Char-Koosta News

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Mother Nature clears the clouds just in time for the River Honoring

By B.L. Azure

American Indian sports like double ball have become another healthy staple of the River Honoring. (B.L. Azure photo) American Indian sports like double ball have become another healthy staple of the River Honoring. (B.L. Azure photo)

ON THE BANKS OF THE FLATEAD RIVER — The River Honoring is a jewel along the banks of the Lower Flathead River that shines brightly once a year, and each year it gains a little more luster. However, cloudy, chilly and moist weather so far this year threatened to mask some of the sheen of the event.

This year, like last year, Mother Nature has been slow to give Old Man Winter the boot. And that caused a bit of concern among the staff of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Natural Resources Department on whether or not the show would go on. There has been just one cancelation due to the weather in the 13 years of the River Honoring.

Tribal Fish and Game Chief Pablo “Dib” Espinoza passes on some of his many years of experience in wildlife management, including a lesson or two about bears that are now making their way to the valley bottoms in search of food. (B.L. Azure photo) Tribal Fish and Game Chief Pablo “Dib” Espinoza passes on some of his many years of experience in wildlife management, including a lesson or two about bears that are now making their way to the valley bottoms in search of food. (B.L. Azure photo)

However this year, like last year, Mother Nature managed to put the run on the crotchety old and cold fella just in time and peeled back the snow- and rain-filled clouds to ensure that the 12th annual environmental experiential learning extravaganza would go on as planned.

The sun lit up the blue skies that were dotted with an occasional billowing cloud or two floating aimlessly across the Big Sky. It shined down brightly on the green terra firma, the blue-green Flathead River, the mighty Ponderosa pines and the more than a 1,000 students, teachers, presenters and logistics personnel who ventured to the River Honoring.

The event has grown over the years and so have the requests from area schools to attend it.

Student as teacher. Tim Ryan of Ethnotech, LLC, gets a few pointers on how to make rope out of dog bark strands from this young lady. (B.L. Azure photo) Student as teacher. Tim Ryan of Ethnotech, LLC, gets a few pointers on how to make rope out of dog bark strands from this young lady. (B.L. Azure photo)

“Through the years the interest in the River Honoring has grown and so have the requests from area schools to attend it,” said Germaine White, Natural Resource Department Information and Education Officer. “We are working hard to pass this information on to a new generation of environmental stewards. We are growing and that is wonderful.”

Wonderful, indeed.

The Tribal Health Fitness Center Program put the youngsters through some physical activity at its obstacle course. (B.L. Azure photo) The Tribal Health Fitness Center Program put the youngsters through some physical activity at its obstacle course. (B.L. Azure photo)

“We had a very good River Honoring this year,” said NRD Director Rich Janssen. “Every year it gets bigger and every year our staff has risen to the challenge to make sure bigger is also better. The teachers and students just love this and are eager to attend.”

Approximately 1,000 4th- and 5th-grade students attended this year’s River Honoring. The NRD maintains that level to ensure that students will have enough time, without being rushed, to visit many of the learning stations; this year there were 22 stations. And all walked away with many lessons learned, foremost the appreciation for the world we live in and the importance of good stewardship of Mother Nature’s creation.

Pend d’Oreille Elder Pat Pierre offers up a bits wisdom he has learned during his more than 86 years on Mother Earth. (B.L. Azure photo) Pend d’Oreille Elder Pat Pierre offers up a bits wisdom he has learned during his more than 86 years on Mother Earth. (B.L. Azure photo)

White praised Terry Tanner and his NRD crew along with other volunteers for their logistic work. Help came from Salish Kootenai Housing Authority, Kicking Horse Job Corps, Forestry and Tribal Health, among other entities.

“One of the reasons this goes so well is because of our logistics people,” White said. “Terry Tanner has managed that through the years and he knows what needs to be done without being told. It’s nice to not have to worry about that.”

Janssen said, through the years White has been the Steady Betty on the job and her leadership has resulted in continuity, quantity and quality in the ever-expanding River Honoring.

Something is very fishy. Young Nkwusm student Matiya Nennemay, son of Alyssa and Jesse Nennemay, got plenty of experiential learning at the CSKT Fisheries Program station. (B.L. Azure photo) Something is very fishy. Young Nkwusm student Matiya Nennemay, son of Alyssa and Jesse Nennemay, got plenty of experiential learning at the CSKT Fisheries Program station. (B.L. Azure photo)

“With Germaine leading the charge the River Honor has grown to the point where we have to turn down requests from some schools,” Janssen said. “She has been the consistent in maintaining the quality and quantity of the presentations. It’s hard turning down schools but we want to maintain the quality of the experience for the kids. More students could result in rushing them through the cycle and we don’t want to do that.”

New schools in attendance this year were from Somers, Stevensville and Chief Charlo School in Missoula.

Honored at this year’s River Honoring were Steve and Carol Lozar, Tony Incashola and Sonny Morigeau.

The NRD Water Management Program offered up a taste of what is required to for the profession and that included a lot of technical equipment. (B.L. Azure photo) The NRD Water Management Program offered up a taste of what is required to for the profession and that included a lot of technical equipment. (B.L. Azure photo)

The River Honoring is now a part of the environment just as sure as the wide, deep, turbulent rushing ribbon of blue-green water that is the Flathead River.

“A seedling of an idea was planted long ago along the banks of the Flathead River. That seedling has grown into a lush forest of ideas and information that we now call the River Honoring,” Janssen said. “I don’t ever see it going away. The hard work by the NRD staff and other departments — then and now — ensures that the River Honoring will roll on into perpetuity. It is here to stay.”

See a couple more pictures on our Facebook page by clicking here.

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