[UPDATE 9/8, tribal members were able to collect many of the artifacts from inside the burned out People's Center and are treating the items for smoke damage.]

Last night about 10 p.m., friends with scanners up on the Flathead Reservation were telling me that The People's Center was on fire and emergency crews were responding. Last I heard before I went to bed is that it was suspected arson. I was devastated this morning to learn from NBC Montana that one person is dead, and that the artifacts and exhibits inside the Center have been damaged.

The loss of The People's Center is expected to be arson. According to the Lake County Sheriff's Office, a 33-year-old Pablo resident, and apparent employee of the Center, was found dead inside the building, which was barricaded from inside, leading to suspicions of arson. An investigation into his death is ongoing.

Sqelixw-Aqlsmaknik, The People's Center, is a museum and gift shop in Pablo that celebrates the cultural heritage of the Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Kootenai tribes, and educates about the tribes' history and culture. Seeing my Facebook feed full of pictures of ancestors and irreplaceable artifacts destroyed in the fire, that are being posted by friends and family, is so heartbreaking. My heart goes out to the family of the deceased, and to the Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Kootenai tribes, who are suffering a great loss.

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