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Milltown Dam to traditional games

Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee hear updates

By Alyssa Nenemay

Arleen Adams, certified Traditional Native Games instructor, demonstrates a traditional game she crafted. Adams invited the elders to the “Traditional Native Games Conference” that will be held on the Flathead Reservation in June. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo) Arleen Adams, certified Traditional Native Games instructor, demonstrates a traditional game she crafted. Adams invited the elders to the “Traditional Native Games Conference” that will be held on the Flathead Reservation in June. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo)

ST. IGNATIUS — The Salish and Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee (SPCC) March meeting was full of information. The elders received updates on Milltown State Park, met new neighbors, and received the gift of a familiar game. The apple pie was as hot as the conversation, with attendees who included Chuck Tellier, Pat Pierre, Eneas Vanderburg, Louie Adams, Felicite McDonald, and Steven Small Salmon.

Milltown State Park
Milltown State Park is in its third and final phase of construction, making headway towards its anticipated 2014 opening. Located just outside of Missoula, the 540-acre park will offer the public access to hiking, biking, fishing, and floating opportunities as well as wildlife viewing.

The park is the result of a 1981 Missoula county health investigation that found arsenic in Milltown’s drinking water. The arsenic was traced to Milltown Dam, which harbored 300,000 tons of heavy metal waste washed down from Butte’s copper mines. In 1983, the site was added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List for cleanup.

22 strenuous years of investigation and planning resulted in an agreement of four federal and state agencies, including the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe, to remove the dam and the most contaminated sediments piled behind it. North Western Energy and a 1999 settlement recovery from the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) funded the $13.9 million restoration plan.

The dam was officially removed in 2009 and an extensive cleanup process followed suit. During the dam’s removal, three cultural sites were identified and precautions were taken to avoid disturbance. In 2010, the river was restored to its “new original” channel and Northwest Energy’s Milltown property was transferred to the state. The Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers flowed freely for the first time since the dam’s construction in 1908.

When the dam was removed, Milltown State Park was ready for development. Although planning dates back to 2003, actual construction of the park began in 2010 with restoration.

A key component of the park’s restoration effort involves one of three cultural sites discovered during the dam’s removal; the site lies within park boundaries. A buffer zone was established as a protective measure and upon SPCC direction tribal members will exclusively accommodate the area’s restoration needs.

The tribal Forestry Department, which has a 100 percent tribal employment rate, has been contracted to restore the cultural site’s vegetation. Jean Matt, head of the tribal Forestry Department, said they are planning to remove the area’s non indigenous plants including knapweed, after which roughly 100 indigenous species grown in the tribe’s nursery will be added.

Mary Price, a scientist and member of the tribes’ legal department, joined Matt in the park’s update. “Once restored, the area will be open for public use. We want to be open, honest, and clear about that. The park will get a lot of use because of its access to the Blackfoot River. Although the area will be preserved, it will be accessible by the public,” she said.

Price said that although the area will be accessible, discretion would be maintained, as the area’s significance will not be marked. Although the site will not be marked, the park features signs explaining the area’s tribal significance and history.

Under the management of Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, Milltown State Park is currently under-going improvements to meet state requirements such as the installment of public restrooms, paths, and waterway access.

For more information on Milltwon State Park visit: www.milltownstatepark.org or www.stateparks.mt.gov/milltown.

Geoff Badenoch and Brandon Sheehan of the recently purchased Namchak Retreat Ranch in Hot Springs introduced themselves to the elders and offered canned fruits and vegetables made of local produce. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo) Geoff Badenoch and Brandon Sheehan of the recently purchased Namchak Retreat Ranch in Hot Springs introduced themselves to the elders and offered canned fruits and vegetables made of local produce. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo)

Namchak Retreat Ranch
Representatives of the recently purchased Namchak Retreat Ranch in Hot Springs took an opportunity to introduce themselves to both culture committees on the Flathead Reservation. The group offered the elders canned fruits and vegetables made of local produce.

“We want to become neighbors in this community in a way that most non-Native neighbors don’t do. We recognize that we are on your land and we want to be respectful of that. We came to ask the elders how we could be good neighbors,” said Brandon Sheehan.

Held in trust by the Montana based Lewis Linn, LLC., the Namchak Retreat Ranch is the result of a 9,600 acre purchase of the historic Merritt Ranch in Hot Springs. Aside from the land purchased, the base also includes two tribal leases. Sheehan said the ranch would be used as a quiet space for studies in Buddhist prayer, technique, and ceremony.

“We hold the ownership on paper but we recognize the land’s cultural significance and the fact that it is tribal land,” said Sheehan. “The land is special and it’s a huge responsibility as a neighbor to respect it. To heal and restore it.”

Since its purchase in 2009, the ranch has been in a process of restoration and rehabilitation. Its previous owner housed roughly 400 cattle on the property. Sheehan said the goal is to return the landscape to its natural and functional state. “Our goal is that this land looks and operates along with the perspective of the tribe,” said Sheehan.

“Namchak” was a name given to the ranch by Gochen Tulku San-ngag Rinpoche, the “founder and spiritual director of the Ewan International Centers around the world.” Rinpoche is of the Namchak or “sky iron” lineage, which is one of the oldest families in Tibet.

According to www.ewam.org, Rinpoche had a vision of a peace garden in a mountainous valley as a child, and this would eventually lead him to the “Garden of One Thousand Buddhas” in the Jocko Valley. Rinpoche is a master instructor for the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, which is a non-profit organization with locations throughout the world.

