Missoula County names public hearing room after Salish leader Sophie Moiese

Bitterroot sign

In a gesture that Commissioner Dave Strohmaier estimates came “about 150 years late,” Missoula County this week dedicated its public hearing room in the courthouse in honor of Sophie Moiese (1864-1960), one of the most highly respected Salish cultural leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sophie Moiese
Sophie Moiese

Sophie Moise Room sign

Moiese, or Č̓ɫx͏ʷm̓x͏ʷm̓šn̓á in Salish, was considered an expert in virtually every aspect of traditional tribal life, from song, dance and material culture to the Salish spiritual and material relationship with plants, according to a biography provided by the Séliš-Qlispé Culture Committee. She taught countless young Salish people about the gathering, preparation, storage and use of the tribe’s traditional food and medicines. For many years, she led the springtime bitterroot ceremony, when the Salish welcomed the return of the bitterroot flower, the first major food of the year in the old way of life.

As the Missoula Valley was perhaps the single most abundant bitterroot grounds throughout the tribe’s vast aboriginal territories, it’s fitting that
a room in the courthouse that now inhabits it be named for Moiese.

On Monday, members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council joined the Missoula Board of County Commissioners to do just that during a ceremony that featured a blessing and remarks from Tony Incashola, director of the  Séliš-Qlispé Culture Committee, an honor song performed by tribal drum group Yamncut and a proclamation from the county commissioners.

WATCH VIDEO

In his remarks, Incashola emphasized the importance of honoring the people who inhabited – and cared for – the land that is now Missoula County.

Tony Incashola
Tony Incashola

“We need to try to understand what (the land) looked like, what it  was like here, thousands of years ago, as our ancestors utilized, lived in the area” Incashola said. “And it was people like Sophie Moiese who took care of it, who utilized it, who respected it, so she could pass it down … to the next generation. And it’s people like her, and other Natives, who have made that possible for us to exist here today.”

In addition to her botanical expertise, Moiese also passed on to the younger generations her extensive knowledge of tribal history. She often carried a buckskin string with knots in it, known as a memory string (ɫsispiʔ nɫqʷlqʷelstn), which was the traditional way of ensuring the accurate transmission of oral history. She often recounted the painful story of the forced removal of the Salish from the Bitterroot Valley in 1891, when she was 27. She especially recalled the elder women weeping as soldiers pushed the people north to the Flathead Reservation.

The connection to Moiese, and to the history she helped keep alive, remains strong today. When Incashola asked those attendance how many were direct descendants of her, more than a dozen people raised their hands.

“This is a great day not only for her family, but for the tribes, the county, Native and non-Native people,” he said. “It’s a day that we’re attempting to bridge some of those gaps that have existed for hundreds of years.”

Moiese proclamation

 

 

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Drop your ballot off, get an ‘I Voted’ sticker without leaving your car

Drive-thru ballot drop-off

Want to cast your ballot without even leaving your car? Starting tomorrow, you can!

Absentee voters in Missoula County can take advantage of the drive-thru ballot drop-off at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, which opens Thursday, Nov. 1.

Hours for the drop-off are:

  • Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1-2: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 3: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 5: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 6 (Election Day): 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To access the drop-off, use the west entrance on South Avenue, near the intersection with Oxford Street. (The east South Avenue entrance, which was used in previous years, is closed due to construction.) An additional drive-thru, which will be accessible through the entrance on Russell Street near the intersection with Fairview Avenue, will be open on Election Day only. Check out the map above detailing the routes.

In addition to convenience, voters who use the drive-thru ballot drop-off will receive a coveted “I Voted” sticker that many absentee voters often go without. I voted

To better serve Missoula County voters, the Elections Center also will offer extended and weekend hours through Election Day. The office is now open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 3.

Do you still need to register to vote? Change your address? Request an absentee ballot? Don’t wait until Election Day — please let us help you with your election-related needs as soon as possible! Voters who wait until Election Day will likely experience long wait times. We know many people can’t make it to the center before Nov. 6 due to work and other obligations, so if you can, make it a priority!

In addition to voter registration, Elections Center staff can help with all voter services, including signing up for an absentee ballot, address changes, retrieving undeliverable ballots and issuing replacement ballots.

Voters can check their registration status and polling place location at www.MyVoterPageMT.com.

Need more information? Feel free to call the Elections Center at 406-258-4751, email electioninfo@missoulacounty.us or visit www.missoulavotes.com.

