Colville Tribe teaching traditional fishing method

Written by at September 27, 2011

CBRIDGEPORT, Wash. (AP) – Colville Tribal elder LeRoy Williams has fished all his life using the traditional methods of fishing with hoop nets and dip nets. Now, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation has hired him to test his handmade traditional nets and to teach others how to use them.

The tribe hopes newly taught members can help catch some of the tens of thousands of salmon expected to return to the upper Columbia River once the Chief Joseph Hatchery is up and running.

The tribe is also testing methods so that individual tribal members can catch fish without leaving the reservation.

“I think it’s important to have a toolbox full of methods,” Joe Peone, director of the tribe’s Fish and Wildlife Department, told The Wenatchee World.

The tribe plans to build more scaffolds below Chief Joseph Dam next year and offer their use to tribal members who want to fish in traditional ways, Peone said.

The tribe is also building a weir that will span the Okanogan River, roughly fashioned after those used by Okanogan Indians a century ago. Next year, they’ll test floating nets in deep waters of the Columbia River.

“You’re going to see the tribes doing some things you may not have ever seen in your life, but they’re things we have done traditionally,” Peone said.

LGL Ltd., an environmental research company in Ellensburg, is building a temporary weir on the Okanogan River to trap fish as they head upstream. It plans to test the weir this month and next summer to look at how the weir changes water flows, erosion, and fish behavior. If the tests are successful, the tribe will apply for permits to install a permanent weir that can be used at certain times to catch salmon, including those raised at Chief Joseph Hatchery.

Meanwhile, Williams, who lives in in Nespelem, plans to travel to each of the four districts on the Colville Indian Reservation to teach traditional fishing methods. Many tribal members abandoned those traditional fishing skills when Columbia River dams limited their access to fishing, the newspaper reported.

In recent weeks, Williams has been testing his handmade gear from two new 26-foot-long scaffolds that the Colville tribes built this summer. Usually he’s with his son, Mylan, and they’re teaching anyone who wants to join them.

Several people came to learn, and many brought their children.

The hoop net measures up to 8 feet in diameter and is attached to a long piece of netting. The net is then roped to a pole that’s tied to the scaffold and lowered vertically into the water. The current pulls the net downstream, and pushes it out like a balloon. The pole jiggles when a fish swims in and hits the net.

A dip net has a much smaller net attached to a 33-foot pole to reach into the deep water. A string running the length of the pole tells the fisherman – who’s fishing in the dark – which side the net is on. When a salmon swims in, a buckskin tie that’s holding the net open comes undone and the net slides around the loop and closes shut.

Using it is no easy task, Williams said. “It’s a balancing act.”

The hatchery and an agreement with the state that brings more fish to the upper Columbia will mean plenty of fish for everyone, including nontribal sports fishermen, Peone said. The hatchery is scheduled to be completed December of next year.

Peone said he hopes that when sports fishermen see the new scaffolds on the Columbia River or any of the new methods the Colvilles are using, they’ll understand that the tribe is exercising its fishing right, and are fishing within the boundary of the Colville Indian Reservation.

“I think scaffolds are a good icon for tribal fisheries, but people in the upper Columbia haven’t seen scaffolds for so long – it’s been generations,” he said.

“The tribe is rekindling the old traditions, and old traditions make tribal culture,” he said.


Information from: The Wenatchee World,

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University of Montana celebrates American Indian Heritage Day

Written by at September 26, 2011

Tetona Dunlap

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University of Montana President Royce Engstrom, American Indian Heritage Day

MISSOULA — University of Montana’s President Engstrom announced that the Montana University system’s board of regents has proclaimed the fourth Friday of September, American Indian Heritage Day, at campuses across the state. 

Academic and Native American Program Liaison Salena Beaumont Hill said the campus in Missoula has celebrated this day for years but is pleased with the board of regent’s decision.

“The legislature back in the 1970s passed American Indian Heritage Day to be recognized throughout the state on the fourth Friday of September,” Hill said. “I think the state of Montana, overall, has done a ton of work on Indian Education for all issues and that is just one big sign of backing that up.”

This year, the Missoula campus celebrated American Indian Heritage Day on Friday, Sept. 23.

