For numbers of speakers (Kramer). However, onlyFor numbers of speakers (Kramer). However, only

For centuries the people of the Schitsu’umsh, or Coeur d’Alene, tribe lived on over 5 million acres of land across Idaho, Washington, and Montana. However, their present reservation is small, a chunk of Idaho just south of Lake Coeur d’Alene. In this paper, I hope to describe the Schitsu’umsh tribe to the best of my ability, and explain the reasons for the endangerment of their language. The Schitsu’umsh government database and website ( is the major source for this paper, and unless I say otherwise, the facts and data I talk about come from there. In the past, the Schitsu’umsh people were not nomadic, but rather remained in one place and were known to be incredible traders. The name “Coeur d’Alene” means “heart of the awl” in French, supposedly because the French said that the Schitsu’umsh people were some of the very best traders. However, in their own language, the name “Schitsu’umsh” means “those who are found here.” Today, over 2,000 people live on the Schitsu’umsh reservation, and of those, very few speak the Schitsu’umsh language, although there are no conclusive numbers of speakers (Kramer). However, only two speakers are left whose first language is Schitsu’umshtsn (Kramer). Like with many Native American tribes, the Schitsu’umsh people were discouraged from using their native language, especially in boarding schools in which children were cut off from their culture and, subsequently, their language (Kramer). This drastically limited the number of speakers of the language, and made it difficult for the language to be revived at first. In as early as the 1930s, linguistics began documenting and trying to preserve Schitsu’umshtsn. In 1935, Lawrence Nicodemus, who grew up speaking the language, began working on preserving the Coeur d’Alene language by teaching it to a linguist (Nicodemus). In the 70s, he published the very first educational materials available for Schitsu’umshtsn. This was a textbook meant to help students learn Coeur d’Alene. Nicodemus was skilled with language, and learned to speak six different languages, including Greek and Latin (Nicodemus), but he focused all his efforts on the revitalization of Schitsu’umshtsn, in which is grandmother was a native speaker (Kramer). Because of his dedication to his culture, his language gathered more speakers than it ever would have otherwise. Even the local college teaches classes in Schitsu’umshtsn as a result of Nichodemus’ work (Kramer). Even though Schitsu’umshtsn is an endangered language, it is not quite dying. There are more speakers now than several decades ago, because the community is so involved in revitalizing the language. Reading about the Coeur d’Alene tribe reminded me of the documentary we watched earlier in the semester, about the Wampanoag tribe essentially bringing their language back to life. Although Schitsu’umshtsn never completely died, like Wampanoag did, at one point it only had 2 speakers, who were both elderly. Because of racist boarding schools which sought to suppress Native American culture, speaking Schitsu’umshtsn was not spoken often, until learning materials started being created by Nicodemus. Today, there are more resources than ever before for community members and others to learn Coeur d’Alene. Classes are being taught at North Idaho College, with over a hundred students learning Schitsu’umshtsn (Kramer). The tribe has a website containing a database of audio files recorded by fluent speakers to help learners with acquiring the language. This website also contains the history, culture, political information, and what matters most to the Coeur d’Alene tribe. The language programs of the tribe are meant to slowly bring Schitsu’umshtsn back into colloquial speech in the community. They have published a dictionary, had articles written and television reports done about their language restoration, and translated popular songs like “Happy Birthday” and “Jingle Bells” into Schitsu’umshtsn. The actual language of Schitsu’umshtsn is a Salish language, similar to other languages spoken throughout the region (Kramer). There are 23 languages in this family, and Schitsu’umshtsn is most similar to one that is spoken in Montana (Kramer). It’s a fairly guttural language, with glottal stops and many sounds made in the back of the mouth (Lewis and Clark Rediscovery). Several different sources commented on the way some Schitsu’umshtsn words are directly translated, like how “my wife” actually literally translates to “my medicine” (KXLY). I think this is interesting because it says a lot about the language, and about its speakers and how they perceive the world. In this class, we talked a lot about whether or not language shapes the way we see the world. Perhaps it does not, but the way we speak and the words we choose to use still matter, like the matter in Coeur d’Alene. Even though Lawrence Nicodemus is mostly responsible for the restoration of Schitsu’umshtsn, not all the credit can go to him. Many young people in the community have made a concentrated effort to revitalize the language as well. Most of the online resources and technology-based information on the Coeur d’Alene website were written and created by young people interested in preserving their culture. There are speech examples, songs like those listed above, cultural stories, and more in Schitsu’umshtsn. Without the care and passion of every person involved in protecting this language, it would not be on its way to flourishing once again. Though there is still much work to do in really bringing the language back so that all the members of the Coeur d’Alene community are fluent, every step towards that point is a vital one. While language restoration is important to the Coeur d’Alene tribe, there are other important defining features of the community. The environment particularly is one of the most defining features of the tribe. According to their website, the Coeur d’Alene Lake and the rivers surrounding it were always meant to be protected by the Coeur d’Alene people, but because of mining and dumping, the lake and its rivers are terribly polluted. In the early 2000s, the tribe won a Supreme Court case saying that the lake belongs to them, and they have the right to clean and restore it while no one else can pollute it. The Coeur d’Alene tribe has persevered through a long and oftentimes difficult history. It has faced discrimination, environmental impacts, land being stolen, and their language almost dying out. Nevertheless, they have maintained their position in Idaho, and not only fought for themselves and their own culture, but also for the land on which they live. Language endangerment is complex because, often, we as linguists or anthropologists go into other people’s communities and try to tell them what is best for them. However, the best thing we can ever do for these communities and peoples is listen to them, and respect the choices they wish to make for their own cultures and their own futures.