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Elder’s Appreciation Luncheon a time for stories of the past

By Alyssa Nenemay

Stanley Small Salmon Healy sings “Happy Birthday” to a smiley Clara Bourdon. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo) Stanley Small Salmon Healy sings “Happy Birthday” to a smiley Clara Bourdon. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo)

PABLO — Soup, fry-bread, fruit, and roses complimented the memories shared at the People’s Center’s annual: Elders Appreciation Luncheon. “We want to show the elders appreciation for their support and being the keepers of our cultural knowledge,” said Marie Torosian, the center’s Education Director/Museum Exhibit Coordinator.

The luncheon featured an assortment of food, most of which was provided by The People’s Center’s weekly beading class students. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo) The luncheon featured an assortment of food, most of which was provided by The People’s Center’s weekly beading class students. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo)

The center’s weekly beading class students provided a significant portion of the event’s food. Excelling beading student Jay Doyle, CS&KT member and Lake County sheriff, gave a rose to each of the elders.

The luncheon wasn’t packed to capacity as it has been in previous years and Kootenai elder Margaret Elliott had an idea as to why. “There was a death in Canada that a lot of the Kootenais traveled for this week,” she said. Being the only Kootenai elder to attend the meal, Elliott was named princess of the luncheon.

Salish-Pend d’Oreille elder Francis “Plasi” Stanger (left) brought the stories to the luncheon and Lake County sheriff Jay Doyle brought the roses. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo) Salish-Pend d’Oreille elder Francis “Plasi” Stanger (left) brought the stories to the luncheon and Lake County sheriff Jay Doyle brought the roses. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo)

The always-entertaining Francis Stanger shared many stories during the luncheon. He recalled a time when it was illegal for the Native people of the reservation to own guns. “The government took the Indians’ shells and rifles away and a lot of them starved. They couldn’t hunt anymore without their guns. There were some Suyapis in the area that offered support by sharing their food,” he said.

Stanger went on to recall a time when the Flathead reservation boundaries extended beyond Kalispell. “Kalispell was named after the Kalispel Indians, you see? When they shrunk the reservation boundaries to what it is today, there were still some Indians who lived in Kalispell on their allotments but they weren’t allowed to hunt off the reservation. They would have to travel all the way to the new reservation boundaries to hunt. My grandpa got caught hunting off the reservation but he got let go,” he said.

Salish elder Louis and members of tribal council were among the guests to attend the luncheon. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo) Salish elder Louis and members of tribal council were among the guests to attend the luncheon. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo)

Another tidbit of history Stanger shared was where the Jocko Valley got its name. “There was a French fur trader who lived in that area named Jaco Finlay. My great grandmother Louise Finley traveled with Chief Charlo’s band from the Bitterroot and she married Jaco’s son Baptiste. His son was a full-blood French but he married into the tribe,” he said.

Kootenai elder Margaret Elliott was named the princess of the luncheon. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo) Kootenai elder Margaret Elliott was named the princess of the luncheon. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo)

In closing, Stanger shared the seven directions of Native prayer. “The white owl to the north is the snow, our purity, our soul, our cleansing. The eagle to the east is the sunrise, the new life: a new day. The coyote to the south is our humor, the healing. The bear to the west is our last hibernation. The sunset: death. To sky is our creator of all things. Beneath us is our food and medicine our mother, the earth. The seventh direction is yourself.”

With guests who included master basket weaver Eva Boyd, Salish elder Louis Adams, and Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee department head Tony Incashola, The People’s Center’s Elders Appreciation Luncheon was a success.

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