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State, tribal officials mark site of massacre

Condon, Montana (AP) 10-08

State and tribal officials gathered on the shore of Holland Lake during October to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the slaying of four members of a tribal hunting party during a game warden’s ambush of a hunting camp.

“We will never forget what took place,” Tony Incashola, the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee director, said Oct. 18. “We will never forget their sacrifice for their beliefs, their customs, and that we need to learn them and pass them on to the future generations.”

A large sign telling the story of the massacre also was unveiled along Montana Highway 83.

A book, “The Swan Massacre: A Story of the Pend d’Oreille People,” as told by John Peter Paul, whose parents were in the hunting camp, will soon be published.

An eight-member hunting group had been moving through the ancient tribal hunting grounds in the Swan Valley in the fall of 1908.

The tribes had been forced to cede the land to the United States, but tribal leaders had negotiated access to their hunting grounds under the 1855 Hellgate Treaty. When Montana became a state in 1889, the Legislature created new hunting and fishing regulations and appointed game wardens to enforce the laws. The new laws and a clashing of cultures set the stage for what would become the Swan Valley Massacre.

Atwen Scwi, 49, led the hunting group. With him were his wife, 13-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. Also in the group were Little Camille Paul, 46, and his wife, Clarice, who was six months pregnant. Camille’s aunt and her husband, Martin Yellow Mountain, were also part of the group.

On Oct. 16-17, 1908, the game warden, 34-year-old Charles Peyton, visited the camp while the men were hunting. He frightened the group, barged into their tepees and demanded to see hunting licenses.

On the evening of the 17th, Peyton and his deputy, 32-year-old Herman Rudolph, stormed into a tepee.

Peyton grabbed a rifle, but Little Camille Paul overpowered the warden and took the weapon from him. Peyton drew his pistol, but did not fire. However, he told the group to be gone when he returned in the morning.

While the group was readying to leave the next morning, Peyton and Rudolph ran through the camp. Peyton shot Little Camille Paul, whose rifle was still in its sheath, before killing an unarmed Atwen Scwi.

Yellow Mountain tried to defend the family, but Peyton shot him to death. The women fled into the brush while Peyton shot at them.

The 16-year-old boy shot Peyton in the abdomen, knocking him down. Rudolph shot the boy.

Peyton, however, was not dead. He began to stand up and reload his rifle.

Clarice, a Catholic, didn’t want to kill Peyton, but did so to protect the rest of the party.

Three months after the massacre, Clarice gave birth to a son, John Peter Paul, who lived to the age of 92. In his final years, he decided to tell the story and gave his blessing for the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee to write a book about what happened.

Tribal leaders say the story of betrayal and murder is also a story of strength and survival. Persistent efforts by Indians into the 1950s finally won affirmation by the courts of treaty-based hunting rights on public lands.

During the ceremony, Josephine Quequesah, the granddaughter of Clarice and Little Camille Paul, stressed the importance of cross-cultural cooperation to create a better future.

“Even out of tragedy, we can figure out ways to work together,” she said.