Missoula County Elections FAQ

Vote

With Election Day one week from now, the Elections Center and other Missoula County staff are getting lots of questions from voters. Though some answers may depend on a voter’s particular circumstances, here are responses to a few commonly asked questions. 

What should I do with my absentee ballot application? Can I drop it off at the courthouse still?

At this point, voters should bring their absentee ballot application to the Elections Center at the Fairgrounds to ensure they get their ballot. The Elections Center is located in Building 15, and drivers should enter through the Russell Street entrance or the west entrance on South Avenue (the east entrance on South is closed due to construction).

How frequently are you mailing out ballots for those with new absentee requests?

The Elections Center mails out absentee ballots every day. However, starting Wednesday, Oct. 31, they are strongly encouraging voters to come to the Fairgrounds to pick up their ballots.

What is the last day for voters to get their ballots in the mail to ensure they’re counted on Election Day?

The Secretary of State’s office recommends allowing a week for mailing to the Elections Office. The Missoula County Elections Center recommends that voters sending in their ballots from Missoula put them in the mail, with sufficient postage (two Forever stamps) by Thursday, Nov. 1. Absentee ballots must be RECEIVED at the Elections Center by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6. If your ballot is merely postmarked by then, it won’t be counted!

You can also drop off your ballot at the Elections Center, at the Courthouse and at the drive-thru ballot drop-off at the Fairgrounds. Hours for the drive-thru are:

  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1 and 2, and Monday, Nov. 5
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3.
  • 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Election Day

I see the Elections Center is now open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Friday and open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Is the late registration cutoff still noon on Monday? What, if any, services do you offer after noon on Nov. 5?

The cutoff for late registration on Monday, Nov. 5, is noon, but same-day voter registration will be available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6. After noon on Nov. 5, the Elections Center will offer ballot drive-thru drop-off and will also help people find their polling place.

I’ve signed my spouse’s envelope. Can I cross out the incorrect signature and sign the correct ballot?

Yes. The ballot will be processed with the corrected signature.

The outer envelope is ripped and/or reopened. If the bar code and ballot number are still legible, can the Elections Center process it?

Yes, just use tape to “reseal” the envelope.

Will there be an Elections Office presence at the Courthouse on Election Day?

No, all services will be at the Election Center at the Fairgrounds. The Elections Center will have runners come by at 8 p.m. to pick up ballots from the courthouse.

Don’t see an answer to your question? Post it in the comments and we’ll get you an answer as soon as possible!

Missoula Votes Clear Background

With third parties bombarding voters’ mailboxes with conflicting information this election cycle, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • The only source for accurate information regarding the status of a voter’s absentee ballot is www.myvoterpagemt.com.

 

  • The following polling places have been relocated for this election:Hellgate Elementary School: Voters report to Montana Technology & Development Center, 5785 W. Broadway

    Cold Springs Elementary School: Voters report to Chief Charlo Elementary School, 5600 Longview Drive

    Meadow Hill Middle School: Voters report to Chief Charlo Elementary School, 5600 Longview Drive

    Hawthorne Elementary School: Voters report to Orchard Homes Country Life Club, 2537 S. Third St. W.

 

  • Your best source for up-to-date information will always be the Missoula County Elections Office. You can follow them on Facebook @MissoulaCountyElections, visit their website at www.missoulavotes.com or call them at 406-258-4751.

Hate the Missoula County website? Help us make it better!

Website screenshot

Have you ever spent an hour or two you’ll never get back trying to find information on our website, which may or may not have ended with you throwing your hands up in frustration?

We know. Well, anecdotally, anyway.

Now, we want to figure out and quantify exactly what information you need and how we can help you find it more easily. You can let us know by taking a short survey (five to 10 minutes, tops), which is online at http://bit.ly/MCWebsiteSurvey. The 11-question survey asks for feedback on your experience using the website, including what info you’re typically looking for, how easy it is to find and understand that information, how easy it is to a submit a service request or concern, etc.

The survey will be open through Monday, Nov. 12. Once we’ve  collected and analyzed the responses, we’ll use it to remap and reorganize the information on our current website, as well as to help us develop a user-friendly customer service tool. We’ll also take the feedback into account when redesigning the site, though that’s not slated to happen until late next year.

When you take the survey, don’t be afraid to be brutally honest — we can take it, we promise. As a local government funded by taxpayers, we work for you, and we want to do so as efficiently as we can. Thanks in advance for helping us do that.

 

Long overdue restoration underway for iconic Doughboy memorial

Doughboy statue on courthouse lawn
The World War I Doughboy memorial on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn is undergoing a grant-funded renovation, which includes cleaning and waxing the bronze, cleaning and repointing the granite base, and building a ground-level plaza so the statue is accessible to all.

