Monday, April 30, 2012


Four years ago, I had the distinct privilege of helping to facilitate a cultural exchange with nine students from Ecuador, along with three adult leaders. We collaborated on several cultural experiences and traveled as a group to Washington DC. During our one month together, we established friendships that will last forever.

Victor was one of the students from that group. This week, he returned to Spokane as a guest speaker at the Institute for Extended Learning and addressed one of the ESL classes (English as a Second Language).

This particular class is comprised almost entirely of ethnic Nepali refugees who were expelled from Bhutan and forced to live more than ten years in a refugee camp. They have come to the United States having suffered discrimination, displacement, and tremendous loss. Many are now struggling to maintain a sense of cultural identity as they also strive to adapt to life in America.

Prior to the presentation, I wondered how Victor would relate to a group whose experience has been so radically different from his own, and yet he spoke powerfully about the need to adapt while still preserving one's own culture. Without any previous knowledge of their experience, Victor spoke directly to one of the pressing questions of their current struggle. Many of the students were visibly moved as they received an affirmation of their hopes for the future.

Beyond the timeliness of his message, the students discovered many similarities between the Bhutanese and Ecuadorian cultures. At one point, Victor displayed his a collection of artwork that included 'talismans' that are used to protect children from spiritual harm. Without any previous explanation, the Bhutanese students immediately recognized the items! They create the same kind of items in Bhutan, and they do so for the same purpose. The parallels are amazing.

At the end of the class, one of the women raised her hand and asked his age. When he answered, she said, "You are very young, but your message is very powerful. Thank you for doing this work."


The Chief Garry campsite has been mentioned before, but I find value in visiting the same places in different seasons of the year. This allows the visitor to experience the full context of a location, along with all the different plants and moods of the landscape.

And besides, the nice weather has encouraged me to get outside and resume some of my favorite past times: hiking and photography.

Kinnick kinnick flowers in bloom.

Trees in bloom.

Chief Garry's gravesite at Greenwood Cemetery.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


łuʔ sqepc, hecya stem' u qiłt. hecya łuʔ sc'ʔekʷ u heł c'ʔekʷmi u heł qec wičntm łuʔ skʷƛuʔusc. qʷamqʷmt x̣est. č' nwist u č'łq'iʔnten t i piq słaq snc'ekʷt.

nexʷ kʷtuntwilš łuʔ ntx̣ʷetkʷ x̣ʷl hamip łuʔ smx̣ʷup nʔec mq'ʷmoq'ʷ. l' scqesci u wičntm t skʷmskʷmiw'tšn n stip'metkʷ. 

xʷeʔit hes c'ʔekʷmi łuʔ smuk'ʷšn nʔec moq'ʷ č' čsax̣m łuʔ spilyeʔ snʔawpcis.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Ever since the Salish Conference in March, I made a commitment to attend the language program on the Kalispel Reservation at least once a week. In particular, I like to attend during the daily immersion when tribal elders speak for one hour in nothing but the language. English goes away for that hour. If the listeners want to participate, they also have to speak Salish. I generally don't understand everything, but my weekly immersion has greatly accelerated my learning process.

When I arrived today for immersion, the group was preparing to leave for a mini-field trip. I had to smile a little because they were planning to dig spring beauties, just as my class had done a few days before. This time, I remembered to take pictures of the beautiful little potatoes. Of course, they are so tiny, I doubt you could get a good meal.

The best part of the immersion is the opportunity to sit at the feet of the elders and to listen to their stories in the language. Over the last few weeks, I have felt truly fortunate.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cataldo Mission

The Institute for Extended Learning sponsored a field trip to the Cataldo Mission in North Idaho. I was asked to accompany the students and explain the historical significance of the site from a Salish perspective. The church was commissioned by the Jesuit fathers in the 1850s and was largely constructed by the Coeur d'Alene Indians.

A park ranger dressed as a 'Black Robe' offered historical information about the structure of the building.

Much of the interior was designed by Father Anthony Ravalli who fashioned frontier materials to create a truly unique worship space. For example, he cut sheets of scrap tin to form simple chandeliers and altar pieces. The ceiling was dyed blue with huckleberry juice harvested from nearby mountains and pine carvings were plastered to resemble marble.

The finished chapel is definitely rustic, and yet the simplicity has a certain elegance. I'm not Catholic, but I felt closer to God in a chapel made by humble means than in the mass produced mega-churches of our day.

Cataldo is treated as an historical site, but we were told that the Black Robes even still perform mass within its walls from time time. The Coeur d'Alene also return during certain times of the year to commemorate their sacred history. I did not necessarily expect to have a spiritual experience, and yet I perceived much of my own family history and my own spiritual ancestry.

According to the museum, the Coeur d'Alene once called this mission "The House of the Great Spirit." If anyone knows the exact Salish phrase they used for this expression, please send me a message. I know how I would translate it, but I'm interested in the exact words used long ago.

One of the presentations acknowledges that the Catholic priests sometimes pressured the Salish people to abandon their indigenous practices. This reminded me of a story I once heard about twenty five years ago:

As I recall the story, a Catholic priest was evangelizing a respected Indian elder. The priest displayed a painting that showed the souls of the damned burning in hell. He said, "This is what will happen if you do not abandon your Indian medicine."

The old Indian studied the painting and said, "Do you see those people in the flames? They're all suyepi (white people). I don't see any Indians in hell, so why should I worry?"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day

This afternoon, I observed Earth Day by visiting Drumheller Springs to photograph the flowers. The weather has been somewhat dreary, if not depressing, but today was perfect. The sky was clear and the temperature was above 80 degrees.

