Cecelia “Lee” Bourgeau

Born on November 11, 1944, Lee was born Cecelia Edith Rosario to her birth parents, Pete Rosario (Tsimshian) and Edith Williams-Rosario (Nez Perce). She was born in Seattle, Washington. Her three older siblings were adopted by her mother’s second husband.

She was the eldest and Nannat (Older sister) of 11 siblings with seven surviving. She gave birth to five children from two marriages. She had 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Lee graduated from Coulee Dam, Washington in 1963. While attending Coulee Dam high School she was recognized for her singing in choir and sang solo at a variety of occasions. She also participated in school sports. She played “Girls Football”, basketball and softball. She always shared a story about her younger sister always getting picked last while her bestie and her were always picked first and were never on the same team. While attending Lapwai High School her junior year she was homecoming queen runner up.

During her summers while growing up, she spent time with her grandmother Elizabeth Towatoy Samuels at Arrow Junction and great grandmother “granny” Carrie Eneas in Lapwai. They were her role models and her first experience in gathering the traditional foods. She remembers her granny as being a “strong quiet woman” but when she spoke everyone would listen.

Her fondest memories with her grandmas are of being dropped off at Mussel Shell to dig camas and camp. Lee wasn’t a pow-wow dancer like her children and grandchildren. She shared “women only participated like those who attend Round Dances”.

Lee participated and had the role of Head Cook at the Stites Long House in Kooskia, Idaho. She annually attended their Winter Dances and oversaw the preparation of food. She was a descendant of the Chief Joseph Band from both her maternal grandfather Albert “Tex” Williams and grandmother Elizabeth Towatoy Samuels. Her great grandfather Philip Williams “Lapealute” participated in the war of 1877. Her great grandfather “Aleesakown” was the first Nez Perce killed at Big Hole Battle Field in Montana.

While attending college, Lee Bourgeau resided in Spokane, Washington. She attended Kinman Business School then continued her education endeavors at University of Washington, completing her degree in the Education Field at Gonzaga University. Education and teaching are roles and responsibilities she held dear to her heart, to help others learn, attain knowledge, and succeed were her life’s passion.

She held two prominent positions that substantiated her accomplishments and community involvement. One position, for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation from October 1988 to September 1990 as the Colville Tribe’s Health Administrator and the other as the Nez Perce Tribe’s Human Resources Manager from September 1990 to August 2016. She retired after 26 years of service to the Nez Pere Tribe.

Accomplishments: Authored the IHS 638 Youth Rehab and aftercare contract (Healing Lodge, Spokane, WA), NPT Head Start Contract Funding, Names Tribal Health Administrator of the year (1994), authored testimony submitted on behalf of the seven tribes for the 1987 Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on PL99-570 the Indian Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, provided extensive motivation and leadership for change regarding substance abuse through Educational existing resources and community activities with IHS and BIA policies, wrote and submitted the Title VI Older American Act proposal which ranked highest of the 117 submitted, authored 10 position papers Washington State Indian Conference on Aging testimony which were later used by National Indian Health Board, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, Region X, Area on Aging, National Indian Council on Aging, Washington Tribes, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indian. These documents were consulted by the Administration on Aging in Washington DC in the developing of the National Indian Aging Policy. Lee was selected as Elder of the year for the Nez Perce Tribe in 2019.

Community Involvement: Presenter/Facilitator at various National and State Indian youth Leadership Conferences (i.e. National Indian Board (youth), NorthWest Portland Area Alcohol & Substance Abuse (youth), Northwest Portland Area Youth Leadership Conference, National Area on Aging Conference, and Older American’s Act Title VI Conference); various years Title IV Parent Committee Member for Spokane School District & Grand Coulee Dam School District. She was an avid ‘Wildcats” fan attending sports events when able. She was the elder who gets recognized by our youth for her support.

A majority of her life she resided on the Colville Indian Reservation. She was brought into the elite circle of traditional gatherers for the Nespelem Longhouse by Ida Desautel, who was a direct descendant of the Chief Joseph Band of the Colville Reservation. In this highly regarded position as a gatherer, she practiced the traditional ways of gathering foods to feed the people. It is the responsibility for these women to prepare and serve these foods for the various feasts, celebrations, honoring in the time of need for those who will be having their last meal. As a gatherer, she has taught her children grand children and great-grandchildren on where, when, what to gather and how to prepare the fish, meats, roots, and berries to feed the people. She was vastly noted for making frybread. She relocated to the Lapwai area in 1990. As an elder, she was constantly and continually called upon to teach the “way of life”, to share teachings to those who ask and are prepared to live the traditional way of life.

Her greatest accomplishments as a single parent were her ability to keep her own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren resilient. They have exceeded within both the dominant culture while embracing their teachings of “way of life” she has taught and brought forward for all.

Services: Wednesday, March 27, 2024 Dressing & Viewing will take place at Malcom’s Brower-Wann Funeral Home Lewiston, ID 10:00 A.M. Walusit Services 7:00PM Pi-Nee-Waus Community Center in Lapwai, ID, Traditional Midnight Meal to Follow. Thursday, March 28, 2024 Sunrise Service Burial At Arrow Cemetery followed by Final Dinner to follow at the Pi-Nee-Waus community center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Verified by MonsterInsights