|February 13, 2014
SPCC EC takes exception to a letter-to-editor published in a Sanders County newspaper
By B.L. Azure
Polson District Tribal Council Representative Vernon Finley shares his views on the nefarious anti-Indian or anti-CSKT sentiment that bleeds from the pens of a cadre of area letters-to-the-editor writers related to the CSKT’s federal reserved water rights compact. (B.L. Azure photo)
ST. IGNATIUS — The second Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee Elders Committee of 2014 got a tad emotional when discussion turned to a letter-to-the-editor rant against the CSKT’s federal reserved water rights effort that recently appeared in a Sanders County newspaper. See accompanying Jim Greaves letter to the editor on page 7.
Anti-CSKT letters related to the water rights imbroglio have become a common fixture on the pages of area newspapers on and off the Flathead Indian Reservation. Many don’t focus on the issue and tend to quickly delve into the whole arena of anti-Indian sentiment that had its genesis when Christopher Columbus dropped anchor in the Bahamas archipelago 522 years ago. They essentially pooh, pooh history — to put it mildly — of Indian people as well as the American Indian/CSKT right to exist as a sovereign self-governing body politic as recognized by acts in the U.S. Constitution and affirmed in numerous U.S. Supreme Court decisions throughout the years.
The spark that lit the discussion was when longtime Linderman Elementary School second grade teacher Darcy Laud introduced herself to the Elders Committee members as well as the general public at the monthly meeting. Laud came to the SPCC EC meeting seeking direction and assistance in bringing Indian Education For All into her classroom and into LInderman by connection.
“My dream is strengthen the [tribal] cultural component at our school,” Laud said, who has been teaching for 23 years. “We need it at our school.”
Laud said she wants the tribal cultural component to be an accurate representation of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai peoples’ ways and is seeking guidance from the Elders Committee to ensure that the information she gets is accurate.
SPCC Elders Committee member Pat Pierre said the idea is a good one because when it comes to American Indian people, there is a lot of inaccurate information floating around. Some of it deliberately inaccurate, to paraphrase: The Indians are going to take all of our stuff. I thought we took all their stuff. If we get rid of all their stuff then we can get rid of them. Regardless of accuracy or inaccuracy of the paraphrase it is gospel to the choir.
Pierre read into the record a letter to the editor written to and published in a Sanders County newspaper by Jim Greaves of Thompson Falls. The letter submission was discussed by the elders and others at the meeting. It lit a fuse.
“Our history is not taught in public schools so the general public doesn’t understand our rights,” Pierre said. “We need more of this, our history, our culture to get taught in public schools.”
Jim Greaves letter to editor:
Anew metaphor: No representation without tax
First, I have to agree with the reasoning and sentiment of the writer of the attached letter from the Daily Inter Lake regarding the absence of the need for the CSKT Water Compact.
Furthermore, I notice that there is no mention in its title of the rest of us. It’s all about the CSKT, that group of displaced persons who fancy themselves as ‘sovereign.’
Second, I wonder when our nation returned to slavery, with master and subservient, which is all the BIA and tribal leaders have made of the ‘rest’ of the so-called ‘Indians.’
Lastly, I understand the concept of ‘no taxation without representation.’
But, why not, then expand it to ‘no representation without taxation.’
My spouse and I have a tiny corner of the county that pumps nearly $12,000 per year into Sanders County. Where is the comparable input from any so-called ‘native’ or ‘tribal’ person into Sanders or any other county?
Time for the so-called ‘natives’ to either join us, or seek seats in the UN General Assembly, and let their seats in the Montana Legislature expire, because I am sick, fed up with, and tired of ‘divide and conquer’ politics that their enablers in Congress and elsewhere continue to promote. I hope the rest of you feel as well.
The Greaves letter expresses his view that there is a perceived lack of mention of the general public in the title of the proposed CSKT federal reserved water rights compact language.
“It’s all about the CSKT, that group of displaced persons who fancy themselves ‘sovereign,’” he squibs.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, as well as most if not all Indian tribes, were indeed displaced by the federal government via the highest laws of the land: treaties, or by treaty violations by federal authorities/military that in part was urged by non-Indians that wanted the resource rich lands.
