Posted: Jun 15, 2012 4:31 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Jun 18, 2012 8:28 AM
One of the most unique places in the United States marked its 30th anniversary on Friday as the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes celebrated the decision to form the Mission Mountain Wilderness.
Back in the 1930s, people proposed a tribe-operated national park for the Mission Mountains, but the idea didn't gain momentum until 1974 when three grandmothers came to the new tribal council to question a timber sale on Ashley Creek.
Germaine White, a CSKT education specialist, was there. "They reminded the council of our cultural obligation to maintain our traditional way of life," White said. "They further reminded the council of values for the natural world that have sustained us from the very beginning of time."
This week, tribal members, including all past wilderness managers, gathered to recognize the 30th anniversary of the decision to set aside 91,000 acres of some of the most spectacular mountains in North America. The wilderness includes valleys, waters and peaks that climb to 10,000 feet, along with the native plants and animals.
CSKT tribal councilman Reuben Mathias said the animals come down into the valleys to feed. "And we have to protect those animals as we protect our own children," he said.
Tony Incashola, the CSKT cultural committee director, said he remembers his uncle saying he hated coming back down from the mountains. "It became more dense and polluted down here. Where up there it was clean and fresh and it was easy to breathe," Incashola said.
CSKT were among the first tribes in the country to organize a wilderness area, recognizing that which is most precious and irreplaceable.
"It's a very important part of our way of life. And we have to have these areas in order for future generations to survive and to continue our way of life as Salish-Pend d'Oreille people," Incashola said.
The late Doug Allard, who served on the committee to establish the Mission Mountain wilderness, said, "These mountains belong to our children, and when our children grow old, will belong to their children. In this way and for this reason they are sacred."