Coeur D’Alene 1

The script for the play is derived from Schitsu'umsh legend
Production Date: 
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Major themes covered:  Schitsu'umsh legend about the coming of "the Black Robe," the role of the Medicine Man, the Feast of the Assumption

Named locations: "The Place Where the Lake Flows Out" (the tributaries of Lake Coeur D'Alene); Cataldo Mission, Idaho

Native activities shown:  A passion play blended with Schitsu'umsh legend

Named Individuals: Chief Circling Raven, Chief Twisted Earth, Spotted Badger (Medicine Man), Dancing Sunlight (the chief's sick daughter) -- These are all historical/legendary figures. There is no known record of the names of modern people  who played these parts.
Native language spoken: Schitsu'umshtsn is sung throughout the film

Noteworthy elements: 
This film begins with a shot of a group of Catholic priests and nuns waiting for the play to begin. Male members of the tribe play the parts of legendary tribal leaders and they enter from the hills above Cataldo Mission. The play provides a fictional account of the relationships between Chief Circling Raven, Spotted Badger (a legendary medicine man), and the Chief's daughter, "Dancing Sunlight"; the Chief's wife also plays a small role. This story provides the backdrop for the coming of the "black robes." This film shows only the portion of the play that treats Schitsu'umsh legends, songs, and dances.

Other notes:

Chief Circling Raven of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe had a vision in the 1700s of men in black robes who would come to the tribe. Chief Shining Shirt of the Pend Oreille Tribe in Montana had a somewhat similar vision. Neither man lived to see that day but later generations were visited by the “Black Robes,” Jesuit priests of the Catholic Church.

Father Pierre Jean De Smet arrived in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana in 1841 and a year later traveled westward to meet with the Coeur d’Alenes. Others came soon after and a small mission was built in 1843 along the St. Joe River. It proved undesirable due to springtime flooding and a new mission was begun in 1848. This mission was built by members of the tribe under the guidance of missionaries and was completed in 1853. They had limited tools and no nails, yet that mission—the Sacred Heart Mission—still stands today, Idaho’s oldest standing building. The church and the tribe have had a close relationship ever since that first meeting.

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--Emily Thomas, 2013