Surprise leaves teen fluent
Salish speaker speechless
Home Gun, 16, reads a speech in Salish that he wrote to the CSKT Tribal
Council last Thursday, with the support of his mother, Debbie Home Gun
by his side. (Lailani Upham photo)
ARLEE — He’s “energetic,” “very
sincere,” and “makes learning fun,” are all the raves from around the
rez that are linked to Vance Home Gun, a 16 year-old, fluent Salish
Home Gun Salish is entirely self-taught.
He began the language fluency to a large degree on
his own around the age of seven he recalls. “I’d be listening to my
grandmas speak and it frustrated me, because I wanted to know what they
were saying so I stared asking what words meant,” he said.
His grandmother Alice Finley Old Person and her
first cousin Sophie Mays was a heavy influence in his life he said.
“I’m happy I got to be around the language my whole life,” he said.
Home Gun, a CSKT tribal member is half Salish and
half Blackfeet and absorbed both languages from his own eagerness to
learn. However, he admits his understanding and speaking of each
language vary. Salish takes front seat. “I know Blackfeet words and can
understand it but, it’s a little harder to carry on a conversation what
with Salish,” he said.
Vance spends a lot of time with elders around the
rez speaking the language, because he doesn’t know of any other kids
his age that can carry on a conversation in Salish, said his mother,
Debbie Home Gun.
Nervous yet eager, Home Gun went to Tribal Council
on Thursday, February 11 to request assistance to attend the
Inter-Tribal Language Conference “Celebrating Salish 2010” and purchase
Salish language curriculum. His total cost for the conference estimated
His nervousness shifted into excitement when he
surprisingly was given the “Chairman’s Youth Award” which he was
nominated by CSKT Ronan Representative Carole Lankford. Lankford said
the Council expected him during the January Quarterly meeting to
present the award but he didn’t show.
Home Gun and his family said they were in Browning
at the time for a funeral was unaware of the invite. “I didn’t expect
this to turn out like this,” Home Gun said with a huge appreciative
Home Gun receives the “Chairman’s Youth Award,” with a $500 check
during the Council meeting and thanks CSKT Tribal Chairman Bud Moran.
Home Gun received the recognition by surprise. “This day really turned
out great,” he said. (Lailani Upham photo)
He received a monetary $500 gift.
Lankford’s nomination came from the impact he left
on her while sitting together at a recent wake. She said she heard him
sing and stated she never seen the young man yet his song was touching
and “his words were clear and easy to follow,” she expressed.
Home Gun, a Arlee High School student was freely
volunteering his Fridays tot he St. Ignatius schools to help teach
Salish Language, which recently lead him into a hired position a the
school for Fridays.
The Salish Culture Committee certified Home Gun
with a Salish Language teaching certificate he said.
“The Mission school has some materials on Indian
history but not much on the language,” he expressed to the Council.
“I’d like to have my own to benefit me and them (students),” he said.
CSKT Elmo Representative Rueben Mathias made a
motion to gift the young man with $500 to go toward registration for
the conference and teaching materials, Lankford seconded the motion.
Shortly after a member of the audience, Arizona
resident and CSKT tribal member Kathy Teegarden stood up to express she
admired Home Gun’s ambitions and gifted him $100 for teaching material.
“I was just impressed by his story and him, and at this age to involved
with this (language). I am married to an educator and if we can do it
(give money) to help our tribe out, we should,” she said.
Home Gun is known for scoping around the rez and
picking elders brains when it comes to learning the language. “He’s
full of energy, and always asking questions,” said Tony Incashola, Sr.
“Because of his energy and how he wants to learn, it comes easy for
him. He goes out of his way and finds things out, he learns everything
on his own and learns everything on his own and this is why it comes
easy for him,” he said.
Rosie Matt, Nkwusm Curriculum Director said she
met him last spring when he came in introducing himself and expressing
he would like to work there for the summer youth program.
Vance landed a position that following summer at
Nkwusm Salish Language Revitalization Institute. He encourages everyone
and is excited about the language. He makes learning fun. He’s an
amazing young man,” Matt said.
CSKT Tribal Chairman Bud Moran addressed the
council, “We need to thank his mom for doing such a good job.”
“I didn’t expect it to turn out like this,” stated
Home Gun’s mother, Debbie after the meeting. “With all the people
thanking me, I had to stop and thank God for really giving me wisdom
(to be a parent),” she said.
Charlie Quequesah, Nkwusm Instructional Aide said,
“I’d recommend him with anything that has to do with the language. He
has good punctuation and is a fast learner.” Quequesah stated for any
young person that takes an interest in the language should carry on and
not lose it.
Vance is the son of Debbie and Darryl Home Gun.
His sister Audra is also a student at Arlee High School.
“To me he has influenced energy and given hope to
the elders to keep teaching the language. You don’t know how much it
means to us,” Incashola said.