Teaching stewardship for the future by honoring the past

May 16, 2014

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Annual River Honoring this year brought more than 1,000 4th and 5th graders from across the reservation and beyond to the Lower Flathead River.
Credit Katrin Frye

Each May for about two decades the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have held a River Honoring and invited children from across the reservation and beyond. The honoring started in 1986 in response to a push for additional dams below Kerr Dam, along the lower Flathead River.

Education Specialist Germaine White with the Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation said the Tribal Culture Committee was very concerned about a disturbance to the river.

“There’s about 72-miles of undisturbed river here, and it’s important to the Tribes. This was our road, this was- we travelled to the west to visit our relatives, our family, so, having that, the river, remain in a natural sense as much as possible was really important,” White said.

White said they set up 22-educational stations for the students to work through.

Topics rangee from wildlife to water quality, environmental art, native games, wildfire, and more.

Director for the Salish Pend d’Oreille (ponderay) Culture Committee for the Tribes Tony Incashola spent much of his childhood in this place. He said it was a great place for Hunting, fishing, and gathering medicinal plants along the river bottoms. Also, Incashola said it was a great place for him to learn from his parents and grandparents about the value of the land.

These are the lessons the lesson they hope to impart to the students during the River Honoring.

“I think it’s important to get that across to the young people. To get them to look beyond what they see. A lot of times you come to see the river, the first thing you think is the fishing, the swimming. But, you need to look beyond that, what it really means, and what it really holds for everybody,” Incashola said.

The first honoring in 1986 involved people getting up to share stories, the construction of a sweat lodge for prayer, a river float and a feast. The focus shifted to school children in 1994.

The Annual River Honoring started on Monday the 12th with a public event, followed by the two days of school field trips with students coming from Polson, Ronan, Saint Ignatius, as well as Hot Springs, Missoula and other schools across and beyond the borders of the Flathead Reservation.