The Namchak Retreat Ranch is still in its planning phase and while no structures have been recently added to property, some may be built in the future to accommodate its anticipated uses. The ranch currently houses 50-80 cattle for grazing/restoration purposes but Sheehan said the group is open to the tribes’ suggestion for other grazing animals.

(L-R) Patrick Pierre and Steven Small Salmon have child-like smiles as they play with a traditional game gifted by Arleen Adams. “Stick in the ring” is indigenous to the Salish tribe. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo) (L-R) Patrick Pierre and Steven Small Salmon have child-like smiles as they play with a traditional game gifted by Arleen Adams. “Stick in the ring” is indigenous to the Salish tribe. (Alyssa Nenemay Photo)

The group asked for input, and elder Pat Pierre took an opportunity to offer his advice: “The land you’re talking about, under your ownership, is lost to the tribes. We’re in the process of buying back our reservation piece-by-piece. The land you’re sitting on now, I’m looking at the situation to be a loss. That land is no longer land our tribe can claim or walk on. If you want my input, I say ?don’t develop on the land, don’t deface it. As a tribe, we work hard to preserve this reservation. We’re always fighting for survival. With that being said, anytime you need guidance, we’re here.”

Sheehan said the land would be open to the public for enjoyment. In the near future, the elders will be taking a field trip to see the restoration work being done.

Kerr Place-Names DVD
The tribal Natural Resources Department (NRD) has been working on an interactive DVD mapping the tribes’ Kerr wildlife habitat mitigation. Ten years in the making, the map features audio of the area’s Salish place names, historical accounts of the parcels, and biographies of the wildlife that frequent the area. The map documents land scattered across the reservation.

NRD education and information director Germaine White unveiled an unfinished version of the DVD to the SPCC. Several members of the committee contributed cultural information for the project. “It’s a small project but we hope it will help give information on the parcels of land coming into the tribal land base. It’s really a tool to help people learn,” she said.

The Kerr Wildlife Habitat Mitigation is made up of 11,000 acres of land managed by NRD’s Wildlife Management program as a protected environment for indigenous animal and plant life. The habitats are made up of reservation land parcels purchased by the tribal Lands Department between 1999 and 2007 and are open for public enjoyment; non-tribal members are required to have a recreation permit.

“The lands were purchased to replace fish and wildlife habitat lost because of the operation of Kerr Dam and other development impacts.??They were purchased to replace Tribal resources and we wanted to get away from referring to them by the previous owner of the land,” said Wildlife Mitigation Biologist Janene Lichtenberg.

The Kerr Place-Names DVD project is still under construction. Upon completion, it will be available for the public as a learning tool. NRD plans to continue to gather cultural, scientific, and historical information on future reservation lands reacquired by the tribes.

“Our goal is to educate people on the significance of these lands to the Tribes and to increase the value by pointing out their special cultural and natural resource values,” said Lichtenberg.

The Namchak Retreat Ranch is made up of 9,600 acres in Hot Springs. The ranch was purchased in 2009 and has been in a process of restoration. The Ranch will be used as a space for studies in Buddhist prayer and ceremony. (Courtesy Photo) The Namchak Retreat Ranch is made up of 9,600 acres in Hot Springs. The ranch was purchased in 2009 and has been in a process of restoration. The Ranch will be used as a space for studies in Buddhist prayer and ceremony. (Courtesy Photo)

Traditional Native Games Conference
The annual “Traditional Native Games” conference will be held on the Flathead Reservation in June and CS&KT member Arleen Adams gave the elders a sneak peek into the activities that will be featured. “Sports have always been an important part of tribal culture. Of course, we all know that Native people invented the first forms of basketball, baseball, hockey, and lacrosse,” she said.

Adams is a Native American Studies graduate of the University of Montana and has committed over 20 years to studying Native Games. Working with the Office of Public Instruction, Adam’s goal is to implement her research into curriculum for public schools.

“I’m so thankful OPI allowed me to make curriculum for traditional games. Over the years, I’ve learned to use my Suyapi (non-Indian) education in a good way to restore the identity of our people. The schools have a hard time employing tribal teachers and this will bring some exposure to who we are,” she said.

The “Traditional Native Games” conference is the result of a joint collaboration between the Salish Kootenai College and the Traditional Native Games Society. The three-day event will feature 300 certified Traditional Games instructors. Keynote speaker will be “Spirit of the Games” author Dr. Gregory Cajete from the University of Mexico.

The Traditional Native Games Society is an organization that was formed in 1999 by cultural directors, tribal college presidents, and spiritual leaders. The group’s goal is to research and share traditional games to promote health, culture, and wellness.

Adams is a certified teacher under the Traditional Native Games Society and crafted “stick in the ring” games for each of the elders. The game consists of a stick with a string of sinew tied to its end like a fishing pole. Attached to the sinew is a ring made of another stick wrapped in sinew. The aim of the game is to toss the ring through the pole.

The game is indigenous to the Salish people and the elders gave Adams the Salish translation for the game. Some even recalled playing it as a child. “This stick is history, math and science,” said Adams. “A lot of suyapis still look at this and call it arts and crafts. We really want to change that perception.”

For more information on the International Traditional Native Games conference visit: www.traditionalnativegames.org.

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