PABLO — The last quarterly meeting of the year was also the last (for now) for Tribal Council Chairman Ronald Trahan and Vice-Chair Leonard Gray — both are stepping down after the New Year. The tone of the meeting was one of thankfulness and gratitude, especially toward the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work Tribal Council does when not in their semi-weekly meetings for the membership.
Ql̓ispé Elder Stephen SmallSalmon expressed his thanks for Council’s help through the years. “They helped pay for my way to Los Angeles for that movie I was in,” SmallSalmon said. He said he could never live in LA — too many people — but was glad he had the opportunity to work on the film. SmallSalmon asked everyone to pray for Séliš QÍispé Cultural Committee Director Tony Incashola, Sr., who is experiencing some health issues.
SmallSalmon then gave an update of his own. He said that the language revitalization education efforts of the adults and children experienced new interest. Four slots opened for the Adult Salish Language Apprentice Program, and nearly 40 applicants applied. Last year, 37 adults applied. He suggested that Council put money away to increase the number of apprentice positions per year. At the Nk̓ʷusm Salish Language Revitalization Immersion School, 37 children of all ages are becoming the next generation of Salish speakers. SmallSalmon remembered when Nk̓ʷusm started with three kids and two speakers.
Elder Shirley Trahan agreed with SmallSalmon that the Tribal Council deserves respect for the hard work they do behind-the-scenes. She said the council meeting minutes barely scratch the surface of what they do. She said that many tribes look up to CSKT and its successes. She encouraged the membership to read the minutes, attend meetings, and respect and help the Tribal Council. “We’d be terminated already without them,” Trahan said.
Jim and Cloann Westerman presented the Tribal Council with bundles of tobacco. Jim spent 20 years cultivating it from seeds of an indigenous species that nearly disappeared locally, grew the tobacco. He said this tobacco is also very potent: it’s 13 percent stronger than commercial tobacco and joked that they need to wear gloves to handled it.
Elmo Representative Len TwoTeeth told constituents that in the CSKT Constitution it states that the Tribal Council is only required to meet four times a year. Given that they meet twice a week to meet with the organization’s many departments and with the membership says much about the work they do. “It is an honor and a privilege to sit at this Council,” TwoTeeth said.
Dixon Representative Anita Matt said that the last three months since the last quarterly had been busy. Council has taken many field trips with the Safety of Dams Department to survey the Tribes' water infrastructure. She has spent time on issues like tribal land ordinances and food sovereignty, and events including the nine tribes agricultural conference in late August. She also said she would be having a district meeting on October 22.
St. Ignatius representative Fred Matt said his time was utilized by getting caught up with the business of CSKT since filling the seat of James Steele, Jr., who resigned to pursue and employment opportunity.
Arlee Representative Myrna Dumontier said the recent Nk̓ʷusm camp was fun until the cold and snowy weather rolled in. During the camp, Dumontier saw how the kids had grown in using the Salish language and confident of being in the woods.
Dumontier said the Arlee Cemetery committee was working on restoring cemeteries, and tracking down names and places of deceased persons in these cemeteries. She said she would like to see a unified cemetery committee made up of the different townships. Tribal involvement in these committees has also gained momentum.
She said that she has joined Tribal Council on field trips with U.S. House Representative Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) to tour the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project.
Lastly, she said that the highway expansion plans near the Medicine Tree in Ravalli County would now preserve the cultural site instead of forcing it to move or be destroyed.
Pablo Representative Dennis Clairmont said much work is being done with the Columbia River water operations. Dams are being removed on the Snake River. Issues include the effects on the headwaters from the removal of the dams.
He said field trips with Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Rep. Gianforte of the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project have been ongoing. Informing the Montana Congressional delegation is key to securing funding for upkeep of the project. Recently, $7 million was secured to fix the pump station in Polson, and $3 million to repair the K Canal in the Jocko area.
Ronan Representative Carole Lankford said serving on the Bread Basket board allowed her to see how people utilize the service. She said that when the Salish Kootenai College starts, off-reservation college students would get food and rarely return.
She said Council would interview candidates for directors of Economic Development, Tribal Lands, Tribal Education, and the Tribal Health Department soon.
Lankford said there have been many success stories coming out of the Lake County Drug Court. Participants respond well when people show compassion and understanding of their situation, and offer guidance, tools and resources to succeed. They follow three simple steps to become drug-free: 1. Show up; 2. Be honest; and 3 Follow steps 1 & 2.
Hot Springs Representative Leonard Gray told constituents that the past eight years serving on Tribal Council has been rewarding. He appreciated working with many dedicated employees and said it’s the people — the CSKT membership — who are the backbone of the organization.
Chairman Ronald Trahan agreed with Gray and said the job of councilman was to do the best for everyone. He thanked his colleagues from the bottom of his heart.