The day began at 7 a.m. with a Sunrise Ceremony by Arleen Adams in the Story Telling Area outside the Payne Family Native American Center, followed by a tipi rising on the Oval. Engstrom held a student open forum before his proclamation of American Indian Heritage Day in front of the center.

“That was an important step forward for the board of regents and I am happy they took that action,” Engstrom said.

Kevin Kicking Woman, a graduate student, was the master of ceremonies and student Josh Avery entertained the crowd with a flute and traditional dance performance. There was also a jingle dress and fancy dance performance from students Shawnee Skunkcap and Briana Lamb. 

Other events that celebrated the day included traditional Native American games on the Oval, an indigenous menu at the Food Zoo, student art shows and a presentation by Journalism Assistant Professor Jason Begay.

“It’s important to celebrate today, not only to make ourselves feel prouder and represent ourselves, our beauty and our soul, but to share that with others and give thanks,” Avery said.   


Tetona Dunlap is a reporter with the Valley Journal in Ronan, Mont. 

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CDC: Severe dental decay among Native children

Written by at September 24, 2011

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Dental decay among rural Alaska Native children is as much as 4 1/2 times greater than children in the general U.S. population, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC and Alaska state health officials released the report Thursday that details the findings of a 2008 investigation. The state also worked on the report.

The study found that soda pop consumption and lack of water fluoridation are primary factors associated with dental decay in both baby and adult teeth.

“The number one emphasis of this article that we’re looking at is the role of fluoridation. Most parts of rural Alaska are not fluoridated,” said Brad Whistler, the state’s oral health director and one of the authors of the report.

Five rural Yupik communities in a 52-village region took part in the study, three with non-fluoridated water and two with fluoridated systems. The area was not named in the report and state and CDC officials declined to identify it, saying they were asked by the regional tribal health organization not to reveal the area to avoid becoming stigmatized.

“And really, the results that we find could be applicable to a large number of rural communities in Alaska where dental decay is a severe problem and water fluoridation is generally unavailable,” said study participant Tom Hennessy, director of the CDC’s Arctic Investigations program.

One of the other participants named in the study is Joseph Klejka with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. in Bethel, the commercial hub for several dozen western Alaska villages. Klejka did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

Altogether, 348 children between the ages of four and 15 were screened and parents were surveyed to determine risk factors.

According to the report, children between the ages of 4 and 5 averaged more than 2 1/2 times more decayed and filled baby teeth in Alaska villages with non-fluoridated water than children of the same age in villages with fluoridated water.

Only four communities in the region have fluoridated water systems, according to the report, and another 16 don’t have residential piped water systems necessary for fluoridation. The study noted options to fluoridated water include brushing with fluoridated toothpaste and fluoride varnishes applied to teeth.

Most of the villages in the region have piped water in homes, thus communities have the equipment in place for fluoridation. Adding fluoride could prove cost effective, with studies showing that every dollar spent on fluoridation equals up to $38 saved in health benefits per person, Hennessy said.

“For many communities that have piped water systems, fluoridation is an option and they’re choosing not to take that on,” he said. “This report really speaks to those communities.”

Dental decay among Native children has worsened while it has decreased among most age groups nationally as a result of fluoridation, according to the report.

Archaeological evidence suggests that only 1 percent of the Alaska Native population had dental decay in the 1920s, but the rate has been climbing since the air transport of processed foods became more frequent starting in the 1940s.

A federal Indian Health Service survey showed that 64 percent of Alaska Natives – and American Indians – between the ages of six and 14 had tooth decay by 1999. Six years later, an Alaska state study found that 75 percent of Alaska Native kindergarteners had dental decay.

In the new CDC study, 87 percent of 4- to 5-year-old Alaska Natives screened had decay, compared with 35 percent for the general U.S. population for that age group. Alaska Native children in that category had a mean of 7.3 teeth affected by decay, compared with 1.6 teeth nationally for children of that age.

According to the report, about 400 children in the 52-village region had full-mouth dental rehabilitations requiring general anesthesia in 2007 in an area averaging 600 births a year.

The following year, state health officials asked for the CDC study on behalf of the region.

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Ancient artifacts returned to Coeur d’Alene Tribe

Written by at September 24, 2011

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) – In dozens of camps along Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River, Coeur d’Alene Indians used stone tools to pound and grind meat, berries and roots. The handmade tools would be left in the water, where they would continue to be shaped by its flow.

