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Salish-Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee, Elders Cultural Advisory Committee, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The Salish People and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Salish-Pend d'Oreille Culture Committee, Elders Cultural Advisory Committee, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The Salish People and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. 216 pp., 141 photographs, 6 maps. Cloth, $29.95.

In this extraordinary book the elders of the Salish, Kalispel, and Pend d'Oreille peoples, through their tribal cultural committee, offer a remarkable collection of oral traditions, revealing the sacred geography of their traditional homelands in the Bitterroot and Missoula valleys of western Montana while referencing the tribal memory of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Spanning two hundred years and passed by word of mouth from one generation to the next, these oral narratives are transposed into oral literature by the Native peoples themselves. As such, the book constitutes a remarkable account of intrinsic virtue, reflecting what Peter Nabokov called "Indian personal history writing" in his A Forest in Time. (1) With this book of sacred texts, legends, and narratives presented with significant scholarly attention and consideration, the Salish people proudly take their place at the academic table. We are treated to an exceptional journey into oralcy and oral history, manifesting a truly unique Native perspective and epistemology.

While studying in Missoula during the eighties, it was my good fortune to encounter some of these marvelous elders--Agnes Vandeburg, Mitch Small Salmon, Johnny Arlee, among others--and hear some of these accounts firsthand. I can attest to the authenticity of these splendid narratives. The text offers many valuable insights, such as Mitch Small Salmon's accounts on the traditional way of life and oral memory of the tribal encounter with Lewis and Clark at Ross Hole in the Bitterroot Valley. Sharing these stories with others is a remarkable act of generosity that bespeaks the greatness of Salish character and their goodwill to their neighbors in their Montana homelands. This book should be required reading for anyone living in the Salish ancestral homelands, as it attests to and instills a sense of the moral landscape from which we might all benefit while we learn to live well in place.

Replete with the Salish linguistic designations for selected sacred places and accompanying narratives, the book is beautifully illustrated with glossy color photographs, insightful maps, and splendid illustrations and artwork by renowned tribal artists Tony Sandoval and Corky Clairmont. As such, The Salish People is a tribal collaboration that serves as a historical revelation that must not be missed.


(1.) Peter Nabokov, A Forest in Time: American Indian Ways of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Jay Hansford C. Vest, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

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Author:Vest, Jay Hansford C.
Publication:The American Indian Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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