Archive for November 20th, 2012

Escorted by the tribal honor guard, pallbearers wheel Octave Finley’s casket from the St. Ignatius Longhouse to the historic Catholic Mission on Monday afternoon followed by family and other mourners for the war dance chief, who died of cancer Thursday. (Photo by Kurt Wilson/of the Missoulian)

By Kim Briggeman of the Missoulian :

ST. IGNATIUS – They revved up their Harleys on a gray, blustery afternoon and gave Octave Finley one last ride Monday.

Born here to a traditional family and raised with Salish as his first language, the war dance chief and cultural guardian was laid to rest in Snyelmn Sntmtmne cemetery after an unusual motorcycle escort from the St. Ignatius Catholic Mission.

Finley, 84, died Thursday of cancer that, in its later stages, kept him off the bikes he loved but never stopped him from his customary place at the head of powwow grand entries and graduation processions at Salish Kootenai College.

“He did so many things,” marveled Finley’s wife Edna, a Choctaw from Alabama who said she met Octave while waitressing at a drive-in in Oklahoma when he was in the Air Force. They were married for 51 years.

The hole that Finley’s death leaves is gaping, said Tony Incashola, director of the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee.

“We are running out of elders like Octave, who I call the keepers of our cultural treasures – our language, our culture, our history; those people who make sure that we understand the way it was,” said Incashola, who delivered the eulogy to some 175 people.

Even more filed past Finley’s open casket in the Longhouse a block away to pay their respects to him and his survivors, including Edna and five children. The traditional wake closing lasted more than two hours, delaying the start of the funeral Mass by 45 minutes.

The turnout came as no surprise to those who knew Finley and recognized the role he played in his majestic Mission Valley home.

“For 84 years, he was a central figure in all of our lives,” Incashola said.

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