Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cougar Shot in Spokane

Spokane, North Idaho News

A cougar was shot and killed by police at my sister's house in north Spokane. The local news report featured my brother-in-law Aaron Armstrong, as can be seen in this video.

A couple months ago, I dreamed about killing a cougar. The circumstances in my dream were totally different than the real-world scenario, but the underlying idea was the same. In my dream, a cougar threatened my family, and I shot it. It is so strange that the dream event and the waking event happened so close to one another.   

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Red Sun

A wildfire near Corkscrew Canyon Road turned the sky red and cast a fiery glow onto the neighborhood. Wildfires are such tragic events, yet they create such beauty in the sky.

The smoke towered above the trees. 

As the sun dipped lower in the sky, 
it turned a darker shade of red. 

This photograph seems to show sun spots. 
After several shots, it was apparent that the spots
did not move. They were fixed on that location. 


This photograph shows some flowers in my front yard. 
By then, the sun had turned blood red in the sky. 


Part of the time, I got to stay at the language house on the Ashnola Indian Reserve of the Lower Smilkameen. It's kind of a lonesome place - quiet and deserted - but that's part of its appeal. Without the distractions of the city, the place seems to come alive with the gentle blowing of wind through the sage brush - beautiful in a haunting kind of way. 

I loved the rattlesnake sign written in the language. 


Snpinktn is an indigenous place name in present-day British Columbia that was Anglicized and changed into Penticton. This week I had the opportunity to visit snpinktn with a fluent elder from that area. I was the taxi-man who brought him home from the Sisyikst gathering last week in Inchelium. The whole time we were together, he corrected me when I pronounced the English place name. It might be something casual like, "I've never been to Penticton before," but he stopped me every time and repeated the name in Salish. He spoke the word slowly and emphatically, "Sn-pink-tn." He never uttered a tone of anger or irritation, but perhaps a quiet insistence to not validate the colonial distortion of the indigenous landscape.  

This elder's influence impacted me in unexpected ways. I found myself speaking scattered phrases of his dialect, simply because they were present in every conversation - I didn't have to think about it. By the time I left Canada, I found myself thanking cashiers or greeting waitresses in Salish. At the border, the agent asked, "Where did you visit in Canada?" 

Without thinking, I said, "snpinktn," and for a moment, I totally blanked on the English name.  

The reserve sits on a hillside overlooking the city. Most of the road signs are written in Salish first, followed by English. These are small cultural reminders, but they are so important. I wish our community would do this. 

The Outma Sqilxʷ Cultural School helped sponsor an elder's gathering for elders and young people to come together and share cultural knowledge. After taking my friend home, I stayed another couple days to witness some of the cultural events. 

My new sl'axt Koy showed some of the 
young men how to raise a tepee. 

A woman demonstrated a dip net 
made entirely from spec'n (dogbane).

She also demonstrated spec'n bags.  

Cottonwood canoes on display. 

The food for the elder's dinner was cooked in 
pit ovens, just like we do at Wellpinit. 

Hide tanning demonstration. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The 4th of July

Dakota's girlfriend Kelsi invited our family to spend the 4th of July in Suncrest. I was looking forward to visiting Kelsi's family, but I have to admit that I was not too excited to watch the fireworks in a rural community. I had this idea that the firework display would be less than memorable. Boy, was I wrong. 

Unlike Spokane County, Stevens County has no fireworks ban, so before the show actually started, fireworks were exploding all around us - in every direction. It was crazy! It was like a pre-show firework display that lasted for more than an hour. When the actual show started, we were able to sit directly next to the place where they launch the fireworks. It had never been so close before. Sometimes, the fireworks exploded directly overhead and seemed to fill the whole sky.  

After the main firework display, we lit sparklers.  

Saturday, July 05, 2014


Elders and community members recently gathered on the Colville Indian Reservation for Sisyikst, a cultural event where traditional craftspeople and artists imparted their knowledge to anyone who wanted to learn. Local experts offered classes in hide tanning, obsidian arrowheads, cedar baskets, beadwork, baby boards, and much more.

As the event unfolded, I was fortunate to attend most of the days, though the hardest part was choosing the sessions. I wanted to do them all. In the picture above, I was learning to make arrowheads from obsidian. The shape was beginning to form perfectly, but right after this picture, the arrow broke in half - all part of the learning process. 

The original event poster gives a more complete picture of who attended and what skills they offered to their learners. 

One elder from Canada taught us how to make twine bags. 

I learned to make beaded earrings. 

Inchelium was my home for the week. 

On the last day of the event, a group of teachers and learners went up into the mountains to gather cedar roots for basket making. 

The cedars are quite majestic. 

Last year, I took a basket-making workshop, but I forgot some of the basic processes. I was thankful for the reminder. 

Another reminder of the process. 

Shelly splitting cedar roots. 

During the week, we shared meals in a variety of locations in the community, including the local longhouse. A friend told me that the longhouse was made from a converted bowling alley. 

Longhouse door. 

The cultural, linguistic, and spiritual skills are equally important. On the Colville Reservation, their dialect of Salish is different than mine. Even so, I was surprised at how quickly it started to make sense. 

In the longhouse, this prayer was posted on a bulletin board:

kʷu p'ixʷłt ikłxʷił,
mi wikn ikscxʷuy,
kʷu kʷul'łt i spuʔus apna tsxlxʕalt,
mi xast iks cxʷuy,
kʷu xʷic'xtt ikspəxpaxt, 
mi lut iksnłiptm,
kʷu xʷic'xt t iksk'ʷəck'ʷact.
mi niʕ'ip ctxt'mist.
iʔ tl yayʕat iʔ tl k'ast.
xast t'iʔ c'x̌ił.

Light the way for me, 
so I can see where I'm going.
Today, make my heart, 
So my conduct is good.
Give me wisdom
So I don't forget. 
Give me strength
So I can always protect myself
From all evil. 
So be it.  

Barnaby Island on the Columbia River.

The Columbia River is a massive cultural 
and spiritual presence in the region. 

When we weren't learning new skills, 
we went upriver and picked service berries. 

The service berries were especially abundant this year. 

Bird nest in the service berries. 

At the end the week, I was driving home and found this eagle feather on the highway. It was a perfect ending to a beautiful experience. 


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