Passed by the Missoula County Courthouse lately and wondered what’s going on with the historic World War I Doughboy memorial on the corner of Broadway and Ryman? You’re not the only one; the infamous chain link fencing surrounding the memorial has prompted numerous inquiries concerning the statue’s status.

Don’t worry  ̶  the Doughboy will not endure the same fate as the aging trees removed from the lawn last year. The statue, a tribute to the 39 Missoulians who lost their lives in the First World War, is undergoing a much-needed restoration, thanks to funding from 100 Cities/100 Memorials, a matching grant challenge spearheaded by the United States World War One Centennial Commission that’s funding restoration of WWI memorials nationwide.

According to the 100 Cities/100 Memorials website, the program “was created to help draw attention to WWI memorials across the United States and enables all of America to take part in the WWI centennial commemoration. Many of these WWI memorials have deteriorated due to the ravages of time, exposure to the elements, neglect and even vandalism.

“The funds will be used to conserve, restore or improve these memorials. More important, the program is designed to raise community awareness of those who served and provides a tangible connection to the profound impact this war had on local towns and cities, securing an important place in military history.”

Doughboy plaque
The bronze plaque memorializing the 39 Missoulians killed in the First World War.

Last year, the Missoula County Grants and Community Programs division, with the support of American Legion Post #27 and the Western Montana Military Officers Association, successfully landed one of these grants, one of only 100 in the country. Now, for the first time in more than 90 years, Missoula’s Doughboy bronze will be properly cleaned and waxed, so the names and language honoring the fallen servicemen will be easier to read. The county has partnered with Jackson Construction to complete the restoration, which also includes cleaning and repointing the statue’s granite base, as well as building a ground-level plaza to make the memorial accessible to all.

The memorial commemorates the significant role Montana and Missoula played in World War I. According to information provided by the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, when the U.S. entered the war in 1917, around 12,500 Montanans volunteered for military service, and another 28,000 men were drafted, due to the federal government overestimating the state’s population. In total, nearly 40,500 Montana men, roughly 10 percent of the state’s population, served “Over There”  ̶  the highest percentage of any state.

By the time the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, Montana had one of the highest mortality percentages in the country, with 939 servicemen killed in action, including 39 from Missoula. In 1927, the American Legion Auxiliary erected the Over the Top to Victory Doughboy Memorial Statue on the courthouse lawn to honor those killed in action. Sculpted by John Paulding, it’s one of only 55 such memorials across the country.

Dedication of statue Nov 11 1927_Missoulian.photo.11.11.2017 (002)
The Over the Top to Victory Doughboy memorial on the Missoula County Courthouse lawn was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1927. (Photo courtesy of the Missoulian)

For the past 30 Veterans Days, Missoula’s American Legion Forgotten Warriors Post 101 has sponsored a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial at 11 a.m., and they’ll continue that tradition on Nov. 11 this year. With the restoration work slated for completion by then, it’ll be the perfect opportunity for Missoula County residents to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice during such a pivotal moment in our shared history.

Get involved during budget season at Missoula County

Budget in brief screenshotIt’s budget season here at Missoula County, and we want to make the process as transparent and engaging as possible for you, the taxpayer. That’s why we created the Budget in Brief, which breaks down the various aspects of budgeting, from calculating property taxes, revenue and expenditures to highlighting the services and capital projects those dollars will fund.

Take a look at how the facts and figures broke down for FY 2018, then follow along as departments present their proposed budgets for FY 2019. You’ll find a schedule of the presentations below, and you can stay up to date by following @MissoulaCounty and the hashtag #MslaCoBudget on Twitter.

Once those presentations wrap up, commissioners will discuss any proposed modifications to each budget at public meetings throughout the summer. Following those, the preliminary budget hearing will take place on Thursday, July 26, with the final budget hearing slated for Thursday, Aug. 23. Both of those meetings will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. in Courthouse Annex Room 151.

You’re welcome to attend any meeting, at which you can offer comment to the commissioners. You can also submit your input via email at bcc@missoulacounty.us, by phone at 406-258-4877 or by mail at 199 W. Pine St., Missoula, MT 59802. You can always access the commissioners’ schedule online and view past budgets on the Financial Services website.

As commissioners wrote in the Budget in Brief, local government works best when those we serve participate in the process. We hope you’ll get involved.

Budget presentation schedule

All presentations will take place in Room 206 of the Missoula County Administration Building, located at 199 W. Pine St.

