Culture, Climate Science & Education
Culture, Climate Science & Education
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Author’s note: This brief essay includes information from native peoples throughout North America, but draws primarily from the culture and history of two of the indigenous peoples of the Plateau region: the closely related Séliš (Salish or “Flathead”) and Ql̓ispé (Kalispel or Pend d’Oreille). They are the easternmost tribes of the Salish language family, and their traditional territories encompass much of the present-day state of Montana on both sides of the Continental Divide.


I: "But now it's all changed."

There is no longer any valid question that our climate is warming and becoming less stable. And as University of Colorado law professor Sarah Krakoff has noted, “American Indian tribes and people have contributed very little to the causes of global warming, yet for geographic, cultural, and demographic reasons, they stand to suffer disproportionately from global warming’s negative effects.2

Indeed, some of the most powerful evidence of climate change comes from the native peoples of the Americas—and especially from the elders, drawing from the profound ecological knowledge held by tribal communities. In the traditional way of life, people in indigenous communities had to be close and keen observers of the natural world. As Nancy Turner and Gitga’at (Coast Tsimshian) elder Helen Clifton stated, it is a special kind of “close observation, made year after year, by people who depend on their knowledge of the weather and environment for their survival… People with such deep experience recognize [changes in climatic patterns] readily.1

It is a special kind of “close observation, made year after year, by people who depend on their knowledge of the weather and environment for their survival Helen Clifton and Nancy Turner
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Indigenous people came to understand not only how foods and medicines fluctuated across the seasons, but also how they have fluctuated across the years and decades and even centuries, from thousands of years of observing the natural world. Tribes have come to know the long climatic cycles of temperature and precipitation. And in recent years, the elders of tribes across the western hemisphere have been telling us that the world they have known for millennia is now being transformed, with ever increasing speed.

In the Northern Rockies, Ql̓ispé elder John Peter Paul (1909-2001) noted that the month of February is named for a figure from tribal creation stories named Čq͏ʷosqn (Curley-headed). In some of these stories, the spirits and animal-people decide the nature of the world that will be inhabited by human beings. Mr. Paul related how Čq͏ʷosqn said that in that world-yet-to-come, he would govern the coldest part of winter: “I’ll be so tough I’ll freeze the babies in the womb!” When Mr. Paul was growing up, he remembered the snow piling up four or five feet, and the weather sitting at 40 below zero for a whole week, true to what was set forth in the creation stories. “But now it’s all changed,” said Mr. Paul said in 2000. “Changing a lot.”2

When Mr. Paul was growing up, he remembered the snow piling up four or five feet, and the weather sitting at 40 below zero for a whole week, true to what was set forth in the creation stories. “But now it’s all changed.” John Peter Paul
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Séliš elder Felicite Sapiye “Jim” McDonald (1922-2017) agreed. In her later years, she said, February did not often live up to its identity as the “coldest month.”3 She recalled how it was when she was a little girl living with her family in a cabin along Finley Creek, in the southern part of the Flathead Indian Reservation. During the winter, her stepfather John Pilko would saw big blocks of ice out of the creek, and haul them into the family root cellar to preserve food all summer. But toward the end of her 94 years, Ms. McDonald noted that the creek often lacked ice of any depth.4

The observation of declining snow and ice, and warmer winters, is echoed by many other elders of the Flathead Reservation. Ksanka (Kootenai) elder Ignace Couture recalled how in the past Flathead Lake iced over every winter, but now does so rarely if ever. Ql̓ispé elders Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. (1935-2015) and Stephen Smallsalmon (b. 1939), and Séliš elder Louie Adams (1933-2016) all observed the lack of snow in most recent years.5 Their accounts echo the observations of elders in native communities across North America, particularly in Alaska, where native villages have depended upon reliable ice for thousands of years. Thinning ice has been described, for example, by Mike Williams of the Akiak Native Community, Jerry Wongittilin, Sr. of Savoonga, Ellen Richards of Wales, and William Takak of Shaktoolik.6

The parallels in observations of climate change between elders of the Flathead Reservation and elsewhere extends beyond the matter of ice, snow, and cold. Just as Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. noticed “new kinds of different birds” in the Northern Rockies, so Kitty Simonds of Hawaii noticed the appearance of different fish species, and members of the Quinault and Quileute Nations have reported an influx of anchovies and sunfish and a corresponding decline in salmon.7 Just as Stephen Smallsalmon described the diminishing size of huckleberries and chokecherries, so John T. Doyle of the Crow reported the decline of buffalo berries, juneberries, and elderberries, and Helen Clifton of the Gitga’at (Coast Tsimshian) Nation reported more frequent collapses in wild crops of Saskatoon berries, soapberries, salal, pigeonberries, thimbleberries, and currants. “Everything is different now with the warmer weather,” Ms. Clifton summarized. “Harvesting times are way, way different.”8

Felicite Sapiye McDonald was worried that now, in the middle of winter, we often hear thunder. She said that when she was growing up, first thunder was always in springtime. It was a special moment in the year, when bears would finally move away from their dens, and parents “would medicine their babies” for their health and wellbeing in life. Ms. McDonald expressed concern about these changes, and what they mean for the people and the world.9

Now, in the middle of winter, we often hear thunder. She said that when she was growing up, first thunder was always in springtime. Felicite Sapiye “Jim” McDonald
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Indeed, elders have recounted how the old people have long known this would happen. Pat Pierre (born 1929), an elder and spiritual leader of the Ql̓ispé (Kalispel or Pend d’Oreille), said that when he was a young boy, his grandmother told him that in Mr. Pierre’s own lifetime, something would happen that they called t̓x͏ʷl̓asq͏ʷtí—change in the climate. “The earth is going to become warm… the snow and ice is going to melt in the north, and the oceans are going to fill up, islands are going to flood… summertime will be extremely hot, wintertime you aren’t going to get cold weather… I never believed it back in those days, but I have actually seen the change.”10

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists now understand the prescience of what Pat Pierre’s elders told him in the 1930s. This problem is most troublesome when what is being harmed is the “commons”—those areas of our society or our world that all of us depend upon and share in common; they are not owned by any one person, corporation, or government. The commons are therefore especially vulnerable to exploitation. For example, it is difficult to protect the open oceans, which lie beyond national jurisdictions, from overfishing by private fleets of boats. The problem of the commons arises even more severely in regard to our atmosphere—a “global commons,” as Sarah Krakoff has put it.11 Not only is the atmosphere an often unprotected dumping ground, but no matter where emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, or other gases occur, those emissions contribute to greenhouse gas levels everywhere.

But we must not and need not despair. For history—and in particular the history of indigenous peoples—shows us that human beings are capable not only of adapting to changing conditions, but also of living in profoundly differing ways. We are able to live in ways that respect and care for our planet, and for one another. In fact, for the vast majority of human history, we have lived in such a way. As Professor Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) has put it, “For much of human’s time on the planet, before the great delusion, we lived in cultures that understood the covenant of reciprocity, that for the Earth to stay in balance, for the gifts to continue to flow, we must give back in equal measure for what we take.”12

For the Earth to stay in balance, for the gifts to continue to flow, we must give back in equal measure for what we take. Professor Robin Wall Kimmerer
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The ethic of reciprocity—that is, when we receive a gift from nature, we are obligated to give something of equal or greater value in return—lies at the foundation of almost all tribal cultures and governs their relations with the natural world. It goes beyond the concept of mere sustainability, which is often offered as a solution to our current climate crisis (we have all heard statements like “we need to live more sustainably to avert dangerous levels of global warming”). Sustainable development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It means that taking from nature or developing a natural area is okay as long as it does not compromise the ability of future generations to satisfy their need to take from or develop it. Under a sustainability model, the needs of the natural world do not come into play at all, only human needs. In other words, the concept remains focused on taking to satisfy human needs. Reciprocity, on the other hand, is as focused on the needs of the natural world as it is on human needs. Every gift received from the natural world, requires giving back in equal measure.

If we turn to the teachings of tribal communities, teachings like the concept of reciprocity, we will find a path out of the crisis we face. Tribal communities' capacities for adaptation and restoration, which are rooted in the millennia of indigenous presence on the land, also offer essential lessons.


Author’s note: This brief essay includes information from native peoples throughout North America, but draws primarily from the culture and history of two of the indigenous peoples of the Plateau region: the closely related Séliš (Salish or “Flathead”) and Ql̓ispé (Kalispel or Pend d’Oreille). They are the easternmost tribes of the Salish language family, and their traditional territories encompass much of the present-day state of Montana on both sides of the Continental Divide.


I: "But now it's all changed."

There is no longer any valid question that our climate is warming and becoming less stable. And as University of Colorado law professor Sarah Krakoff has noted, “American Indian tribes and people have contributed very little to the causes of global warming, yet for geographic, cultural, and demographic reasons, they stand to suffer disproportionately from global warming’s negative effects.2

Indeed, some of the most powerful evidence of climate change comes from the native peoples of the Americas—and especially from the elders, drawing from the profound ecological knowledge held by tribal communities. In the traditional way of life, people in indigenous communities had to be close and keen observers of the natural world. As Nancy Turner and Gitga’at (Coast Tsimshian) elder Helen Clifton stated, it is a special kind of “close observation, made year after year, by people who depend on their knowledge of the weather and environment for their survival… People with such deep experience recognize [changes in climatic patterns] readily.1

Indigenous people came to understand not only how foods and medicines fluctuated across the seasons, but also how they have fluctuated across the years and decades and even centuries, from thousands of years of observing the natural world. Tribes have come to know the long climatic cycles of temperature and precipitation. And in recent years, the elders of tribes across the western hemisphere have been telling us that the world they have known for millennia is now being transformed, with ever increasing speed.

In the Northern Rockies, Ql̓ispé elder John Peter Paul (1909-2001) noted that the month of February is named for a figure from tribal creation stories named Čq͏ʷosqn (Curley-headed). In some of these stories, the spirits and animal-people decide the nature of the world that will be inhabited by human beings. Mr. Paul related how Čq͏ʷosqn said that in that world-yet-to-come, he would govern the coldest part of winter: “I’ll be so tough I’ll freeze the babies in the womb!” When Mr. Paul was growing up, he remembered the snow piling up four or five feet, and the weather sitting at 40 below zero for a whole week, true to what was set forth in the creation stories. “But now it’s all changed,” said Mr. Paul said in 2000. “Changing a lot.”2

Séliš elder Felicite Sapiye “Jim” McDonald (1922-2017) agreed. In her later years, she said, February did not often live up to its identity as the “coldest month.”3 She recalled how it was when she was a little girl living with her family in a cabin along Finley Creek, in the southern part of the Flathead Indian Reservation. During the winter, her stepfather John Pilko would saw big blocks of ice out of the creek, and haul them into the family root cellar to preserve food all summer. But toward the end of her 94 years, Ms. McDonald noted that the creek often lacked ice of any depth.4

The observation of declining snow and ice, and warmer winters, is echoed by many other elders of the Flathead Reservation. Ksanka (Kootenai) elder Ignace Couture recalled how in the past Flathead Lake iced over every winter, but now does so rarely if ever. Ql̓ispé elders Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. (1935-2015) and Stephen Smallsalmon (b. 1939), and Séliš elder Louie Adams (1933-2016) all observed the lack of snow in most recent years.5 Their accounts echo the observations of elders in native communities across North America, particularly in Alaska, where native villages have depended upon reliable ice for thousands of years. Thinning ice has been described, for example, by Mike Williams of the Akiak Native Community, Jerry Wongittilin, Sr. of Savoonga, Ellen Richards of Wales, and William Takak of Shaktoolik.6

The parallels in observations of climate change between elders of the Flathead Reservation and elsewhere extends beyond the matter of ice, snow, and cold. Just as Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. noticed “new kinds of different birds” in the Northern Rockies, so Kitty Simonds of Hawaii noticed the appearance of different fish species, and members of the Quinault and Quileute Nations have reported an influx of anchovies and sunfish and a corresponding decline in salmon.7 Just as Stephen Smallsalmon described the diminishing size of huckleberries and chokecherries, so John T. Doyle of the Crow reported the decline of buffalo berries, juneberries, and elderberries, and Helen Clifton of the Gitga’at (Coast Tsimshian) Nation reported more frequent collapses in wild crops of Saskatoon berries, soapberries, salal, pigeonberries, thimbleberries, and currants. “Everything is different now with the warmer weather,” Ms. Clifton summarized. “Harvesting times are way, way different.”8

Felicite Sapiye McDonald was worried that now, in the middle of winter, we often hear thunder. She said that when she was growing up, first thunder was always in springtime. It was a special moment in the year, when bears would finally move away from their dens, and parents “would medicine their babies” for their health and wellbeing in life. Ms. McDonald expressed concern about these changes, and what they mean for the people and the world.9

Indeed, elders have recounted how the old people have long known this would happen. Pat Pierre (born 1929), an elder and spiritual leader of the Ql̓ispé (Kalispel or Pend d’Oreille), said that when he was a young boy, his grandmother told him that in Mr. Pierre’s own lifetime, something would happen that they called t̓x͏ʷl̓asq͏ʷtí—change in the climate. “The earth is going to become warm… the snow and ice is going to melt in the north, and the oceans are going to fill up, islands are going to flood… summertime will be extremely hot, wintertime you aren’t going to get cold weather… I never believed it back in those days, but I have actually seen the change.”10

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists now understand the prescience of what Pat Pierre’s elders told him in the 1930s. This problem is most troublesome when what is being harmed is the “commons”—those areas of our society or our world that all of us depend upon and share in common; they are not owned by any one person, corporation, or government. The commons are therefore especially vulnerable to exploitation. For example, it is difficult to protect the open oceans, which lie beyond national jurisdictions, from overfishing by private fleets of boats. The problem of the commons arises even more severely in regard to our atmosphere—a “global commons,” as Sarah Krakoff has put it.11 Not only is the atmosphere an often unprotected dumping ground, but no matter where emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, or other gases occur, those emissions contribute to greenhouse gas levels everywhere.

But we must not and need not despair. For history—and in particular the history of indigenous peoples—shows us that human beings are capable not only of adapting to changing conditions, but also of living in profoundly differing ways. We are able to live in ways that respect and care for our planet, and for one another. In fact, for the vast majority of human history, we have lived in such a way. As Professor Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) has put it, “For much of human’s time on the planet, before the great delusion, we lived in cultures that understood the covenant of reciprocity, that for the Earth to stay in balance, for the gifts to continue to flow, we must give back in equal measure for what we take.”12

The ethic of reciprocity—that is, when we receive a gift from nature, we are obligated to give something of equal or greater value in return—lies at the foundation of almost all tribal cultures and governs their relations with the natural world. It goes beyond the concept of mere sustainability, which is often offered as a solution to our current climate crisis (we have all heard statements like “we need to live more sustainably to avert dangerous levels of global warming”). Sustainable development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It means that taking from nature or developing a natural area is okay as long as it does not compromise the ability of future generations to satisfy their need to take from or develop it. Under a sustainability model, the needs of the natural world do not come into play at all, only human needs. In other words, the concept remains focused on taking to satisfy human needs. Reciprocity, on the other hand, is as focused on the needs of the natural world as it is on human needs. Every gift received from the natural world, requires giving back in equal measure.

If we turn to the teachings of tribal communities, teachings like the concept of reciprocity, we will find a path out of the crisis we face. Tribal communities' capacities for adaptation and restoration, which are rooted in the millennia of indigenous presence on the land, also offer essential lessons.

My Image
My Image

II: Climate and Coyote

When the elders talk about these things, they begin with the beginning, with what the Séliš and Ql̓ispé people call the sq͏ʷlllúmt,13 the creation stories. They are told only during the wintertime.14 They explain how the world took its present form, and how human beings are meant to live on earth.

