The Sophie Moiese Room inside the Missoula County Courthouse was filled to capacity on Wednesday afternoon as the County Commissioners officially installed the Salish and Kootenai Tribal flag as a permanent part of its ceremonial display.

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, long an advocate for Native American issues, made the announcement after a special drum ceremony by members of the Salish and Kootenai Tribe.

“We as the government of Missoula County, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the sovereign nation share government to government relations,” said Strohmaier. “That’s something else that I think is far to often forgotten by local governments across Indian Country here in the State of Montana, into something right here, right now today in Missoula, Montana we want to take a tangible step to rectify by the dedication of the Salish and Kootenai flag within this chamber.”

Tribal elder Tony Incashola addressed the crowd and then spoke with KGVO News about the importance of the ceremony.

“In this place on this day I would like people to take away that this is a new beginning in our community,” said Incashola. “It’s also a new beginning in our lives, and it’s like a next step forward for people to better understand each other. This place here will always represent the past of our people, the Salish people, but also the new beginnings of the present day community.”

There was also Native American artwork on display with comments by Laura Mullin of the Missoula Art Museum.