Tuesday, April 24

1:30-2:15 p.m.: Elections Office

2:30-3:30 p.m.: Technology

Wednesday, May 2

1:30-2 p.m.: Development Districts

2-3 p.m.: Facilities Management

3-3:30 p.m.: Financial Services/Debt Service

Thursday, May 3

1:30-2 p.m.: Missoula Public Library

2-2:30 p.m.: Missoula County Fairgrounds

2:30-2:45 p.m.: Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

2:45-3:30 p.m.: Risk and Benefits

Tuesday, May 8

1-2 p.m.: County Attorney

Wednesday, May 9

1:30-2 p.m.: District Court

2-2:30 p.m.: Justice Court 1

2:30-3 p.m.: Justice Court 2

3-3:30 p.m.: Relationship Violence Services

Monday, May 14

9-9:30 a.m.: Planning

9:30-10 a.m.: Parks, Trails and Open Lands

10-10:30 a.m.: Grants and Community Programs

1:30-2:30 p.m.: Weed District and Extension Office

Monday, May 21

1-1:50 p.m.: Roads/Bridges/Surveyor

1:50-2 p.m.: Seeley Lake Sewer District

2-2:45 p.m.: Rural Special Improvement District Program

2:45-3:15 p.m.: Building Division

3:15-3:30 p.m.: MS4

Wednesday, May 23

1-1:30 p.m.: Clerk of District Court

1:30-2 p.m.: Clerk and Recorder/Treasurer

Tuesday, May 29

9-10 a.m.: Office of Emergency Management/9-1-1

1-1:15 p.m.: Missoula Search and Rescue

1:15-1:30 p.m.: Seeley-Swan Search and Rescue

Wednesday, May 30

1-2 p.m.: Sheriff’s Office

Thursday, May 31

1-2 p.m.: Missoula County Detention Facility

Monday, June 4

9-10 a.m.: Health Department

10:30-11:30 a.m.: Partnership Health Center

2018 State of the Community: Commissioner addresses challenges, opportunities

Sentences for dad

What are some of the major challenges and opportunities facing Missoula County in 2018? From creating attainable housing and managing population growth to preserving our historical, cultural and environmental history, possibilities for progress abound within the county’s borders. Following a heartfelt introduction written by his children (see above image), Commissioner Dave Strohmaier addressed these issues and more in remarks delivered April 9 at the 2018 State of the Community.

Read the commissioner’s full speech below, and let us know your thoughts by emailing communications@missoulacounty.us.

2018 State of the Community Address

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, chair

Board of County Commissioners

Dave StrohmaierOn behalf of the board of county commissioners and the over 800 employees of Missoula County government, welcome. A big thank you to City Club for hosting today’s event, William Marcus for moderating, President Bodnar and Mayor Engen, and to all of you for taking the time out of your day to reflect on the state of this place we call home. Indeed, home and place are at the heart of my comments today.

Right out of the chute, I need to get one thing off my chest. You’ll often hear folks talk about the city and the county as if they are two separate geographic areas. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I feel obligated to break the news that the city of Missoula actually is in Missoula County! And our fates are intertwined. The food you buy in a Missoula grocery store did not spontaneously generate in the produce department, and the beef raised in Potomac or Grass Valley, or the lumber milled in Seeley Lake, very likely will be purchased by someone in an urban area.

From my downtown Missoula office, I look across Pine Street to the city council chambers and city hall—daily reminders that municipal and county government have similar missions in the Missoula Valley. I also have a great view of the North Hills, Mount Jumbo, grazing elk and the ancient shorelines of glacial Lake Missoula, all emblems of the deep natural history of this place that help define who we are.

People are drawn here for pure water, wild places and cultural authenticity, not streams running orange from acid mine drainage or anonymous sprawl. When entrepreneurs come before the Board of County Commissioners seeking economic development assistance by way of Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund grants, we frequently ask them why they want to invest in Missoula County and, almost without exception, the first response they give is quality of life, which has everything to do with nature and culture.

In some respects, these are the good old days. The city of Missoula controls its own water destiny. We just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the breaching of the Milltown Dam, and in June we’ll be celebrating the opening of a new state park at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers. The community of Seeley Lake is on a path to have its own wastewater treatment facility. And we’ve learned to embrace our rivers rather than treating them as open sewers. But more work remains.

