Kieri McCommas — 2013 Best Essay Winner Lake Pend Oreille High School

The Tradition of Our People

When my mom was little, being a member of the Te-Moake Tribe of Western Shoshone, she was taught the tradition of our people. To respect nature and the creatures that live in it. When they would go camping, they would take horses and go way into the mountains where most people have never been. While camping my Grandmother and Grandmother’s sister would teach my mother and her cousin how to track animals. They would never take food from home with them, they would show them food ‘s you can eat, to take only what you need and to give thanks for what the land provided to allow us to continue to live. One time they drove till there was a dead end then parked and got there two horses out, put there packs on them. My mother road with her mother on the back of there saddle, my mother’s Aunt and her daughter on another. My mother told me that she and her cousin hung on for dear life because my grandmother was raised to ride without a saddle and she wasn’t afraid to ride fast. They rode the horses till just before dark. They where so high up, there was signs of snow, and they finally made camp. They had spent 5 days in that area, while my Grandfather and Great Uncle where with them hunting for a deer for meat to feed them. During this time the girls, my mother and her mom along with my mom’s Aunt and her daughter who is my mom’s cousin, had spent their time in the woods learning the different tracks and what animal they belonged to often following them to learn what that animal did that day on how they lived. They then learned the different plants that you can eat and which one’s healed you.

On the last day when they were bring back herbs and basket of chock cherries, and they were coming back into camp, there was a black bear in their camp that was trying to reach the deer my Grandfather had hunted earlier tied in a tree. My mom said she was frightened because they were all so close, at that moment my Grandmother and my mother’s Aunt with a unspoken under standing both reached down and picked up a large branch, both at the same time hit the ground with the branches and said to the bear that they worked very hard to get the deer respectfully and that they promised to give thanks back when they were done, the bear looked back at them after a moment, then left.

My mother said she thought her mother and Aunt’s 5 foot frame was 10 feet tall and so brave. My mother has used her teachings and tradition, to show my sister, younger brother and I to be strong, brave and not afraid of anything. She has always shared with us her own training and showed us the beauty of nature and always to be thankful. She takes us to nature and shows us that nature is a school and everyday we can learn. When we go on hikes we learn that life is like the wildlife, it can both be beautiful and dangerous, to take only what we need and to always give thanks and give back. The experiences makes my excited for my future and everything I can learn and do, the thing I can show others, the others I can help and I can’t wait.

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Categories: Blog
About The Author:

Sandy Compton has been program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness since 2009. He is also a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at

In addition to his other duties, he runs the FSPW All Star Trail Team (, which works on Forest Service trails in the Scotchman Peaks. He is a trail surveyor as well, and a C-Certified Crosscut Bucker/Feller and USFS National Saw Policy OHLEC instructor.

Sandy grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still. He is also board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and a planning team member for the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute.

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