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Villages on the Rivers


In common with the Nimi'ipuu, the Schitsu' Umsh had rich resources provided by the rivers and the surrounding forest.

The resources were so plentiful that the population density was five humans per each 100 square miles, with local populations of the Schitsu' Umsh increasing to 100-200 people, many more humans than could live on the deserts of the Snake River Plain.

 

The reources were so plentiful that Coeur d' Alene families lived a settled life in villages, rather than having to pursue a nomadic lifestyle as did the Bannock and Shoshoni People.

Subsistence for the Schitsu' Umsh was attained through hunting and gathering activities of the men and women.

With bows made of syringa and bowstrings made from t'insh (sinew), the men hunted deer, elk and bear. Trips would also be made into Montana to hunt bison, although the Schitsu' Umsh did not keep large herds of horses for doing long distance traveling. The Schitsu' Umsh used horse hair from the mane and tail for cordage to make rope and bridal reins.

Hunting techniques included using fire to encircle animals and then killing them. A similar strategy involved driving the animals into lakes and then killing them from canoes. Many of the hunts were community activities rather than single hunters, which would ensure that everyone in the village would have food. Small animals such as beaver, marmot, squirrel, badger and rabbit were also hunted.

The fish available in the streams were the trout, squawfish, white fish and some shell fish. Amazingly, fish were rare even though the Schitsu' Umsh lived in an area with many streams. To solve this problem the Schitsu' Umsh would travel, sometimes great distances, to fish for more than their streams provided. Bands would travel south in the Spring to the North Fork of the Clearwater River and west to Kettle and Spokane Falls where they could fish the early salmon and visit with their neighbors the Nimapu and other tribes.

Tools for fishing were complex and made under the supervision of a "boss" who regulated the construction. Naturally hooks and line would be used, but they also used spears, weirs, traps, harpoons and dip nets which were made from cordage, bone, stone, wood, antler and sinew. Also used for twining cordage were kinnikinnick and cedar roots.

While the men fished, hunted and made tools, the women followed their own calendar of activities to provide food. June signaled the beginning of the root harvest. Small groups of women would move from one area to the next to gather ripening roots using a syringa digging stick.

In July, large groups would come together to harvest camas near DeSmet, Clarkia, and Moscow, Idaho. Because of the large, temporary populations at these three areas, activities other than food gathering developed. Ceremonies, such as marriages, trading between tribes and organization of late-summer bison hunts would take place.

As summer faded into fall, the women were busy gathering bitteroot, wild onion, berries, nuts and wild rhubarb (which was a delicacy). Foods were processed by the women using mortars and pestles made from river cobbles.