Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

For the Record
April 2015

John L. Wesley
ARLEE — John L. Wesley, Sr., 59, passed away at his home on Sunday, April 12.

A member of the Seminole/Creek Nation, he was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma, to Leon and Emma Wesley. He was raised in Oklahoma and served in the U.S. Army prior to his coming to Jobs Corps, where he met his wife. A mechanic at heart, he liked to stay busy working on cars. He enjoyed being at grandma Val's fishing, berry picking and taking care of the family and grandkids, and was an awesome beader. He made his home for 43 years, he had a big heart and enjoyed helping out whenever he could..

He was preceded in death by his parents, and his wife, Luanna Plant Wesley.

He leaves behind his sons, John Wesley, Jr. Kendra), and Charles Lucas Plant (Arrianna); and daughters, Malina RedHorn (Bucky) and Rolanda Wesley; 11 grandchildren, Tachini, Jr., Kayenta, Sta’an and Sts’a Pete, Daniel, Deron and Derek Moran, Donavon and Kaitlin Prindle, Jonathon Wesley, and Kira Redhorn; and numerous family in Oklahoma.

A wake was held at the Arlee Community Center with the Rosary at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16. Wake closing will begin at 1 p.m., on Friday, with a mass celebrated at 2 p.m. in the St. Ignatius Catholic Mission, with burial following in the St. Ignatius Catholic Cemetery, where military honors will be presented.

Virginia M. Butler
ARLEE — Virginia M. (Fyant) Butler, 72, passed away on Friday, April 17, 2015, at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula from congestive heart failure. A proud member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, she was born somewhere between Placid Lake and Valley Creek on November 11, 1942, to Adeline Stevens (Adams) and Louis Pierre Fyant. Raised in Valley Creek, she attended the Urselines in St. Ignatius and graduated from Arlee High School in 1961. She then attended business college in Missoula where she met her husband, John Butler. They made their home in Missoula and started a family, but as with many things in life, things did not work out and they later divorced.

A dedicated home maker and mother, Virgie had many jobs throughout her life. She was the “engineer” at IHS, a Tribal judge, a receptionist, a teller at Valley Bank, and worked at irrigation where she was a clerk for many years.

Virginia was proud to be a breast cancer survivor. She was an excellent beader and made many moccasins for friends and family. All her life she enjoyed going into the hills. She taught her kids to shoot gophers, rode into the Bob Marshall, and loved to pick huckleberries. She went to many sporting events to see her kids, nieces and nephews, and more recently her grandchildren, to compete. She also enjoyed listening to George Strait and eating "big butt" soup.

She was preceded in death by: her parents; siblings, Cecelia “PeeWee” Vanderburg, Eddie Vanderburg, Rose Vanderburg, Everett Fyant, Frank “Butch” Fyant, Benjamin Fyant, and Jimmy Fyant; baby brothers, Charles, Wayne, Jerome, and Joseph; and baby sister, Mary Pierre.

Survivors include her children, Claudette (Rodney) Bird, John Butler and his faithful companion, Lucy; and Gabe Phillips; her companion of many years, Kenny Phillips; sisters, Frances Vanderburg and Marie Fyant; brothers, Arthur Fyant, Gordon (Gale) Fyant, and Bobby Fyant; three grandchildren, Ciara Tanner-Butler, Rory Bird, and Reesie Bird; great grandson, Lassaw Dober; as well as a large family of nieces, nephews and cousins.

A wake was held at the Arlee Community Center with rosary at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday. Mass was at 11:00 a.m. on Monday in the Arlee Community Center. Burial followed in the Jocko Cemetery. Condolences may be left at

Alexander Junior Quequesah
RONAN — Alexander (Alec) Junior Quequesah, 62, went home to join the Great Creator on April 5, 2015, surrounded by his family in his home of 19 years.

Alec was a member of the Salish and Kootenai tribes and was always proud of his Nez Perce descent. He was the son of Ignace Eneas and Anastasia Finley-Quequesah, born on April 27, 1952, at the Holy Family Hospital in St. Ignatius. Alec was the only child of 11 to be born in a hospital. He was the last surviving sibling of 11 full brothers and sisters, and 7 half siblings.

Alec grew up in a home where Salish was the first language, and tradition and culture were the main way of life. He didn’t begin to learn English until he started school in Ronan, where he only attended until the 7th grade. Later in life Alec went on to receive a certificate in Building Trades from Salish Kootenai College, he was one of the very first students to be in the Building Trades program.