For thousands of years, these stories have been passed down, from generation to generation. They hold within them the foundations of Séliš and Ql̓ispé culture and spirituality. When the cold weather arrives, the people gather to tell them, and to listen with respect and reverence (even though they are often humorous).15

Many of the stories tell about Coyote, who was sent to this land—y̓e čsunk͏ʷ, this island—to prepare it for the tl̓sqélix͏ʷ, the-human-beings-yet-to-come.16 Using his skill, cunning, courage, and power, Coyote destroyed the naɫisqélix͏ʷ (monsters, or literally, those-who-eat-human-beings). Coyote made the land safe and abundant in everything people would need. He showed the right way to live: a way of respect for each other, and the land and waters, and the plants and animals. He showed human beings how to live in harmony, moving with the seasons to harvest the foods and medicines when they were ready and where they were plentiful, taking only what was needed, and leaving plenty for other living things.

As Coyote showed the people-yet-to-come the proper way of life, he also left behind the signs of his deeds, permanent reminders preserved in landmarks and place-names across Séliš and Ql̓ispé homelands. As tribal people today pass by these places, the ancient names by which they are known bring to mind the stories and their teachings. Snɫp̓upƛ̓m, Place Where You Come Out. ʔamtqné, Sitting on the Edge. Tmsmɫí, No Salmon, and Ep Smɫí, Has Salmon. Snetetšé, Place of the Sleeping Baby. Sql̓ew̓ Stqeps, the Beaver’s Dam. These names and many others serve as constant reminders that the tribal way of life, and the tribal connection to these places, reaches back to time immemorial.17

Some of the oldest Séliš and Ql̓ispé stories tell of a strange and now vanished world. For a long time, the land was gripped in cold and ice. Great ice-dams blocked the rivers, and water flooded the valleys. The land was inhabited by larger and often dangerous versions of the animals we know today. And the stories also tell of the final retreat of the bitter cold weather, and the establishment of the climate seasons and climate we know, with roughly half the year cold, and half the year warm.18

Many of these stories hold within them the tribal memory of what geologists would only later come to realize occurred during the last ice age, when much of North America was buried under vast sheets of ice. Towards the end of that period, about 15,000 years ago, an immense glacier pushed south out of what is now Canada through the Purcell Mountains, until it dropped into the lower Clark Fork River valley near today’s border between Montana and Idaho. In the early twentieth century, geologists finally began to recognize the evidence of what tribal people had always related in some of the Coyote stories—how the ice formed a vast dam, some two thousand feet high, and how a great lake formed behind the dam, filling many of the valleys of western Montana. As the climate slowly warmed, the ice-dam eventually burst, releasing one of the greatest floods in the history of the planet. The waters blasted west across the Columbia Plateau until reaching the Pacific Ocean. The glaciers then pushed south through the Purcell Mountains again, and the dam re-formed, and then it burst again, and so on—dozens of times over the following two thousand years. Glacial Lake Missoula finally drained for the last time about 13,000 years ago.

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Glacial Lake Missoula. During the last ice age, an enormous glacial ice sheet formed a vast dam, some two thousand feet high, and a great lake formed behind the dam, filling many of the valleys of western Montana.

The uncanny parallels between tribal accounts and those of scientists can be seen not only in how both tell about that ancient frozen world, but also in the precise locations of the major landmarks of the ice age. At site after site, we find specific places of significance in both Séliš-Ql̓ispé creation stories and geologic history: the locations of terminal moraines, of the southernmost extent of the great continental glaciers, of the areas that were flooded. The concurrences are too numerous and too precise to be mere coincidence.

In short, the sq͏ʷlllúmt, the creation stories, contain the memory of the most distant reaches of the tribal past. The stories help us realize that the Séliš and Ql̓ispé connection to this place reaches back to a point in human history more than twice as old as the oldest Egyptian pyramids. What the elders have told us helps us make sense of the archaeological record, such as the 13,000-year old Anzick site, located along Flathead Creek near Wilsall, Montana, and not far from a mountain known in Salish as Cx͏ʷmín (Hide-Flesher).19 Places such as the Anzick site, illuminated by the creation stories handed down to us from time immemorial, are the traces of the ancestors. They are testimony to the ancient tenure of tribal people in the Northern Rockies.

That tenure matters for understanding the issue of climate change and the special insights that tribal people offer us in observing the changes that have already happened. Séliš and Ql̓ispé people developed a deep knowledge and understanding of the ecology of their vast territories in part because they have lived in one place for such an enormous span of time.20 And because tribal ways of life were generally conducted within the limits of the environment, people were able to adapt to these shifting conditions and survive even dramatic climatic changes in the past.21 As Nancy Turner and Helen Clifton noted in their essay centered on climate change in British Columbia, “Indigenous Peoples of northwestern North America have always had to accommodate and respond to environmental change . . . People have traditionally made accommodations for resource fluctuations by turning to more easily accessed or predictable plant foods, even those less favoured, or to alternative species of fish or game. Trading is also a solution for localized scarcity.”22

The Séliš-Ql̓ispé creation stories and their associated place-names tell us not only how deeply rooted the tribes are in this place, but also how completely the traditional way of life is tied to the climate. Even the stories themselves are bound by the seasons; as mentioned above, they are told only when the cold weather is here, and the hibernating animals are asleep. The climate we have known, the cycle of the four seasons, is woven throughout the culture, the way of life, and the consciousness of tribal people in the Northern Rockies.

Elders have said that when people see a coyote today, they should wave, signaling that they haven’t forgotten what Coyote did. The map below shows place-names that refer to creation stories is a geography of tribal remembrance, of continuing gratitude to Coyote and the other animal-people for preparing the land and climate that sustains human beings. Indeed, one of the most important elements of the Coyote stories, as Felicite Sapiye McDonald related, is that “It was the animals who decided there would be human beings.”23 In their transformation from animal-people into the animals we know today, some of them agreed to become food for the tl̓sqélix͏ʷ, the people-yet-to-come. Tl̓ x͏ʷix͏ʷey̓úɫ u nq͏ʷonmíntmn ɫu sqélix͏ʷ, said Ql̓ispé elder Pete Beaverhead (1899-1975). “The animals took pity on Indian people.”24

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Selected Séliš-Ql̓ispé place-names from Creation Stories.

Each of these Séliš and Ql̓ispé elders—Felicite McDonald, Pete Beaverhead, and Mitch Smallsalmon—was reminding us that human life is only possible because of the sacrifice and generosity of the animals, plants, birds, and fish. This is the foundation of the covenant of reciprocity. It is why, before digging bitterroots or camas, or picking berries, or cutting up animals that have been hunted for food, the people always offer a gift: kinnickinnick leaves, or berries, or something else to show gratitude, and to pray that the plants and animals will continue to provide. As Pat Pierre has said many times, people must give before they take. And they must never waste. “If you kill an animal for nothing,” Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. said, “the animals will turn against you.”25 Many elders emphasize that when hunters bring animals into camp, the people always try to waste nothing, and to respectfully take care of whatever is not used. This honors the one who gave its life so that the people might live. The ethic of not wasting anything also holds true for plants, for berries—as Pete Beaverhead said, “for anything else they gathered or killed.”26 Those personal acts of respect were woven into the whole structure of traditional society.

The animals took pity on Indian people. Pete Beaverhead
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For thousands of years, this was the way that people lived in the Northern Rockies, and across the Americas. The tribal economy or mode of subsistence—the way in which food and all the necessities of life were obtained—was organized with an ethic of living within appropriate limits. In this way of life, people did not live as separate individuals, each pursuing their own self-interest in competition with one another. Rather, people lived together as tribes, in close community, conducting most activities together, for the well-being of the people as a whole. No one took too much for himself or herself.

In order to more fully understand the Séliš and Kootenai way of life, we must look more closely at the yearly cycle of the seasons—the way in which subsistence and climate were directly interconnected, in ways that kept the people’s dependence on the environment at the forefront of their consciousness.

II: Climate and Coyote

When the elders talk about these things, they begin with the beginning, with what the Séliš and Ql̓ispé people call the sq͏ʷlllúmt,13 the creation stories. They are told only during the wintertime.14 They explain how the world took its present form, and how human beings are meant to live on earth.

For thousands of years, these stories have been passed down, from generation to generation. They hold within them the foundations of Séliš and Ql̓ispé culture and spirituality. When the cold weather arrives, the people gather to tell them, and to listen with respect and reverence (even though they are often humorous).15

Many of the stories tell about Coyote, who was sent to this land—y̓e čsunk͏ʷ, this island—to prepare it for the tl̓sqélix͏ʷ, the-human-beings-yet-to-come.16 Using his skill, cunning, courage, and power, Coyote destroyed the naɫisqélix͏ʷ (monsters, or literally, those-who-eat-human-beings). Coyote made the land safe and abundant in everything people would need. He showed the right way to live: a way of respect for each other, and the land and waters, and the plants and animals. He showed human beings how to live in harmony, moving with the seasons to harvest the foods and medicines when they were ready and where they were plentiful, taking only what was needed, and leaving plenty for other living things.

As Coyote showed the people-yet-to-come the proper way of life, he also left behind the signs of his deeds, permanent reminders preserved in landmarks and place-names across Séliš and Ql̓ispé homelands. As tribal people today pass by these places, the ancient names by which they are known bring to mind the stories and their teachings. Snɫp̓upƛ̓m, Place Where You Come Out. ʔamtqné, Sitting on the Edge. Tmsmɫí, No Salmon, and Ep Smɫí, Has Salmon. Snetetšé, Place of the Sleeping Baby. Sql̓ew̓ Stqeps, the Beaver’s Dam. These names and many others serve as constant reminders that the tribal way of life, and the tribal connection to these places, reaches back to time immemorial.17

Some of the oldest Séliš and Ql̓ispé stories tell of a strange and now vanished world. For a long time, the land was gripped in cold and ice. Great ice-dams blocked the rivers, and water flooded the valleys. The land was inhabited by larger and often dangerous versions of the animals we know today. And the stories also tell of the final retreat of the bitter cold weather, and the establishment of the climate seasons and climate we know, with roughly half the year cold, and half the year warm.18

Many of these stories hold within them the tribal memory of what geologists would only later come to realize occurred during the last ice age, when much of North America was buried under vast sheets of ice. Towards the end of that period, about 15,000 years ago, an immense glacier pushed south out of what is now Canada through the Purcell Mountains, until it dropped into the lower Clark Fork River valley near today’s border between Montana and Idaho. In the early twentieth century, geologists finally began to recognize the evidence of what tribal people had always related in some of the Coyote stories—how the ice formed a vast dam, some two thousand feet high, and how a great lake formed behind the dam, filling many of the valleys of western Montana. As the climate slowly warmed, the ice-dam eventually burst, releasing one of the greatest floods in the history of the planet. The waters blasted west across the Columbia Plateau until reaching the Pacific Ocean. The glaciers then pushed south through the Purcell Mountains again, and the dam re-formed, and then it burst again, and so on—dozens of times over the following two thousand years. Glacial Lake Missoula finally drained for the last time about 13,000 years ago.

The uncanny parallels between tribal accounts and those of scientists can be seen not only in how both tell about that ancient frozen world, but also in the precise locations of the major landmarks of the ice age. At site after site, we find specific places of significance in both Séliš-Ql̓ispé creation stories and geologic history: the locations of terminal moraines, of the southernmost extent of the great continental glaciers, of the areas that were flooded. The concurrences are too numerous and too precise to be mere coincidence.

In short, the sq͏ʷlllúmt, the creation stories, contain the memory of the most distant reaches of the tribal past. The stories help us realize that the Séliš and Ql̓ispé connection to this place reaches back to a point in human history more than twice as old as the oldest Egyptian pyramids. What the elders have told us helps us make sense of the archaeological record, such as the 13,000-year old Anzick site, located along Flathead Creek near Wilsall, Montana, and not far from a mountain known in Salish as Cx͏ʷmín (Hide-Flesher).19 Places such as the Anzick site, illuminated by the creation stories handed down to us from time immemorial, are the traces of the ancestors. They are testimony to the ancient tenure of tribal people in the Northern Rockies.

That tenure matters for understanding the issue of climate change and the special insights that tribal people offer us in observing the changes that have already happened. Séliš and Ql̓ispé people developed a deep knowledge and understanding of the ecology of their vast territories in part because they have lived in one place for such an enormous span of time.20 And because tribal ways of life were generally conducted within the limits of the environment, people were able to adapt to these shifting conditions and survive even dramatic climatic changes in the past.21 As Nancy Turner and Helen Clifton noted in their essay centered on climate change in British Columbia, “Indigenous Peoples of northwestern North America have always had to accommodate and respond to environmental change . . . People have traditionally made accommodations for resource fluctuations by turning to more easily accessed or predictable plant foods, even those less favoured, or to alternative species of fish or game. Trading is also a solution for localized scarcity.”22

The Séliš-Ql̓ispé creation stories and their associated place-names tell us not only how deeply rooted the tribes are in this place, but also how completely the traditional way of life is tied to the climate. Even the stories themselves are bound by the seasons; as mentioned above, they are told only when the cold weather is here, and the hibernating animals are asleep. The climate we have known, the cycle of the four seasons, is woven throughout the culture, the way of life, and the consciousness of tribal people in the Northern Rockies.

Elders have said that when people see a coyote today, they should wave, signaling that they haven’t forgotten what Coyote did. Indeed, one of the most important elements of the Coyote stories, as Felicite Sapiye McDonald related, is that “It was the animals who decided there would be human beings.”23 In their transformation from animal-people into the animals we know today, some of them agreed to become food for the tl̓sqélix͏ʷ, the people-yet-to-come. Tl̓ x͏ʷix͏ʷey̓úɫ u nq͏ʷonmíntmn ɫu sqélix͏ʷ, said Ql̓ispé elder Pete Beaverhead (1899-1975). “The animals took pity on Indian people.”24

Each of these Séliš and Ql̓ispé elders—Felicite McDonald, Pete Beaverhead, and Mitch Smallsalmon—was reminding us that human life is only possible because of the sacrifice and generosity of the animals, plants, birds, and fish. This is the foundation of the covenant of reciprocity. It is why, before digging bitterroots or camas, or picking berries, or cutting up animals that have been hunted for food, the people always offer a gift: kinnickinnick leaves, or berries, or something else to show gratitude, and to pray that the plants and animals will continue to provide. As Pat Pierre has said many times, people must give before they take. And they must never waste. “If you kill an animal for nothing,” Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. said, “the animals will turn against you.”25 Many elders emphasize that when hunters bring animals into camp, the people always try to waste nothing, and to respectfully take care of whatever is not used. This honors the one who gave its life so that the people might live. The ethic of not wasting anything also holds true for plants, for berries—as Pete Beaverhead said, “for anything else they gathered or killed.”26 Those personal acts of respect were woven into the whole structure of traditional society.

For thousands of years, this was the way that people lived in the Northern Rockies, and across the Americas. The tribal economy or mode of subsistence—the way in which food and all the necessities of life were obtained—was organized with an ethic of living within appropriate limits. In this way of life, people did not live as separate individuals, each pursuing their own self-interest in competition with one another. Rather, people lived together as tribes, in close community, conducting most activities together, for the well-being of the people as a whole. No one took too much for himself or herself.

In order to more fully understand the Séliš and Kootenai way of life, we must look more closely at the yearly cycle of the seasons—the way in which subsistence and climate were directly interconnected, in ways that kept the people’s dependence on the environment at the forefront of their consciousness.

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III: Seasons of Gratitude

The end of winter was often a time of some scarcity. The stored dried foods from summer were running low, and meat was in short supply. But always there was a good supply of fish. And gradually, the signs of spring return. The elders’ memories reflect their quiet, careful attention to the environment: their observance of the reemergence of st̓it̓ič̓í (pussy willows) around the wetlands, and the first yellow bursts of sčiyál̓ʔmn (sagebrush buttercups) peeking through the thawing earth. U ɫu ƛ̓čƛ̓a, šey̓ ɫu es šʔi še ctk͏ʷk̓͏ʷe, Little Mary Finley told us. “And the blackbird, that is the first to come back.” Sic še k̓͏ʷsix͏ʷ sic esyaʔ. “Then the wild geese come back, and all the other birds follow.”27 The people welcome the song of the first sx̣ax̣lč̓ (robins). They listen for the first thunder, knowing that is when the bears begin moving away from their dens. As the weather warms, the people use larch to help their bodies get ready for summer. They take the tips of new needles from young trees, asking them to help, and prepare a tea that thins the blood for the warm months ahead.

