'The closest thing we have to a chief': CSKT community mourns loss of tribal edler Tony Incashola

ST. IGNATIUS — The women who visited Antoine “Tony” Incashola Sr.’s childhood home sat close together leaning in to share juicy gossip and giggle. They spoke only in Salish.

Incashola’s grandmother, Agnes Woodcock Incashola, held deep connections with older women statewide who would visit often, sometimes for days or weeks. She lived the traditional Selis-Qlispe (pronounced SEH-leesh KAH-lee-speh or Salish Kalispel in English) way of life. 

Incashola watched Agnes and her friends closely, absorbing the Salish language and embracing Selis-Qlispe traditions.

Agnes didn’t know it at the time, but her grandson would grow up to become a Selis-Qlispe cultural icon. Incashola dedicated his life to the preservation of language and culture and became a beloved elder and venerated spokesperson for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

Tribal elder Joe Vanderburg said Incashola “was the closest thing we have to a chief.”

Incashola’s incredible impact on the tribal community was apparent on June 10 when hundreds packed into the Long House to celebrate and honor his life. Incashola, who was 75, died at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula on June 7 at 3:42 p.m.

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