MISSOULA — It’s a scene of beauty, but also full of history. And this week, Packer Meadows at Lolo Pass is showing off at the peak of one of the best blooms in years.
Fueled by the potent combination of this spring’s wet, and hot weather, Packer Meadows is putting on a real performance, as the camas are bursting forth in bloom. While we’ve had some great days to get out and appreciate nature, it has a much deeper symbolism for the tribal peoples of the Pacific Northwest — the celebration of a new season and new life.
“This is one of the main sustaining avenues of life for 11,000 plus years if that puts it in any kind of perspective, you know,” explained Master Tribal Interpreter Roger Amerman. “And they gathered the old-time ladies gathered this, and dozens of pounds each day. You know, up to 50-pounds per lady.”
Amerman and his son are busy this week teaching the importance of camas to not only the Nimiipuu People, or Nez Perce, but all Northwest tribes.
“The traditional religion, longhouse religions, they have their biocentric meaning. They have to have the non-human elements of the landscape incorporated into the religion and present,” Amerman told MTN News. “Not just in a spiritual form, but in a food form or the person wearing it in some form or other. It has to be incorporated. These items are in the religion. Without them, there is no religion.”
The tribe still uses tools to dig the camas roots, or bulbs, each fall. Packer Meadows is special because it showcases how most Northwest meadows looked before colonial development, and how tribal agriculture made a difference.