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SPCC Elders Committee get special visit from preschoolers

By B.L. Azure

The Early Childhood Services young ones count in Salish at the SPCC Elders Committee meeting. (B.L. Azure photo) The Early Childhood Services young ones count in Salish at the SPCC Elders Committee meeting. (B.L. Azure photo)

ST. IGNATIUS — The April Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee Elders Committee meeting had some special guests that included Early Childhood Services staff and students. They brought bounty for the palate as well as for the spirit. Both were tasteful and filling.

According to Jeannie Christopher, director of Early Childhood Services, the program was implementing its service day that included the staff preparation of the noontime meal and a performance by ECS students. The young preschoolers from the Ronan and St. Ignatius ECS centers sang songs and counted in Salish during the morning break.

“We’re doing a lot more of this type of education in Early Childhood Services. This is an important thing for us. We know what they are doing at Nkwusm and we are very envious of them,” Christopher told the Elders Committee of the Salish language teaching/learning effort. Jenny Fauler and Aspen Smith are teaching the young students Salish at the two centers. “We know this important to you, it’s important to us too.”

Jason Smith, Democrat candidate for the HD 15 seat on the Montana Legislature, who introduced himself to the SPCC Elders Committee last week talks with Clara Bourdon, Sophie Haynes and Dolly Linsebigler during a break (from right). (B.L. Azure photo) Jason Smith, Democrat candidate for the HD 15 seat on the Montana Legislature, who introduced himself to the SPCC Elders Committee last week talks with Clara Bourdon, Sophie Haynes and Dolly Linsebigler during a break (from right). (B.L. Azure photo)

“This is very uplifting to me,” said EC member Louie Adams. “It makes me feel good that people are hanging on to what we have.”

“This is important for us to see but not only for us but for the people on these walls, ” said Tony Incashola, SPCC director while pointing to the photos and paintings on the Longhouse walls of the many revered tribal people that have walked on but whose cultural spirit lingers. “You are on the right road. You have something to be proud of.”

Nkwusm Salish Language Institute language teacher and EC member Pat Pierre echoed Adams and Incashola.

“I have been thinking about this for a lot of years now,” Pierre said about the preschoolers being taught the Salish language. “This is a real big step to have all these young people here speaking Salish. They are the future, indeed the salvation of our Tribes one day. They will be ready for that future; all it takes is the desire to learn. Thank you. This adds fuel to our fire.”

SPCC Elders Committee member Stephen Small Salmon informs Preservation Office members Robert “Buz” Fyant and Ira Matt about sweat lodges in the Perma pictograph area. (B.L. Azure photo) SPCC Elders Committee member Stephen Small Salmon informs Preservation Office members Robert “Buz” Fyant and Ira Matt about sweat lodges in the Perma pictograph area. (B.L. Azure photo)

Ira Matt and Robert “Buz” Fyant of the Tribal Preservation Office updated the Elders Committee on the ongoing efforts to preserve cultural sensitive places within the CSKT aboriginal territory that includes approximately 20 million square miles in what is now western Montana Matt said the Preservation Office is working with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks identifying tribal cultural sensitive areas near the former Milltown Dam site. The dam has been demolished and the area is being returned to its natural state that will include a public park.

“We want a plan that will build the park away from these sensitive areas,” Matt said. “We think we will have an agreement within an month with Fish, Wildlife and Parks that will ensure they will build away from those areas.”

“They are using a lot of the Tribes’ resources for the reclamation effort,” Incashola said. The SPCC has been working on interpretive signage in the proposed park that will highlight the history of the CSKT in that area of western Montana. The CSKT Forestry Department greenhouse will provide natural plants, trees and shrubs for the reclaimed area.

Matt said FWP seems to understand the depth of the Tribes concern about the need to protect and preserve the culturally sensitive areas and are working to that end.

On the issue of the gravesite on the Ted Schall property in the Jocko Valley, Matt said Preservation has made a site visit and inventoried the area. They have also informed him about the federal and state laws in effect that protect burial sites.