Missoula County has partnered with the Lolo National Forest and Trout Unlimited to reclaim abandoned placer mines in the Ninemile watershed, but another $4.5 to $5 million is needed to fully restore Ninemile Creek and adjoining tributaries. We must remember the past in order to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

With the help of Representative Kim Dudik, the Montana Legislature and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, we successfully negotiated the payment of over a million dollars in delinquent taxes on the Smurfit-Stone Container site, but the site remains badly contaminated and we must remain vigilant to get it cleaned up.

Climate change is real and we, in local government, have the power, and, I’d argue, the moral obligation, to make a difference. That’s why we’ve hired an energy conservation and sustainability coordinator to guide our efforts to lessen our carbon footprint. We must, and we are, preparing ourselves for the effects of a changing climate and nurturing community resiliency through good planning, such as updating our Community Wildfire Protection Plan and overhauling our 1970s-era land-use map. Viewed through the lens of resiliency, again, we must, and we are thinking creatively about how to balance attainable housing, agriculture, wildlife habitat and community character, and do so in a way that doesn’t undermine the very quality of life that defines this place.

Alongside a clean and healthy environment, culture also defines our quality of life. There’s a sign on the side of the Fort Benton elementary school in Choteau County that reads “Industry is Useless without Culture.” That phrase is every bit as powerful today, here in Missoula County, as it was during the New Deal era when the sign was first erected. All too often, and at our peril, we reduce the value of the arts, culture and the humanities to monetary value and forget the role that culture and heritage play in nurturing civil society and civic engagement. That’s why we support the Missoula Art Museum and its programming that reaches across the county. It’s why we see the fairgrounds as a nexus of urban and rural and worthy of investments. It’s why the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula is a steward of our county’s heritage, including stories of shame and trauma, like the World War II alien detention center. If ever there was a time to remember these stories, it is now.

Even the seat of our county government — the courthouse — is a symbol of our commitment to culture and environmental sustainability. I’m pleased to publicly announce that our renovated courthouse (yes the cyclone fencing will come down this spring!), has just achieved LEED Silver status, one of a handful of National Register-listed buildings in the country to receive this honor.

But culture in this place did not begin with names such as Lewis and Clark, Worden, or Paxson. The cultural landscape of this place extends back millennia, and remains the homeland of the Salish and Pend d’Oreille. On Oct. 21, 1891, the Weekly Missoulian reported, “About noon Friday the entire tribe of the Flathead Indians from the Bitter Root passed through the city, being en route to the Flathead Reservation. Many of them left their old home never to return, but they did not appear to be disheartened or cast down. They jogged along as though rather enjoying the change …”  I can assure you that there were a multitude of voices who were absolutely not “enjoying the change” as the U.S. Army escorted the Bitterroot Salish north, across the Higgins Avenue Bridge and on to the Flathead Reservation. Cultural trauma. Dislocation. Essential to remember.

Missoula, and particularly the place where you are seated today adjacent to Rattlesnake Creek, is known by the Salish as the Place of the Small Bull Trout. Tribal elder Louie Adams told the story of how his maternal grandmother was born at the present-day location of the University of Montana, and of his family fishing for bull trout in the waters outside this hotel. Place. Places that matter. Places that tell stories.

The Séliš-Ql̓ispé traditionally dug bitterroot throughout the Missoula Valley, such as where Shopko sits today and at Fort Missoula. We’ll soon be installing interpretive signage at the regional park that describes the homeland of the Salish and Pend d’Oreille people. We’ll also continue to restore bitterroot in a native prairie at the Fort and collaborate with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to honor tribal cultural heritage across Missoula County.

So friends, the state of Missoula County is strong. Nevertheless, there is work to do. Too many of our neighbors do not have enough to eat, have trouble finding housing, and struggle to make ends meet. Too many fail to understand the cultural landscape upon which we live and, as a result, risk repeating tragic mistakes of the past.

In the face of this, do we have the moral courage and empathy to reach out to those in need or do we succumb to the temptation to judge and blame and insulate ourselves with indifference? Are we more concerned about parsing whether we’re offering a hand up or a hand out rather than just offering a helping hand? Has the accumulation of wealth made us callous or blind to the circumstances beyond our control that shaped our lives and shape the lives of others, and that the lives of others are every bit as complex as our own? Do the bootstraps that some say we should pull ourselves up by keep getting longer and longer?

Here is the challenge of those of us at this table and those of us in this room: How do we create and sustain authentic places that honor our heritage and provide for the needs of residents and visitors alike? And how might the county, city and university partner in creating the conditions for an informed citizenry to realize their visions, hopes and dreams? We are all in this together. If ever there was a county up to the challenge, it is Missoula County. Thanks.