When the people see the hills come alive with the white blossoms of the sy̓ey̓eʔ (juneberry, a type of serviceberry), then they know it is time to dig bitterroot. As Séliš elder Louise Vanderburg told us, the arrival of the bitterroot is a time of prayer and thanks.28 Sp̓eƛ̓m ɫu es nšicin tl̓ esyáʔ tʔe stem̓. Še u ec̓x̣ey ɫu q͏ʷo meyéɫts ɫu tin p̓x̣͏ʷp̓x̣͏ʷot, Agnes Vanderburg said. “Bitterroot is the first to be prayed for, before everything else. That’s the way it was explained to me by my elders.”29

The springtime bitterroot ceremony helps ensure the happiness and abundance of this first visitor, and all the other roots and berries—the hundreds of foods and medicines—that follow the bitterroot and become available over the rest of the summer, in certain places and at certain times, across the Séliš and Ql̓ispé homelands.30 Ne tas putéʔntx͏͏ʷ, n̓em eɫ nʔósne, Agnes Vanderburg said. “If you don’t do everything right or have respect for it, it’ll disappear back into the ground.”31 Beginning with the ceremony of thanks for the bitterroot, the yearly cycle of life is infused with spiritual respect and gratitude.

Although the Seliš and Ql̓ispé were not agricultural, they also maintained an active hand in managing their diverse and complex food base. As has been extensively documented elsewhere, the tribes managed many of their prairies and forests through the careful and highly skilled use of fire, which they used to increase forage for game (and in recent centuries, horses), and also to revitalize and fertilize berry patches, camas fields, and other plant foods.32

Wis x̣eʔect ɫu t sp̓eƛ̓m k͏ʷem̓t čtax̣͏ʷlle x̣eʔect ɫu t, ɫu t sx̣͏ʷeli, Sèliš-Ql̓ispé elder Pete Woodcock (1896-1978) said. “After they were done digging bitterroot, then they would dig and pick camas.”33 Sx̣͏ʷéʔli — camas— is a highly important and cherished food for the people. Not so long ago, each June, many wet areas and moist open valleys across Séliš and Ql̓ispé homelands took on the appearance of shimmering lakes as the blue camas came into bloom.

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Sx̣͏ʷéʔli — camas— is a highly important and cherished food for the people.

The people would move to these prime camas grounds—places such as Ɫl̓q̓͏ʷóleʔx͏ʷ (Little Prairie), a place up the Jocko River from Arlee; Qlnʔítx̣͏ʷe (literally, Fresh or Moist Baked Camas), known in English as Camas Prairie, in the western part of the Flathead Reservation; and Qal̓sá, the Potomac Valley, an area so rich in camas that people from many tribes came there and shared in its abundance.34 It takes the work of many people over many days to dig enough of the deeply buried bulbs and then dry them. After drying the camas, the people then pit-bake them for three days and two nights, along with other plant foods such as šawtmqn (tree lichen or “moss”) and seč (nodding onion). The baking process is a subtle, fine art, involving a complex layering system that ensures proper heat and steam, many other specific plants are used, including sʔatq͏ʷeɫp (Ponderosa pine), ppo (willow), tímuʔ (yellow skunk cabbage), t̓x̣t̓x̣éɫp (lady fern), and č̓ič̓itn̓é (mountain alder). It all must be done with precision and care—not only physically but also spiritually—or the camas will not come out right. When cooked properly, the raw camas is transformed from an indigestible fiber into a food so packed with energy that, as the elders have told, just a handful can sustain a hunter walking through the mountains for an entire day.35 Baked camas could be stored for use all through the coming winter.

From the camas fields, the people continued on. The first blooms of x͏ʷy̓éɫp (western wild rose) told them that east of the mountains, the bison calves were fat. Through the 1870s, large camps of Ql̓ispé, Séliš and Kootenai people would ride toward the buffalo country in June. Other people stayed in the high western prairies to dig sƛ̓uk̓͏ʷm (Indian carrot or Gairdner’s yampah), or went to the mountains to gather berries. The first are the delicate, sweet q̓éytq̓m (wild strawberries).

Then as now, mid-summer was also a time of relaxation, gathering, visiting, and celebration. Since 1898, this time has been formalized on the Flathead Reservation as the Arlee Čulay (July) Esyapqeyni (celebration or powwow), while the Kootenai gather in Elmo for the Standing Arrow Celebration. Many of the dances and songs that became a part of thes celebration, however, have been central to Seliš, Ql̓ispé, and Kootenai life from time immemorial.

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Since 1898, mid-summer has been formalized on the Flathead Reservation as the Arlee Čulay (July) Esyapqeyni (celebration or powwow).

As July moves into August, the harvest of the most important berries, sɫaq (serviceberries) and st̓šá (huckleberries), is supplemented by many other foods gathered in smaller quantities: ṇt̓é (gooseberries), pólplqn (thimbleberries), sqáq͏ʷocn or sk͏ʷn̓k͏ʷí (Indian potato or western springbeauty), sy̓ey̓eʔ (juneberry), stm̓tú (golden currant), ssipt (grouse whortleberry), sx̣͏ʷósm (foamberry or Canada buffaloberry). Most if not all the food plants also have medicinal uses or benefits. 36

While people are picking berries or gathering other foods, they also engage in fishing. Fishing, in fact, was done at all times of year, through all the seasons, providing a constant and plentiful source of protein. During spawning runs, people used weirs, fish traps, nets, and gaffing hooks to pull in great numbers that would be dried for future use. At other times, hook and line and other methods were used to provide good meals. As Mitch Smallsalmon said,37 the pure, clear waters of Séliš-Ql̓ispé territories, and the abundant fisheries they sustained, lay at the heart of the old way of life:

    M̓a ɫu es šʔi ɫu cwičtn y̓e st̓úlix͏ʷ, q͏ʷamq͏ʷmt y̓e st̓úlix͏ʷ.
       In the beginning, when I saw this land, it was beautiful.

    X̣est y̓e st̓úlix͏ʷ.
       This land was good.

    Esyaʔ, esyaʔ u it cniɫc u es x͏ʷisti ɫu puti tas x͏ʷʔit ɫu suyapi.
       Everything, all things were used from the land when there were not many white people.

    K͏ʷem̓t esyaʔ ye qe sewɫk͏ʷ ye qe nsisy̓etk͏ʷ u x̣est es momoʔop. X̣est es en̓esi.
       All our waters, our creeks were flowing along good. It was going good.

    L šey̓ ye l sewɫk͏ʷ u ɫu x͏ʷʔit ɫu x͏ʷix͏ʷey̓uɫ, ɫu sw̓ew̓ɫ ɫu tʔe stem̓.
       It is there, in the water—that is where there were many animals, fish and other things.

    K͏ʷem̓t šey̓ še nk̓͏ʷúlex͏ʷ qe sq͏ʷyúlex͏ʷ ɫiʔe l sewɫk͏ʷ.
       And by that, we were wealthy—from the water.

The Séliš and Ql̓ispé therefore always located their winter camps at places known to have dependable fishing throughout the cold months.38

As the end of summer approaches, still other foods and medicines become ready, including ɫx̣͏ʷɫo (chokecherry), which in the old way of life was pounded and dried in great quantities as a staple food for the long winter.39 Some families would spend a week or two near the confluence of the Jocko and Flathead Rivers, called Epɫ Čt̓et̓ʔú Sčilip—Confluence of the Wild Plums—because it was the one place in western Montana where Coyote put čt̓et̓ʔú (American plum), which by August produced an abundance of sweet, delicious fruit.

In September and October, the people gather the last plant foods and medicines of the year, including sk͏ʷlís (kinnickinnick or bearberry berries), sk͏ʷlsé (kinnickinnick leaves), stečcx͏ʷ (red osier dogwood or red willow), č̓éyč̓i (desert parsley), k̓͏ʷlitč̓iyéɫp (buckbrush), sʔitš (puffball), Snč̓l̓é t̓apmis (“Coyote’s arrow”—giant pinedrops), and t̓ɫšisqá (curly-cup gumweed). Smaller quantities of seedy hawthorn berries are picked for use as both food and medicine, including both sx͏ʷex͏ʷʔenče (black hawthorn or Douglas’s hawthorn) and stm̓oq͏ʷ (Columbia hawthorn).40

As the cool months of fall approach, the people again ask caq͏ʷlš (western larch) to help their bodies adjust to the change of seasons, as they do in springtime. They again take the tips of new needles from young trees; but where this tea in springtime thins the blood for the coming summer, now it thickens the blood for the cold months ahead.

As the sharp edge of fall comes into the air, it is time to prepare for the fall hunting trips—a critical step in securing food for the long winter. The animals are fat, and the young of the year are ready to survive on their own. In the old way of life, the hunters sought to harvest enough deer, elk, bison, and other game for the long winter ahead.

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After the men brought the game into camp, the women would expertly cut the meat into thin, wide slices, and then slowly cook it on racks over low fires.

The elders tell how each day, after the men brought the game into camp, the women would expertly slice the meat into thin, wide strips, and then slowly cook it on racks over low fires. The dry-meat would then be divided equally among all the camps in the party, regardless of who had been successful in hunting and who had not. They would pound the dry-meat lightly, making it just flexible enough to pack into their rawhide parfleches, often adding leaves of x̣nx̣né (wild mint) to keep bugs away.41 This was their vital store of winter meat, what the people depended on through the winter for their survival.

As the snow and cold weather came, the people moved into the winter camps. And then they began to tell again the sq͏ʷllúm̓t, the Coyote stories, the stories that explain how the world came to be. Winter was also the time for sewing moccasins, for making tools, and for trapping. People subsisted off of roots and berries that had been dried and stored during the summer months, what game could be hunted in the deep snows, and fish. And then as now, winter was also the time for spiritual gatherings, for giving thanks for the past year of life, for healing the sick, for welcoming the new year and setting a good path for the coming four seasons.

III: Seasons of Gratitude

The end of winter was often a time of some scarcity. The stored dried foods from summer were running low, and meat was in short supply. But always there was a good supply of fish. And gradually, the signs of spring return. The elders’ memories reflect their quiet, careful attention to the environment: their observance of the reemergence of st̓it̓ič̓í (pussy willows) around the wetlands, and the first yellow bursts of sčiyál̓ʔmn (sagebrush buttercups) peeking through the thawing earth. U ɫu ƛ̓čƛ̓a, šey̓ ɫu es šʔi še ctk͏ʷk̓͏ʷe, Little Mary Finley told us. “And the blackbird, that is the first to come back.” Sic še k̓͏ʷsix͏ʷ sic esyaʔ. “Then the wild geese come back, and all the other birds follow.”27 The people welcome the song of the first sx̣ax̣lč̓ (robins). They listen for the first thunder, knowing that is when the bears begin moving away from their dens. As the weather warms, the people use larch to help their bodies get ready for summer. They take the tips of new needles from young trees, asking them to help, and prepare a tea that thins the blood for the warm months ahead.

When the people see the hills come alive with the white blossoms of the sy̓ey̓eʔ (juneberry, a type of serviceberry), then they know it is time to dig bitterroot. As Séliš elder Louise Vanderburg told us, the arrival of the bitterroot is a time of prayer and thanks.28 Sp̓eƛ̓m ɫu es nšicin tl̓ esyáʔ tʔe stem̓. Še u ec̓x̣ey ɫu q͏ʷo meyéɫts ɫu tin p̓x̣͏ʷp̓x̣͏ʷot, Agnes Vanderburg said. “Bitterroot is the first to be prayed for, before everything else. That’s the way it was explained to me by my elders.”29

The springtime bitterroot ceremony helps ensure the happiness and abundance of this first visitor, and all the other roots and berries—the hundreds of foods and medicines—that follow the bitterroot and become available over the rest of the summer, in certain places and at certain times, across the Séliš and Ql̓ispé homelands.30 Ne tas putéʔntx͏͏ʷ, n̓em eɫ nʔósne, Agnes Vanderburg said. “If you don’t do everything right or have respect for it, it’ll disappear back into the ground.”31 Beginning with the ceremony of thanks for the bitterroot, the yearly cycle of life is infused with spiritual respect and gratitude.

Although the Seliš and Ql̓ispé were not agricultural, they also maintained an active hand in managing their diverse and complex food base. As has been extensively documented elsewhere, the tribes managed many of their prairies and forests through the careful and highly skilled use of fire, which they used to increase forage for game (and in recent centuries, horses), and also to revitalize and fertilize berry patches, camas fields, and other plant foods.32

Wis x̣eʔect ɫu t sp̓eƛ̓m k͏ʷem̓t čtax̣͏ʷlle x̣eʔect ɫu t, ɫu t sx̣͏ʷeli, Sèliš-Ql̓ispé elder Pete Woodcock (1896-1978) said. “After they were done digging bitterroot, then they would dig and pick camas.”33 Sx̣͏ʷéʔli — camas— is a highly important and cherished food for the people. Not so long ago, each June, many wet areas and moist open valleys across Séliš and Ql̓ispé homelands took on the appearance of shimmering lakes as the blue camas came into bloom.

The people would move to these prime camas grounds—places such as Ɫl̓q̓͏ʷóleʔx͏ʷ (Little Prairie), a place up the Jocko River from Arlee; Qlnʔítx̣͏ʷe (literally, Fresh or Moist Baked Camas), known in English as Camas Prairie, in the western part of the Flathead Reservation; and Qal̓sá, the Potomac Valley, an area so rich in camas that people from many tribes came there and shared in its abundance.34 It takes the work of many people over many days to dig enough of the deeply buried bulbs and then dry them. After drying the camas, the people then pit-bake them for three days and two nights, along with other plant foods such as šawtmqn (tree lichen or “moss”) and seč (nodding onion). The baking process is a subtle, fine art, involving a complex layering system that ensures proper heat and steam, many other specific plants are used, including sʔatq͏ʷeɫp (Ponderosa pine), ppo (willow), tímuʔ (yellow skunk cabbage), t̓x̣t̓x̣éɫp (lady fern), and č̓ič̓itn̓é (mountain alder). It all must be done with precision and care—not only physically but also spiritually—or the camas will not come out right. When cooked properly, the raw camas is transformed from an indigestible fiber into a food so packed with energy that, as the elders have told, just a handful can sustain a hunter walking through the mountains for an entire day.35 Baked camas could be stored for use all through the coming winter.

From the camas fields, the people continued on. The first blooms of x͏ʷy̓éɫp (western wild rose) told them that east of the mountains, the bison calves were fat. Through the 1870s, large camps of Ql̓ispé, Séliš and Kootenai people would ride toward the buffalo country in June. Other people stayed in the high western prairies to dig sƛ̓uk̓͏ʷm (Indian carrot or Gairdner’s yampah), or went to the mountains to gather berries. The first are the delicate, sweet q̓éytq̓m (wild strawberries).

Then as now, mid-summer was also a time of relaxation, gathering, visiting, and celebration. Since 1898, this time has been formalized on the Flathead Reservation as the Arlee Čulay (July) Esyapqeyni (celebration or powwow), while the Kootenai gather in Elmo for the Standing Arrow Celebration. Many of the dances and songs that became a part of thes celebration, however, have been central to Seliš, Ql̓ispé, and Kootenai life from time immemorial.

As July moves into August, the harvest of the most important berries, sɫaq (serviceberries) and st̓šá (huckleberries), is supplemented by many other foods gathered in smaller quantities: ṇt̓é (gooseberries), pólplqn (thimbleberries), sqáq͏ʷocn or sk͏ʷn̓k͏ʷí (Indian potato or western springbeauty), sy̓ey̓eʔ (juneberry), stm̓tú (golden currant), ssipt (grouse whortleberry), sx̣͏ʷósm (foamberry or Canada buffaloberry). Most if not all the food plants also have medicinal uses or benefits. 36

While people are picking berries or gathering other foods, they also engage in fishing. Fishing, in fact, was done at all times of year, through all the seasons, providing a constant and plentiful source of protein. During spawning runs, people used weirs, fish traps, nets, and gaffing hooks to pull in great numbers that would be dried for future use. At other times, hook and line and other methods were used to provide good meals. As Mitch Smallsalmon said,37 the pure, clear waters of Séliš-Ql̓ispé territories, and the abundant fisheries they sustained, lay at the heart of the old way of life:

    M̓a ɫu es šʔi ɫu cwičtn y̓e st̓úlix͏ʷ, q͏ʷamq͏ʷmt y̓e st̓úlix͏ʷ.
       In the beginning, when I saw this land, it was beautiful.

