d'Alene Tribe language speaker honored
It is the language of the
Coeur d'Alene Tribe which
first named the mountains, lakes, and rivers of
North Idaho. And it is the language of Felix Aripa, one of its
last fluent speakers. "I want to make sure our lands
have our names on them," Aripa tells youth. "It is how we can remember."
tribal elder, World War II
veteran and longtime land and wildlife preservationist was
honored last month during his birthday party at the Longhouse in
Worley. His birth certificate says he's 86, but he's 89 according to the
Tribe. Nearly 300 people came to thank him.
"I'm really not accustomed to
birthday parties like this," Aripa said..
"But for people to come out and enjoy me brings out the memories
"Uncle Felix," as he
called by many on the reservation, worked to spread the Tribe's
culture and history.
After he returned to the
reservation from working on the Warm
Springs Reservation in Oregon, Aripa volunteered to teach his
language and act as tour guide where he shared the names and
locations of sacred grounds around his home. He also surveyed
tribal lands and roads, and he worked with the state of Idaho to
make sure road
construction didn't interfere with fish and wildlife habitats.
"It is something that belongs
to us," Aripa said of his devotion to the land. "It is something
we call home, and where we belong."
Aripa's name in both languages
will now grace the fishery building in Plummer -- The Felix Aripa
(shi'ttsin) building. And he was awarded the Tribe's Excellence
Award, a monthly award Tribe Chairman Chief Allan said Aripa
could have won every month.
"It's in our elders we find
our anchor," said Dave Matheson. "If it weren't for them we'd
leave our culture."
"He's our protector of this
sacred life," Marlene Sproul said.
And when the crowd stood to
listen to the sound of the Tribe's drummers singing, Aripa
reflected again on a history he's devoted to sharing.
"When I hear the drummers, the
singers and that singing, that reminds me of our elders and of
our way of saying thanks to the Almighty," he said. "That drum is our thanks for everything."