Salish Cultural Guardian and Veteran Octave Finley Walks On
Octave Finley, Salish, 84, walked on November 15. He is remembered as a cultural guardian and the war dance chief of the Salish Nation.
“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 Tony Incashola, director of the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee, who delivered the eulogy to some 175 people, told The Missoulian.
Finley was laid to rest in Snyelmn Sntmtmne cemetery, in St. Ignatius, Montana, following a motorcycle escort from the St. Ignatius Catholic Mission, on the Flathead Reservation.
As The Missoulian reported, “Octave Finley was into bull riding, scuba diving among sharks and was even a member of the infamous Hells Angels, according to a brief biography in the Char-Koosta News, the tribal newspaper, in 2008.
“The story appeared on the occasion of Finley’s selection as honored veteran at the annual Veteran Warrior Society Powwow at the Kicking Horse Job Corps.
“A year earlier, Finley received an unexpected honor at the Arlee Celebration powwow. Some 20 American Indian bikers roared into the arena and presented him with a black leather vest with ‘Sober Indian Riders’ embroidered on the back. It honored Finley for 39 years of sobriety, after he spent much of the first half of his life with a drink in his hand.”
Finley served in the U.S. Air Force as a mechanic. In his years away from his family and Nation, he would speak Salish to himself to keep himself grounded in traditional ways.
“We lose another stone from our foundation,” Incashola said. “We must build young people, strong people with value systems like Octave’s to replace that stone.”