    X̣est y̓e st̓úlix͏ʷ.
       This land was good.

    Esyaʔ, esyaʔ u it cniɫc u es x͏ʷisti ɫu puti tas x͏ʷʔit ɫu suyapi.
       Everything, all things were used from the land when there were not many white people.

    K͏ʷem̓t esyaʔ ye qe sewɫk͏ʷ ye qe nsisy̓etk͏ʷ u x̣est es momoʔop. X̣est es en̓esi.
       All our waters, our creeks were flowing along good. It was going good.

    L šey̓ ye l sewɫk͏ʷ u ɫu x͏ʷʔit ɫu x͏ʷix͏ʷey̓uɫ, ɫu sw̓ew̓ɫ ɫu tʔe stem̓.
       It is there, in the water—that is where there were many animals, fish and other things.

    K͏ʷem̓t šey̓ še nk̓͏ʷúlex͏ʷ qe sq͏ʷyúlex͏ʷ ɫiʔe l sewɫk͏ʷ.
       And by that, we were wealthy—from the water.

The Séliš and Ql̓ispé therefore always located their winter camps at places known to have dependable fishing throughout the cold months.38

As the end of summer approaches, still other foods and medicines become ready, including ɫx̣͏ʷɫo (chokecherry), which in the old way of life was pounded and dried in great quantities as a staple food for the long winter.39 Some families would spend a week or two near the confluence of the Jocko and Flathead Rivers, called Epɫ Čt̓et̓ʔú Sčilip—Confluence of the Wild Plums—because it was the one place in western Montana where Coyote put čt̓et̓ʔú (American plum), which by August produced an abundance of sweet, delicious fruit.

In September and October, the people gather the last plant foods and medicines of the year, including sk͏ʷlís (kinnickinnick or bearberry berries), sk͏ʷlsé (kinnickinnick leaves), stečcx͏ʷ (red osier dogwood or red willow), č̓éyč̓i (desert parsley), k̓͏ʷlitč̓iyéɫp (buckbrush), sʔitš (puffball), Snč̓l̓é t̓apmis (“Coyote’s arrow”—giant pinedrops), and t̓ɫšisqá (curly-cup gumweed). Smaller quantities of seedy hawthorn berries are picked for use as both food and medicine, including both sx͏ʷex͏ʷʔenče (black hawthorn or Douglas’s hawthorn) and stm̓oq͏ʷ (Columbia hawthorn).40

As the cool months of fall approach, the people again ask caq͏ʷlš (western larch) to help their bodies adjust to the change of seasons, as they do in springtime. They again take the tips of new needles from young trees; but where this tea in springtime thins the blood for the coming summer, now it thickens the blood for the cold months ahead.

As the sharp edge of fall comes into the air, it is time to prepare for the fall hunting trips—a critical step in securing food for the long winter. The animals are fat, and the young of the year are ready to survive on their own. In the old way of life, the hunters sought to harvest enough deer, elk, bison, and other game for the long winter ahead.

The elders tell how each day, after the men brought the game into camp, the women would expertly slice the meat into thin, wide strips, and then slowly cook it on racks over low fires. The dry-meat would then be divided equally among all the camps in the party, regardless of who had been successful in hunting and who had not. They would pound the dry-meat lightly, making it just flexible enough to pack into their rawhide parfleches, often adding leaves of x̣nx̣né (wild mint) to keep bugs away.41 This was their vital store of winter meat, what the people depended on through the winter for their survival.

As the snow and cold weather came, the people moved into the winter camps. And then they began to tell again the sq͏ʷllúm̓t, the Coyote stories, the stories that explain how the world came to be. Winter was also the time for sewing moccasins, for making tools, and for trapping. People subsisted off of roots and berries that had been dried and stored during the summer months, what game could be hunted in the deep snows, and fish. And then as now, winter was also the time for spiritual gatherings, for giving thanks for the past year of life, for healing the sick, for welcoming the new year and setting a good path for the coming four seasons.

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IV: Climate Change and the Challenge of Cultural Continuity

In this short summation of the traditional way of life of the Séliš and Ql̓ispé, we can see the profound ties between the climate and the culture itself. What does this mean in a time of accelerating climate change? Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. noted, “When it gets cold, snow up there on the mountains—that is when we start telling our Coyote’s creator story. But what is going to happen when we don’t have that cold and snow up in the mountains? So our story will be kind of confusing.”42 As we noted above, February is called Čq͏ʷosqn Spq̓ní, Moon of the Curly-headed One, after the creation-story spirit of extreme cold. If it no longer becomes bitterly cold, will the name of that month in be stripped of its cultural meaning and power, reduced to little more than a meaningless “myth”?

The same questions emerge in regard to much of the tribal calendar. If the geese never leave because the winters are warmer, will March no longer be called K̓͏ʷsix͏ʷ Spq̓ní (Moon of the Wild Geese)? If buttercups appear in January or February, as they have in recent years, will it make sense to still know April as Sč̓yal̓mn Spq̓ní (Moon of the Buttercup)?43 If bitterroots are ready in March and camas in April, will the people forget that May is Sp̓eƛ̓m Spq̓ní (Moon of the Bitterroot) and June is Sx̣͏ʷeʔlí Spq̓ní (Moon of the Camas)? If the berries continue to ripen earlier or wither before they can ripen at all, what will become of the names for August (St̓šá Spq̓ní—Moon of the Huckleberry) and September (Ɫx̣͏ʷɫó Spq̓ní—Moon of the Chokecherries)?44

Ql̓ispé elder Steven Smallsalmon noted that the cultural knowledge of weather as it has been under the past climate regime was becoming increasingly irrelevant: “ ‘How come that muskrat is way over there?’ ‘Oh, it’s going to be a cold winter, you know.’ Or, ‘How come the squirrel and chipmunk is getting everything ready right away?’ Oh, the old people used to say, ‘It’s going to be cold.’ Yeah, sure enough, it was. We went by that.” 45

Gitga’at (Coast Tsimshian) elder Helen Clifton stated, “Worldwide the weather is so different now. You can’t depend on those old sayings.”46 Ilarion Merculieff of Alaska’s Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways has said, "For the Aleut, this means that 10,000 year-old the ways of surviving and thriving in this environment are no longer entirely relevant. And it’s not just about food. These ways of life are essential to the healthy evolution of people and culture. Living in reciprocal co-existence with the sea lions, the fur seals, the salmon—this is an essential part of how Aleuts become whole men and women." 47

Similar concerns are expressed by native leaders from the Northwest. Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp recalled her reaction when she saw, on a helicopter tour in the fall of 2011, that Anderson Glacier had vanished. The glacier is a vital source of cold water for the salmon spawning runs in the Quinault River. “My heart sank,” Sharp said. “I can’t imagine trying to explain to another generation of Quinaults how our rich blueback salmon tasted. That’s a central part of who we are and that glacier keeps the waters cool and the water levels at an appropriate place. Now it’s gone.”48

Amanda Karst, a Métis researcher with Canada’s Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, has noted that in northern communities, where “the weather behaves so erratically now, people are not able to make judgments about their environment based on their teachings as they had in the past.” The impact, Karst said, is two-fold. People no longer feel “as physically secure that their knowledge keeps them safe in their environment.” But even more profoundly, they are no longer as “mentally secure in their ways of knowing.”49 As Sarah Krakoff wrote, “Climate change thus disrupts both the material practices that enable survival in harsh conditions and the cultural continuity that perpetuates those practices.”50

Again we are confronted with the impact climate change has on native communities. This is not only about the loss of material or “natural” resources. For native people, those are also cultural resources, or as some people are now saying, simply sources—the spiritual and physical sources of life itself. For indigenous people, whose culture and very identity is bound so closely to the plants and animals and seasons, climate change affects cultural survival.

And yet again we return to the powerful hope that springs from the continuing vitality of tribal communities in two important ways: first, adaptation, and second, the capacity for transformation.

IV: Climate Change and the Challenge of Cultural Continuity

In this short summation of the traditional way of life of the Séliš and Ql̓ispé, we can see the profound ties between the climate and the culture itself. What does this mean in a time of accelerating climate change? Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. noted, “When it gets cold, snow up there on the mountains—that is when we start telling our Coyote’s creator story. But what is going to happen when we don’t have that cold and snow up in the mountains? So our story will be kind of confusing.”42 As we noted above, February is called Čq͏ʷosqn Spq̓ní, Moon of the Curly-headed One, after the creation-story spirit of extreme cold. If it no longer becomes bitterly cold, will the name of that month in be stripped of its cultural meaning and power, reduced to little more than a meaningless “myth”?

The same questions emerge in regard to much of the tribal calendar. If the geese never leave because the winters are warmer, will March no longer be called K̓͏ʷsix͏ʷ Spq̓ní (Moon of the Wild Geese)? If buttercups appear in January or February, as they have in recent years, will it make sense to still know April as Sč̓yal̓mn Spq̓ní (Moon of the Buttercup)?43 If bitterroots are ready in March and camas in April, will the people forget that May is Sp̓eƛ̓m Spq̓ní (Moon of the Bitterroot) and June is Sx̣͏ʷeʔlí Spq̓ní (Moon of the Camas)? If the berries continue to ripen earlier or wither before they can ripen at all, what will become of the names for August (St̓šá Spq̓ní—Moon of the Huckleberry) and September (Ɫx̣͏ʷɫó Spq̓ní—Moon of the Chokecherries)?44

Ql̓ispé elder Steven Smallsalmon noted that the cultural knowledge of weather as it has been under the past climate regime was becoming increasingly irrelevant: “ ‘How come that muskrat is way over there?’ ‘Oh, it’s going to be a cold winter, you know.’ Or, ‘How come the squirrel and chipmunk is getting everything ready right away?’ Oh, the old people used to say, ‘It’s going to be cold.’ Yeah, sure enough, it was. We went by that.” 45

Gitga’at (Coast Tsimshian) elder Helen Clifton stated, “Worldwide the weather is so different now. You can’t depend on those old sayings.”46 Ilarion Merculieff of Alaska’s Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways has said, "For the Aleut, this means that 10,000 year-old the ways of surviving and thriving in this environment are no longer entirely relevant. And it’s not just about food. These ways of life are essential to the healthy evolution of people and culture. Living in reciprocal co-existence with the sea lions, the fur seals, the salmon—this is an essential part of how Aleuts become whole men and women." 47

Similar concerns are expressed by native leaders from the Northwest. Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp recalled her reaction when she saw, on a helicopter tour in the fall of 2011, that Anderson Glacier had vanished. The glacier is a vital source of cold water for the salmon spawning runs in the Quinault River. “My heart sank,” Sharp said. “I can’t imagine trying to explain to another generation of Quinaults how our rich blueback salmon tasted. That’s a central part of who we are and that glacier keeps the waters cool and the water levels at an appropriate place. Now it’s gone.”48

Amanda Karst, a Métis researcher with Canada’s Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, has noted that in northern communities, where “the weather behaves so erratically now, people are not able to make judgments about their environment based on their teachings as they had in the past.” The impact, Karst said, is two-fold. People no longer feel “as physically secure that their knowledge keeps them safe in their environment.” But even more profoundly, they are no longer as “mentally secure in their ways of knowing.”49 As Sarah Krakoff wrote, “Climate change thus disrupts both the material practices that enable survival in harsh conditions and the cultural continuity that perpetuates those practices.”50

Again we are confronted with the impact climate change has on native communities. This is not only about the loss of material or “natural” resources. For native people, those are also cultural resources, or as some people are now saying, simply sources—the spiritual and physical sources of life itself. For indigenous people, whose culture and very identity is bound so closely to the plants and animals and seasons, climate change affects cultural survival.

And yet again we return to the powerful hope that springs from the continuing vitality of tribal communities in two important ways: first, adaptation, and second, the capacity for transformation.

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V: First Hope: Adaptation, Survival, and Restoration

When Ql̓ispé elder Pat Pierre recalled how his grandmother and other elders foresaw the coming of global warming, he remembered that they also told him something else: “The face of this earth may burn up, but it’s not going to destroy you. The timber will be gone, there will be no more timber, but you’re going to survive, because you are who you are. You are Indian. You understand the earth...You understand that, and you’re going to survive.”51

Mr. Pierre refers to the proven capacity of indigenous people to adapt and survive, not only physically but also culturally—a point made by other native leaders. Micah McCarty, chairman of the Makah Tribe, noted “what our peoples have gone through to survive and adapt to changes that have been imposed on us.”52 Potowatami scholar Kyle Whyte has argued, “Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is an intensification of environmental change imposed on Indigenous peoples by colonialism,” which has been survived by most native groups.53 And Nancy Turner and Helen Clifton pointed to evidence reaching back over 10,000 years that testifies to the enormous changes that indigenous peoples have experienced, and how “people have traditionally made accommodations for resource fluctuations by turning to more easily accessed or predictable plant foods, even those less favoured, or to alternative species of fish or game... [Despite] the many environmental changes Indigenous Peoples have witnessed, endured and adapted to over the millennia… [including the impacts of] colonization… many people and communities have managed to retain their cultural identity and key facets of their knowledge systems.”54 Indeed, we can see the deep resilience of the Séliš, Ql̓ispé, and Kootenai in their having survived, both geopolitically and also culturally, through the devastation of epidemics of smallpox and other non-native diseases that took the lives of over 75% of their people in a very short period of time.55

You are Indian. You understand the earth...You understand that, and you’re going to survive. Pat Pierre, Pend d'Oreille Elder
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In recent years, a great surge of tribal programs in environmental restoration has demonstrated the capacity of native communities to adapt and survive, and beyond that to thrive in radically changed circumstances. These efforts to revitalize the ecological and cultural resources of indigenous communities have wedded the traditional values of ecological respect with the tools of science and programmatic management. They draw, first and foremost, upon the profound tribal commitment to tribal homelands, the deep sense of rootedness in place and sense of responsibility for the lands entrusted to each indigenous community. They draw from the powerful currents of cultural revitalization that have emerged in recent decades in many communities, a renewed respect for the language and cultural knowledge and spiritual traditions of the ancestors. And these efforts also draw from the rising number of tribal people who have gained advanced education and training in a wide range of academic and cultural disciplines necessary to carry out these projects.

On the Flathead Reservation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have a long history of pursuing environmental protection, perhaps most famously by setting aside the Mission Mountains in 1982 as the first formally designated tribal wilderness area in the U.S. Many of the CSKT’s more recent initiatives have focused on restoration, from the largely successful effort to bring back the degraded Jocko River as habitat for bull trout and other native species,56 to the reintroduction of endangered species such as trumpeter swans, to the adoption, in 2000, of a revolutionary forest management plan that deemphasized commodity production and instead made the primary goal the reestablishment of the kinds of forests that existed in the area under traditional tribal tenure.57

The CSKT’s forest plan is echoed by what Kyle Whyte has described as “the Menominee Nation’s recent development of culturally, spiritually, and economically significant sustainable forest... [in] response to the colonially-induced destruction of their relationships with many species.”58 The work of cultural and ecological restoration and revitalization is being undertaken in similar yet distinct ways by tribes across the continent, from the removal of dams to the teaching of critically endangered languages. “Our actions today,” Whyte has written, “are guided by our reflection on our ancestors’ perspectives and on our desire to be good ancestors ourselves to future generations.”59 For many tribal people ensuring cultural continuity is one of the most important tasks that lies ahead. It is also, as Germaine White of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has stated, "a huge burden of responsibility".

