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Missoula County to add CSKT tribal flag, Native American art to meeting room

Citing history and a growing partnership, Missoula County commissioners last week agreed to add the flag of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to their official meeting room at the courthouse.

They also plan to recognize Native American artist Quick-to-See Smith, rounding out their newfound effort to build bridges with the county’s tribal partners.

“We’re recognizing that not only does the Flathead reservation overlap the boundaries of Missoula County, but we’re sitting here on the traditional aboriginal homelands of the Salish and Kalispell people,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “It seemed appropriate to do.”

To acknowledge the tribe’s history, culture and sovereignty, the county renamed its public meeting room at the courthouse in 2018 in honor of Sophie Moiese. The cultural leader lived from 1864 to 1960 and is remembered fondly by the Salish.

When the room was dedicated, Tony Incashola, director of the Séliš-Qlispé Culture Committee, spoke of the land before the arrival of European settlers. He said “it was people like Sophie Moiese who took care of it, who respected it, so she could pass it down.”

Adding the flag alongside the state flag recognizes the tribes’ history on the landscape and its partnership with Missoula County.

“I don’t know if there are any other counties or municipalities in the state of Montana that also fly the flag of one our tribal nations,” said Strohmaier. “We’re going up to Pablo in February to make a personal invitation to the tribal council to this event.”

The ceremony, likely to take place this spring, will also include the recognition of artist Quick-to-See Smith. Her work is currently displayed in the Sophie Moise room though the Art in Public Places loan program with the Missoula Art Museum.

Commissioners have invited her to attend the dedication.

“She’s internationally known,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “I recognize that we’re incredibly lucky to be able to put some of her art up.”

Missoula County government currently enjoys an amicable partnership with the tribal council. In recent years, they’ve worked together on a number of issues, including the cleanup of the former Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. pulp and paper mill.

While in Pablo, the county plans to present its Climate Resiliency Plan to the council.

“I learned that the steering committee that’s been working on the resiliency plan wanted to present to the tribal council,” Strohmaier said. “We’re going to be up there, so it might be an opportunity to kill a couple birds with one stone.”