Nkwusm Salish Language Institute students take notes at the SPCC Elders Committee meeting last week. (B.L. Azure photo) Nkwusm Salish Language Institute students take notes at the SPCC Elders Committee meeting last week. (B.L. Azure photo)

“We put Ted in contact with the State Burial Board where he can present his case for relocation of the graves,” Matt said. “The family members of those buried them to remain there. They don’t want them moved. At this point in time he won’t remove them without legal approval. There is a lot of emotion with this but things appear to be working out.”

Matt said he is learning a lot about the effort to protect the Perma pictographs. Preservation has made several field trips to the area to survey it as well as take various tribal department people there for site visits.

“We need to find ways to relocate campers,” Incashola said. He recently visited the site with the Preservation Office. “Development should be closer to the Perma Bridge.”

Adams and Stephen Small Salmon said there are also sweat lodge sites in the area near the Flathead River that should be protected.

The Preservation Office wants to rehabilitate the area that is popular with recreational folks who camp, fish and boat there. They want to build contained campsites away from the sensitive sites as well as vehicle barriers near the pictographs and roads that route people away from them. They also want to remediate the knapweed there and replant natural vegetation. Several CSKT programs have signed on to assist in the project.

Rob McDonald, CSKT Communication director, sought the SPCC Elders Committee’s direction on a request from a major film studio’s request to film at either Mission or McDonald reservoirs. (B.L. Azure photo) Rob McDonald, CSKT Communication director, sought the SPCC Elders Committee’s direction on a request from a major film studio’s request to film at either Mission or McDonald reservoirs. (B.L. Azure photo)

Matt said they are very concerned and cautious about the potential use of herbicides. “We want to study the impacts,” he said. “We won’t mass spray if the decision is made to use herbicides, we will be very site specific in the use of them.”

“Herbicides and pesticides are not good for the wildlife,” said EC member Hank Baylor. “They are not a one-time thing, you have to come back and reapply for a quite a few years. Natural efforts talk longer.”

“We are exploring our options. We won’t spray from helicopters or near the water,” Matt said. “We may use aggressive hand picking of knapweed near river or spring water.”

Thompson Smith, SPCC historian, informed Matt on the use of insects that David Rockwell used on his property on the Dixon Bench to eradicate knapweed. He said they seemed to be successful but cautioned that some insects used for knapweed may also eat native plants.

Matt said the major gray area shadowing the effort is the lack of recreation regulations specific to the area along the north bank of the Flathead River across from Perma.

Baylor said there should be a staff person there to monitor and regulate the recreation to ensure they stay at designated campsites and on the main roads.

“Feel free to let us know what you feel about this at any time,” Matt said.

Jeanne Christopher, Early Childhood Services director, informed the Elders Committee on the effort to teach rudimentary Salish in the ECS centers. (B.L. Azure photo) Jeanne Christopher, Early Childhood Services director, informed the Elders Committee on the effort to teach rudimentary Salish in the ECS centers. (B.L. Azure photo)

Rob McDonald, CSKT Communications director, sought the Elders Committee’s thoughts on a request from a major Hollywood movie studio to film a portion of a movie at either Mission or McDonald reservoirs. The science fiction movie featuring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman needs a lake with a mountain backdrop for a critical scene. Universal Pictures site scouts have visited those areas and they fit the bill for the movie.

The Elders Committee said they couldn’t back the project. McDonald said he expected that and now will visit with the Kootenai Culture Committee.

Jason Smith, a member of the Kootenai Tribe whose father is a member of the Assiniboine Tribe of Fort Peck, introduced himself to the Elders Committee. Smith is running as a Democrat for the House District 15 seat on the Montana Legislature. The district includes portions of the Flathead and Blackfeet reservations. He is facing Frosty Calf Boss Ribs in the Democratic primary election, which is on June 5. If he wins he will face incumbent Republican Joe Read of the Ronan area in November.

“I really want to fight for our people in this area,” Smith said. His mother is Monica Caye and father is Leonard Smith. “If I win the primary I feel it could be a real ugly race in the general election process. This is a very important race and I need your support.”

Many in the audience promised to support him.

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