these sites will be protected for future generations. Some primary ways you can actively protect cultural resources include:

  • Sharing this information with family and friends
  • Do not pick up cultural resources, admire them in place and / or photograph them
  • Report cultural resources to local land managing agencies
  • Report any unusual or suspicious activities to the local police. DO NOT get involved or approach the scene. Take down as much information (ex. the number of people, physical descriptions, vehicle make or model, license number, date and time, location, what the suspect is doing, etc.)


Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police
Dispatch 24hr/7 days week

Coeur d’Alene Tribe
Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

CRM Project Archaeologist

Cultural Resources Brochure download