Heart of the Bitterroot

Heart of the Bitterroot: Voices of Salish & Pend d’Oreille Women
The Heart of the Bitterroot: Voices of Salish & Pend d’Oreille Women (ST4004, 2008)

The Heart of the Bitterroot: Voices of Salish & Pend d’Oreille Women project honors the indigenous songs and stories of the Pend d’Oreille Women. The album was envisioned and produced by Salish educator Julie Cajune. Heart of the Bitterroot narrates the stories of four American Indian women of Salish and Pend d’Oreille origin.

Jennifer Greene wrote the stories. She is a Salish/Chippewa-Cree poet who won the North American Native Authors Poetry Award. Her mesmerizing stories are narrated by Joanne Bigcrane and are accompanied by traditional American Indian songs and evocative music performed on flute, violin and piano. The musicians included in the album are flute player Gary Stroutsos, keyboardist David Lanz, and Lummi violinist Swil Kanim.

Indian women are either the most invisible people in the American mind or the most poorly represented, in mainstream media, in film and in books,” says Cajune . “There’s a huge misunderstanding of the role American Indian women played in their families and communities and the kinds of human beings they were. I don’t think these kinds of stories about Indian women are well known. I wanted young women today to realize that this is a remarkable legacy, the traditions of women.”

The beautifully design CD booklet includes Greene’s stories as well as vintage photos. Heart of the Bitterroot was made possible via funding by Npustin, a non-profit organization dedicated to indigenous arts. Supplementary materials were provided by the Salish Kootenai College Tribal History Project.

The most important thing about Heart of the Bitterroot is that these are women’s stories,” says Cajune, who still lives on the Flathead reservation in western Montana, where she was born. “The reason I put them in an audio format was because I wanted to find a medium that would provide the greatest access to the largest number of people. I took the historic narrative information and gave it to Jennifer Greene, who is a poet and a [Salish] tribal member. She created a story that is engaging and compelling to listen to—she gives voice to the stories of these four women. Then Joanne Bigcrane tells their stories in their voices…instead of a narrator reading you somebody else’s story.”

Heart of the Bitterroot is dedicated to the generations of Salish and Pend d’Oreille women that came before me, to those that are with me today, and to the generations to come after me,” says Cajune in the album’s liner notes.

The Pend d’Oreilles from Washington State are also known as the Kalispel. The Bitterroot Salish were called the Flatheads by American explorers but the tribe’s name for itself is Salish, which means The People. The Kalispel and the Salish are part of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Heart of the Bitterroot: Voices of Salish & Pend d’Oreille Women is a beautiful project that serves as an insightful introduction to the lives and culture of American Indian women of the northwest.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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