WORLEY, Idaho - "We washed our babies in the morning in this water. We went
to the sweat house and after the prayers we washed ourselves in the waters
of this lake for thousands and thousands of years.
It was not our fault that we were chased away from these waters, but now
today we have returned," explained Coeur d'Alene elder Cliff SiJohn to
nearly 150 people gathered at a recent press conference announcing the
acquisition of Camp Larson by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe from Washington State
"This is a joyous day," he continued in his eloquent style. "To be able to
bathe our babies in this water and to be able to listen to the waters sing
to us again. It's a significant day for all of us."
He thanked all the tribal leaders and staff members who had worked so hard
to enable the tribe to regain the land and lakeshore from the university.
"Our hearts soar and hide in the sky; and our grandmothers smile as they
sing all day in the camps across the river, for their children have
returned to their homelands."
The parcel of land is not huge - only 36.46 acres, with 700 feet of water
frontage - but it is valuable both in terms of dollar figures and cultural
value, as it allows the tribe to return to one of its ancestral campsites
along Lake Coeur d'Alene. The purchase price was $1.4 million initially,
plus another $1 million spread over the next five years in annual payments
of $200,000. That amount will fund educational programming for the tribe,
provided by WSU.
Tribal Council Vice Chairman Francis SiJohn, who served as master of
ceremonies, said the land's return was a win-win situation for everybody
because the Coeur d'Alene Tribe would always use the property as an
education tool to help the community.
Marjorie Zarate, director of education for the tribe, outlined a number of
programs that will soon commence - funded with the $200,000 returned by WSU
in the form of a gift and worked out in meetings between tribal leaders and
WSU faculty members - and gave credit to the tribe's cooperation and
partnership with the university. She noted that they looked at problems on
the reservation and how people were affected, then examined ways to correct
those problems so young people could receive the education needed to help
them realize their potential.
A partial list of programs includes a comprehensive tutoring program, a
scholarship program for Coeur d'Alene tribal members enrolled at WSU, an
American Indian teacher recruitment and retention program to get more
tribal teachers, cultural sensitivity workshops for administrators and
staff working with Native youth, and several others. She concluded by
saying, "Our goal in implementing these programs is to remove traditional
barriers that keep Native American children from achieving their
Dr. V. Lane Rawlins, WSU president, spoke of the honor in meeting with the
tribe on this occasion.
"We have sought a suitable use for this land. I want to express our delight
that we are able now to work out an arrangement where these ancestral lands
are returned to the Coeur d'Alenes." He added that the family of Roger
Larson, former director and physical education faculty member for whom the
camp was named, "has expressed to us their great delight that this will be
used by the tribe."
Rawlins concluded saying, "This is a very special piece of the world. The
Creator was good to this spot of land and to be able to return it to those
whose ancestors used it so well is a great honor for us."