Kootenai Culture Committee updated by departments
By Adriana Fehrs
Elders of the Kootenai Culture Committee listen to presentations from CSKT Departments and programs. On the right, Councilman Terry Pitts listens in. (Adriana Fehrs photo)
ELMO — The Kootenai Culture Committee held their monthly Elder’s meeting on Wednesday April 9. An array of topics were covered at the meeting, but none held as much tension as when Chris Rieby, Onsite Liason for Namchak Retreat Ranch – a Buddhist teaching school outside of Hot Springs, met with the Elders to invite them out to the ranch.
Kevin Askan, CKST Preservation Department Contract Manager, and Ira Matt, CSKT Preservation Department Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, hold up a picture of one of the two logged scar trees found in the Alder Ditch area. Ira says, “Whoever logged this tree, marked it to be cut, but then removed the scar portion of the tree and left it on-site.” The scarred trees, used by tribal ancestors, are considered living artifacts, and are meant to stay on the landscape. (Adriana Fehrs photo)
CSKT Preservation Department spoke first at the meeting. Same as they had covered in the Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee Elder’s meeting, they discussed the issue of two cut down scar trees that had been found in the Alder Ditch area. Scarred trees, which are considered to be ‘living artifacts’, are trees that have had their bark peeled back and cambium layer extracted by tribal ancestors as a food source. Two had been found cut down; the scar portion was removed from the log and left on-site, and one other older scarred tree had also been cut down and left on-site. Francis Auld and the KCC dug up tapes from 1995, providing evidence of 15 plus scarred trees in the area. This spurred a survey; Preservation further investigated the area and documented 41 more scarred trees, with the potential for eight more than still need documentation. The Preservation Department is looking into the matter to see if the logging had been ‘action permitted’ or if it was an illegal action. They then sought advice from the Elders about what to do with the logged scar trees. There are several options for the department: they can either leave the trees, or erect the trees in front of the community hall in Elmo or in front of the Long House in St. Ignatius, or even place it in front of Tribal Forestry as an educational piece. Ira Matt says, CSKT Preservation Department Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, says, “We need to find a way to discourage this activity.” It had been brought to his attention from the previous week’s meeting that a $500 bond may not deter illegal logging of the scarred trees. “A large tree may get over $1,000 in lumber, so some may see that as a risk worth taking.” They are unaware of the source of the violation, but the Preservation Department and Tribal Forestry are currently working on an investigation.
Rebecca Ereaux, Lead Parent Educator, and Phylicia McDonald, Parent Educator, from CSKT Home Visiting Program talked about their Early Foundations Home Visiting Program. They informed the Elders on their preparation to start making home visits with expecting parents and parents with children under the age of three. (Adriana Fehrs photo)
Rebecca Ereaux, Lead Parent Educator, and Phylicia McDonald, Parent Educator, from CSKT Home Visiting Program talked about their Early Foundations Home Visiting Program. They informed the Elders on their preparation to start making home visits with expecting parents and parents with children under the age of three. Ereaux says, “We are here to help with language development and family bonding, as well as preparation for kindergarten.” They hope to begin their weekly home visits by the later part of April. Their monthly activities will begin April 24, where they will host the voluntary participants of the program for a book giveaway and ‘group connection’. They sought out the Elders for ideas on culturally centered activities they could do at their weekly and monthly meetings.
Sandra Boham, SKC Vice President, invited KCC Elders to a luncheon on SKC campus. SKC is making an effort to become more involved in the community, and are seeking elders to help name the newly constructed buildings on campus. (Adriana Fehrs photo)
Sandra Boham, SKC Vice President, and Niche’ Caye, SKC Nursing Department, invited the Elders to their ‘Buttercup Luncheon’ on April 28, which will be held at the SKC Camas Kitchen. Caye says, “A lot of people feel that we are not involved enough in the community, so we are hosting this luncheon as a way to reach out.” All Elders are invited to the event. SKC is also looking for volunteer Elders who can help them name their new buildings.
Chris Rieby, of the Niarada area, spoke with KCC Elders, inviting them out to the Namchak Retreat Ranch, a Buddhist teaching school, to have lunch and a tour of the 15,000-acre property. The Elders showed displease for the way Namchak had acquired the land, as well as some of their other business operation choices, and politely declined her invitation. (Adriana Fehrs photo)
The second-to-last presentation held a great amount of tension for the KCC Elders when Chris Rieby, Onsite Liason for Namchak, met with the Elders to invite them out for a tour and lunch date. Namchak, a Buddhist teaching school located outside of Hot Springs, owns 8,900 acres and leases from CSKT about 6,000 acres. Terry Pitts, tribal councilman, was the first to speak up after Rieby had made her announcement. He says “At the time when you purchased the land, [CSKT] had also shown interest in buying the land, but were lacking the funds at the time. It’s frustrating now, because you’ve restricted land access and put up cameras.” Rieby apologized profusely, saying “I hope Namchak can be used as an example of what not to do, for other business in the future.” She also stated that the cameras were strictly used as a means of monitoring the wildlife. They have plans of building on the property, similar in size to SKC, which will be able to accommodate up to 200 people. “We use the cameras to see where the animals moved through the property, so when we build, we can build in a way that will cause the least amount of disturbance to wildlife.” Namchak currently has plans of building a complex that will have housing for all 25 employees, six barns, a central building for teaching, and eleven cabins. Pitts voiced his concern on permits for nontribal individuals on the leased tribal land.
Dacia Whitworth, Youth Advocate, from CSKT Yarrow Program under CSKT Social Services spoke with the KCC Elders about their new program, and their upcoming community facilitation that will happen on April 22, which will address areas that are lacking in regards to youth and homelessness. (Adriana Fehrs photo)
The last to meet with KCC Elders was Dacia Whitworth, Youth Advocate, from CSKT Yarrow Program under CSKT Social Services. The program, which met with SPCC Elders the previous week, focuses on youth and homelessness on the Flathead Indian Reservation for children aging out of the foster care system. She informed the Elders, “We are trying to pull people on board to advise us on how to infuse culture into the program.” The program will have a meeting on April 22, where they will host a community facilitator talk about in what areas are lacking on the reservation.
For more information on the Kootenai Culture Committee Elder’s meeting, contact Patricia Hewankorn at (406) 849-5541.
They meet every second Wednesday of the month at the Elmo Community Center.