Mattea Grant Hoy and Maja Pedersen

Mattea Grant Hoy of the THD Fitness Program and Maja Pedersen of the University of Montana discuss the Growing Older, Staying Strong fitness program aimed at elderly tribal people. 

Char-Koosta News 

ST. IGNATIUS — The Séliš-Ql̓ispéCulture Committee Elders Committee’s slate of presentations at its May meeting included concerns about the political health of the Tribal Council as well as the physical health of tribal adults and Elders on the Flathead Reservation. Both got feedback from the Elders Committee members and the SQCC director. 


The Confederated Salish (Pend d’Oreille) and Kootenai Tribes are often acknowledged for the progressive trail they have walked in Indian Country and America. However, it seems that the federally mandated Indian Reorganization Act boilerplate constitutions have accomplished one of its main goals: defrocking traditional Indian tribal leaders of their words and their guidance: their power.

At the May SQCC Elders Committee meeting one Tribal Councilwoman asked the remaining remnants of that traditional power, the wisdom of Elders, for help in realigning the wheels of the governing body of the Séliš, Ql̓ispé and Ksanka people. It is presently high-centered on differences allegedly related to the gender make-up on the Tribal Council. 

The present Tribal Council imbroglio was mentioned by Ronan District Tribal Council Rep. Carole Lankford at the Spring Quarterly, and it goes on.

“Five women created change (on the Tribal Council),” said Arlee District Tribal Council Rep. Shelly Fyant. “Some change is uncomfortable. Some appreciate change — like it. Some Tribal Council members don’t honor that.”

Presently there are five women — Carole Lankford, Myrna Dumontier, Anita Matt, Charmel Gillin and Shelly Fyant — and five men — Ronald Trahan, Dennis Clairmont, Leonard Grey, Fred Matt and Leonard TwoTeeth — on the Tribal Council. 

And according to Fyant the Tribal Council clashing of minds comes down to the different perspectives brought to fore by the minds of men versus the minds of women. 

“This group can be of value to us,” Fyant said about the Elders Committee reminding the tribal governmental leaders about the traditional roles of men and women in pre-tribal constitutional world. Those traditional ways continue to spiritually shadow those who practice them and remain guided by them in their soulful walk in the Western world.

“We as leadership cannot be divided,” Fyant said. “I put this out there for you to pray on for us.”

Western ways have without a doubt, have altered the Aboriginal peoples route to self-attainment. It has shred some of the old ways but not all. Those old ways guide the Séliš-Ql̓ispé and Ksanka Culture Committees. 

“The bottom line is it’s the responsibility of the Tribal Council to make a better future for all of us and for the coming generations. What’s good for the people is the only goal of the Tribal Council,” said Tony Incashola, director of the SQCC. “That future depends on how Tribal Council leads. Man or woman should not be a factor in leadership. The people entrusted them with the responsibility to keep the people together as one.”

Incashola said each member of tribal society has a purpose and regardless of differences deserves respect. That makes the road ahead less bumpy.

“The Elders say everyday is a struggle, a fight to preserve our ways, our land,” Incashola said. “The outside people, the suyapis we fight everyday need to know we’re here on our land, our place. We have to be strong for the future generations. We are the first people, strong people. The Tribal Council has to stay strong for the people. We are not individuals, not weak. History has shown that our unity is our strength. There was no you or me — it was us. We need to hold onto that. We need to respect each other. This is all we have we can’t afford to fight each other. Keep that in your minds.”

“We keep that in our minds but we can’t communicate in a respectful way. That’s the weakness I see right now,” Fyant said. “We can’t function now.”

Fyant suggested a Tribal Council retreat might be a way to address the issues dividing the governmental leaders of the tribal confederacy. 


Maya Pedersen, University of Montana researcher and doctoral candidate and Mattea Grant Hoy, Tribal Health Department fitness specialist informed the Elders Committee about the Growing Older, Staying Strong elderly fitness health program they are working together on that promotes health and fitness across the lifespan of individuals.

“We are looking for your guidance,” Pedersen told the Elders Committee.

Willie Stevens of THD has been working with the program and expressed his satisfaction with it.

“I am happy to be involved with this health improvement effort,” he said. “We want your involvement and would appreciate your guidance.”

The research project uses a community-based approach to increase physical activity among American Indian older adults and Elders living on the Flathead Reservation. It will focus on intergenerational participation.

“Physical activity is a good way to prevent or help with chronic health problems,” Pedersen said. “We want to work with you to find ways and how we can increase physical activity, and how to get your involvement.”

“This will promote intergenerational activities,” Grant-Hoy said.

Mary Jane Charlo said that field trips for Elders would be a good way to be physically active. She also said Elders should not have to work with numerous kids, and intergenerational activities should perhaps be one-on-one Elder-youth match ups instead of one Elder with a group of kids. She also suggested exercise classes at the tribal fitness centers as that would expose the Elders with community members.

Tribal Council Elmo District Rep. Leonard TwoTeeth said that it would be a challenge to get the Elders together in some of the proposals. He suggested transporting them to Walmart and let them walk there, ala mall walks.

“Research has shown that mall walks have positive health effects,” Pedersen said and that Walmart walks could work like that.

The group will return in the fall after the Elders Committee summer hiatus for updates.

• UM and THD are seeking tribal community members to join and serve a one-year commitment on a Community Research Mentor (CRM) panel that will meet eight to 10 times beginning in August 2019 and going through July 2020.

• A CMR panel interest meeting is scheduled for June 18 from 12-2 p.m. at the Agnes Kenmille building on the Salish Kootenai College campus. A lunch will be provided.

• Folks interested in joining the CRM panel should contact: Maja Pedersen at (907) 590-9694; or email, at:

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