Alec had many different trades, some of which included hauling commodities, cutting fire wood, fighting wild fires, working camp crew, making powwow drums and drumsticks, as well as hand drums. He taught carpentry at Salish Kootenai College for many years where he had a helping hand in constructing a number of buildings on the college campus. Although a jack of many trades, Alec’s greatest passion was teaching the Salish language and culture. He was always willing to pass on his knowledge to those willing to listen and learn. Alec was also a well-known emcee for numerous powwows and celebrations including 30+ years with the Arlee Celebration, where he also served many years as a chairman of the powwow committee.

At age 16 he met the love of his life on the Quequesah Ranch on Mollman Pass Trial, Betty McLeod, who he later married. They have four children and have had many adopted children throughout their years together. During the early years they lived several different places before eventually moving into their permeant home on Mollman Pass near the Quequesah Ranch, where Alec grew up. Once finally settling in, in 1996, Alec said he, “felt like he was moving back home”.

Throughout his later years, Alec was continually recognized for his efforts in preserving the Salish Language and Culture. He was given the honor by his tribal elders to lead the yearly Jump Dances. Alec was often called upon to share his cultural understandings at an array of gatherings.

Drumming, singing and following the powwow/stick game trails were among some of Alec’s favorite hobbies. The first drum group Alec started was the Pistol Creek Singers, later he went on to sing with Yamncut before eventually forming his own family group, The Flathead Nation Singers. Some of Alec’s favorite powwows to frequent were the annual Arlee Celebration, Usk powwow on the Kalispell Reservation, and Butte powwow. He was also an avid stickgame player, if he wasn’t busy with his drum groups or being the emcee, you could find him at the stickgame pavilion.

Out of all of Alec’s past times, his favorite was spending time with his family, especially his sxpxepes, slsiles, and tptupyes. He always looked forward to Sunday family dinners, as well as holiday dinners so he could “check in” with everyone. Whether or not you were family, a friend, an acquaintance or stranger, Alec always went out of his way to make you feel welcome and offer you what he had. His personality was big and he could always find a way to put a smile on your face, whether it was time to eat, “Gotta eat!” or something was just “Reeeally cool”. He impacted the lives of many throughout his 62 years of life and will be greatly missed.

He is preceeded in death by his parents, Ignace Eneas and Anastasia Finley-Quequesah; his 17 siblings; his son, Ignace; and his sxpxepe, Lindy Louis Junior.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Betty Quequesah; his adopted mom, Felicite (Jungle Jim) McDonald; his sons, Thomas (Linda), Charlie (Jamie), and Jerome (Lynsey); his daughter, Rhonda (Francios); and his brothers, Bob White, Johnny Arlee, and Tony Inchashola. Several sxpxepes, slsiles, and tptupyes: JC, Ma’ii, Siliye, Susseli, Sage, Kylie, Iggy, Atwen, Catherine, Marianne, Joanie, Michel, lil Chief, Justice, Aspen, Matt Skins, Laila Beans, Nick, Ed, Marge, Alexander, Zi, Natalie, NatEyssia, Jep, Isabella, Ryleeah, Thomas, Tallon, Tay-Tay, and Talus; his God daughter, Tayla Desjarlais; many nephews and nieces; and numerous extended family members, including his 3 dogs, Rodeo, Cowboy and Sla.

A traditional wake began on Monday at the Longhouse in St. Ignatius, with Mass recited at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 8, 2015 in the St. Ignatius Catholic Mission. Burial followed in the Ronan Cemetery.

Eneas Victor Phillips
BIG SANDY — Eneas Victor Phillips, 69, passed away on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at Benefis Hospital in Great Falls.

Victor was born on May 2, 1945 in Flagstone, British Columbia, Canada to Douglas Phillips, Sr. and Mary Gravelle.

Victor met (Lola) June Gibbs in Eureka, and they were married on August 4, 1973. Shortly after they were married, they moved to Grasmere, British Columbia, Canada. He loved to work and loved his family. He had friends everywhere.

Victor enjoyed horses and Fords (much to his Chevy-loving grandkids' dismay. He had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh and tell stories about his journeys to any and all that were within earshot. He spent most of his working career logging and working as a heavy equipment operator. He looked forward to seeing his kids and grandkids every day and enjoyed playing cards, whether it would be solitary or with whoever would play with him. He also liked his country music and western cowboy shows.