The Bitterroot Salish were forcibly removed under arms of the military after non-Indians invaded the Bitterroot Salish homeland reservation then sought the federal governments help in removing Chief Charlo and the remaining Bitterroot Salish and opening it for non-Indian settlement. They were removed in 1871 to the present Flathead Indian Reservation.
“My spouse and I have a tiny corner of the county that pumps nearly $12,000 per year into Sanders County. Where is the comparable input from any so-called ‘native’ or ‘tribal’ person into Sanders or any other county?” Greaves ponders in his letter.
The input was paid up front and continues to be paid. The CSKT gave up claims to more than 20 million acres of western Montana in exchange for the reserved present 1.2 million acre Flathead Indian Reservation. However, the reservation was opened for allotment under the Dawes Act. Once individual parcels of land was allotted to individual CSKT members the reservation was eventually opened for homesteading by non-Indians. The CSKT presently own approximately 65 percent of the reservation.
Linderman Elementary School second grade teacher Darcy Laud and Peoples Center manager Marie Torosian discuss ways to bring accurate Indian Education For All into area classrooms. (B.L. Azure photo)
SPCC EC member and Pablo District Tribal Council Representative Lloyd Irvine said the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes annual economic input to the local and regional economy tops $300,000,000 annually. The funds come from federal and state programs as well as the CSKT’s various economic producing entities and resource sales. Most of the funds quickly passes into non-Indian owned businesses that the CSKT or its members and employees deals with, be they vehicle purchases, building contracts, building materials, grocery items and fuel, among other things.
All Indians pay federal income taxes, gasoline taxes, alcohol taxes and numerous other state and federal taxes. Indians residing and working on their own reservation are not obligated to pay state income taxes, state/county fees on vehicle licenses and the state tax on tobacco — that’s it. Indians are required by law to pay all applicable taxes.
Salish Kootenai College Vice-President of Academic Affairs Sandra Boham said that strengthening the tribal cultural component at SKC is one way to get the accurate information out to people. Boham who previously worked in the Great Falls public school system said the Great Falls school district took the Indian Education For All book by the horns by training more than 75 of its teachers then incorporating IEFA in its classrooms.
“This needs to happen here,” Boham said. “Schools have to be responsive to Indian Education For All but they can’t teach what they don’t know.”
The federal, state, county and federally recognized tribes relationship is one fraught with ignorance or misinformation.
“People don’t understand the Indian treaties,” said EC member Hank Baylor. “Our treaty rights are not known or understood by the general public. Many of those don’t want to understand.”
“It’s a mindset that is hard to change,” said EC member Mike Durglo, Sr., who also works at the Preservation Office.
SPCC Elders Committee member and Nkw
usm Salish Language Institute Salish language teacher Pat Pierre comments on the recent hiring of new Nkwusm principal, April Charlo. (B.L. Azure photo)
Tim Ryan, of EthnoTech, LLC, said he has been working with the Missoula school system to promote Indian Education For All for the last four years. “I have a fair amount of input in the Missoula schools,” said Ryan, who teaches the traditional lifestyle ways of Salish and Pend d’Oreille Indians. “But overall we need more tribal members teaching in public school classrooms.”
Polson District Tribal Council Representative Vernon Finley, who has in the near past served on the Polson School District Board. He said there are numerous pots of funding available to public schools that have Indian students attending them.
“When I was on the board this was a tough sell. I wondered how come there was no funds for this,” Finley said, adding that there are several Indian-student earmarked funding sources the district receives. “Indian students are counted many times but there is not accountability when it comes to how to spend funds made available by Indians attending school in the district.”
Much of the funding is quickly rolled over into other line item accounts and away from Indian Education For All. Finley said the misinformation out in the public reflects a general attitude of many non-Indians as well as some Indians.
“This is all related,” Finley said about the need for better education about the American Indians’ place in the History of America. A history beyond Thanksgiving, Pocahontas, Sacajawea, Custer and Hollywood. “There are many minds made up and won’t change no matter what we say but there are some people that will change their misconceptions with accurate information.”
That is a light at the end of a tunnel and Finley urged folks to not despair.
“This is like a Coyote story. We are being taught something. There is hope,” Finley said. “There are great teachers out there who embrace and understand the need to teach. Darcy is one of them, she is good but there are also teachers in classrooms with anti-tribal views. There is hope. Maybe our grandchildren will benefit by what we’re doing today.”
It’s been a long journey and a long journey remains.