Dozens of the tools were used by Indian families on the tribe’s aboriginal lands dating to ancient times, said Cliff SiJohn, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s cultural awareness director. Since the tribe stopped using the lands, numerous artifacts have been picked up by visitors and kept as souvenirs, he said.

Two such items recently were returned to the tribe by a Spokane Valley woman who said the artifacts had been in her husband’s family for more than 80 years. During a recent visit with her daughter to the tribe’s casino and hotel, Marilyn Closson saw the elaborate display of artifacts and crafts and said she knew what needed to be done with the mortar and pestle that had been kept for years on her husband’s family farm between Colfax and Pullman.

Closson said she didn’t know how the mortar and pestle were acquired by her husband’s family, whose farm is within the boundaries of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s traditional homeland. But she said her 87-year-old husband remembers seeing them in the house when he was a child.

“I knew what it was but I didn’t know who to give it to,” said Closson, who is 70. “I didn’t know what to do with it. Maybe I was just supposed to be the caretaker of it until the time was right. It just needed to go home. It just went back where it belongs.”

SiJohn received the artifacts with tears and gratitude. He did not know their age, but said they could be prehistoric. The pestle is about a foot long and conical. The oval-shaped mortar is about two feet long. SiJohn said the tools would have been left in a camp and used each time the tribe returned because they are too heavy to carry.

Though the tribe has thousands of artifacts and historic crafts, he said, each one provides a vital link to the past. The items have been logged into the tribe’s cultural resources system, and SiJohn said he hopes to include it in a resort display by Thanksgiving.

“It’s like a tie back to our people from long ago,” said SiJohn, who is 66 and remembers both his grandmother and his father still using stone mortars and pestles to prepare food when he was a child. “It’s an integral part of our history. We’re sitting here looking at a piece of history that we can feel, touch.”

SiJohn said as the tribe advances into “new frontiers” with its casino, hotel and other businesses, it remains determined to preserve its culture and traditions. That’s why artifacts and crafts are displayed throughout the recently expanded area of the casino and hotel, he said.

“The hope is that people come in and see the display case and will think of things they may have collected over the years along the river banks and the lake inlets,” SiJohn said. “We hope people will see this display case and return them to us.”

The tribe had 18 camps around the lake, six big camps along the Coeur d’Alene River heading toward Cataldo, a big camp at the mouth of the Spokane River, and 16 smaller camps from the mouth of the Spokane River to about where Plante’s Ferry is now, SiJohn said.

In each one, numerous stone tools would have been used by families. The mortar and pestle were used not only to pound and grind meat, berries and roots, but also to mix different foods into meal bags for traveling, he said.

“There was a necessity to dry as many foods as possible for winter survival,” SiJohn said. “People would feel good when they were preparing and working with these stone tools. It was the power of these tools that saved the people during the winter months.

“Some people might look at it and say, a plain old rock, so what?” SiJohn said. Not Closson and her daughter, Teresa Johnson. “When they returned it,” he said, “there were a lot of tears going on in this room. They recognized that this was a significant part of the history of the Coeur d’Alene Indian people.”


Information from: The Spokesman-Review,

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State Museum Hosts National Traveling Exhibit To Promote Healthy Living

Written by at September 14, 2011

(September 14, 2011) In light of staggering statistics on obesity and associated health complications, Arizona State Museum is bringing to Tucson an exhibit with a healthy message. Through the Eyes of the Eagle: Illustrating Healthy Living, curated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Global Healthy Odyssey Museum, is a family-friendly exhibit inspired by a children’s book series of the same name.

The Eagle Books are stories about growing strong and preventing diabetes. Four books are brought to life by wise animal characters, Mr. Eagle, Miss Rabbit, and a clever trickster, Coyote, who engage Rain That Dances and his young friends in the joys of physical activity, eating healthy, and learning from their elders about traditional ways.

The books’ original watercolor illustrations are the focus of this national, traveling exhibit. Through the Eyes of the Eagle has been on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, DC), the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (Albuquerque, NM), and at the CDC’s Global Health Odyssey Museum (Atlanta, GA).

ASM Expands on Exhibit Theme
Arizona State Museum is expanding and enhancing the traveling exhibit by adding a number of compelling, locally focused features.