Victor was preceded in death by: his parents, Douglas Phillips, Sr., and Mary Gorrie; his brother, Douglas “Sonny” Phillips, Jr.; and his sisters, Sarah (Sally) Pierre, Gloria Trahan, Susie Gorrie, and Sadie Saloway.

Survivors include: his wife, June Phillips; sister, Angela (Paul) Paradise, of Grasmere, British Columbia, Canada; aunt, Elizabeth Gravelle, of Grasmere, British Columbia, Canada; cousins; sons, Victor D. (Karli) Phillips, of Big Sandy, and Paul (Mikel Juneau) Phillips, of Pablo; daughter, Mindy Gravelle, of Big Sandy; grandchildren, Victor “Glen”, Chase, Dusti, Kodi-Jo, and Danni Phillips, Wyatt and William Phillips, Drak-O, Zander Phillips, Malaysia, Sonny Gravelle, Filly, Piper and Riot Gravelle, Orion and Haley Kennedy, all whom he loved dearly.

Rosary was held on Thursday, April 2, 2015 at the Elmo Community Center at 8:00 p.m. Mass was on Friday, April 3, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at the Elmo Community Center. Interment followed at Rooseville Cemetery in Grassmere, British Columbia, Canada. A memorial service was held at the Big Sandy Community Church of God at 10:00 a.m. in Big Sandy, on Monday, April 6, 2015 for friends and family that lived near

Hal A. Samsel
POLSON — Hal A. Samsel, 85, passed away peacefully on April 2, 2015, after a long battle with Parkinsons Disease and a short battle with a broken heart. The love of his life, wife of 64 years and best friend, Betty, passed away two weeks earlier.

Hal was born on February 20, 1930, in Missoula, to William and Hallie Samsel. He lived at Monture Ranger Station until age four. He then moved to Seeley Lake, where his father was the District Ranger. He lived at Seeley Lake until 1941, attending a one-room school. After stops at Missoula and Plains, he moved with his family to Ravalli and graduated high school in St. Ignatius in 1949. Hal smoke jumped the summer of 1949.

Hal married Betty on September 1, 1950, and joined the Marine Corps shortly after. He attended boot camp in San Diego, and was later stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. Hal returned home in 1952 and resumed working summers as a smokejumper, and winters in the local lumber mills. In 1957, he was hired on full-time at the Smokejumpers Base. During his career as a smokejumper, Hal became the first smokejumper to receive a 250-jump pin. For the last ten years of his career, he was the Parachute Loft Foreman. Hal retired from the Smokejumper Base in 1980. At his retirement party, he asked “Why is it you have to die or retire to find out what a good guy you were?” Hal used to say, half-jokingly, "There are very few things at which I am not at least an expert," and in his case it was true. He was a Marine, a smokejumper, and he had a private pilot’s license. He loved skiing, hunting, and fishing, and was always busy with one of his many hobbies, which included square dancing, wine making, making knives, making jewelry, leather crafting, and playing guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. He also designed and built his retirement cabin on Flathead Lake.

After retiring in 1980, Hal and Betty lived in Missoula for a few years while they were completing their cabin on Flathead. After selling their house in Missoula, Hal and Betty moved permanently to their home on Flathead Lake where they lived until passing.

Hal and Betty loved their kids and grandkids and never missed a sporting event or school function they were involved in. They were also lucky enough to enjoy a few years with their great grandchildren.

They wintered in Yuma, Arizona, for 20 years and had many friends and enjoyed many social hours and trips to Mexico. Hal also played music with a group of friends in Yuma and entertained themselves and others on many an occasion. Hal never missed a Smokejumper reunion, was a lifetime Elks member, and was active in the Marine Corps League.

Hal was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Betty; and brothers, Kirk and Colvin. Survivors include his son, Steve (Shelley) Samsel, Polson; his daughter, Sheryl (Randy) Symon, Thompson Falls; his grandchildren Ben Symon, Sara McDonald, Tonnes Olson, Andy Samsel, and Kristine Torgenrud; 12 great-grandchildren; his brother, William (Bette Ann) Samsel; and his sister, Sharlene (Kenneth) Ewald. A celebration of their lives will be held for both Hal and Betty, which will be announced at a later date. Memorials may be made to the charity of your choice.