|January 16, 2014
SPCC Elders Committee gets an earful of what’s been happening
By B.L. Azure
Anita Matt of the CSKT Lands Department passes out information about the Jocko Catholic Cemetery at the January SPCC Elders Committee meeting. Seated from left are Elders Committee members Felicite McDonald, Janey Wabaunsee and Hank Baylor. (B.L. Azure photo)
ST. IGNATIUS — The Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee Elders Committee held its first meeting of 2014 last week with a full slate of presentations on the agenda. The Elders Committee had somewhat of a break during the holidays and didn’t meet in December, consequently the full slate.
Cultural Preservation Office field operatives Ira Matt and Buzz Fyant updated the Elders Committee on the proposed AT&T cell tower on the Flathead Reservation. The negotiations are ongoing but Matt told the Elders that the Preservation Office would stand behind whatever decision the culture committees come to.
Among other things, AT&T has offered to include $25,000 for each of the culture committees — SPCC and the Kootenai Culture Committee — as part of a negotiated agreement. Matt said the culture committees could do whatever they wanted with the funds, i.e. make local decisions on how the funds could be spent towards the promotion and salvation of the culture, history and traditions of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people.
The Elders Committee took the issue under advisement and will inform the Preservation Office on its input at the February EC meeting.
Crystal and John Bunce explain the prototype Salish speaking bear they’ve crafted. They plan to continue to refine the model that can be used as a tool for young children to learn some of the rudimentary phrases of Salish. (B.L. Azure photo)
Northwest Energy’s main feeder power line through the reservation and the CSKT South Fork Jocko River Tribal Primitive Area right-of-way lease is presently being negotiated.
“Northwest Energy and the (CSKT) attorneys are working this out,” Matt said, adding that the lease renewal will present the opportunity to do a cultural-resource assessment in the area, something that has never been done before.
The power line was put in years ago when the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people had little — if any — say in the social, political and economic decisions that the federal government made in their behalf. Now they do and they outcome of the lease negotiations should have some caveats like the cultural resource assessment. The power line will remain though.
Matt said the Preservation Office is sailing smoothly with two co-directors. Mike Durglo, Sr. focuses on the Salish and Pend d’Oreille cultural issues and Francis Auld focuses on the Kootenai cultural issues.
“It is working well in the office,” Matt said. “It allows Buzz and I more time to do the field work. It is a better and more effective program with two directors.”
Jocko Valley resident Yvonne Grenier comments on the draft proposed policies and procedures in consideration for the Jocko Valley Catholic Church Cemetery. Jim Durglo, CSKT Forestry Department director listens in. (B.L Azure photo)
The issue of private burials on property within the Flathead Indian Reservation as well as repatriation of Indian remains found off the reservation in Montana was also discussed.
Matt said some agencies and entities that have remains and funerary in collections have been working with the CSKT and other tribes on what to do with such discoveries and collections.
State law and federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act guide the issue. “We make sure people follow federal and state laws,” Mike Durglo, Sr. said.
Matt said the issue can get somewhat dicey when it comes to figuring out the remains’ tribal affiliation and how to determine what tribe has the oversight of the remains and funerary. Usually funerary objects offer solid clues on which tribe a buried body may be from but not always.
“If remains are found that are Salish, Pend d’Oreille or Kootenai we will take care of the remains at our own expense,” Matt said.
As far as the repatriation of tribal funerary objects and other tribal cultural treasures in state collections including those in its colleges is also a concern and a problem.
Matt said some of the institutions work well with the CSKT while others don’t.
“The University of Montana has been hard to work with,” Matt said. “They like to put tribes in competition for remains found outside of their (aboriginal) territories.”
Durglo, Sr. said the issue of burials on private property on the Flathead Indian Reservation is concern that the Preservation Office is trying to get a handle on.
Preservation Office co-director and Elder Committee member Mike Durglo, Sr. discusses the Northwest Energy power line that goes through the South Fork Jocko Tribal Primitive Area while Noel Pichette (left) takes it all in. (B.L. Azure photo)
“We are concerned about what happens to the graves on private property when the family of those buried sell their land and moves away,” Durglo, Sr. said. In particular if the CSKT buys the property encumbrances become a concern. “On private property the state is involved.”
Elders Committee member Hank Baylor said Montana state laws that guide the issue of private cemeteries on private land. However, the equation changes a bit when the private land is inside an Indian reservation.
The issue of spreading ashes on the reservation is also a concern of the Preservation Office, Durglo, Sr. said. “When people spread (a deceased person’s) ashes the place becomes a sacred site,” he said and that creates a problem for land managers.
According to SPCC Director Tony Incashola, the SPCC EC was recently approached by some women who want to spread peoples’ ashes in the Mission Mountains and on U.S. Forest Service lands in the Bitterroot.
“The Elders do not want this to happen on the reservation and in the Bitterroot (aboriginal homelands),” Incashola said.
“I have a real problem with people and groups that move onto the reservation and try to impose their beliefs on us and our land,” said Dixon Tribal Council Representative Terry Pitts. “We need to get the message to people and the groups that we don’t want them to do their religious ceremonies on our land.”
Baylor said a lot of people consider tribal land public federal land but it’s not.
“Tribal land is private land,” Baylor said wondering how private land owners would feel about someone coming onto their land and conduct religious ceremonies.
Elders Committee member Stephen Small Salmon comments on the repatriation of Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribal remains found off the Flathead Reservation in the traditional homelands. Buzz Fyant and Ira Matt of the Preservation Office put forth the issue at the January SPCC EC meeting. (B.L. Azure photo)
Incashola said that when large groups like the Amish and Buddhists move onto the reservation the Tribal Council should reach out to them and have discussions with them about tribal rules, regulations and laws that exist on the reservation.
A concern was raised that it isn’t the just the large groups that move onto the reservation that need to be informed about the tribal rules, regulation and laws. Private individuals that move onto the reservation also need to know about them. It is individuals that form groups once they are on the reservation to oppose tribal initiatives as demonstrated by folks who oppose the federal water rights compact for the Flathead Reservation.
“Maybe it’s time for the Tribes to have a ‘Welcome to the Reservation” orientation,” Incashola said.
“We need to spell out how this is an Indian reservation that they are on and how it differs from where they came from,” Pitts said.
“We should do away with the permits or limit them to certain areas,” said SPCC EC member and Pablo District Tribal Council Representative Lloyd Irvine. “The state and feds have designated places for recreation. Why can’t we do that? We have to protect what little we have left. With designated areas management would be better.”
To be continued in the next issue of the Char-Koosta.