It was a beautiful day with blue skies and white clouds but the mood was somber. Jim Boyd, Tribal Chairman for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, loved and respected, was being laid to rest. He walked on, unexpectedly and of natural causes, at the all too early age of 60. The sheer number of people who gathered for the funeral gave testimony to how well liked and well respected he was.
The funeral was held at the powwow grounds of Round Lake, near Boyd’s hometown of Inchelium. The population is roughly 450 yet twice that number was present at the funeral.
Francis Cullooyah, Kalispel elder, served as emcee, and explained that this day is for all who loved him and his family. The family must return to their home and face the space at the table where he sat, perhaps that favorite coffee cup. The funeral serves as a last good-bye. “I could talk all day about the good things. That is my memory of Jim. It’s a heartfelt thing, that sense of humor he had. I will not forget.”
The large crowd was very quiet as Cullooyah spoke, in fact was quiet throughout the morning. Boyd was universally liked, not only for his position as tribal chairman but through his music and his love of motorcycles. A motorcycle group that Boyd rode with came on their motorcycles to pay their respect to a man they loved and a man who shared a particular interest.
The tribal council members were present and spoke of what a caring person Boyd was. How he treated everyone fairly, giving them the opportunity to speak first, unusual for leaders. “A special leader.” A leader with a devotion to the Confederated Colville Tribes who was always reading and studying, concerned he might do something wrong that caused harm to tribal members.
Shelley, Jim’s wife, spoke at length, telling of his consideration for other people and his great love for Inchelium. “He read everything he could about the Arrow Lakes people. He was the epitome of still waters run deep. An awesome person.”
Johnny Arlee from the Flathead in Montana spoke of his association with Boyd. “Tears are medicine for our heart so it’s okay to cry. Give thanks to the Creator for the gift of tears.
Others who spoke reiterated the comment about how big a loss his death means to not only Colville tribal members but to music lovers around the world.
I spoke with others in the crowd. Willy Womer, newly elected tribal councilman, said, “I’ve known Jim since I was in high school. He was a very talented individual. It’s a big loss to the community. It’s very unbelievable that he’s gone.”
Mike Marchand, council vice chairman, commented. “It’s a tremendous shock and loss and totally unexpected. I’ve known him a couple of decades and worked with him on some business projects. Many know him for his music but I knew him from the business end.”
John Sirois, a former Colville chairman said, “He was really a pillar in that community, someone you could always count on. When I got on council Jim and I took our oath together. We were already friends so it was a real special time to share our hopes and dreams for our people. He was a special person to me. We’re supposed to act like we’re doing okay but it’s really crazy.”
Michelle Campobasso has worked with Boyd on numerous projects since the early 2000s. “It was always fun working on projects with him, someone so talented. I worked on a few commercials with him as well and used his voice and music in them. He had so many good songs that I needed his help to choose which ones to use. He was a truly talented individual.”
The respect for both his musical talent and his concern for the Colville tribes was evident throughout the funeral and beyond. Jim Boyd was greatly admired and will be sorely missed.