(Editor’s Note: These excerpts are from the book Idaho Chronology, Nomenclature and Bibliography by John E. Rees, published in 1918. In the Nomenclature section, Rees offers his best information and beliefs regarding the origins, meanings and history behind Idaho place names and prominent figures. Born in 1868, Rees grew up in Lemhi County, taught literature and history in Salmon City for 15 years where he served as a prosecuting attorney the same year this book was published. He died in 1928 of heart failure.)
KALISPEL, Kootenai County. –This name as applied in the state is spelled “Calispel.” It is the Indian name for the Pend Oreilles, and in English means “Canoe” or “Boat People,” as they lived almost in boats, either on Pend Oreille Lake or along Clark’s fork. They belonged to the Salish family. There were two divisions of this tribe; those living on Pend Oreille Lake and Clark’s fork above the lake were called the Upper Pend Oreilles and in 1855 were placed on a reserve with their kinsmen, the Flatheads, in Montana, which later became the Jocko reservation, and those that inhabited the Clark’s fork below the lake called the Lower Pend Oreilles which, in 1872, were placed on the Colville reservation, Washington, along with their kinsmen, the Colvilles.
KAMIAH, Selway County. –This place was named for Kamiakan, chief of the Yakimas, who was the leader of the confederated tribes that participated in the Yakima Indian War of 1855-8. His father was a noted warrior of the Nez Perce tribe and his mother a princess of the Yakimas. He was born on the Clearwater about 1800 and was raised there until about ten years of age when his mother returned with him to her tribe. Kamiakan is a Shoshoni word meaning “Ka,” “not,” “mee-ah,” “to go” and “kam-man,” “want,” or in plain English, “He does not want to go.” It is said that he did not want to leave the Nez Perce tribe when a child.
KETCHUM, Blaine County. –This is the name of one of the mining districts of the Wood River region and was at first called “Leadville,” but in 1880 the name of the postoffice [sic] was changed by the department and was thus called for David Ketchum an early settler of this country.
KIMOOENIM. –This is the name Captains Lewis and Clark gave to the Snake River after its junction with the Clearwater, or that portion extending from Lewiston to the Columbia River. It is a Shoshoni word meaning “Kim,” “come,” “boo-ee,” “to see” and “nim,” “Indian,” or in English “Indians come to see.” Lewis and Clark state in their journal of September 10, 1805, that just after reaching the Snake River at the junction of the streams, “our arrival soon attracted the attention of the Indians, who flocked in all directions to see us.” This was the incident which game the stream this name and was applied on September 13, 1805.
KITUNAHAN. –A linguistic family of perhaps 1500 Indians that occupied southeastern British Columbia, northern Idaho and Northwestern Montana. The name was given to designate those Indians living between the forks of the Columbia River and there were two divisions of them; the Upper Kutenais of British Columbia and those of the United States called the Lower Kutenais.
KOOSKOOSKE, Clearwater County. –This name was given this stream on September 14, 1805, by Captain Clark, who stated that that was the name given it by the Nez Perces. “Koos-koos” means “water” and “ki-ki,” “white” and when applied to water means “clear.” The word should be “koos-koos-ki-ki” meaning in English “Clearwater.”
KULLEYSPELL HOUSE, Bonner County. –This was the first establishment erected in the Columbia River Basin and was built by David Thompson for the Northwest Fur Company in the fall of 1809 on Pend Oreille Lake where Hope, Idaho, now stands. It was called Kulleyspell for the Pend Oreille Indians, that being their own name for themselves, and which is not called Kalispel. This house was a simple log building which was soon after abandoned and has been totally destroyed by forest fires. Some evidences of old rock chimneys remain.
KUTENAI, Boundary County. –This tribe was a Lower Kutenais or Cootenais of the Kitunahan family, and claimed all Idaho that drained into the Kootenai River, consisting of the larger part of Boundary County. Kutenai is their own name for themselves and means “Water People,” as they lived, virtually, in the water. The Canadian French called the Kootenai River, by reason of its resemblance, the “Flatbow” and these Indians were, at times, called the “Flatbows.” In 1855 they entered into a treaty with the government by which the tribe accepted the Flathead Reservation, Montana, as their reserve. No extinguishment of their territorial rights was ever made, the United States simply taking possession of their country, but in 1872 their claims were given up by the scattered remnants who were placed on the Colville Reservation, Washington.
LANDER’S CUTOFF. –This was a shorter route from South Pass to Snake River than the Oregon Trail. It was located in 1854 by Gen. F. W. Lander while making a reconnaissance survey for the Northern Pacific Railroad and became the main thorofare [sic] for immigrants going to the Montana mines from and after 1864. It left South Pass by going directly westward, crossing the headwaters of Little and Big Sandy rivers and thence to Green River, crossing it near the mouth of the east fork, thence across the Salt River Range thru Thompson’s Pass on to Salt River, entering Idaho near the Oneida Salt works, thence to John Gray’s Lake and to Blackfoot River, following down the headwaters of this stream for a distance, thence across to Lincoln or Fort Hall Creek and down that to its junction with the Blackfoot River where this stream was crossed and from thence to the Salt Lake-Helena stage road coming into it northeast of the town of Blackfoot.
LAPWAI, Nez Perce County. –This is a Nez Perce Indian name meaning “the place of the butterflies” and was so called on account of the vast number of butterflies that gathered about the mill and pond which was built by the Rev. Henry H. Spalding when he established his mission there in 1836.
LATAH, Benewah County. –This is a Nez Perce Indian name given to a place near Desmet where, in olden times, they found some kind of stone out of which they made pestles with which to pound and smash roots. These they called “Tah-ol,” and at this same place were large pine trees called “La-kah.” By eliminating the last syllable in each work is made “La-tah,” meaning “pine and pestle place.”
LAWYER’S CANYON, Nez Perce County. –This beautiful canyon was named for Chief Lawyer of the Nez Perces, who was born about 1800 and reared in its vicinity. He was the son of Chief Twisted-hair, the friend of Lewis and Clark. He journeyed with Reverend Parker from Green River to Clearwater. Having traveled considerable he possessed some education and knowledge and was considered the best posted Indian in the entire Northwest and it was by reason of his shrewdness and diplomacy that the white people gave him his name of “Lawyer.” He was always friendly to the whites and is responsible, more than any one, for the defeat of the great confederacy of western tribes formed by Kamiakan at the Grande Ronde Council, Oregon, in 1854, and it was his firm stand with the whites that prevented the larger part of his tribe, or Treaty Indians, from joining Chief Joseph in the war of 1877. (Native name: Hallalhotsoot; born 1797, died 1876, buried in First Indian Presbyterian Church in Kamiah.)
LEESBURG, Lemhi County. -This was a placer gold mining camp discovered by a party of prospectors led by Frank B. Sharkey of Elk Creek, Montana, in July, 1866, on a small stream called Napais Creek. The stampede into the country was made, mostly, by soldiers from the Civil War and a rivalry arose among them as to the naming of the town, which was settled by having a Leesburg and a Grantsville, named respectively for Generals Lee and Grant. The streets of the town were continuous and before long Grantsville lots its identity and the place became known as Leesburg, which at one time had a population of 7,000 people and was at first supplied from Fort Benton, Montana, and later from Corrine, Utah. The camp is practically abandoned at present.
(Cover photo: First Indian Presbyterian Church in Kamiah, Idaho; built in 1871 on land owned by Chief Lawyer; added to National Register of Historic Places in 1976.)