Many Tribes – One Camp

By Robert C. North Sr.

IDAHO — June and July proved busy for Seminole Hollywood youth and family participants in two river trips navigating the Salmon and Snake Rivers in West-Central Idaho. These two rivers are world renown for excellent fishing and whitewater rapids. The rivers were also the staging areas for the Seminole youth to share their culture with Tribes indigenous to the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

These remote retreats also provided a unique learning experience for youth participants. During the relatively short time spent traveling these rivers, youth were asked to leave behind all personal electronic gear such to optimize lessons and safety instructions shared.

Hell’s Canyon – Snake River – June

Trip number one took place in the Hell’s Canyon/Snake River region, which boasts many Class III and Class IV rapids. Hell’s Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America and is protected by the National Forest Service as a National Recreation Area. Wildlife such as bighorn sheep, osprey, elk, bear, deer, bald eagles, and in some areas moose, are abundant in the canyon because of this protection.

Two of the invited guests were Toby Patrick, cultural resources specialist from the Umatilla Tribe of Oregon and his wife Julie of the Walla Walla Tribe. Historically, many different Tribal groups lived along the Snake River. During the river trip several old Native camps were visited where ancient pictographs were seen on rock formations.

Camp Life

Each morning participants were expected to wake up just after sunrise to welcome each day. Toby sang one of his family’s traditional songs that was passed down to him by his father. He then would end each morning session with a prayer in his native language.

Seminole participants enjoyed the information that Toby and Julie Patrick shared throughout the trip about their Tribes. Toby even said he was surprised at how easy it was to get to know the young Seminole representatives.

“I was nervous when I first heard that the Seminole Tribe of Florida had invited me on this trip,” he said. “I really did not know what to think…but as soon as I saw all the Seminole youth, I just laughed…I realized they were like me, but from Florida.”

Much of the Tribal history shared took place on the Snake River or in the vast mountain ranges surrounding the area. The group traveled an average of eight miles daily on the river, and participants were divided in several types of inflatable boats.

There was an abundance of fishing from the boats as they traveled the waters of the Snake River. The smallest fish was the small mouth bass and largest, six to eight foot sturgeon. Assistant Director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Seminole Tribe of Florida Thommy Doud was able to reel in a six-and-a-half foot sturgeon.

In the evenings youth participants worked on various planned activities taught by Seminole Tribe instructors as well as others. Bonnie Motlow taught beadwork, Jordan Billie did traditional native cooking, indigenous herb identification was taught by Linda Sampson of the Walla Walla Tribe and Toby Patrick instructed the ancient artifact identification and preservation segment.

“It was interesting to talk to members of Tribes located all the way across the country,” Motlow said. “There were differences, but we found out soon that we had a lot in common. The main thing is humor.”

Each day finished out with a group conference where the day’s events were discussed and each group member had a chance to share their thoughts and ideas. The youth were expected to take turns in assisting around camp each day. All the youth were very responsive in working in the “kitchen” either helping the guides cook and/or clean up before and after each evening’s meal.

Fry Bread Power

Jordan Billie of the Hollywood reservation conducted an extensive lesson in making fry bread. After the instruction, a fry bread contest ensued; judges taste tested the various products and a winner was chosen.

“What we could not figure out is how one fry bread turned out green looking,” Maleah Isaac said after the contest was over.

There were several pieces of fry bread leftover so Seminole citizen RC North and Owner/Outfitter Kurt Armacost thought it fitting to start a new contest event; a fry bread throwing contest.

Salmon River Trip – July

The main fork of the Salmon River is usually best after the second week of July.

“Before that time the river is running very fast and high due to the snow melting off of the nearby mountains,” said Kurt Armacost Owner of Hell’s Canyon Raft, Inc. “There is one rapid on the main Salmon that is a Class VI [deemed impassable] before the month of July. So we start our Salmon River trips in July.”

Inter-Tribal Youth Cultural Exchange

The second river trip conducted by the Boys & Girls Club of the Seminole Tribe of Florida took place on the main fork of the Salmon River in Idaho.

Toby Patrick was invited back with fellow Umatilla Tribal citizen Melvin “Bear” Farrow. Linda Sampson of the Walla Walla Tribe was invited on the Salmon River Trip as well. She specializes in the identification and medicinal uses of certain indigenous herbs that were found along the groups’ route.

Four Native American youth were invited on the second river trip of the summer. The group included Walla Walla Tribal citizen Ian Sampson and Umatilla Tribal citizens: Colleen Wildbill, Jordyn Brigham and Naomi Wildbill, all from Pendleton, Ore.

During the first evening on the river, participants were asked to introduce one another. Group leaders specifically wanted a Seminole representative to introduce a Umatilla or Walla Walla Tribal citizen, and visa versa. This process encouraged participants to share their cultural practices on the first day.

During the Salmon River trip Seminole, Umatilla and Walla Walla participants convened on the southern shore of the confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers, listened to old stories and legends, and practices of the ancestral inhabitants. Valuable lessons in American history were shared through recreating an Indian camp community of several Tribes.