"Pend Oreille Country" can be seen online at https://www.pbs.org/video/pend-oreille-country-ierduv/
It is a very humbling experience to write about Lake Pend Oreille. It is so very, very precious and sacred, and truly grand and glorious.
I wrote that on the acknowledgements page of my book, Legendary Lake Pend Oreille: Idaho’s Wilderness of Water, published originally in 2010 by Sandpoint’s Keokee Books. Yes, humbling, as it took years of working alone, and with many other creative people, to tell its story. This lake is an amazing and daunting subject to tackle. At more than 400 pages, and as the lake book's author and editor, I am so proud as it goes into its third printing. It is a truly collective story about our remarkable and mystical Lake Pend Oreille.
Jane in her cedar canoe near Clark Fork Delta, courtesy of author
With its unique story as deep as it is long, beginning with floods during the last Ice Age — the lake’s birthing — to the Kalispel people’s genesis story of emergence from the lake’s depths after the Animal People prepared the way for them, still evident by Grizzly’s and Black Bear’s paw prints left in the still-hardening rock. This mythology followed by a 10,000-year history of living a hunter-fisher-gatherer way of life around the lake’s shoreline and on its waterways is captivating.
Chief Baptiste Big Smoke at Sheepherder’s Point, circa 1923, courtesy of Kalispel Tribe
Kalispel ancestors traveled throughout their aboriginal homeland in their unique, sturgeon-nosed canoes that when paddled, flooded one’s senses with the delicious aromas of its split cedar frame, chokecherry bark lashings, and cambium layer of its white pine bark covering.
Loren Bowman and Nemo Battin in sturgeon-nosed canoe by Coddy Battin.
These are the stories of Lake Pend Oreille that to me are precious and sacred, truly grand and glorious. Stories of many, many generations of Kalispel who followed the seasonal round and abundance of roots, berries, fish and deer, bear and caribou -- creating legends to tell long before the first white man, David Thompson, arrived in 1809.
Camas in bloom, courtesy of Eva Johannson
It was then that other, newer stories took form as told by explorers, fur traders, miners, railroad workers, lumber men, and pioneer settlers. Story, built upon story, built upon story. Some heroic, some tragic, as my friend, the late William Studebaker, aptly expressed in his poem, “Sandpoint”: So many dreams have drowned in this lake….
Stone cairn at Green Bay by Patrick Orton
After 40 years of living here in Pend Oreille Country, my own story is one of continual wonder, where despite challenges and occasional struggles, I have come to understand the inherent harmony of this watery wilderness, living as simply and creatively as I can, with all my senses open to the lady of the lake’s charms, her mystery, her strength, her lessons and changing moods — all of them remarkable gifts. Now, after these many decades of life here, with no real desire to travel, or live elsewhere, I easily embrace the final stanza written by the late Paul Croy in his perfect poem, simply called “Pend d’Oreille,” (with the d’ restored):
It cools the stars in indigo, It liquifies the moon, It captures dawn's first promise of the day;
It holds the lavish pageant of the sunset's cloud parade;
Content am I whose sands of life run out on Pend Oreille.
Early evening from Trestle Creek area by Sandy Bessler
As a creative source of life, Lake Pend Oreille is so much more than the sum of its parts. If you look deeply into why it is the great gem of our state, where no lives are easy or uncomplicated, but are rich in beauty and spirit, I promise you will join me in encountering magic.
Loon by Dave Thoreson, courtesy of author
(Cover photo by author)