September 6, 2020 will be a day the staff of The People’s Center will never forget let alone recover fully from. Our beautiful majestic Center with a Museum, Gift Shop, Repository, Education Room and offices was burned by arson. A place we called our second home. The People’s Center was more than a museum; it was a dramatic illustration of living history through demonstrations of traditional Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribal culture, tribal arts and crafts, live and recorded performances, a repository of artifacts and historic collections, a cultural education center and a place for exhibitions of authentic Native American History.
We lost everything in the gift shop and offices, and a majority of the artifacts in the repository. We did recover approximately 200 individual cultural objects from the fire. About 10 percent of the collection was relatively undamaged and will require no conservation treatment. Approximately 70 percent of the collection (about 137 objects) were damaged by direct heat, smoke, or water or a combination of all, but can be recovered with proper cleaning and conservation treatment. We have been working with conservator Nancy Fonicello of Ancient Artways Conservation LLC on the direction of care needed.
Our staff spent many difficult days recovering objects from the burned, scarred building with the help of many. These priceless objects were taken to SKC Joe McDonald building to be laid out to dry and to be cared for, photographed and documented. Our staff was and still is devastated but was guided and helped from the onset of the fire to today. We are still grieving the loss of the building and all of what was. There are so many that we want to thank, so many that helped and supported us to get us where we are today. We have leased the original Allard restaurant in St. Ignatius for one year from Morton and Coffman LLC. We have set up the gift shop and opened it for business the beginning of December. Our Curation Technician is currently designing a Gallery, mini museum in one section of the building that will once again help tell our tribal stories and share our histories through photographs, exhibits and displays. Our education director is working on cultural education components that will be conducted online for the time being. We have offices again, computers, phones, and are settling in comfortably. We have a long way to go yet and we will get there. We are working on a new beginning, a new path and to change the name of our center which we will announce soon. We are working on letting go of the past there, not ever forgetting our steps and work, but healing and moving forward. Our staff of four women is strong, resilient and ready to move forward and keep our roles in the center wherever we may land. We could not have gotten to where we are without all your support, guidance and help.
Our thank you list is long and is sincere from our hearts. Each one of you that called, messaged, stopped by, donated to help care for the collections, traveled here from other parts of the state to bring supplies and help, those that helped us load and unload boxes and supplies and recovered objects to storage, those that helped us record, photograph and document each object recovered, donations of sheets to wrap objects in, food donations, beaded articles for our museum, and the many hugs and support and the donations of shelves and display cases. To the original Board of Directors and staff, Selish, Qlispe and Ksanka Tribal Elders and culture committees, CSKT Council we will be forever grateful to each of you. Every hand you had in the beginning of the center throughout all the years since opening in 1995 made an important impact that won’t be forgotten.
Ronan Volunteer Fire Department, Finley Point Fire Department, Charlo Volunteer Fire Department, CSKT Division of Fire, Mission Valley Power, Lake County Sheriff Officers, CSKT Police Officers, CSKT Council- Shelly Fyant, Carole Lankford, Martin Charlo, CSKT Preservation Department staff, CSKT Maintenance staff, CSKT Director of Financial Management -Rick Eneas, Steve Lozar, Westland Seed, Ninepipes Museum, Historical Museum at Fort Missoula staff, Smithsonian Culture Rescue Initiative-Smithsonian Institution, National Heritage Responders, Montana Historical Society, Museum Association of Montana, Salish Kootenai College, Dr. Sandra Boham, Selish Qlispe Culture Committee staff, Mike Kenmille, Deb Mitchell, Stephen Smallsalmon, Lucy Vanderburg, Nancy Fonicello, New Life Church, Kermit Clarey, Cyndy Clairmont, CSKT Gaming, The Flower Mill, Jessica Cooper, James Westerman jr, Andrea a, Britani Clairmont, Mar LaFrombois, Kellyn Younggren, Michelle Mitchell, Patricia Songers, Mary RodgersCarolyn Hidy, Jo Cheff, Amy Webster, The Clemens family, Melanie and Ron Martin Dent, Reina Robinson, Lois, Goldrich, Mike Jakupcak, Shirley Folkurein, Somers Company Town Project, Barbara Sawyer, Sandra E. Knudsen and Harold R. Stanley, Steven and Madeline Levine, Rye, Jennifer Reifsneider, Tim Little, Molly Stockdale-Travelers Rest Connection, Dale J. Dufour, L. Schulson, Winona Spirit Track, Clarence Hunter, Paul Bishop and Bishop Insurance staff, and to every student, educator and visitor that walked through our doors. Thanks to all the media papers and news stations that shared our story time and again.
The People’s Center Staff
Marie Torosian, Director
Loushie Charlo, Gift Shop Manager
Geraldine Hewankorn, Curation Technician
Aggie Incashola, Education Director