The difficulty of addressing global climate change does not diminish the importance of local efforts to heal our damaged environment. If anything, the mounting ecological crisis only means that it is more vital than ever that every community on our fragile planet strives to care for its resources and to reestablish sustainable ways of life. Sarah Krakoff has said that “local climate action participants might be characterized as the leaders in planetarian identity formation, in that they perceive their moral obligations to extend to far-flung communities (both human and biotic) across space and time.”60

It is important that we acknowledge that the problem of climate change is so severe that it is already, in some cases, undermining tribal restoration efforts. On the Flathead Reservation, the lengthening fire seasons and more extreme fire conditions in the forests are making it increasingly difficult to pursue the goal of restoring traditional fire regimes and pre-contact forest conditions.61 In the Northwest, the rising waters of Puget Sound are projected by scientists to inundate and destroy some 900 acres of salt marsh around the Nisqually River delta, an area critical to salmon that was only recently restored through the combined efforts of the Nisqually Indian Tribe and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.62 Sarah Krakoff has offered an even more sobering take: “Fish ladders, stream-bed restoration, and restrictions on over-fishing could all be for naught if the changes described [by climate scientists] cause the species to abandon the region entirely.”63

Nevertheless, tribal restoration efforts are helping create more resilient ecosystems, better able to withstand the impacts of climate change, many of which are either already underway or soon to begin. The more we are able to protect or restore vital habitats, the more we will be giving plants and animals, and the cultures that depend upon them, a better chance of surviving.

Yet beyond making adaptation more possible and ecosystems healthier and more resilient, the restoration projects of indigenous communities—in the Northern Rockies and elsewhere—are delivering something even more important.64

V: First Hope: Adaptation, Survival, and Restoration

When Ql̓ispé elder Pat Pierre recalled how his grandmother and other elders foresaw the coming of global warming, he remembered that they also told him something else: “The face of this earth may burn up, but it’s not going to destroy you. The timber will be gone, there will be no more timber, but you’re going to survive, because you are who you are. You are Indian. You understand the earth...You understand that, and you’re going to survive.”51

Mr. Pierre refers to the proven capacity of indigenous people to adapt and survive, not only physically but also culturally—a point made by other native leaders. Micah McCarty, chairman of the Makah Tribe, noted “what our peoples have gone through to survive and adapt to changes that have been imposed on us.”52 Potowatami scholar Kyle Whyte has argued, “Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is an intensification of environmental change imposed on Indigenous peoples by colonialism,” which has been survived by most native groups.53 And Nancy Turner and Helen Clifton pointed to evidence reaching back over 10,000 years that testifies to the enormous changes that indigenous peoples have experienced, and how “people have traditionally made accommodations for resource fluctuations by turning to more easily accessed or predictable plant foods, even those less favoured, or to alternative species of fish or game... [Despite] the many environmental changes Indigenous Peoples have witnessed, endured and adapted to over the millennia… [including the impacts of] colonization… many people and communities have managed to retain their cultural identity and key facets of their knowledge systems.”54 Indeed, we can see the deep resilience of the Séliš, Ql̓ispé, and Kootenai in their having survived, both geopolitically and also culturally, through the devastation of epidemics of smallpox and other non-native diseases that took the lives of over 75% of their people in a very short period of time.55

In recent years, a great surge of tribal programs in environmental restoration has demonstrated the capacity of native communities to adapt and survive, and beyond that to thrive in radically changed circumstances. These efforts to revitalize the ecological and cultural resources of indigenous communities have wedded the traditional values of ecological respect with the tools of science and programmatic management. They draw, first and foremost, upon the profound tribal commitment to tribal homelands, the deep sense of rootedness in place and sense of responsibility for the lands entrusted to each indigenous community. They draw from the powerful currents of cultural revitalization that have emerged in recent decades in many communities, a renewed respect for the language and cultural knowledge and spiritual traditions of the ancestors. And these efforts also draw from the rising number of tribal people who have gained advanced education and training in a wide range of academic and cultural disciplines necessary to carry out these projects.

On the Flathead Reservation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have a long history of pursuing environmental protection, perhaps most famously by setting aside the Mission Mountains in 1982 as the first formally designated tribal wilderness area in the U.S. Many of the CSKT’s more recent initiatives have focused on restoration, from the largely successful effort to bring back the degraded Jocko River as habitat for bull trout and other native species,56 to the reintroduction of endangered species such as trumpeter swans, to the adoption, in 2000, of a revolutionary forest management plan that deemphasized commodity production and instead made the primary goal the reestablishment of the kinds of forests that existed in the area under traditional tribal tenure.57

The CSKT’s forest plan is echoed by what Kyle Whyte has described as “the Menominee Nation’s recent development of culturally, spiritually, and economically significant sustainable forest... [in] response to the colonially-induced destruction of their relationships with many species.”58 The work of cultural and ecological restoration and revitalization is being undertaken in similar yet distinct ways by tribes across the continent, from the removal of dams to the teaching of critically endangered languages. “Our actions today,” Whyte has written, “are guided by our reflection on our ancestors’ perspectives and on our desire to be good ancestors ourselves to future generations.”59 For many tribal people ensuring cultural continuity is one of the most important tasks that lies ahead. It is also, as Germaine White of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has stated, "a huge burden of responsibility".

The difficulty of addressing global climate change does not diminish the importance of local efforts to heal our damaged environment. If anything, the mounting ecological crisis only means that it is more vital than ever that every community on our fragile planet strives to care for its resources and to reestablish sustainable ways of life. Sarah Krakoff has said that “local climate action participants might be characterized as the leaders in planetarian identity formation, in that they perceive their moral obligations to extend to far-flung communities (both human and biotic) across space and time.”60

It is important that we acknowledge that the problem of climate change is so severe that it is already, in some cases, undermining tribal restoration efforts. On the Flathead Reservation, the lengthening fire seasons and more extreme fire conditions in the forests are making it increasingly difficult to pursue the goal of restoring traditional fire regimes and pre-contact forest conditions.61 In the Northwest, the rising waters of Puget Sound are projected by scientists to inundate and destroy some 900 acres of salt marsh around the Nisqually River delta, an area critical to salmon that was only recently restored through the combined efforts of the Nisqually Indian Tribe and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.62 Sarah Krakoff has offered an even more sobering take: “Fish ladders, stream-bed restoration, and restrictions on over-fishing could all be for naught if the changes described [by climate scientists] cause the species to abandon the region entirely.”63

Nevertheless, tribal restoration efforts are helping create more resilient ecosystems, better able to withstand the impacts of climate change, many of which are either already underway or soon to begin. The more we are able to protect or restore vital habitats, the more we will be giving plants and animals, and the cultures that depend upon them, a better chance of surviving.

Yet beyond making adaptation more possible and ecosystems healthier and more resilient, the restoration projects of indigenous communities—in the Northern Rockies and elsewhere—are delivering something even more important.64

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VI: Greatest Hope: Leading the Transformation

Tribal elders have been clear in identifying the root of the climate crisis: a dominant way of life that is fundamentally at odds with the way of life shown by Coyote in the beginning. “We take and take and take, and we never give back,” Pat Pierre has warned. “If we don’t give back, one day Mother Earth will say, ‘Šey̓ u hoy—That’s all, that’s the end... I can’t give no more. I have nothing more to give.’"65 Global warming is ultimately the product of, as Robin Wall Kimmerer has put it, “a consumption-driven economy that asks, ‘What more can we take from the Earth?’ and almost never ‘What does the Earth ask of us in return?’.”

In Kimmerer’s words, native people continue to serve as keepers of the covenant of reciprocity, and therefore have an essential role to play in reminding us how we can reestablish “cultures of gratitude.”66 As Sarah Krakoff has said, “the American Indian worldview may also provide the blueprint for life in a zero-emissions world.”67 Native peoples, in other words, continue to offer the world a path to transformation. In the broadest systemic view, we can see the contours and self-reinforcing dynamics of two fundamentally differing ways of life, and the ways they reproduce themselves. Industrialized societies driven by the profit motive, the commodification of natural resources, and market exchange are inherently separated from—alienated from—the natural world; that leads to less awareness of human dependence upon the natural world; which in turn feeds a lessening of respect for and a desacralization of nature; which then reinforces the separation from nature. Indigenous communities directly engage with the natural world to procure food and other subsistence needs; this serves to develop profound knowledge of natural world and cycles of life, and awareness of human dependence upon nature; which manifests in respect, reflected in ceremonies and other cultural forms of gratitude; which then reinforces the connection to the natural world.

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Industrialized society vs indigenous society.

As Sarah Krakoff summarizes these basic and profound differences, “In the American Indian worldview, the point of life is to take care of where you live. You are a part of nature and it is a part of you…it remains your obligation to care for it. Every measure towards this end matters on a daily basis.”68 We have an opportunity to listen, and to free ourselves from the illusion that we are somehow doomed, as if we cannot live a relationship of respect with the world around us. If we do listen, we will realize we have great reason for hope—and an obligation to future generations to act on that hope.

We know we can do this, because tribal ancestors did. If we take seriously the example of tribal ways of life, and of tribal ways of understanding and relating to our world, we will open ourselves to a new realm of possibility. The great value of looking seriously at tribal history is that it can move us from the shaky ground of merely hoping that human beings can live in a respectful and sustainable way, to the solid ground of knowing that human beings have lived in such a way, and in fact did so for over 99% of our time on earth. This is the greatest gift from the native peoples, and the greatest basis of hope. Their example has proven that what is possible is far greater than what we often assume—in terms of our relations with each other and with the earth, in terms of how we organize our economy and our society, in terms of how we define and develop our cultures.

Whenever tribal elders address the subject of climate change, they remind us of one basic principle: we all must do what we can, and we must keep coming together and unite our efforts. “It’s here now,” Ql̓ispé elder Pat Pierre has told us about climate change. “It’s actually here. What are we going to do? It’s people who caused it. Each one of us has a role. We have generations yet coming. We need to work on it every day.”69

What can you do to ensure that the tribal voice is heard? There are a number of concrete steps you can take to help ensure that your tribe's thousands of years of accumulated knowledge, expertise, experience, and perspectives are brought to bear as we face this challenge, and they all begin with grounding yourself in your culture. As Naelyn Pike, from the San Carlos Apache Nation, has said "a tree cannot grow without its roots — without our foundation, who are we?"70

We as indigenous people have a connection to the earth and to the creator. I stand by my family in ceremonies to protect this land we call home. A tree cannot grow without its roots — without our foundation, who are we? Naelyn Pike, San Carlos Apache Nation
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Steps You Can Take

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Learn the Values
Learn the traditional values that underlie your Tribal culture by talking with your elders and teachers. Inseparable from the way tribal people interact with and perceive the land and other people, these values often include ideals like: respect, honesty, humility, generosity, courage, kindness and compassion, humor, endurance, strength, cooperation, thoughtfulness, self discipline, responsibility, self respect, and observation. The values make up a unified whole, at the center of which is a deeply held spiritual attitude of respect toward the land, water, plants, and animals and a way of living closely and in community with one another.
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Participate in Tribal Traditions
Participate in tribal cultural events and when you do, let the elders know you want to learn your tribe's traditions. Every tribe's traditions are unique and different; activities can vary from building canoes and fishing traps to making rabbit fur blankets to harvesting berries, telling traditional stories, or harvesting medicinal plants. Most importantly, pay attention and be a good student. One day you may be asked to lead the event or ceremony.
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Start to Learn Your Language
One of the first steps to bridging the gap between you and your ancestors is by speaking the language that was spoken by your tribe before the arrival of settlers. English is considered to be one of the least expressive languages and native languages have a depth of meaning that can serve as a true connection to your heritage.
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Listen and Learn
Listen to the needs of your community. Study climate change. Learn about what indigenous science has to say about the changes we are seeing. Learn about the impacts of climate change on your tribe and how your tribe is responding. Learn about how climate change is affecting other tribes and other communities across the globe. Speak up. Bring your tribal perspective to the discussion.
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Start or Join a Group
This is not as hard as it seems, but going to your teacher(s) and asking if you can have permission to meet once a week after school or during lunch is the first step to organizing native youth around the issue(s) you are interested in. In such a group, you can invite elders to speak, share stories and even learn about other tribes. You can also bring your ideas for solutions to your tribal council and other community leaders. Social media is another approach. There are a number of groups that already exist on social media that are focused on native culture. You can even create a group focused on learning about your issue from a native perspective. Invite elders to join and swap knowledge. While you show an elder how to use Facebook, Google+, Twitter or other forms of social media, the elders can teach you about your culture.
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Share and Collaborate
Share your knowledge. Become an advocate for bringing indigenous science and traditional values to the public sphere to protect your local and the global environment and to address and develop solutions to climate change. A good way to do this is to collaborate with others, especially non-native groups to ensure indigenous expertise, experience and perspectives are integrated into the choices we make to address climate change.

We will close with something the elders have often urged us to remember. When they talk about caring for the generations yet to come, it is not only future generations of human beings. Séliš elder Louie Adams said that in the creation stories, when this world took its present form and the animals became the animals we know today, they could no longer talk. So now we have to speak for them, and ensure that they have what they need in order to live well. “That’s why the old people said: ‘If you see an eagle flying around, or a hawk sitting on a tree, or a meadowlark sitting on a post, or rabbits coming around close to you, or any of these little creatures that come fairly close, they are telling you in their own silent way, “Hey, we are still here. We were here when you got here, and we will be here with you till the end.” ‘ And that’s why you are supposed to take care of them...because they have no voice.”71

We are committed to deepening our connections with our cultures as they relate to climate change and the impacts on community and environmental health, because we know too well that what is done to the land is done to the people, and right now both are threatened. Sam Slater, Navajo Nation
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VI: Greatest Hope: Leading the Transformation

Tribal elders have been clear in identifying the root of the climate crisis: a dominant way of life that is fundamentally at odds with the way of life shown by Coyote in the beginning. “We take and take and take, and we never give back,” Pat Pierre has warned. “If we don’t give back, one day Mother Earth will say, ‘Šey̓ u hoy—That’s all, that’s the end... I can’t give no more. I have nothing more to give.’"65 Global warming is ultimately the product of, as Robin Wall Kimmerer has put it, “a consumption-driven economy that asks, ‘What more can we take from the Earth?’ and almost never ‘What does the Earth ask of us in return?’.”

In Kimmerer’s words, native people continue to serve as keepers of the covenant of reciprocity, and therefore have an essential role to play in reminding us how we can reestablish “cultures of gratitude.”66 As Sarah Krakoff has said, “the American Indian worldview may also provide the blueprint for life in a zero-emissions world.”67 Native peoples, in other words, continue to offer the world a path to transformation. In the broadest systemic view, we can see the contours and self-reinforcing dynamics of two fundamentally differing ways of life, and the ways they reproduce themselves. Industrialized societies driven by the profit motive, the commodification of natural resources, and market exchange are inherently separated from—alienated from—the natural world; that leads to less awareness of human dependence upon the natural world; which in turn feeds a lessening of respect for and a desacralization of nature; which then reinforces the separation from nature. Indigenous communities directly engage with the natural world to procure food and other subsistence needs; this serves to develop profound knowledge of natural world and cycles of life, and awareness of human dependence upon nature; which manifests in respect, reflected in ceremonies and other cultural forms of gratitude; which then reinforces the connection to the natural world.

As Sarah Krakoff summarizes these basic and profound differences, “In the American Indian worldview, the point of life is to take care of where you live. You are a part of nature and it is a part of you…it remains your obligation to care for it. Every measure towards this end matters on a daily basis.”68 We have an opportunity to listen, and to free ourselves from the illusion that we are somehow doomed, as if we cannot live a relationship of respect with the world around us. If we do listen, we will realize we have great reason for hope—and an obligation to future generations to act on that hope.

We know we can do this, because tribal ancestors did. If we take seriously the example of tribal ways of life, and of tribal ways of understanding and relating to our world, we will open ourselves to a new realm of possibility. The great value of looking seriously at tribal history is that it can move us from the shaky ground of merely hoping that human beings can live in a respectful and sustainable way, to the solid ground of knowing that human beings have lived in such a way, and in fact did so for over 99% of our time on earth. This is the greatest gift from the native peoples, and the greatest basis of hope. Their example has proven that what is possible is far greater than what we often assume—in terms of our relations with each other and with the earth, in terms of how we organize our economy and our society, in terms of how we define and develop our cultures.

