Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee Director Tony Incashola addresses
the Montana Historical Society upon his receiving its Board
of Trustees Heritage Keeper Award in Helena. (B.L. Azure photo)
HELENA, MT Tony Incashola, director of the Séli-Ql?ispé
Culture Committee, was acknowledge Friday at the Montana Historical
Society's 44th annual Montana History Conference in the Capitol
Incashola was presented with the MHS Board of Trustees Heritage
Keeper Award for his dedication to preserving, protecting, and perpetuating
the culture, history and language of the Salish and Pend d'Oreille
people of the Flathead Nation, said trustee Tom Nygard.
"The length, depth and breadth of Incashola's service to the
Culture Committee, the Salish and Pend d'Oreille peoples, other
communities within the Tribes' traditional homeland, and the people
of Montana as a whole make him the very epitome of a heritage keeper,"
Nygard said of Incashola, a U.S. Army and VietNam War veteran who
began working at the SQCC in 1975 and became the director in 1995.
"He is deeply respected as a bridge builder."
Yamncut Drum sings an honor song in respects to Tony Incashola's
MHS award presentation. (B.L. Azure photo)
On hand for the presentation was an entourage from the Flathead
Reservation that included the Yamncut Drum who opened the Friday
evening's awards banquet with three songs then followed up the award
presentation to Incashola with an honor song.
"Tony's steady leadership, dedication to the cause of cultural
survival and revival has help establish the Séli-Ql?ispé
Culture Committee as one of the foremost tribal cultural institutions
in the nation," said Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal
Council Chairman Vernon Finley in letter to the MHS read by Nygard.
"That has helped spur our young people to learn their own identity
and has helped the wider public gain greater respect for the Confederated
Salish and Kootenai Tribes."
Incashola, as is his manner, directed credit for those who birthed
and sculpted his being. He lost his mother when he was a toddler
and was raised by his grandparents.
Incashola displays the Montana Heritage Keepers Award presented
to him by MHS Trustee Tom Nygard. (B.L. Azure photo)
"By honoring me, you are honoring my parents, my grandparents,
and our ancestors who have existed here for thousands of years,"
Incashola told the approximately 200 attendees at the awards dinner.
"I was very fortunate to be raised by my grandparents. They were
strong and understanding. They pushed me and made me who I am today.
What a gift they left me."
Incashola said American history is like a giant puzzle that
contains many pieces, some are beautiful and some are ugly but they
all make up the mosaic portrait of the true history of America,
which for the aboriginal inhabitants began more than a half a millennium
ago with the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The Aboriginal people
then were the entire puzzle of the Western Hemisphere.
"It takes many, many pieces to complete this picture. The puzzle
pieces, our puzzle pieces paint a clear understanding of who we
are and where we came from," Incashola said. "We are just part of
a bigger picture."
The bigger picture of America however has often blurred or disregarded
the American Indian's place but Incashola reminded folks that change
is slow change for the better extremely slow but change
comes and hopefully it's for the better.
and Denise Incashola stand as Tony is being honor with a Yamncut
honor song. (B.L. Azure photo)
"The 1960s were not the best times for a lot of people but we
survived by building bridges and filling in the gaps that kept people
apart," Incashola said. "We were able to come to an understanding
of people of different nationalities. It's people like you that
help bring our dreams to reality. It takes all of us here to get
people to understand what life should be so we can go wherever we
want to go without being afraid, to a place of comfort. Tonight,
this place has that feel."
The Indian piece, in particular the Salish and Pend d'Oreille
part, of the American puzzle is cherished and perpetuated by Incashola,
the SQCC and cultural traditional practitioners.
"We continue to do this for our children and grandchildren.
What we do is never for ourselves today, it's always for the future,"
Incashola said. "We want to give the generations yet to come the
hopes and dreams that the have been passed down from the generation
of our people that came first. I think that many of the ancestors'
dreams are realized today. We still have a long ways to go but we
have proven we can bridge the gaps of misunderstanding. We must
continue bridge-building so our kids will be in a better place."
Yamncut Drum wishes Tony Incashola well following their honor
song in his honor. (B.L. Azure photo)
A better place includes understanding the light and dark side
"History is like a teacher. You can learn from it so you don't
make the same mistake twice," Incashola said. "When you teach history,
you must teach not only the good but the bad. Don't turn away from
the bad history; learn from it. We need both to build the truth
so we can make corrections and move forward."
Incashola said his journey forward would not be as successful
without his significant other, wife Denise.
"We always have someone who will always be there for you. Sometimes
we take that person for granted," Incashola said. "I wouldn't be
here today if wasn't for my wife, Denise. She's always there for
me, through the hard times, through the good times. Sometimes I
take her for granted. Thank you, Denise."
Thank you, Tony.