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Salish Walkers Retrace Exodus From The Bitterroot

Logo of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Josh Burnham
Montana Public Radio
Logo of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Today through Saturday, the Salish Pend d’Oreille tribal community will be remembering their ancestors by retracing their steps. This Saturday will mark 125 years since the Bitterroot Salish were forcibly removed from the Bitterroot Valley, traveling three days to the Flathead Reservation in Arlee.

Anna Whiting Sorrell is a Salish tribal member who helped organize the walk.

"To think about how old people, and young people, and mammas with babies did this walk, never having been to where they were going, with only what they were carrying - and it was the start of the winter season. So when you think about that, emotionally I think that’s as hard as it is physically," Whiting Sorrell says.

The "Return to the Homeland" walk started this morning at the Jocko Church on the Flathead Reservation.

"If I were to describe the people that are walking, I would say that it is absolute determination. There are young people, there are little kids being carried, we have people on horseback, this morning we had people riding bikes. We have non-Indians and Indians alike. It is just a wide, wide range of people with hope and determination," says Whiting Sorrell.

Their ultimate destination is St. Mary’s Church in Stevensville, where they will visit the grave sites of tribal elders.

“This isn’t a protest, nor is it a celebration. It is an honoring and remembering those people that came before us, and what they did and how they survived so that we can be here today."

They plan on camping along the way, stopping near Missoula and Florence.

Return to the Homeland Schedule:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

  • 8:00 Meet and Breakfast at Jocko Church
  • 8:30 Gathering
    Prayer, moment of silence, smudge & song
    Overview – History and Explanation of Return to the Homeland event
    Logistics and schedule of walk  
  • 9:00 Start Walk
  • 11:00 Graywolf Casino bathroom & snack break
  • 12:00 Evaro area for lunch
  • 3:00 Town Pump at the Wye bathroom break
  • 6:00 Arrive at KOA campground
  • 6-8 Dinner
  • 8:30 Group Gathering
    Talking circle, visiting & stories around camp fire  

Friday, October 14, 2016

  • 7-8:30 Breakfast
  • 9:00 Start Walk
  • 10:30 Snack & Bathroom
  • 12:00 Lunch past Blue Mountain Rd.
  • 3:00 South of Lolo Bathroom Break
  • 6:00 Arrive at Looking Glass Camp ground
  • 6-8 Dinner
  • 8:30 Group Gathering, Talking circle, visiting & stories around camp fire  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

  • 7-8:30 Breakfast
  • 9:00 Start Walk
  • 10:30 Snack & Bathroom
  • 12:00 Lunch at Bitterroot River Park outside of Stevensville
  • 2:00 Walk to St. Mary’s Church
  • 3-6:00 Program
    Walk to Salish Graves
    Walk to multipurpose center
    Honor Song  
  • 4:00 Prayer for Meal
    Open Mic
  • 6:00 Closing
    Clean up and go home
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