Hunting camp captures turns
clock back to traditional Salish ways
By B.L. Azure
It was all about teamwork at the hunting camp as this group of young
campers demonstrate when breaking camp. (B.L. Azure photo)
AGNES VANDERBURG CAMP — The fall is the
traditional hunting time in many tribal traditions. It was the time to
prepare in earnest for the upcoming winter months by hunting and
gathering foods to prepare for storage for its sustenance during the
harsh winters. In the Salish tribal traditions the men would do the
hunting and the women would prepare the game the men brought back to
the main camps.
The times have changed but the traditions remain
however they must be reinforced by practice and by teaching others how
it used to be. That is the mission of the 3rd annual Salish hunting
camp at the Agnes Vanderburg Camp. Reinstituting a traditional Salish
hunting camp was the idea of Salish elder Johnny Arlee who oversaw the
first two and was instrumental in the one this past weekend, said
Charlie Quequesah, leader of this year’s camp. He participated in last
year’s hunting camp as a guide and picked up the leadership role
because Arlee works out of state.
“We want to show the kids the hunting was done in
the old days,” Quequesah. “The way our people did this when preparing
for the winter. I was shown how to do this from tribal elders and my
dad (Alec Quequesah) and Johnny (Arlee). I also learned a lot from
Ron Medicine Crow puts the beaded necktie on Dr. Medicine Crow that the
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes presented to him for
participating in the hunting camp. (B.L. Azure photo)
And now Quequesah wants to pass what he and other
camp hunters know about hunting. The four-day hunting camp began
Thursday morning and ended Sunday afternoon. Fourteen youngsters - 13
males and one female - from age 13 to 18 participated in the hunting
“It seems that I have known how to do this all my
life but for a long time I didn’t realize how important it was that we
pass on this traditional knowledge about hunting to the younger kids,”
Quequesah said. “It is an important part of our culture so that we know
it will be here in the future. I feel good knowing that these young
people will carry it onto the future. It was given to me and now I have
to pass it on.”
He said the days at the hunting camp begin with a
morning wake up song. The boys and hunting guides then take a quick dip
in Valley Creek to clean up. Following a quick breakfast the males and
guides split up in teams then hit the trail in search of game. A
traditional blessing of thanks is performed for each animal felled in
the field. Once animal is field dressed it is taken back to the hunting
camp for the women to prepare.
Two-year-old Maxe Bell, daughter of Chaney Bell and Echo Brown, proves
that it's never too early to start learning the traditional life ways
of the Salish and Pend d'Oreille people. (B.L. Azure photo)
Each year the traditional hunting camp has a
special Indian elder guest who gives the keynote speech. This year, Dr.
Joe Medicine Crow from the Crow Nation was chosen. The 97-year-old
Medicine Crow is a World War II hero, Chief of the Crow Nation for
life, an educator, historian and writer. He is a member of the
Bozeman-based American Indian Institute’s Circle of Elders. The
Institute was the main financial sponsor of the camp.
Quequesah said he had heard Dr. Medicine Crow
speak before and was impressed by the man and his message.
Dr. Medicine Crow was the first member of the Crow
tribe to attend college and to attain a master’s degree. He received a
bachelor’s degree from Linfield College in 1938 and earned a masters
degree in anthropology from the University of Southern California in
1939. He has received four honorary doctorates including one from Rocky
Mountain College in 1999 and one from USC in 2003.
Dr. Joe Medicine Crow, Chief of the Crow Nation for life, touched yet
another generation with his humble ways and boundless wisdom at the
hunting camp. (B.L. Azure photo)
Dr. Medicine Crow served in the U.S. Army’s 103rd
Infantry Division during World War II in the European Theater. After
the war he returned to the Crow Indian Reservation and was appointed
the tribal historian and anthropologist.
The well-traveled and esteemed educator Dr.
Medicine Crow addressed the youngsters as well as adults with a message
about the importance of education for the individual and for society.
It uplifts both.
He said there was a time in Western Civilization
when there was no formalized education system. It wasn’t until the time
of Greek philosopher and educator Plato that the first institution of
higher learning in the Western world, the Academy of Athens, was
Dr. Medicine Crow exchanges handshakes and pleasantries with Mary
Alexander, one of the cooks at the hunting camp. (B.L. Azure photo)
“Long ago the people were living in darkness.
Twenty-five hundred years ago Plato said that the people could be
lifted from the darkness, led out of the world of ignorance to the
world of reality by education,” Medicine Crow said. “Plato established
the process of education to lead people to a better world. Plato’s way
is still here. The young people need to know the truth and goodness of
the world. Now part of the job of shining a light on the world for
these young people belongs to the tribal elders.”
They learned how to navigate the harsh world of
the dominant society in order to survive. Those hard lessons are a part
of the historical narrative of tribal people of America.
“There was a time when it was not easy being an
Indian. As many of you know Indian people were considered second-class
citizens in our own homelands,” Medicine Crow said. “There was abuse,
disease and firewater brought among us.”
“A long time ago the white man thought there would
come a time when the Indian would disappear, be no more,” he said,
adding that the iconic “End of the Trail” painting with the bowed head
of an Indian warrior on horseback captured that erroneous thought. “But
that Indian somehow lifted his head and turned around and followed the
good road, the education road. An Indian with a good education can do
well in the complicated world we live in. We live in two parallel
worlds: one Indian and one white. It behooves us to travel in both
worlds. We must take what’s good from the white-man’s world into ours
so we can drive the road to the future safely.”
Dr. Medicine Crow shows off his hunting camp T-shirt and beaded necktie
to young Indica. (B.L. Azure photo)
Medicine Crow said indigenous people of the world
are survivors because they are adaptors. “Some live in the frozen
north, some live in the hot and dry desert, some live in the jungles of
South America, some live along the coasts. We made our homes on the
plains of this country. We lived good, we established the plain’s
Indian cultures,” he said. “Where ever we lived we learned to live with
the land. As Chief Seattle said we don’t own the world, we belong to
it. We’ve lived through the stone age, the bronze age, the atomic age
and the space age. We are still here.”
Dr. Medicine Crow is the recipient of the U.S.
Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, a Bronze
Star from his military service and the French Legion d’honneur. He is a
founding member of the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth.
His step-grandfather, White Man Runs Him, was a scout for General
George Armstrong Custer and a living witness of the Battle of the
Little Big Horn.
Quequesah said he would like to have another
hunting camp in the spring.
Whirlwind and Susep stopped to wish Dr. Medicine Crow a good and safe
journey home. Ron Medicine Crow (left) drives his father to the many
events he is invited to, including the hunting camp. (B.L. Azure photo)
The camp hunting guides were Tom Quequesah, Tom
McClure, Travis Arlee, Willie Stevens and Frank Stanger.
The camp cooks were Dorthy Woodcock, Mary
Alexander and Maxine Michel.
The American Indian Institute funded 90 percent of
the camp, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council and
the Salish Kootenai Housing Authority funded the remainder.