Excerpt 7

As Mitch Smallsalmon told us: Of course, long ago the Indian people lived all over here and were happy…You know, that's how things were for the Indians long ago. All the animals were here, many animals. Plenty of everything, and this land was good. And the air here was clean.

The journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition remark at length on the abundant resources and sheer beauty of the mountains and valleys of the Salish homeland.

But how much more astonished would the expedition members have been by this beauty and the abundance if they had known how long tribal people had lived here—that this was infact a place occupied and managed by people for a longer time than the continent of Europe?

Lewis and Clark, like many early non-Indian visitors, did not realize that the tribes were practicing one of the most sustainable ways of life the world had ever known. Unaware of the length and depth of tribal history, they did not understand that what they saw in western Montana in 1805 was not the product of human absence, but the product of human presence or more precisely, a particular kind of human presence.