OMAK — Mary A. Marchand was a tribal leader, historian and elder who gave opening prayers at countless events throughout North Central Washington.
“There are people in the course of history that leave such an impact on their people that they become an institution. Mrs. Marchand was such a person,” said Colville Tribal Chairman John Sirois.
Marchand was an influential councilwoman for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, an outspoken proponent of the Omak Stampede and World Famous Suicide Race, and a mentor to those she worked with at the tribes’ history and archeology department.
She received many awards for her work with the Colville Tribes’ history and archaeology department, including the Washington State Historical Society’s Peace and Friendship Award, and the Washington Women’s History Consortium’s Enduring Spirit Award.
In 2010, she was selected grand marshal of the Omak Stampede following her staunch support of the controversial Suicide Race in the face of animal rights activists who called for a stop to the event.
She often conducted opening prayers and blessings for the Stampede’s Indian Encampment, and one year, spoke over the event’s rodeo loudspeaker to explain the Suicide Race’s history to those attending.
“Her accomplishments leave a tremendous shadow and an example for our young people to aspire to achieve, She cared deeply for her family and community,” Sirois said. “We looked to her to offer up the prayers to begin our gatherings, and her words and deeds will inspire many for generations to come.”
Throughout North Central Washington, Marchand was asked to open events with a prayer, or bless a new enterprise, from the new Apple Line public bus from Omak to Ellensburg to the reopening of a plywood mill in Omak.
“She was really an amazing presence. Truly, everybody in North Central Washington knew her,” said Lawr Salo, an archaeologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Seattle. Salo said he had worked with Marchand since 1977, when the tribal councilwoman was instrumental in getting the tribes’ history and archaeology department underway.
“She was one of a group of incredibly influential and powerful women involved in the tribes’ destiny,” he said. “I didn’t spend a great deal of time with her, but every second I did was important,” he said, adding, “She did a tremendous amount for the spirit of the tribe, and kept things moving in a really positive direction. I’m really going to miss her.”
Guy Moura, program manager for the tribes’ history and archaeology department, said Marchand worked for 20 years as a traditional cultural specialist for the tribe, providing linguistics for a dictionary on the Wenatchi-Moses Columbia language, and interviewing tribal elders about their history.
“She interviewed hundreds of people,” he said, writing down word-for-word what they told her, and personally transcribing all of the American Indian words accurately due to her training in the International Phonetic Alphabet.
“She documented all of these histories, and a lot of them were very sad and heart-wrenching stories. It wasn’t easy or fun to do that job,” he said.
This story was originally published in 2011. Read the original article here.