Selis Qlispe Culture Committee

The Selis Qlispe Culture Committee (originally called the Flathead Culture Committee/Salish-Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee) seeks to preserve, protect, and perpetuate the living culture and traditional ways of life of our people.

The Selis Qlispe Culture Committee was first created in 1974-75 in response to the urgent concern of many traditional elders that we needed to take strong action to ensure that our culture would be carried on by the younger generations, and by the generations yet to come. Since that time, we have worked hard in many areas to ensure that both our language and way of life will always survive and flourish.

The elders are now constituted as the Selis Qlispe Culture Committee Elders Cultural Advisory Council, a group of culturally knowledgeable elders whose wise oversight and direction shapes both the long-term goals and daily work of the Culture Committee staff.

Selis Qlispe Culture Committee Elders Cultural Advisory Council:

Hank Baylor
Clara Bourdon
Sophie Haynes
Dolly Linsebigler
Shirley Trahan

Felicite “Jim” Sapiye McDonald
Noel Pichette
Pat Pierre
Stephen Smallsalmon
Eneas Vanderburg
Janie Wabaunsee

The Committee’s work covers many areas, including:

  • Traditional tribal cultural events and activities
  • Selis Qlispe Culture Committee Elders Cultural Advisory Council
  • Salish language
  • History & Culture Archives, Photographic Archives, and Historical Collections Management
  • Tribal History and Ethnogeography Projects
  • Cultural orientation for Tribal and non-Tribal departments and programs.
  • Public educational outreach and presentations.

The Salish Longhouse – is an important center of tribal cultural life. Use of this building is strictly reserved for traditional activities and tribal use. Following is a prioritized list of allowed uses of this space:

  • Wakes and funerals.
  • Memorial feasts.
  • Traditional cultural activities (e.g., Jump Dances and Bitterroot Feast) and
  • SPCC events.
  • SPCC elders meetings.
  • Tribal meetings and use by other tribal departments.

Please contact the Culture Committee to inquire further about use of the facility at 406-745-4572

The Séliš-Ql̓ispé Culture Committee: What’s in a Name?

In the mid-1970s, the Tribal Council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes established two Culture Committees: the Flathead Culture Committee, based in St. Ignatius, and the Kootenai Culture Committee, based in Elmo.

Guided by Elders Advisory Councils, the Committees serve as direct cultural advisors to the Chairperson and the Tribal Council. In this way, the CSKT has restored to modern tribal governance the traditional role of elders as advisors to the chiefs. For more than four decades, the Tribal Council has supported the Committees out of an understanding of the importance of cultural continuance to the well-being and sovereignty of the tribes. As a result, the wisdom and cultural values of the elders have helped guide the development of CSKT policies and programs during this important period of tribal history, as we have rebuilt our governing capacity.

The Flathead Culture Committee is now called the Séliš-Ql̓ispé Culture Committee. (See for proper pronunciation of Séliš and Ql̓ispé.) This brief paper explains why the Committee has adopted this new name. The story reflects our community’s growing consciousness and the strengthening of our efforts to revitalize our culture and language.

The Flathead Culture Committee’s original name was in part an accommodation of the English name by which the tribe (along with the reservation itself and many place-names) had been known since the early 1800s. There are numerous explanations for the origin of the term “Flathead.” But our elders have long taught us that our own name for our people is Séliš, pronounced SEH-leesh. Séliš is usually rendered in English as “Salish,” or sometimes “Selish.” We have also been called the Bitterroot Salish, because the Bitterroot Valley has always been a cherished part of our homeland, which reaches from the Bitterroot Mountains in the west to the Yellowstone and upper Missouri drainages east of the Continental Divide.

The Committee came to realize that the name “Flathead” conflicted with our core mission of teaching young people knowledge of our true culture, language, and history. In the mid-1990s, the Committee therefore changed its name to the Salish Culture Committee.

But the new name did not address another problem: the continuing omission of one of the two tribes that our Committee represents, the Ql̓ispé. Ql̓ispe (roughly pronounced KAH-lee-speh) has been Anglicized (rendered in English) as Kalispel. Tribal territories extend from the uppermost reaches of the Flathead drainage system, through Flathead Lake, all the way downstream to the Pend Oreille River in what is now eastern Washington. Some of our bands were based in more upstream areas, including the area of what is now the Flathead Reservation. Other bands were located in more downstream areas, around the lower Clark Fork, Lake Pend Oreille, and the Pend Oreille River. Non-Indians therefore often referred to us by the terms “Upper Kalispel” and “Lower Kalispel.” In the early 1800s, French-speaking fur trappers and traders began calling the Kalispel the “Pend d’Oreille,” meaning Earring or Hanging from the Ear, referring to the round shell earrings worn by Ql̓ispé men and women. They also sometimes called the upstream people the “Upper Pend d’Oreille,” and the downstream people the “Lower Pend d’Oreille.” Over time, it became common for English speakers to call the upstream people Pend d’Oreille, and the downstream people Kalispel. This was reflected in the naming of the Kalispel Reservation when President Wilson established it by executive order in 1914. But the “Pend d’Oreille” and “Kalispel” are really all members of a single indigenous nation, the Ql̓ispe.

In order to acknowledge both of the tribes represented by the Committee, in the early 2000s we adopted the name Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee.

But in 2016, we confronted the problem that was also perpetuated in this name. Salish-Pend d’Oreille are the terms that English speakers use for us. As part of our efforts to foster pride in who we really are, and to bring the Salish language into our daily lives whenever and wherever we can, we have decided to embrace our own names. The elders therefore approved the official adoption of the name Séliš-Ql̓ispé Culture Committee.

People who are unfamiliar with the Salish language can say Salish-Kalispel Culture Committee, but we encourage people to learn our true names. Go to this site to learn the correct pronunciation of Séliš-Ql̓ispé Culture Committee (or download and play the two audio files below):

Lemlmtš pes yaʔ — thank you everyone!