Whenever tribal elders address the subject of climate change, they remind us of one basic principle: we all must do what we can, and we must keep coming together and unite our efforts. “It’s here now,” Ql̓ispé elder Pat Pierre has told us about climate change. “It’s actually here. What are we going to do? It’s people who caused it. Each one of us has a role. We have generations yet coming. We need to work on it every day.”69

What can you do to ensure that the tribal voice is heard? There are a number of concrete steps you can take to help ensure that your tribe's thousands of years of accumulated knowledge, expertise, experience, and perspectives are brought to bear as we face this challenge, and they all begin with grounding yourself in your culture. As Naelyn Pike, from the San Carlos Apache Nation, has said "a tree cannot grow without its roots — without our foundation, who are we?"70


Steps You Can Take

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Learn the Values
Learn the traditional values that underlie your Tribal culture by talking with your elders and teachers. Inseparable from the way tribal people interact with and perceive the land and other people, these values often include ideals like: respect, honesty, humility, generosity, courage, kindness and compassion, humor, endurance, strength, cooperation, thoughtfulness, self discipline, responsibility, self respect, and observation. The values make up a unified whole, at the center of which is a deeply held spiritual attitude of respect toward the land, water, plants, and animals and a way of living closely and in community with one another.
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Participate in Tribal Traditions
Participate in tribal cultural events and when you do, let the elders know you want to learn your tribe's traditions. Every tribe's traditions are unique and different; activities can vary from building canoes and fishing traps to making rabbit fur blankets to harvesting berries, telling traditional stories, or harvesting medicinal plants. Most importantly, pay attention and be a good student. One day you may be asked to lead the event or ceremony.
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Start to Learn Your Language
One of the first steps to bridging the gap between you and your ancestors is by speaking the language that was spoken by your tribe before the arrival of settlers. English is considered to be one of the least expressive languages and native languages have a depth of meaning that can serve as a true connection to your heritage.
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Listen and Learn
Listen to the needs of your community. Study climate change. Learn about what indigenous science has to say about the changes we are seeing. Learn about the impacts of climate change on your tribe and how your tribe is responding. Learn about how climate change is affecting other tribes and other communities across the globe. Speak up. Bring your tribal perspective to the discussion.
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Start or Join a Group
This is not as hard as it seems, but going to your teacher(s) and asking if you can have permission to meet once a week after school or during lunch is the first step to organizing native youth around the issue(s) you are interested in. In such a group, you can invite elders to speak, share stories and even learn about other tribes. You can also bring your ideas for solutions to your tribal council and other community leaders. Social media is another approach. There are a number of groups that already exist on social media that are focused on native culture. You can even create a group focused on learning about your issue from a native perspective. Invite elders to join and swap knowledge. While you show an elder how to use Facebook, Google+, Twitter or other forms of social media, the elders can teach you about your culture.
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Share and Collaborate
Share your knowledge. Become an advocate for bringing indigenous science and traditional values to the public sphere to protect your local and the global environment and to address and develop solutions to climate change. A good way to do this is to collaborate with others, especially non-native groups to ensure indigenous expertise, experience and perspectives are integrated into the choices we make to address climate change.

We will close with something the elders have often urged us to remember. When they talk about caring for the generations yet to come, it is not only future generations of human beings. Séliš elder Louie Adams said that in the creation stories, when this world took its present form and the animals became the animals we know today, they could no longer talk. So now we have to speak for them, and ensure that they have what they need in order to live well. “That’s why the old people said: ‘If you see an eagle flying around, or a hawk sitting on a tree, or a meadowlark sitting on a post, or rabbits coming around close to you, or any of these little creatures that come fairly close, they are telling you in their own silent way, “Hey, we are still here. We were here when you got here, and we will be here with you till the end.” ‘ And that’s why you are supposed to take care of them...because they have no voice.”71

