Top left: Bobette Haskett from SBT Language & Cultural Preservation; top right: Historian Orlan Svingen; bottom left: morning prayer ceremony; bottom right: attendees shake hands during a friendship dance.
By ROSELYNN WAHTOMY
VIRGINIA CITY, Mont. – The Virginia City Treaty Day Gathering opened with a morning prayer at Tendoy Park on Saturday, June 17.
The event commemorated the mixed bands of Shoshone, Bannock and Sheepeaters.
Fort Hall Business Council Vice Chairman Darrell Shay explained the event represents the Shoshone-Bannock coming back to the original homeland. He acknowledged the people of Virginia City for accommodating the return. There were people from the town in attendance and Shay told them the Tribes were not there to make trouble, but to pay respect to the ancestors.
Tendoy Park is an eight-acre area dedicated to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes by the Virginia City community.
Laurin was the site where the actual Virginia City Treaty was signed in 1868 by Chief Tendoy, who was the leader of the mixed band of Shoshone, Bannock and Sheepeater people. The treaty was never ratified and the tribal people were removed from the area once gold was discovered along Alder Gulch.
Councilman Lee Juan Tyler said it felt good to be on the land and the people respected it.
Darrell Tendoy spoke briefly about the importance of the area and offered another prayer to bless the land.
Bobette Haskett from Language & Cultural Preservation Department said it was a wonderful experience to help plan the gathering this year and said it couldn’t have been done without the staff, the Virginia City Planning Committee, Orlan Svingen and staff.
FHBC Vice Chairman Darrell Shay speaks during the sunrise ceremony at Tendoy Park.
Breakfast was served at Pace Park where participants took the time to visit with new and old friends. The morning was met with cloud cover, but by the afternoon blue skies and the sun shone bright.
Presentations took place at the Elling House. The first presentation was by Orlan Svingen who talked about the history of the treaty. He confirmed all the details of the treaty and said it wasn’t guesswork because they know for fact where it happened and what was said; along with provide a newspaper article of the occurrence. Although there have been no photographs found yet, a painting exists and was created by the late Willie Preacher. It now hangs in the courthouse.
He talked about the documentary he’s still working on called “In Good Faith,” which is about an hour long. He said this would tell the story to anyone out there who wants to learn about it.
After lunch Merceline Boyer gave a presentation on Shoshone language and talked about growing up and what she experienced with it. It took her a long time to teach her own children to speak the language because of what she went through and her mother went through in the boarding school era with the language in the past. She lost her language a little because she didn’t speak it, but found it again when she started to teach it. She came to revitalize both the Shoshone language and the Bannock language. She came to find out it’s easier to teach children when they’re young.
A powwow took place for the remainder of the evening with many dancers making the trip to participate. Announcing for the event was tribal elder Lionel Boyer. Singing for the powwow was the Nagitsy Road singers.
Boyer said it was a great experience for the young people to come back to the land of the ancestors. He said there are a lot of stories that are told about the tribal people in the valley and today they come back to let the people know the tribal presence is still alive.
Miss Shoshone-Bannock Taylor Haskett wished everyone a good afternoon and thanked everyone for coming out.
“It feels so good to be here, up in the mountains, where our people resided long ago,” she said.
Miss Indian Blackfoot High School Nicole Hevewah was also in attendance to greet the audience.
Concluding the day’s event was a traditional feast where all in attendance were invited to enjoy.