The name Kelmendi was first recorded in an Ottoman tax register, in 1497, as Klemente and as Nahiye Klementa (Kelmendi district). The Turkish traveler Evlia Celebi (1611-1685), who traveled through northern Albania in 1662, mentions the Klemente or Kelmend tribe as a religionless tribe on several occasions.

This name is also mentioned by church reports, written on old maps, various writings (by Italians, Austro-Hungarians, Germans, etc.) from that year until today, but Western Europe became more familiar with it in the century the 17th.

Among all the tribes of Northern Albania, the Kelmendas were probably the best known in the outside world. The truth is that the Albanian mountains of the north, to the west of Peja, in the 17th century were usually called the "mountains of Kelmendi". The Austro-Hungarian consul in Shkodra, Fridrih Lipi, Riter von Lindburg (1834-1888), in 1878, described them as the strongest of all the Catholic tribes in the mountains of Shkodra. And Edith Durham mentions them as some of the most intelligent and noble Highlanders.

According to legends, the tribe of Kelmendi was known in the Highlands for heroism. Description of the Kelmendi highlands from the perspective of foreigners:

"They also have expensive horses, clothes and garments of great value, silver cups and bowls, and a great number of small and large animals, they go about armed with swords, shields, spears and a great number of slings ( slingshot). which they do skillfully. They seldom use the arquebus or the old rifle, though all who have these weapons as part of their complete outfit also carry high quality gunpowder. Among the Highlanders there are not more than 100 Highlanders armed with arquebuses. These men are cunning brave and ready for battle and are able to line up for battle so quickly that all who see them are amazed. You can see them in armed platoons 

in skirmishes and matches attacking, retreating and clearing the way and saving themselves. In this way, they show that they are very well trained and that they know their profession. Their experienced soldiers prefer company, especially during vacations. A large number of them prefer to walk barefoot, so when they walk along the paths, they rocks u resemble mountain goats" - E.F. Knight 1880, pp. 123-4.

The different colored clothes of the women of Kelmendi stood out from the others and therefore became the subject of rumors. Karl Gottlieb von Vindisch left this writing for them in 1725-93:

"The costumes of the women of this people are extremely interesting. Neither the peacock nor the rainbow can have more exciting colors than the dress of these women."

In his impressions from the trip through Kelmend in 1905 after a long journey in the valley of Cem, Baron Nopsca wrote these impressions:

"I was very impressed by an episode that happened to me in the valley of Cemi, near the coast of Tamara, in the region of Kelmendi, I asked for a glass of water as a traveler in a house, but instead of water, the master of the house, who I didn't know him at all, he gave me a bowl of buttermilk, which I drank with great pleasure. As soon as I drank the buttermilk, the brother of the owner of the house also unknown to me. .came to him. Since it was evening and he was tired from the long journey, he asked to drink some buttermilk. But he found only an empty container. When the master of the house told him who had drunk the buttermilk, the latter was not worried at all as I expected, but rather happy and glad that I had come home before him, so his family wasn't ashamed for not having with what to quench the thirst of the guest had the brother of the master come earlier".

This tribe initially included the Bajraks of Nikci, Vukli and Selci and later also that of Boga, as the latter who lived south of them sought the protection of the Kelmendas and gradually joined this tribe.

In Vermosh, the following families come from the tribe of Kelmendi:

Bujaj, Bujanaj, Cali, Hysaj, Lelçaj, Lekutanaj, Lumaj, Marcaj, Miraj, Mitaj, Mërnaqaj, Naçaj, Peraj, Plumaj, Preljocaj, Racaj, Selmanaj, Shqutaj, Tinaj, Vukaj, Vulatilaj and Vushaj.

In Selce: Bikaj, Bujaj, Lekutanaj, Mernacaj, Miraj, Plumaj, Rugova, Tinaj, Vukaj, Vushaj.

In Tamar: Bujaj, Bunjaj, Cekaj, Lelcaj, Mërnaçaja, Rukaj and Vukaj.

In Vukël: Aliaj, Dacaj, Drejaj, Gjelaj, Gjikolli, Kajabegolli, Martini, Mirukaj, Nicaj, Nilaj, Pepushaj, Vucaj, Vucinaj and Vukli.

In Nikç: Aliaj, Gildedaj, Hasaj, Hutaj, Kapaj, Nikac, Nikçi, Preklezaj, Preldakaj, Rukaj, Smajlaj and Ujkaj.


Rudina Selami