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Salish Kootenai cultural leader Tony Incashola has died

Edward O'Brien
Montana Public Radio/File photo

Confederated Salish and Kootenai cultural leader Tony Incashola died earlier this week at the age of 76.

Incashola was a key figure in the cultural revival on the Flathead Reservation in the 1970s. He served on the Séliš-Ql̓ispé cultural committee for decades and held the role of committee director since 1995.

CSKT Tribal Chairman Tom McDonald says Incashola’s time on the committee and as a tribal councilman in the 1980s touched every part of the tribe’s work, including the tribe’s takeover of the Salish Kootenai Dam and the expansion of the natural resources department.

“Every time we would put together educational material, there was Tony," McDonald said. "He was there willing to work on it, to be able to talk about the importance of this plant or this animal, to talk about the importance of this landscape or a particular site.”

Incashola’s cultural knowledge also helped foster the Nk̓͏ʷusm Salish Language School in Arlee. Language teacher Gene Beaverhead says Incashola was always there to answer questions and was instrumental in preserving many oral stories.

But Beaverhead says like the passing of any elder, some of Incashola’s cultural knowledge will likely be lost.

“We’ve lost so many elders in these last few years, we’ve lost so much," Beaverhead said. "We still have a few, but not like what we had.

"The stories they had were just irreplaceable."

Beyond his cultural work, Incashola was a Vietnam War veteran and was known as a fierce community member, always calling youth sports games in his hometown of St. Ignatius. He leaves behind his wife, Denise, their four children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Services will be held in St. Ignatius Friday.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.