Endnotes

1     Nancy J. Turner and Helen Clifton, “ ‘It’s so different today’: Climate change and Indigenous Lifeways in British Columbia, Canada,” Global Environmental Change 19 (2009), 180–190, p. 185 (hereinafter Turner and Clifton). p. 186. Similarly, in Alaska, as Ilarion Merculieff has said, “The Aleut, as all indigenous peoples who have sustained an intimate contact with their immediate environments for generations, notice the subtlest of changes to this flora and fauna.” Merculieff, “Climate Change,” The Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways, http://gcill.org/mother-earth-the-environment/climate-change/, accessed 8-8-2017 (hereinafter Merculieff).
2
     John Peter Paul, Séliš-Ql̓ispé Culture Committee written interview (hereinafter SQCC wi), 2000-02-24.
3
     Felicite McDonald, SQCC wi, 1996-09-11.
4
     Felicite McDonald, SQCC wi, 2002-03-12.
5
     Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation, Climate Change Strategic Plan, Pablo, MT: September 2013 (hereinafter CSKT Climate Plan), pp. 28-35.
Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. said, “[In former times] you could tell it was winter because it was cold and the snow was deep. Sometimes, you would go down the county road—you only can see an inch of the fence post sticking out.”
Stephen Smallsalmon said, “Today we do not have more snow. Do you know why? Why is it? How come we got so many fires?...There is not enough rain. Why is there bugs around, like those beetles? It’s too dry. It’s not cold enough to kill them all.”
Louie Adams remembered, “When I was little it seemed like there was always a lot of snow in the winter time. But any more it’s not like that. The old people used to say that in the winter when it got cold you could hear the trees pop. It sounded like a rifle shot. Then the Coyote stories would come out. Then in the spring, when you hear the first thunder, then that’s when you put them away.” Mr. Adams also noted the decline in spring run-off: “Up Valley Creek, when I was young—we moved there when I was nine years old [c. 1942]—when the spring would break and the snow started melting, Valley Creek would just be roaring. There would be brush going down the creek, and stumps. Now it’s not like that. Yeah, you get run-off and high water, but nothing like I remember.”
6     See Public Broadcasting System, “Native American Communities Affected by Climate Change Plan for the Future,” July 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/climate-change-july-dec12-tribes_07-19/, accessed 8-5-2017 (hereinafter PBS 2012), and Alaska Native Science Commission, “Impact of Climate Change on Alaska Native Communities,” http://www.nativescience.org, accessed 2017-08-06 (hereinafter Alaska Native Science Commission).
7
     Michael Louis Durglo, Sr. in CSKT Climate Plan, p. 29, PBS, “Native American Communities Affected by Climate Change Plan for the Future,” and NWF 2011, op. cit.
Mike Williams stated, “In 50 years of my observation, I have seen a lot of changes, from cold winters that — and ice that was very safe into thinning of ice. And we had to move in some cases further north. Our hunters are going out further. Like, in Shishmaref, they are having to go 90 miles out to find ice to get their walrus and their seals. And they’re having to risk more going out further into the sea. And when the weather hits and then that’s where the loss of life occurs.”
A number of other Alaskan elders offered their observations in Alaska Native Science Commission, op. cit. Jerry Wongittilin, Sr. said, “There have been a lot of changes in the sea ice currents and the weather. Solid ice has disappeared and there are no longer huge icebergs during fall and winter. The ice now comes later and goes out earlier, and it is getting thinner. The current is stronger and it is windier on the island.”
Ellen Richards observed, “The ice at Wales when it forms - it goes out a quarter mile and forms a pressure ridge. The ice was very thin and rotted very early between the pressure ridge and the village.”
William Takak said, “Last spring we got only six walrus because of the weather and ice moving out too quick. A long time ago it used to be real nice for weeks and even sometimes for months. Now we only have a day or two of good weather and this impacts our hunting. The hunters talk about the ice getting a lot thinner. It is going out too quick.”
Another alarming observation came from Micah McCarty, Chairman of the Makah Nation, who recalled that in 2006, the drought was so severe that for the first time, there were real concerns that the salmon
“eggs in the returning runs might not be viable by the time the rains came.” PBS 2012, op. cit.
8     Stephen Smallsalmon in CSKT Climate Plan, p. 31-32, John Doyle in John T. Doyle, Margaret Hiza Redsteer, and Margaret J. Eggers, “Exploring Effects of Climate Change on Northern Plains American Indian Health,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3831579/#!po=4.20561, accessed 8-6-2017 (hereinafter Doyle et. al.), and Clifton in Turner and Clifton, op. cit., p. 181-182 and 185.
Doyle et al. offer specific information on climate change and berry crops among the Crow: “Many species of berries have long been gathered as staple foods, including juneberries, chokecherries, elderberries and buffalo berries. Now these shrubs and trees sometimes bud out sufficiently early in the spring that they are vulnerable to subsequent cold snaps that kill the blossoms, so they never fruit. In years that shrubs bear fruit, the timing has changed: chokecherries used to ripen after the juneberries, and now they ripen at the same time (V Buffalo, personal communication, 2013). Elderberries in the mountains now ripen in July instead of in August (J Doyle, personal communication, 2013). Buffalo berries were traditionally harvested after the first frost, as freezing sweetened the berries. Now buffalo berries are dried out before the first frost hits, so are no longer worth gathering (L Medicine Horse, personal communication, 2013).”
In the CSKT
Climate Change Plan (pp. 31-32), Steven Smallsalmon also noted the disappearance of porcupines and frogs, and the increasing interruption of hibernation among bears: “Quills. You do not see that anymore. You do not hear frogs. I remember hearing them in the nights. Just sit there and listen to the frog… The bears slept all winter. Today, they… come out sometimes when it gets warm, because they have become mixed up too… [The bears then realize,] ‘Oh, it’s still winter time.’ “
These and other impacts have also been observed in British Columbia, as noted by Turner and Clifton (p. 182): “Examples of environmental declines at least partially attributable to climate change effects include: dying western red-cedars on many parts of Vancouver Island, forests decimated by mountain pine beetle infestations, spruce budworm and other insect pests, notable decline in frog and other amphibian populations, and failure of eulachon runs in a number of rivers along the coast, especially the Kingcome and Bella Coola rivers (
Hume, 2007; Turner et al., in press).”
9     Felicite McDonald, SQCC wi, 2001-10-17. Séliš elder Louie Adams (1933-2016) expressed concern that the weakening of winter cold would result in increasing disease: “This is something the old people used to say about the cold weather. Maybe they didn’t know what germs were, but they knew that we had to have some really cold weather during the winter in order to get rid of sickness, scaál.” CSKT Climate Change Strategic Plan, p. 34.
10
     Patrick Pierre, author written interview, 20 Sept. 2017, and in CSKT Climate Change Plan, p. 33.
11
     Sarah Krakoff, “American Indians, Climate Change, and Ethics for a Warming World,” University of Colorado Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series, Working Paper Number 08-19, September 9, 2008 (5 Denv. U. L. Rev. 865 (2008)), accessible at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1265804, p. 2.
12     Robin Kimmerer, “Returning the Gift,” in Minding Nature Journal, Center for Humans and Nature, https://www.humansandnature.org/earth-ethic-robin-kimmerer, accessed 8-14-2017 (hereinafter Kimmerer, “Gift”).
13     Linguist Steve Egesdal offered his “best guess” for an analysis of this unusual word: “*s/qʷl-núm’t: nomalizer/talk-non-control reflexive, with the *n becoming l through assimilation, with some specializing laryngealization on the m (common for non-control forms).” The root, /qʷ(e)l-, is common and rather straightforward: “talk.” But the non-control reflexive suffix númt (l̓úmt), Egesdal explains, carries a more complex meaning that is more difficult to translate. He suggests “that one is talking about something general, not himself/herself, at length, as part of something not entirely within his control (but for something that he/she take some responsibility for).” Egesdal posits that the stories’ “spiritual essence” may explain the presence of this rare suffix; “perhaps the teller of a Coyote story is channeling something beyond himself/herself, hence the use of a lack of control notion in the non-control reflexive.” Steve Egesdal, Ph.D., email communication to author, Jan. 29-30, Feb. 2, and Jul. 27 and 29, 2012.
14     Pete Beaverhead said (SQCC OHA Tape 47 side 1, May 14, 1975),
K͏ʷem̓t n̓e q͏ʷl̓q͏ʷl̓lu, k͏ʷem̓t y̓e č̓ qs qepc, x̣͏ʷa npƛ̓mu y̓e stapsqe spq̓niʔs, k͏ʷem̓t ci c̓alt spq̓niʔs, čn nte l šey̓ še k̓͏ʷɫnšn̓eʔepis ɫu t p̓ip̓x̣͏ʷo.
And when they tell the Coyote stories, when it’s close to spring, maybe at the end of January, the month of February, I think that’s when the elders would quit telling them.
N̓e we cuntm, “X͏ʷu q͏ʷlllu še cu tma ƛ̓e hoy yetɫx̣͏ʷa ɫu sq͏ʷlllum̓t.”
Even if a child told them to tell a story, the old people would tell them, “Remember, it’s over today, for the stories.”
Tma ɫu l sq͏ʷlllu u k̓͏ʷɫnšepntm — n̓e put qepc, še hoy ɫu k͏ʷ esq͏ʷlllu.
Because in the Coyote stories, they shut them down — just when it’s about spring, you will quit telling Coyote stories.
N̓e č̓ʔey, k̓͏ʷɫči l sʔistč, me še eɫ ɫu sq͏ʷlllu eɫ meyeʔntm.
In the fall, just when it’s about to reach winter, then you can start telling them.
Ta ɫu l sʔanɫq k͏ʷqe q͏ʷlllum̓ti.
Don’t tell Coyote stories in the summer.
15     Séliš elder Eneas “Tom Puss” Pierre (1908-1985) recalled that when he was a boy, his family often joined the tribal parties that traveled every fall across the Mission Mountains to hunt for their winter meat in the area near Seeley Lake. In the evenings, as snow fell in the mountains above the camps, many people would crowd into his family’s tipi, and the old people would tell the sq͏ʷlllúmt. Tom Puss and the other children would listen in wonder and astonishment:
Ɫu t sq̓si, ne čna qʷlllu. Qe esyáʔ saqq̓cn.
“Long ago, someone would tell the stories. We all lay there listening with our mouths open.”
See Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee and Elders Advisory Council, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, The Salish People and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 2005, hereinafter Salish People), pp. 7-9.
16     The word tl̓sqélix͏ʷ, a term that appears only in the context of creation stories, consists of two meaning units (or morphemes): the prefix t̓l̓-, ‘yet to come into being,’ and the lexical suffix -sqélix͏ʷ, ‘people, human being.’ (Steve Egesdal, email correspondence with author, January 14 and 17, and February 2, 2012.) Jarold Ramsey writes, “That refrain of Transforming myths, ‘The People are almost here,’ must have evoked in Indian listeners at once a sense of tribal identity and purpose (they were ‘the People’) and a sense of wonder at a time before them, when they had no being, but were being anticipated.” Ramsey, compiler and editor, Coyote Was Going There: Indian Literature of the Oregon Country (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1977), xxvi. More than that, the stories consistently say that people were helped, their way of life prepared, by the animal-people; and the hosts then willingly transformed themselves into food for the coming guests. This pervasive aspect of the stories reflects both a profound existential gratitude, not to say indebtedness, to the animal-people for making human life possible, and a humbling acknowledgement of both the animals’ greater spiritual power and their prior claim to the land itself. It is a human-animal relationship that is further manifested in the central spiritual experience of young tribal people, the vision quest, in which they spend time alone in the mountains sometimes for several days (though the young person was unaware of it, they were often watched over by a parent or other guardian during this time), to allow for the possibility of an animal or other spirit-being coming to them and giving them power to use in their life, for healing, in battle, or for other purposes.
17     In discussing Vine Deloria, Jr.’s classic book, God is Red: A Native View of Religion (New York: Putnam Publishing Group, 1973), Sarah Krakoff notes that “Because most American Indian religions have this place-centric aspect, there is a corresponding totality to the role that religion has in Indian life. A place generates not just a list of rules to follow, but a whole life’s worth of attitudes and behaviors… For Native communities, it is not just the place that matters, but the animate world of which it is a part: the animals, plants, seasons, and rhythms that flow from centuries of knowledge about a place and all of its emanations. Global warming is already affecting all of these aspects of place, and will continue to do so for some time to come.” Krakoff, 2008, pp. 6 and 8.
18
     Some examples of Coyote stories that may be in part a collective memory of the ice age or the distant past include Pete Beaverhead, “Origin of seasons: Q͏ʷox̣mineʔ and St̓olemtq͏ʷ,” SQCC Tape 3, side 1 and side 2 (1975), and “White Beaver, Wolf Brothers, and Wild Horse Island,” SQCC tape 42, side 2 (1975); “Coyote Whips the Cold Man,” in McDermott, Ethnology, 47-48; “South Wind and the Cold,” in McDermott, Ethnology, 51-53; “Coyote Whips the Wind,” in McDermott, Ethnology, 54; “Bluejay Brings the Chinook Wind,” in Clark, Indian Legends, 112-114, and “Thunderbird, North Wind, Bluejay, Origin of Chinook Wind, and Today’s Seasons,” in McDonald, Creation Tales; Eneas Pierre, “World destroyed by great flood,” SQCC tape 13, side 2 (1975); “Coyote and the Dam on the Columbia,” in McDermott, Ethnology, 18-19, and also mentioned in numerous other stories, including “Coyote and the Black Clam Women,” McDonald, Creation Tales, as well as Duncan McDonald, “Coyote Brings the Salmon Up the Streams,” Bitterroot Journal (Victor, MT) 4 , no. 1 (Jan. 1978): 25; Lucullus McWhorter, “The Great Flood in the Flathead Country,” in Clark, Indian Legends. Other stories may contain more metaphorical or less literal references to features of the end of the ice age, such as the location of terminal moraines or the southernmost limit of the glaciers, such as the story of the “swallowing monster” in the Jocko Valley and the starving animals living within its immense body (this story appears in many sources, including Vanderburg et al, Tales from the Bitterroot, and Pichette, Coyote Tales. Some stories describe larger versions of certain animals, such as giant beaver and giant bison, and their transformation into the smaller versions of these animals that we know today.
19
     Juliet Morrow and Stuart Fiedel, “New Radiocarbon Dates for the Clovis Component of the Anzick Site, Park County, Montana,” in Paleoindian Archaeology: A Hemispheric Perspective, ed. Juliet Morrow and Cristobál Gnecco (University Press of Florida, 2006). Perhaps the second oldest documented site, the McHaffie site south of Helena near Montana City, has been estimated at about 9,500 years. Points have been found in the Northern Rockies that suggest use of the mountains 8,000 to 10,000 B.P., and an excavated site in Powell County has been dated to over 9,000 B.P. Near Helmville, Montana, in the Blackfoot River drainage, materials have been found in layers beneath a discreet deposit of volcanic ash dated to about 6,750 B.P. Archaeological information courtesy personal communication from Stan Wilmoth, Montana State Historic Preservation Office, October 17, 2007.
Many scholars recognize the incompleteness of the archaeological record, and believe that it is almost certain that people occupied the area at an even earlier time. Particularly on the west side of the Continental Divide, it is virtually impossible to determine any earlier human presence through archaeology, due in part to the ice age’s cataclysmic effects, including the grinding and carving action of glaciers and the massive floods associated with the draining of Glacial Lake Missoula, combined with more complicated geological structures and less stable sedimentary deposits in the western valleys. Nonetheless, Interestingly, some of the traditional creation stories even suggest that Séliš-Ql̓ispé ancestors may have been here when the ice age began. See also George C. Frison, Prehistoric Hunters of the High Plains, 2nd ed. (San Diego and London: Academic Press (Elsevier), 1991), and David Alt, Glacial Lake Missoula and Its Humongous Floods (Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Co., 2001).
20     SQCC oral history archives, and the notes and published writings of ethnographers such as James Teit, Claude Schaeffer, and Carling Malouf, provide a nearly unanimous sense that the Séliš and Ql̓ispé bear a direct connection to the earliest human inhabitants of the region. They also agree on the tribes having no traditions of having originated elsewhere (this may be true for many western tribes that were not relocated).
Other sources, generally less authoritative but still important, do suggest an ancient migration into western Montana, although even they do not tell of other people having preceded the Séliš or Ql̓ispé. The most interesting example is the account gathered by the WPA writer Bon Whealdon, in which Whealdon reports Ql̓ispé elders as saying in the 1920s, “We know only the story our old men told our men down from the beginning: the first Salish were driven down from the country of the big ice mountains, where there were strange animals. Fierce people who were not Salish drove them south. So in our stories our people have said, ‘The river of life, for us, heads in the north.’” Clark, Indian Legends, 92-93. Whealdon’s work is important; he interviewed a number of people in the Séliš and Ql̓ispé communities of the early to mid-twentieth century, including Alex Beaverhead, Eneas Conko, John Delaware, Louise Finley, David Finley, Joseph and Tom McDonald, Mose Michel, Blind Michel, Charley Michel, Dominic Michel, Antoine Morigeau, Philip Pierre, Quequesah, Lassaw Redhorn, Francois Skyema, and Mrs. Allen Sloan. It is also true that he was not a trained ethnographer, and the phrasing suggests Whealdon may have employed some artistic license. His translators are listed by Ella Clark as having been Harry Burland and Thomas Eulopson. Tribal elders alive today say Burland was not to their knowledge a fluent speaker, so he may have served as a transcriber. Eulopson was certainly fluent, and was connected to numerous traditional families. He is listed in the 1926 tribal census as a full blood married to Lucy Kickinghorse, with a child born in 1920. By the 1933 census neither the wife nor the child is mentioned, so they might have died in the interim.
By contrast, the work of the Boasian ethnographer James Teit indicates that elders in the early twentieth century made no mention to him of tribal migration into the region. “The Pend d’Oreille,” Teit wrote, “appear to have been in their late habitat a long time…The Pend d’Oreille consider the Flathead to be the head or parent tribe of the Flathead group and next to the Kalispel their nearest relations. I heard of no migrations of the tribe.” Teit reported the same for the Salish. Teit was fluent in Thompson, the Salishan language spoken by his wife, and he worked closely with Michel Revais, the preferred translator of the Salish head chief, Charlo (and his son, Martin Charlo). While Whealdon rarely if ever recorded any terms in Salish, Teit’s written representations of Salish words are so accurate as to be almost always recognizable today to both fluent elders and Salishan linguists. Teit also carried out the most thorough and wide-ranging anthropological investigation of tribal origins and territories in the Northern Rockies and surrounding regions, interviewing numerous elders from many of the tribes. In the course of that work, he apparently heard no stories of the Séliš or Ql̓ispé moving into Montana from other places. James Teit correspondence within Franz Boas papers, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA (Collection B B61), folder: Tribal territories and boundaries, ͏p. 54/20, also 53/19 and 55/21.
21     Those cycles of drought, in particular, would later raise havoc with non-Indian newcomers as they applied farming and ranching to this environment. Agricultural modes of subsistence, and the permanent settlements they engender, lack the flexibility of hunting-gathering-fishing societies — their ability to move, disperse, or coalesce as conditions warrant.
As will be noted later in the essay, the Séliš and Ql̓ispé also actively managed their vast territories with highly developed techniques of using fire. It is important to distinguish between the relatively subtle techniques employed by the tribes in increasing the productivity of the land, and the more direct and coercive methods of agricultural and industrial activities. One of the most profound and stirring explorations of that systemic difference, and its unfolding in the history of irrigation in the western U.S., is Donald Worster’s Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon, 1985).
22     Turner and Clifton, 181-182.
23
     Felicite “Jim” Sapiye McDonald, SQCC wi, 2011-01-10, 2011-01-25, and 2011-02-02.
24
     Pete Beaverhead, SQCC tape 36, side 1 (1975).
25
     Michael Louis Durglo, Sr., SQCC elders meeting, 2005-01-13. In Salish, this is called es x̣č̓ečstm—when you do something wrong in a spiritual way, you end up being punished. This can apply to someone who fails to show respect to the animal when hunting, but it is a general term for the consequence of something spiritually wrong. Other examples could include misbehavior or inappropriate conduct in the sweathouse. Felicite “Jim” Sapiye McDonald, SQCC wi, 2011-01-27 and Felicite “Jim” Sapiye McDonald and Tony Incashola, SQCC wi, 2011-06-06.
In the Séliš and Ql̓ispé way, a successful hunt is as much the animal giving itself to the people, as it is the hunter taking the animal.
26     Pete Beaverhead, SQCC tape ______, side ___ (1975).
27
     Little Mary Finley, SQCC tape 60, side 2 (1975).
28
     Louise Vanderburg, SQCC tape 074, side 1 (1975).
29
     Agnes Vanderburg, SQCC tape 073, side 1 (1975).
30
     Bitterroot is only one of the many foods that are welcomed after the long winter. People dig the delicious bulbs of q̓awx̣e (yellowbells) and peel the tender stems of ṃtčw̓e (arrowleaf balsamroot, whose roots, called táq͏ʷoʔ, are roasted). Sx̣ástqey (spikes of broadleaf cattail) are seeped or steamed like asparagus, and the roots of p̓išɫp (cattail) can be eaten raw or baked (in addition, cattail stalks are woven into mats). The celery-like stalks of x̣͏ʷté (cow parsnip) provide a juicy springtime treat. In the mountains and foothills, the delicate yellow blooms of máx̣eʔ (glacier lily) carpet the open forests and meadows, where people harvest the leaves and corms. In certain areas of Montana, but more commonly in eastern Washington, biscuitroot—called pč̓l̓ú or px͏ʷpux͏ʷ—are dug and eaten raw, or dried and stored for later consumption. Many other foods come early, such as sɫox̣͏ʷox̣͏ʷep or t̓šy̓éɫp (false Solomon’s seal) and ssil̓us (wild hyacinth). Spring also brings some of the first medicines of the year, such as tiitw̓i (horsemint, wild bergamont, or bee balm) and x̣nx̣né (wild mint or field mint). All of these, and many others, are important springtime plants for the Séliš and Ql̓ispé. And at the same time of the year, around the camps where these many spring foods and medicines were being harvested, people would hunt certain animals. One favorite was smc̓ec̓—ground hog—which is not only eaten for food, but also prized for its grease, which was used by the men for fixing their hair. John Peter Paul, SQCC wi, 2000-06-19.
