When a landslide caused a 250-foot section of Idaho State Highway 5 near Plummer to collapse, it created a traffic headache for residents who had to find alternate routes between St. Maries and the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation last March.
The landslide area is parallel to a cedar grove that the Coeur d'Alene Tribe has used for generations. From the top of Pedee Hill down to Lake Coeur d'Alene, there are culturally modified trees. These culturally modified trees are indications that the tribe had been actively making cedar bark baskets in that area. In order to repair the landslide area of Idaho State Highway 5, a portion of this cedar grove would need to be logged away.
But sometimes a little inconvenience can be a good thing. As engineers, planners and work crews tackled repairs, they found a grove of cedar trees with Indian markings cut into tree bark. These trees and the markings had historical significance for the Coeur d'Alene Indians, said Leanne Campbell, the Historic Preservation Manager and Curator for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.
“We knew cedar played an important role for our ancestors,” said Campbell. “The bark from these trees was once harvested to build cedar bark baskets. The Coeur d'Alenes hadn't built a new cedar bark basket in 60, maybe 100 years.”
As part of the mitigation process between the Idaho State Highway Department and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, the tribe was given the opportunity to A wonderful idea emerged. Why not harvest the cedar and use it to build cedar bark baskets like they did had for generations? Campbell and Swan led a group of Coeur d'Alenes and community members to harvest the bark from trees set to be cut down as part of the road repairs.
“Cedar bark baskets were used as utilitarian storage devices, holding berries, roots and and water potatoes,” said Caryldene Swan, who also works in the Tribe's Culture Department to help preserve the Coeur d'Alenes' rich history. “Going out to harvest the cedar was an amazing experience. I felt so close to our ancestors because I was surrounded by these beautiful trees. Everyone felt this sense of peace.”
The Coeur d'Alenes relied on a number of resources to build cedar bark baskets again.
“Our neighboring tribes were able to share their knowledge with us and we also looked at some very old historic baskets in our collection,” said Campbell. “Now we're able to hold classes for tribal members who are very interested in building these baskets again. Our people want to connect with the history.”
The cedar bark baskets and other important cultural items are being featured at the Coeur d'Alene Salvation Army Kroc Center in November. For the second consecutive year, the Coeur d'Alene Salvation Army Kroc Center is partnering with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and the Human Rights Education Institute to share tribal history and culture with the community during Native American Heritage month in November.
“We have a strong and important relationship with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe stemming back beyond to their generous $1 million capital campaign contribution gift to The Kroc Center to us,” said Stacy Barney, Director of Aquatics, Wellness and other programs at the Coeur d'Alene Kroc Center. “We're so thankful for the Tribe and what they can share with us and the community. It's an honor to work so closely with an amazing group of people.”
The celebration will kick off at the Kroc Center at 6 p.m. on Wednesday Nov. 8 with a free cultural celebration that will include storytelling, singing, drumming, dancing, regalia and history.
In addition, the Kroc Center will offer an art workshop tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The workshop, which will be taught by members of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, focuses on beading and jewelry making. Cost is $27.50 and those interested should sign up online or at The Kroc Center customer service desk prior to class.
“This is our homeland,” said Campbell, who will be helping teach the workshop. “We have a deep and rich history. We enjoy educational outreach and sharing our culture and traditional arts to help our neighbors understand who we are. We're willing to share it with people because that's who we are.”
--Written by Marc Stewart, Director of Sponsored Content