It's too early for camas flowers, so I was surprised to see the field covered in blue. On closer examination, I discovered that the blue flowers are actually Idaho blue-eyed-grass. It really is quite remarkable that every flower seems to have its day in the sun, as if it were the only one.

Idaho blue-eyed-grass.
Sisyrinchium idahoense.

The arrow-leaf balsamroot was not quite blooming.
Balsamorhiza sagittata.

Narrow-leaved desert parsley.
Lomatium triternatum.

Yellow flowering currant.
Ribes aureum.

Yellow bell.
Fritillaria pudica.

Bitterroot (without the flower).
Lewisia rediviva.

Spreading phlox (I believe).
Phlox diffusa.

I can't tell you how happy it makes
me feel to see all these faces again.


Dakota got up before dawn this morning to audition for the X-Factor at Northern Quest Casino. Well, actually, he got up at 3:45 to stand in line for the X-Factor; the audition itself did not start until after 9:00. The video is a little grainy, but still offers a fair sample of Dakota's vocal performance. At the end, only one contestant was selected to advance to the national competition, and sadly, Dakota was not the one. Even so, the judges offered some great words of encouragement.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Whitney celebrates her 13th birthday today!

Dakota sang for the family.

Whitney and her great grandma.

Spring Beauties

Yesterday afternoon, our Salish class convened for this week's lesson, but we only managed to review the word list two or three times before getting distracted. We had shared a big lunch just before the meeting, so I think most of us were ready for a nap.

We adjusted our plan according the needs of the group and went outside for a mini field trip.

The spring beauties (Claytonia lanceolata) were in full bloom, like speckles of white splashed across a blanket of green grass. Some of the flowers are pure white, while others have delicate pink lines streaked across the petals. One of the class members had an iron pec'eʔ that we used to extract some of the spring beauty roots, known as commonly as "Indian potatoes." Come to think of it, I should have photographed some of the roots, as they do resemble tiny potatoes. They are a traditional food of the interior Salish people.

Standing amid the spring beauties, I announced to the group, "Since we're still technically in school, you should know that the Spokane name for this plant is skʷn'kʷin'm'." We all laughed. Then I pointed to the yellow avalanche liles (not pictured), and said, "...and those are called max̣eʔ."

I have not replaced my camera since it was stolen last week, but I did manage to find my old point-and-shoot Kodak EasyShare Z760. Actually, I used that old camera for several years to post photographs onto my blog, but I never realized how spoiled I was by the Canon. The Kodak lacks a manual focus, so getting a clear image of these tiny flowers was difficult. I was able to work around the problem somewhat by making the camera focus on my hand (placed at the same distance as the flower), and then removing my hand to take the picture.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


My son called me at work this evening and asked if I took the laptop computer. It did not take us long to compare notes and realize that the computer was missing. Apparently, someone walked through the front door and grabbed whatever items were close at hand. They also took the kids' Wii and my digital camera. As far as we can tell, nothing else was removed.

Mostly, I feel annoyed. These items are all replaceable, but we worked for them. In fact, my son saved his own money to buy the Wii.

We filed a police report and were able to provide serial numbers for the computer and the Wii. The officer said that all the local pawn shops report items received into a police database. That way, if our serial numbers show up, we have a chance of recovering at least some of the items. We also have a chance of identifying the thief.

Unfortunately, I have managed to misplace the serial number for the camera. I've probably lost it forever, and for the time being, I am blogging without pictures. And sadly, a blog without pictures is like a life without color.


By the way, you might want to be aware of something else the officer said. He told us that a common crime these days is for thieves to actually knock on your front door. If no one answers, they try the door handle. If the door opens, they run in, grab a few handy items, and run out. Usually the crime takes only two or three minutes. Just a word to the wise to keep your doors locked.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Just before leaving Virginia, we had the chance to visit Jamestown.

Part of the site includes a re-creation of a Powhatan Indian village.

Artisans create tribal objects based on ancestral technologies. This young man was making a twine bag from natural fibers. The day we went, we also saw a woman making bone tools and another woman making necklaces from local shells. This part of the tour made me think of my friends from Twin Eagles Wilderness School.

The English fort is also re-created.

Artisans also re-create old English technologies, including blacksmiths, gunsmiths, gardeners, and this cook who allowed children to sample English recipes.

In the old English fort, I tried on a metal helmet that was typical of the Jamestown era. I immediately felt nauseated when I placed it on my head, though I'm not sure if my physical reaction was a result of the heaviness of the helmet or the history of military conquest associated with it.

Replicas of the English ships.

The Union Jack...

Virginia is a place of great natural beauty.

Away from the re-created sites, visitors can also see an archaeological site where the actual fort once stood. The site also includes several statues and monuments.

A statue of Pocahontas.

A statue of John Smith.

English graves along the James River.

Throughout Jamestown, one scarcely gets the impression that the arrival of the English was anything less than noble and heroic. When other ethnic groups are mentioned, they give the impression that the English, Powhatan Indians, and African slaves all somehow collaborated to create a new society. The truth is less inspirational.

On the plane ride home, I had the opportunity to read a biography of Pocahontas written by Helen Rountree, told largely from an Indian perspective. Through her writing, we discover the depravity of the English settlers in Virginia. Unlike the whitewashed myths we often learn in school, we see that the English literally went from village to village demanding food at gun point and eventually killing Indians who dared to object. For anyone who wants a more realistic history of early Virginia, I recommend the Rountree book.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kitty Hawk

The conference did not provide dinner this evening, so we made the relatively short drive to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to find a place to eat. We arrived right at sunset.   

The Atlantic Ocean...

We had dinner at the Black Pelican - a place made famous because the Wright Brothers sent a first telegram from that building after their first successful flight.


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