About us

Kalispel Indians on the Pend Oreille River (photo by Frank Palmer)

In the summer of 1809, David Thompson, a fur trader for the North West Company of Canada, became the first white man to visit north Idaho. Sixty miles south of today’s Canada-US border he encountered a tribe of Indians living on the shores of an enormous lake and admired the body ornaments they wore. The French speakers in the company called the Indians “Pend d’Oreille,” for their ear ornaments. Thompson sometimes called them that—”Ear Bob” to him—but more often called them the name they used for themselves, “Kullyspel” to his hearing. He used that name to describe the Indians, the lake, and his trading post on the shores of the lake.

Those names live on today, but with different spellings. The Indians call themselves the Kalispel Tribe and we call the lake and the river that drains it “Pend Oreille.” Today we live on the shores of that lake and admire its changing moods from day to day and season to season, but we prefer David Thompson’s spelling, betraying his Welsh accent. We chose “Kullyspel” for our name.