Mickey Pablo Chairman’s Award
Leonard Gray described watching the surveillance footage from Gray Wolf Peak Casino when 29-year-old Van Valin tried to escape police after a 30-mile high-speed chase. Valin entered the casino after hitting one of the pillars outside. A Tribal Police officer was hot on his heels. Instead of running into the gaming floor, Valin sought escape through a side door, and fired one shot from a pistol. The Tribal Law Enforcement officer pursued Valin and chased him outside. Valin hid behind a boulder and eventually surrendered after being talked down by Tribal Law Enforcement officers.
Gray said that the officer who chased Valin should be given an award and recognition for his fearless heroism. He was told no. Gray said that the Tribal Law Enforcement recognizes their successes as a team and not as individual. All the officers — as Gray saw when they calmly convinced Valin to surrender — worked to end the chase. In many circumstances, it’s the team who coordinates tactics, and they help and support each other.
Because of the selfless and hard work, Tribal Council awarded the Tribal Law Enforcement the Mickey T. Pablo Chairman’s Award. Mickey Pablo, considered a savvy businessman and leader, was the Tribal Council chairman in the 1990s died in early August 1999 at the age of 51. The award that recognizes outstanding individuals on the Flathead Reservation was named after him.
This year, instead of going to an individual, the award was presented to a department.
“I want to thank Council for recognizing the people who stand here,” Tribal Law Enforcement Chief Craige Couture said. He and several members of the Tribal Police force stood with Council to receive the award after an honor song by Yamncut Drum. “Because with the people who are here, and there are others, who never get their picture in the paper or get talked about, if it wasn’t for them, the department wouldn’t be a success.” Couture said that while he’s often the one who’s seen in media, it’s the cops and staff of Tribal Law Enforcement Department that do the real work.
Couture said the award was emotional for him. In 1964, his father Alex Couture, a 12-year Tribal Police officer died in the line of duty.
Couture said Bernie Atwin of the Probation Department had championed an award for Tribal Police for years. He recognized her and others who were involved with law enforcement for being the reason for Tribal Police’s success.
“It’s a long time coming,” Atwin said.
“I’m humbled to be part of this department and to be there to work around heroes every day,” Couture said. “You have the best law enforcement department in the nation.”
Timber Use Policy Statement
Forestry Department head Tony Incashola, Jr. presented changes to the Timber Use Policy Statement (TUPS). The TUPS covers the harvesting of forest productions on the reservation, and authorizes the Forestry Department and the Superintendent of Flathead Agency to approve Timber Cutting Permits. It also provides guidance on harvesting without a permit for firewood, Christmas trees, post and poles or saw logs for personal use; harvesting forest products to be resold; and for stumpage, where the Tribes ask for payment of forest products that will be resold. The payment, called Paid Permits, are issued for saw logs.
In 2016, the Northwest Region Office advised major revisions to the TUPS document to align with the 25 CFR and BIA Handbooks, of which several public meetings were held to consult on the changes.
Since 2016, the paid culture of woodcutting has changed, and new ways of harvesting have been introduced. These changes prompted Tribal Forestry to search solutions or options for these new methods, all the while balancing woodcutter needs and wants, what’s best for the land and wildlife, and the 8000 plus tribal members.
On September 19, a public hearing at the request of Tribal Council was held to discuss proposed changes. Small loggers, firewood cutters with and without equipment, CSKT Resource specialists (Wildlife Biologists, Cultural Preservation, etc.), Council members and Tribal Elders provided input. While there was much disagreement, the changes were distilled down to these changes:
• Fuel wood may be harvested with skidding equipment within a 200 foot zone from a roadway; beyond the zone, the area needs to be evaluated and cleared by resource managers and a NEPA document approved. A performance bond will be required for skidding equipment;
• Fuel wood may be harvested with skidding equipment in an area with identified boundaries, given the area has been evaluated and cleared by resources managers and an appropriate NEPA compliance document has also been approved; and
• Removal of an article that states that fuel wood harvesting for commercial use will be limited to dead trees within 200 feet from the roadway to ensure snag retention.
Tribal Member voices
After a brief lunch, Rene Kenmille and daughter Barbara told Tribal Council about their concerns of safety at the Séliš Ksanka QÍispé Dam’s lookout and steps on the side of the dam. Kenmille and Barbara said they walk the steps regularly and notice that steps are broken or damaged. Usually a call to maintenance will fix the issue fairly quickly, but it now seems many of the steps need to be repaired or replaced. Kenmille suggested that Summer Youth Employment Program kids could replace the steps under supervision. Len TwoTeeth said a meeting with the Energy Board would need to be set up to discuss that option.
Kenmille also noted that tourists at the dam would ask her how to pronounce certain Salish and Kootenai words or ask about the dam’s history. She was uncertain as to what to tell them and believes that a smartphone app should be created that can provide that information, including tribal language pronunciation.
They also suggested a bathroom or movable toilet be installed at the lookout as parents will have their children relieve themselves off the steps’ path, or on the wall of the lookout.
Lastly, they felt that the lookout area’s closing hours were inconsistent. The sign says it closes at sunset, but often it will be closed before the sun has set, either keeping visitors from the site or on occasion locking visitors on the site.
The next quarterly meeting is set for January 3, 2020. That is when the new Tribal Council members will be sworn in.