|January 23, 2014
SPCC Elders Committee members talk teddy bears and burials
By B.L. Azure
Stephen Small Salmon checks out the Salish language speaking bear the Bunce family is working on. Perhaps he’s thinking of a talking fish — salmon? — that were a rage awhile back. (B.L. Azure photo)
ST. IGNATIUS — The Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee Elders Committee started the New Year off with a busy meeting. The meeting, among other things, featured a talking teddy bear, a high school student’s trip to the other side of Mother Earth, and who should lie in repose under Mother Earth in Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes cemeteries.
Arlee High School senior Louis Bunce gave a presentation about his trip this past summer to Cambodia, a country with a rich and colorful history that includes a recent sordid past. From 1975-1979 the communist Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, killed an estimated 2 million Cambodians and members of various ethnic groups in Cambodia.
The 17-year-old Bunce was among 20 Montana high school students tabbed to participate in the 2013 American Youth Leadership Program Cambodia educational sojourn. They learned about Cambodia and its environmental issues through workshops, lectures and field trips.
The 27-day program included 21 days in Cambodia as well as pre- and post-trip seminars to prepare them for the trip and to gauge their thoughts afterwards.
Bunce and his fellow Montana entourage spent eight days in the Cambodia capitol city of Phnom Penh, touring the city and area as well as meeting the local people. Then they toured the beaches, mountains, rivers, villages and temples. While away from Phnom Penh the group stayed with hosts in their homes.
Louis Bunce’s parents, John and Crystal, who happen to be very proud of their son, also gave a presentation about a project they are working on: it’s not Elvis’s teddy bear, it’s a Salish speaking teddy bear.
“We would like to see the Salish language in every home,” John said. That is the main reason the couple created the Salish speaking teddy bear. John did the electronic voice portion of the teddy bear and Crystal created the body of the teddy bear. “This could be used as a teaching aid for young children to learn Salish.”
Elders Committee member and Nkwusm Salish Language Immersion School teacher Pat Pierre encouraged the young couple to pursue their idea and to never be ashamed of speaking Salish.
Another Elders Committee member and Nkwusm Salish Language Immersion School teacher Stephen Small Salmon suggested that the teddy bear could also be programed to sing Indian songs.
“This is our prototype,” Crystal said. “We can put any words or phrases we want to on the voice recorder inside the bear.”
SPOCC Elders Committee member Lloyd Irvine comments on the issue of private cemeteries on the Flathead Indian Reservation. (B.L. Azure photo)
A squeeze of the paw sets off the voice mechanism. Maybe there is enough room for an Elvis version singing “Teddy Bear.”
Acting director of the CSKT Lands Department, Teresa Wall-McDonald discussed issues related to the Jocko Valley Catholic Cemetery.
“We would like a resolution of who can be buried there,” she said, adding that there could be a fee schedule for non-CSKT members buried there. Those kinds of decisions could be made by a cemetery board with established policies and procedures if one is formed. “Do you want a cemetery board?”
There has been concern expressed by some in the tribal community about non-CSKT members being buried there. Some maintain that the Jocko Valley Catholic Cemetery was meant to be exclusively for tribal members. There presently is no charge for burial in the cemetery and/or policies and procedures to guide the issue.
“Prior to returning that area to the Tribes, there was an understanding that only tribal members could be buried there,” said Elders Committee member Hank Baylor. “It is a Catholic cemetery for Indians. The reason people are buried there is because it is free. People come from Missoula to be buried there because it is free. Charging for burials will stop the big influx of (non-CSKT) people being buried there.”
It was generally accepted that tribal members, their non-CSKT member spouses and children, including first-generation descendants as well as those with close ties to the Indian community could be buried there without charge. A fee scale could be adopted for non-CSKT, etc., who want to be buried there.
“High fees would discourage (non-CSKT, etc.) people from using the cemetery,” Wall-McDonald said.
Elders Committee member Shirley Trahan said that there are policies and procedures for the CSKT cemetery located adjacent to the St. Ignatius Mission Catholic Cemetery. They are helpful in the management of the cemetery, she said, and those kinds of policies and procedures could be used for the Jocko Catholic Cemetery.
It was suggested that a fee schedule set somewhere between what is generally charged in Missoula cemeteries and on-Flathead Reservation cemeteries could be put in place.
“There have been people buried there without permission (from the Tribes),” said SPCC Director Tony Incashola. “We need boards to oversee these types of issues whether it is a reservation-wide board or a board for each individual cemetery.”
Wall-McDonald said a reservation-wide board would be a good idea and a way to establish a set of policies and procedures applicable to all the CSKT cemeteries.
The Elders Committee will review a draft of issues related to the CSKT cemeteries and discuss this issue at the next Elders Committee meeting.
“We have gotten and idea of what you want here,” Wall-McDonald said. “We will try to have a new version to discuss next month.”