Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

May 6, 2010

CSKT veterans’ memorial taking shape

By B.L. Azure

The plastic wrapping on a granite panel of the CSKT veterans' memorial has ripped a bit to reveal an eagle eye. The memorial located in the main parking lot at the tribal complex will be dedicated Wednesday, July 14. (B.L. Azure photo)
The plastic wrapping on a granite panel of the CSKT veterans' memorial has ripped a bit to reveal an eagle eye. The memorial located in the main parking lot at the tribal complex will be dedicated Wednesday, July 14. (B.L. Azure photo)

PABLO — For months folks wondered what the circular cement foundation in the middle of the parking lot at the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes headquarters complex was. It was for the tribal veterans memorial they were told. The next question was when would it be built. Sometime in the future was the vague answer. Well the future is here and now. Last week memorial construction crews from Cold Springs Granite Company in Minnesota began erection of the granite panels on the circular foundation.

The CSKT’s new headquarters complex was designed with an area reserved between the new and old headquarters buildings for a tribal veterans memorial.

The circular foundation will be topped with granite panels that form the head, body and outstretched wings of an eagle. Large tipi poles will be erected over the entire memorial and left bare.

An eagle body and head makes up the center panel. On each side of the center panel are two panels that each have the image of a horse mounted tribal warrior, one female and one male. On each side of those are buffalos carved in relief with heads facing the eagle.

The rest of the panels will contain the names of members of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes who served in the various branches of the United States military including the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Merchant Marines.

Contract workers from Minnesota prepare a panel to be erected on the CSKT veterans' memorial. (B.L. Azure photo)
Contract workers from Minnesota prepare a panel to be erected on the CSKT veterans' memorial. (B.L. Azure photo)

The names of the veterans - men and women - are etched randomly on the granite without acknowledgement of the branch of service or time when served. The memorial will contain approximately 1,400 names and there is room for expansion for up to 1,200 more names so that those veterans whose names may have been left off and veterans yet to serve can be added.

One of the panels next to the mounted tribal warriors represents the Salish and Pend d’Oreille warriors by paying homage to Louis Charlo and the other panel next to the other mounted tribal warrior represents the Kootenai warriors. Under each of those is an acknowledgement to “Unknown Warriors.”

“That is for our ancestors whose names do not appear on the memorial but who honorably defended our families and homeland against our enemies,” said Corwin “Corky” Clairmont, who along with architect Paul Bishop designed the memorial.

Louis Charlo, great grandson of Salish Chief Charlo and son of Mary and Antoine Charlo is acknowledged on one panel. The World War II Marine Corps radioman was killed by a Japanese sniper on Iwo Jima on March 2, 1945. Charlo was among a small squad of Marines that had just a few days before raised the first flag on Mount Suribachi, the highest point on Iwo Jima.

Francois Mayuk Caye represents Kootenai warriors and he served in the U.S. Army in World War I. Caye grew up in the Elmo and Hot Springs areas and enlisted in the military at the age of 17. After his discharge from the Army Caye got married and raised a family. He died in 1938 at Fort Harrison Veterans Hospital.

The outside of the panels feature etched depictions of a Salish and Kootenai encampment on each side of the eagle.

The Salish camp will feature McDonald Peak, the Dancing Boy, the Mission Mountains Garden Wall and Grey Wolf Peak in the background.

The Kootenai camp will feature Chief Cliff, Wild Horse Island and Flathead Lake.

In the middle panel on the outside will be an etched image of a coyote with pups that symbolizes the beginning and future of the tribal communities of the Flathead Nation.

“The backside shows what we are defending,” Clairmont said. “It is our families and our homeland. They are the reasons we go to war. It also says, ‘Welcome home.’”

Alec Quequesah, Roger Shourds and Corky Clairmont bless the site of the CSKT veterans' memorial located in the main parking lot of the CSKT headquarters complex in Pablo. (B.L. Azure photo)
Alec Quequesah, Roger Shourds and Corky Clairmont bless the site of the CSKT veterans' memorial located in the main parking lot of the CSKT headquarters complex in Pablo. (B.L. Azure photo

Clairmont said he spent time visiting elders, veterans and the culture committees to get their thoughts and suggestions on the design and what it should contain. Once an initial design was done Clairmont once again took it to the various groups to see if the design was acceptable to them and to make any design changes if needed.

Once the general design was acceptable to all, Clairmont then opened his artistic side up to envision the final depictions on the memorial.

“A lot of the imagery came to me through visions of what should be there based on the input we got,” Clairmont said. “I felt that the Creator and those we are honoring got to me somehow and influenced the concept I came up with. In reality my inspiration came from many forces. I just put what I see together. Even though this memorial is specific to our tribal veterans I can’t help but believe that it honors all Indian veterans.”

The CSKT veterans’ memorial is slated to be dedicated on Wednesday, July 14.

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