1) An original comic book, It’s Up 2 You!, co-created by Ryan Huna Smith (Chemehuevi/Navajo) and Lisa Falk, ASM director of education, challenges youth about the temptations of fast food and video gaming and engages them about the benefits of physical activity and healthy eating in a fun and meaningful way. 

Starting mid-November, a free digital version of It’s Up 2 You! will be available at, and as a downloadable app at iTunes.

2) Prehistoric, historic, and contemporary objects, in addition to photographs, illustrate the diet of Sonoran Desert people over 13,000 years – from Paleoindian to Hohokam to Tohono O’odham.  A section curated by Terrol Dew Johnson (Tohono O’odham) of Tohono O’odham Community Action uses photographs, videos, and objects to share current efforts to revitalize traditional food practices within his community.

3) Footwear spanning 1,400 years illustrate indigenous traditions of movement and exercise: prehistoric sandals, historic beaded moccasins and running sandals made from tires, contemporary skateboard shoes, and Nike’s ® N7 Air Native trainers are among those included.

4) Videos and hands-on activities, including a Nintendo ® Wii ® skateboard game, round out the visitor experience.

“Through this exhibition we hope to help people see how history, culture, and economics have impacted health in Native American communities, and to become acquainted with some of the things they are doing today to increase their wellness,” said Lisa Falk, ASM director of education and coordinator of the exhibit’s many facets. “But even more importantly, we hope to motivate children, youth, and their families to consider at least one thing they could change in their own lives to live healthier.”

Nationwide, through partnerships and innovative approaches, museums have become centers of community engagement around important issues such as obesity and diabetes. Falk goes on to explain how, in putting together the exhibit and related programs, ASM worked collaboratively with many units at the University of Arizona and within the city and county. “Collaborations have brought a richness to what we are offering in this exhibit, and I hope will draw a diverse visitorship to reflect on what we as individuals and as a community can do to address the critical issue of obesity and the resulting health complications, such as diabetes.”

This mirrors what Indian Health Services feels is critical for the success of diabetes prevention programs: “People with diabetes are not alone. Diabetes affects families and whole communities. In addition to family support, community support and advocacy can make a big difference in the outcomes for people with diabetes and in promoting diabetes prevention.”

More About the Eagle Books
The series of four children’s books were created for Native American children and others interested in healthy living. The books promote type 2 diabetes prevention and encourage a return to traditional ways, including physical activity and healthy eating. The series was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Diabetes Translation (DDT), in collaboration with the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee and the Indian Health Service, in response to the burden of diabetes among Native Americans and the lack of diabetes prevention materials for children.

The series, written by Georgia Perez (who served as a Community Health Representative for 19 years in Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico) and illustrated by Patrick Rolo (Bad River Band of Ojibwe, Wisconsin) and Lisa A. Fifield (Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, Black Bear Clan), includes four books:

Through the Eyes of the Eagle

Knees Lifted High

Plate Full of Color

Tricky Treats

Over 2 million books have been distributed throughout Indian Country, the rest of the U.S. and abroad. In addition to being a major feature of the exhibit at ASM, two of the books are on display as part of the World of Words Library at the UA College of Education.

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US attorney: Eagle feathers in caskets were legal

Written by at September 7, 2011

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – Native American police officers did not break the law by burying eagle feathers with two slain Rapid City officers in order to honor them, a federal prosecutor said, rejecting a call to bring charges by an American Indian group.

Representatives of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council contend that the Native American officers had no right to possess the eagle feathers because they aren’t enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe.

Floyd Hand, a council delegate, asked Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender to return the eagle feathers. Allender then asked the U.S. Attorney’s office to review the situation. U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson said the Indian officers who provided the feathers had the legal right to do so, the Rapid City Journal reported Wednesday.

“The Native American officers who possessed them were exercising their religious beliefs by having them buried with their fallen colleagues,” Johnson said of the eagle feathers. “I think it’s very clear that these officers were exercising their religious rights. It was a legitimate thing for them to do and there was no federal violation.”

Native American police honored slain officers – J. Ryan McCandless and Nick Armstrong, who were killed Aug. 2 during a shootout – by putting eagle feathers in their caskets.

“That’s really a violation,” Hand said. “The family has no right burying eagle feathers. That’s against the federal law,” Hand said, adding that Johnson needs to “read his Treaty Council.”

The Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council is composed of 17 members who advocate for the provisions of the 1851 and 1868 treaties to be upheld by the U.S. government. Hand is one of three delegates from the Oglala Lakota tribe.

Johnson’s legal interpretation of the situation includes the federal Migratory Bird Act, which has protected the bald eagle since 1940 and the golden eagle since 1962. The act permits tribal members to possess the feathers of eagles and other migratory birds for use in religious ceremonies, but they may not sell them. While there is no specific language in the act for giving the feathers as gifts to non-Native Americans, Johnson said his decision is based on the premise that honoring the memory of fallen colleagues with an eagle feather is a religious practice for Native American police officers.

Those who violate the act can face a fine of up to $5,000 or up to a year in prison, or both.

Johnson said his investigation showed that the Native American officers, whom he declined to identify, were in lawful possession of the feathers.

Thomas Shortbull, an Oglala Lakota and president of Oglala Lakota College, said an eagle feather is the “highest honor that an Indian person can give another.”

He called the presentation of the eagle feathers to the fallen police officers a “nice gesture of respect” and said he did not believe it violated the spirit of the law. The federal law is designed to prevent the wanton killing of eagles, not keep the Native American community from expressing its solidarity with a grieving city, Shortbull said.


Information from: Rapid City Journal,

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Primitive weapon enjoys modern revival

Written by at September 7, 2011

VAUGHN, Mont. (AP) – With just a flick of the wrist, hunters have been able to kill their prey for thousands of years with the atlatl (pronounced attle attle).

But on Sunday at First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, visitors were just looking to hit the target with the long wooden arrows and short wooden thrower.

“It’s not hard to learn how to use it,” said atlatl demonstrator Jim Ray. “But it’s difficult to learn to be accurate with it.”

The atlatl has been around for 19,000 years, Ray said, and was once used by man to hunt animals. Early peoples also used that atlatl as a weapon in war or battle. The word atlatl comes from the Aztec language.

The thrower is made of wood and is about a half-inch thick and 15 to 18 inches long.

There sometimes is a leather strap attached to be used as a handle and a stone tied to the bottom to give the weapon extra weight.

On one end, there is a point that attaches to the butt end of the arrows.

The arrows are made of light wood material or bamboo and vary in height, but are usually about the same height or taller than the person throwing them.

Using the thrower and a good deal of wrist action, the arrows can be launched successfully toward the intended target, Ray said.

On Sunday, instead of trying to hunt animals, participants were trying to hit targets.

Ray said in the last 20 years or so, the atlatl has made a resurgence as a tool in the competitive arena of sports target shooting worldwide. There are international competitions in which atlatl fans can participate. He said he enjoys the sport.

“Making the equipment and studying it – it gives you more of a connection with your ancestors,” he said.

Mary Sheehy brought family and friends from Big Sandy to the atlatl demonstration on Sunday after attending church in town.

“It’s very lightweight and easy to use,” she said. “It would be a really fun sport.”

Living in the Bear Paw Mountains, Sheehy said her family takes an interest in native culture.

“We live where there have been Native American people forever, and it’s just an interesting part of Montana,” she said.

Mary Brown was enjoying a little slice of historical life. The 11-year-old had learned about atlatl at 4-H camp before, but wanted to give it another try on Sunday with her parents and sisters.

“It’s actually really easy,” she said. “It’s easy to throw, but I’ve never hit a target.”

And while she can appreciate the atlatl as a part of not just Montana’s history, but people’s hunting tools in general, she enjoys modern hunting techniques.

“I think it’s fun to learn what other people used – even though I use a gun,” Mary said.


Information from: Great Falls Tribune,

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2011 Indian Peace Treaty pageant might be last

Written by at September 5, 2011

PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE IMAGES Above a marker near Medicine Lodge, Kan., displays the history that led to peace treaties between the Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, Apache and Cheyenne tribes with the U.S. government. A pageant commenmorating the peace treaties is in jeopardy due to lack of money and volunteers. MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) – A September tradition in southern Kansas that celebrates 300 years of the state’s history might become history itself after this year’s event because of a lack of money and volunteers, organizers said.
The Medicine Lodge Indian Peace Treaty Pageant has drawn thousands of people to the south central town where the pageant has been held every three to five years since it began in 1927.

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