As the sap begins to run, the people take long flat-ended sticks and pry semi-circle slabs of bark from the trees. The inner cambium layer provides a delicious taffy-like treat, especially from certain trees. Sʔatq͏ʷɫp (ponderosa pine), mulš (cottonwoods), q͏ʷq͏ʷliʔt (lodgepole pine) and caq͏ʷlš (western larch) are favorites. People are careful to take bark only from one side of the tree to avoid girdling it. In time the wound heals. To this day, scattered across western Montana, one may find ancient trees, especially ponderosa pine, bearing these “cultural scars”—mute testimony to the long tenure of Séliš and Ql̓ispé people in the region. (Trees were scarred for other reasons as well, including as markers and signs, and from removing bark for use as a layer in the pit-baking of camas and other foods.) For another sweet treat, people also gather snc̓emcm—edible sap—especially from caq͏ʷlš (western larch). Children are cautioned not to eat too much or they will get a stomach ache. Snc̓emcm can be gathered until the sap begins to dry up in fall. The hardened pitch from caq͏ʷlš is also used for chewing gum. And at this time of year, in the spring, the people also use larch to help their bodies get ready for summer. They take the tips of new needles from young trees, asking them to help, and prepare a tea that thins the blood for the warm months ahead.
31     Agnes Vanderburg, SQCC tape 073, side 1 (1975).
32
     When early non-Indian visitors reported the great bounty and pristine quality of the region’s natural resources, few had any idea that they were observing a landscape that was not only the gift from the Creator, but which had also been shaped and nurtured for millennia by tribal people and tribal ways of life. See the award-winning interactive DVD Fire on the Land: Native Peoples and Fire in the Northern Rockies, by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Lincoln: distributed by the University of Nebraska Press, 2007, hereinafter Fire on the Land) for cultural information on the tribal relationship with fire, scientific material on the ecology of fire, and a series of forty historical essays, by the author of this essay, on the tribal use of fire and its repression over the past two centuries.
33
     Pete Woodcock, SQCC tape 09, side 1 (1975).
34
     See Salish People, op. cit. pp. 52-53. Qal̓sá is a term of unknown meaning from the dialect of the Smtéus, a now-vanished Salishan people. In the dialect of the Séliš and Ql̓ispé, the area is called Epɫ ʔítx̣͏ʷe (Has Camas).
35
     In the baking process, the inedible inulin in camas bulbs is transformed into fructose, a sweet and easily digested source of carbohydrate energy with a very low glycemic index. For this and other reasons, the high levels of fructose in baked camas and the central importance of camas in the traditional diet, may have helped guard against diabetes — and conversely, this may help explain the epidemic rates of diabetes seen among tribal people in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, as the prevailing way of life became far more sedentary and the diet changed to one heavy in refined sugars and fats. The transformation of camas through baking is recognized in the Salish language: only uncooked bulbs are called sx̣͏ʷeʔli, while the cooked camas is called ʔítx̣͏ʷe (this term is also sometimes used as a general term for camas). Salish terms also denote the way that pit-baking changes tree lichen from its inedible raw form, called šawtmqn or Snč̓l̓é q͏̓͏ʷomqeys, into a black, chewy, licorice-like food called sq͏ʷl̓á.
36
     Many other inedible plants are gathered in summer for medicinal use or use as tools, including stmtmniʔá (western snowberry), tik͏ʷtn̓ (hard-stemmed bulrush), k̓͏ʷɫʔl̓í (scarlet gilia), ṇɫamqe sʔiɫis (“black bear’s food” — black twinberry), px͏ʷcu (meadowrue), qpqpté (sage), sčt̓ásšn (fairyslipper), slč̓ést̓yeʔ (beargrass), smx̣é sʔíɫis (“grizzly bear’s food”—mountain ash), snlq͏ʷó (showy milkweed), st̓lt̓lá sc̓ʔék͏̓͏ʷs (“thunder’s flower”—Indian paintbrush), sul̓áqeʔ (western poison ivy), sx̣sést̓iyeʔ (northern sweet grass), and x̣awítx̣aw (pretty shooting star).
37
     Mitch Smallsalmon, SQCC tape 178, side 1 (1977).
38
     Eneas Pierre recalled that in the nineteenth century, the main Salish winter camp was located along the Bitterroot River, ci č̓ Ɫq̓eɫml̓š ci x̣eyɫ č̓ciʔ cič̓ nisq̓͏ʷo — “at Wide Cottonwoods [the area of Stevensville, Montana], a little further across the river.” He continued,
U i še iʔistč, še ɫu x̣͏ʷa iše x͏ʷʔit sw̓ew̓ɫ.
K͏ʷem̓t l še u iše istč ɫu sqelix͏ʷ l Ɫq̓eɫml̓š.
That’s where they would winter, because there were plenty of fish there. That’s why they would winter there, the people at Wide Cottonwoods [Stevensville].
Like the Séliš, the Ql̓ispé located their winter camps in places where a rich fishery would help sustain the people through the winter. In the early twentieth century, elders told the ethnographer James Teit about how “plentiful” fish were in the waters of the tribes’ territories, and that “in earlier times, when the people were more sedentary, fishing was engaged in to a considerable extent by certain bands of the Kalispel and Pend d’Oreilles, especially by the people living around Flathead Lake.” The lake was the center of Ql̓ispé life—as Teit wrote, “the earliest recognized main seat of the Pend d’Oreilles...[with] several winter camps in the vicinity of the lake.” James A. Teit, “The Salishan Tribes of the Western Plateaus,” ed. Franz Boas, Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, no. 45 (1927-28), 348 and 311. Hereinafter Teit, “Salishan Tribes.”
Indeed, the
Ql̓ispé band that lived in the Flathead Lake area was known in the Salish language as the Sɫq̓tk͏ʷmsčin̓t — the People of the Wide Water, after the name of Flathead Lake, Čɫq̓étk͏ʷ, meaning Wide Water. Anthropologist Carling Malouf wrote that “the density of occupation sites around Flathead Lake, and along the Flathead River...indicates that this was, perhaps, the most important center of ancient life in Montana west of the Continental Divide.” Carling Malouf, “Historical and Archaeological Sites and Objects,” in Leo K. Cummins, “Impact Assessment: Forest Land of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Montana” (unpublished ms, April 1974).
In April 1854, John Mullan traveled to an ancient traditional
Ql̓ispé camp, located where the lower Flathead River leaves Flathead Lake. Now occupied by the town of Polson, Montana, the area was known by an ancient Salish placename — Nč̓mqné (or, in long form, Nč̓mqnétk͏ʷ), meaning the head or top of the water, the origin of the lower Flathead River. Mullan wrote,
We found at the lake four lodges of the Pend d’Oreilles, who have been here some weeks fishing; they presented to us, on arriving at their camp, with some fine fresh and dried salmon-trout. This lake, and also the Clark’s fork here, abounds in excellent fish, the salmon-trout being the most abundant. These latter are caught from the lake, often measuring three feet long. It forms one of the chief articles of food for the Pend d’Oreilles at this season. During the winter they often camp here when the lake is frozen over, when, cutting holes in the ice, they secure an abundance of these most excellent fish. While here, during the night we were aroused by a noise from the river, when, going to see whence it came, we found three men swimming the Clark’s fork; they had been fishing on the opposite bank, and, having secured a large number, they were returning to their homes. The night was somewhat cold, yet such is the hardiness of these men that they think nothing of undergoing fatigue of this character. On their arrival at our camp they presented us with a number of these so dearly earned but excellent fish.
(I.I. Stevens, Report of Explorations, 553, and Isaac I. Stevens, Narrative and Final Report of Explorations for a Route for a Pacific Railroad, near the Forty-Seventh and Forty-ninth Parallels of North Latitude, from St. Paul to Puget Sound, 1855, in Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, made under the Direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853-5, According to Acts of Congress of March 3, 1853, May 31, 1854, and August 5, 1854, Volume XII, Book 1 (Washington: Thomas H. Ford, Printer, 1860) (hereinafter Stevens, Reports of Explorations), 519. Note: Until the late nineteenth century, some non-Indians considered the lower Flathead River to be the upper part of the “Clark’s fork of the Columbia” and referred to it as such. Others called it the Pend d’Oreille River.)
The importance of fish in the overall subsistence strategy of the Séliš and Ql̓ispé may come as a surprise to readers of the standard anthropologies of the tribes. To be sure, when there was opportunity for tribal hunters to bring in red meat, that was usually the preferred food. Much of the ethnographic and historical literature, however, has both overstated the importance of animal protein and also understated the importance of fish for these tribes. In perhaps the least rigorous area of his generally excellent research, the ethnographer James Teit, who conducted field work on the Flathead Reservation beginning in 1909 under the direction of Franz Boas, dismissed fishing as “of much less importance to the Flathead tribes than hunting.” Teit did not define “importance,” although he was apparently using the crude measure of total caloric percentage in the diet — a metric that could not gauge the role of fish within the context of the tribes’ seasonal cycle and the region’s ecology, with its dramatic ebbs and flows of weather and food resources. As noted in the text above, Teit did note how “plentiful” fish were in the waters of the tribes’ territories, and he acknowledged the great importance of fish for the tribes “in earlier times.” Teit, “Salishan Tribes,” 348. But Teit never tried to rectify the rather contradictory picture he drew, and the researchers who followed him into Séliš and Ql̓ispé communities in the early to mid twentieth century repeated almost verbatim his offhand minimization of the importance of fish in the tribal way of life of the Northern Rockies.
Virtually all subsequent scholars studying the
Séliš and Ql̓ispé repeated Teit’s basic message of fish having almost no importance to the Séliš, but somewhat greater importance to the Ql̓ispé. None of the researchers went much farther than that; none developed a more sophisticated understanding of fish within the tribal modes of subsistence and tribal history.
A quarter century later, George Weisel almost repeated Teit verbatim: “Although fish were extensively used for food by the Flathead, fishing contributed much less to their livelihood than hunting.” Like Teit, Weisel did make the point that in comparison to the
Séliš, the Pend d’Oreille (Ql̓ispé), Kalispel, and Spokane “were much more dependent on fisheries.” Weisel, “Ethnozoology of the Flathead Indians,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, Vol. 42, no. 11, Nov. 1952, 346. Weisel also seems to have been simply incorrect in regard to both the extent of the native fishery and the relationship between fish as a food resource and the Salish mode of subsistence: “There were no large runs of fish in their streams that could be relied on to furnish ample provender at certain times of year.” Weisel’s erroneous statement regarding the fishery is surprising, given his authoritative knowledge of ichthyology in Montana — among other things, he was the author of Fish Guide for Intermountain Montana (Missoula: Montana State University Press, 1957).
In his deposition before the Indian Claims Commission in 1952, the University of Montana anthropologist Carling Malouf presented a similar picture, but provided more detail in his description of
Ql̓ispé fishing practices: “Of the three tribes in the petition,” he stated, “the Pend d’Oreille did more fishing. They had fish weirs, as David Thompson mentions in his book, at the mouths of many of these side streams, some of which we can specifically name near Thompson Falls.... We also have informant data that substantiates this. They also fished in Lake Pend d’Oreille, that is, they would go down there on occasion, and in Flathead Lake there was some fishing, but mainly in the streams. The Kootenai also fished for a good part of their subsistence. The Flatheads did some fishing, but not to the extent of the other two groups.” Tunison, Depositions, Vol. 1, p. 160.
Gordon Hewes, in his chapter on “Fishing” in Vol. 12 of the Smithsonian
Handbook of North American Indians, gives similarly thin analysis to fishing among the Séliš and Ql̓ispé, even as he detailed the numerous methods employed by the tribes. Walker, Jr. ed., Vol. 12: Plateau, 631. Hewes looks in greater depth at Kootenai fishing, arguing that the “systematic” emphasis they gave to fishing “set them off from their Plains neighbors” and suggested a mode of subsistence more typical of Plateau cultures.
39     Ɫx̣͏ʷɫó (chokecherry) is also used as medicine for both people and horses.
C̓k͏ʷik͏ʷ (black elderberry or blue elderberry) is also gathered at this time as an important food, and its hollowed-out branches are used for flutes and storage containers. X̣͏ʷte (cow parsnip), which is gathered in spring for food, becomes dried out later in the year and is then used to make elk whistles. This is also the time when people go to the mountains to harvest x̣asx̣s (Canby’s wild lovage), sčx̣lx̣lpú (“clearing your eyes” — prince’s pine), and the leaves of sčtx̣͏ʷey lití (mountain tea or western Labrador tea), which are dried for use as tea throughout the year. People also gather many foods that are good to eat fresh but are unsuited for drying and storing, including ṃcuk͏ʷ (black raspberry or blackcap). The sour berries of sc̓als (Oregon grape) are eaten fresh, and the plant is also used as a versatile medicine and for dye or paint.
40     The very hard wood of stm̓oq͏ʷ was used as handles for tools and weapons, and its two- to three-inch-long thorns were used by boys in games that trained them to be warriors with great resistance to pain. If left unpicked, hawthorn berries, like serviceberries (sy̓ey̓éʔ and sɫaq), dry on the bush, and could be picked even in winter.
41
     Felicite “Jim” Sapiye McDonald, SQCC wi, October 2001, 2001-11-01, and 2011-01-10.
42
     CSKT Climate Change Plan, p. 30.
43
     Vince Devlin, “January Shocker: UM botany professor says blooming buttercups in the Bitterroot Valley easily the earliest he has on record and more strong evidence of global warming,” Missoulian, 19 Jan. 2006, p. C1.
44
     The tribes’ deep understanding of the seasons, the understanding of the intricate connections in the timing of stages of plant and animal life, is described by Nancy Turner and Helen Clifton (op. cit., pp. 184-185) as “Traditional Phenological Knowledge.” They note that among many tribes, the names of months or moons are “encoded phenologies.”
Turner and Clifton explain the concept of “Traditional Phenological Knowledge (TPK)” as “one type of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, paralleling the formalized study of species life cycle events and biological change known as ‘phenology’ (Rathcke and Lacey, 1985). TPK relates to traditional knowledge of seasonal timing of growth, development, reproduction and migration of organisms, which generally occurs in a predictable sequence based on temperature thresholds, length of daylight, moisture or other environmental determinants (Lantz and Turner, 2003). People everywhere have learned to use physical environmental indicators—onset of seasonal rains, first snowfall, or melting patterns of particular snowbanks—as well as biological indicators—spring leafing out of certain trees or shrubs, blooming of certain flowers, such as salmonberry (Davis et al., 1995), or appearance of certain migrating animals or birds—to predict optimal times for harvesting particular kinds of fish (e.g. spawning time for salmonids), for hunting certain animals or for picking berries or other activities taking place at more distant locations (Thornton, 1999). They can also predict abundance of a given species or productivity of certain plant resources through such indicators.
“For example, for the Tla’amen (Sliammon), the time around late February and into March, called T’agams ta Walth, ‘Moon of the Frog,’ because this is when the spring frog chorus starts, signifies the beginning of herring spawning and the start of the harvest season. People collect herring eggs, hunt grouse and buck deer, and fish for halibut and spring salmon. Fawns and seal pups are born, and towards the end of this period, women harvest edible roots and green shoots and begin stripping cedarbark for baskets (Sliammon Treaty Society, 2005).”
45     CSKT Climate Change Plan, p. 31.
46
     Turner and Clifton, p. 188.
47
     Merculieff, op. cit.
48
     Lauren Morello, “For American Indians, Coping with Climate Change Is Ancient History,” ClimateWire, published in Scientific American, July 19, 2012 (hereinafter Morello). Accessible online at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/for-american-indians-coping-climate-change-ancient-history/ (accessed 2017-08-06). See also Krakoff 2008, p. 15): “Billy Frank, a Nisqually tribal member and leader who has led the battles over the Northwest fisheries, has said that ‘fishing defines the tribes as a people.’ Tribal leaders throughout the region express the same sentiment. Chairman Antone Minthorn of the Umatilla Nation provided the following poignant testimony in congressional hearings about the collapse of the salmon runs: ‘It is almost impossible to describe in words the pain and suffering this has caused my people. We have been fisherman for thousands of years. It is our life.’ “
49
     Turner and Clifton, p. 187.
50
     Krakoff, 2008, p. 17. Krakoff says that in Alaska, “elders have traditionally passed on centuries’ worth of accumulated wisdom about how to read ice, snow, and other environmental conditions. That wisdom is proving empty in a world of changing weather. Not only does the inability to read the weather make travel and hunting more dangerous, it also undermines the ability of the elder generations to teach the younger generations... Due to climate change, Alaska Native communities are facing a cultural loss as profound as that suffered by the plains tribes when they were confined to reservations and forced to abandon the practices that gave their lives meaning.”
51
     CSKT Climate Change Plan, p. 33.
52
     Morello, op. cit.
53
     Kyle Whyte, “Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene,” forthcoming 2017 in English Language Notes, p. 1.
54
     Turner and Clifton, 181, 182, and 186.
55
     Elizabeth A. Fenn examines the complicated interconnected histories of horses and smallpox in Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-1782 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001). See especially p. 222. A detailed accounting of the history of introduced diseases in the region is provided by Robert T. Boyd in “Demographic History until 1990,” in Walker, Jr., ed., Handbook, Vol. 12: Plateau, 467-483. Boyd wrote the best history of the impact of non-native diseases in the Pacific Northwest, The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline among Northwest Coast Indians, 1774-1874 (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1999), based on his Ph.D. dissertation, “The Introduction of Infectious Diseases among the Indians of the Pacific Northwest, 1774-1874” (University of Washington, Seattle, 1985). Sarah K. Campbell’s archaeological work has found that burial patterns indicated sudden disruptions in life in the Middle Columbia Plateau in the mid-sixteenth century -- perhaps evidence of a smallpox pandemic beginning in 1519. See Campbell, “Post-Columbian Culture History in the Northern Columbia Plateau: A.D. 1500-1900” (doctoral dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle, 1989). Cole Harris, “Voices of Disaster: Smallpox around the Strait of Georgia in 1782,” Ethnohistory 41 (4) (Fall 1994), 591-627, is also an important study of the impact of smallpox epidemics in the region prior to 1800. One of the earliest works to focus on the issue in this region was Leslie M. Scott, “Indian Diseases as Aids to Pacific Northwest Settlement,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 29 (2) (1928), 144-161.
There are also numerous anecdotal records of smallpox and other epidemics striking Séliš-Ql̓ispé communities. Early observations of non-Indian explorers, fur trappers, traders, and missionaries include the Lewis and Clark journals; Claude E. Schaeffer, LeBlanc and LeGasse: Predecessors of David Thompson in the Columbia Plateau, Studies in Plains Anthropology 3 (Browning, Montana: Museum of the Plains Indian, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1966); David Thompson’s Journals Relating to Montana and Adjacent Regions, 1808-1812, ed. and with an introduction by M. Catherine White (Missoula, Montana: Montana State University Press, 1950) and David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America, 1784-1812, ed. J.B. Tyrrell (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1916), especially chapter XXI, “Small Pox Among the Indians,” which includes detailed accounts of the 1780 epidemic from Thompson’s first-hand observations and through the account of a Piegan elder; Alexander Ross, Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River, ed. Milo Milton Quaife (Chicago: Lakeside Press, R.R. Donnelly & Sons, Inc., 1923); Fur Trade and Empire: George Simpson’s Journal, ed. Frederick Merk (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1968); Warren Ferris, Life in the Rocky Mountains, ed. Paul C. Phillips (Denver, CO: The Old West Publishing Company, 1940); Harry M. Majors, “John McClellan in the Montana Rockies 1807: The First Americans after Lewis and Clark,” Northwest Discovery 2 (19), 554-630; Gregory Mengarini, Recollections of the Flathead Mission, Containing Brief Observations both Ancient and Contemporary Concerning this Particular Nation, translated, edited, & with a biographical introduction by Gloria T. Lothrop (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1977); and Stevens, Reports of Explorations, op. cit. In addition, numerous tribal accounts appear in the SPCC oral history archives as well as the ethnographic notes of James Teit, Claude Schaeffer, and Edward Curtis. These include a story of smallpox striking a Plains Kootenai band and leaving only a single survivor. Fenn offers a good accounting of biological explanations for the extraordinary mortality rates of native people afflicted by smallpox (hemorrhagic smallpox, she notes, killed 97 to 100% of its indigenous victims) in Pox Americana, 253. See also “The Genetics of Vulnerability” in Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 112-118.
This mounting body of scholarship and documentation has made it clear that by the early nineteenth century, epidemics had already been wreaking havoc among the
Séliš and Ql̓ispé for at least decades and perhaps even for centuries.
56     See Thompson Smith, “Aáy u Sqélix͏ʷ: A History of Bull Trout and the Salish and Pend d’Oreille People,” in the interactive DVD Explore the River: Bull Trout, Tribal People, and the Jocko River, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (University of Nebraska Press, 2011.
57
     See Thompson Smith, “Fire, Forestry, and Sovereignty on the Twentieth-Century Flathead Reservation,” one of 40 essays on history and culture of Séliš-Ql̓ispé use of fire included in the interactive DVD and website by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Fire on the Land, op. cit.
58
     Whyte, op. cit., pp. 6-7.
59
     Whyte, op. cit., p. 7.
60
     Krakoff 2012, p. 91.
61
     See Thompson Smith, “Wildfire Wildcard: Global Warming and Fire in Montana,” in Fire on the Land, op. cit.
62
     Morello, op.cit.
63
     Krakoff 2008, pp. 12-13.
64
     Kyle Whyte, op. cit., has noted (p. 5), “While Indigenous knowledges obviously have useful information about the nature of ecological changes, it is perhaps more interesting to explore how renewing Indigenous knowledges serves the motivation of people and communities to address climate change.”
65
     Pat Pierre, author written interview, 20 Sept. 2017.
66
     Kimmerer, “Gift,” op. cit.
67
     Krakoff 2008, p. 3.
68
     Krakoff 2008, p. 33.
69
     Pat Pierre, author written interview, 20 Sept. 2017.
70
     Center for Native American Youth. “Drawing Strength from Our Cultures: The State of Native Youth 2016.” State of Native Youth Report. Washington, D.C.: Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute, December 2016.
71
     CSKT Climate Change Plan, p. 35.