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Tribal Health is a fixture at the annual River Honoring

By B.L. Azure

Tick Talk. Students at the River Honoring learned about various tick species and how to identify them and how to remove them from the body. (B.L. Azure photo) Tick Talk. Students at the River Honoring learned about various tick species and how to identify them and how to remove them from the body. (B.L. Azure photo)

LOWER FLATHEAD RIVER — The near turquois colored Lower Flathead River was flowing high and mighty last week at the site of the annual River Honoring, the premier environmental education effort in Montana and the Northwest.

The event put on by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes showcases the environmental management effort of the CSKT on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The message is the importance of good environmental stewardship so those yet to come can enjoy the natural beauty that is important to physical, spiritual and emotional sustenance.

Germaine White, Education and Information specialist for the CSKT Natural Resources Department, said the rugged Montana wintery spring was a concern going into the River Honoring week. However, the snow melted in time to reveal the green vegetation that flanked the burbling Flathead River. With singing birds providing the soundtrack to lessons given to chattering kids, the banks of the Flathead River was the perfect stage for learning.

“The weather is always a surprise factor in this. It can be good or it can be not so good,” White said. “This year the good weather showed up just in time and is showing off with these warm sunny days.”

About 1,000 elementary school students from throughout the Flathead Indian Reservation participated in the two-day environmental education program.

“The turnout was assume,” said Margene Asay, THHS Health Education specialist. Tribal Health had three stations at the River Honoring. The Tobacco Prevention Program, the Fitness Center Program and the Health Education Program were on hand to talk about the dangers of tobacco, the benefits of an active lifestyle and how to identify and deal with ticks.

Young students at the annual River Honoring got to kick out the jams at the THHS running course that included some zigging and zagging, hops and jumps, and dashing. (B.L. Azure photo) Young students at the annual River Honoring got to kick out the jams at the THHS running course that included some zigging and zagging, hops and jumps, and dashing. (B.L. Azure photo)

“The guys (fitness centers staffers) collected ticks from different areas on the reservation,” Asay said. “We have some from Valley Creek, the Jocko, from up north, from all over the place. We want the students to be able to recognize wood ticks and how to remove them if they are bitten by one.”

Asay said she has a dream job because of being able to interact with young children. “I really love what I am doing,” she said. “I enjoy getting down and silly with the kids. It’s a joyful way to educate them and I always learn a thing or two from them or about them. Pinch me, I might be dreaming.”

The THHS Fitness Center staff erected an obstacle-racing course where the students got to blow off a little steam racing through the course.

Arles Hendrickson, St. Ignatius Fitness Center, said the obstacle course race is a good way for the children to work out while having fun too boot.

Children today are less active than those two, three and four generations ago. Consequently, the continued hammering in the importance of physical activity at every opportunity is important. The message will bear fruit — healthy fruit — among many of the participants and that is what is important, Hendrickson said.

Although the dangers of tobacco are well-known and well publicized, people still chose to smoke or chew. The Tobacco Prevention Program is constantly getting the anti-smoking message out at any venue, especially those where children are present, so they can help them understand the pitfalls of tobacco use.

I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming because regardless of the weather the River Honoring is a dream come true.

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