Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

February 25, 2010

Surprise leaves teen fluent Salish speaker speechless

By Lailani Upham

Vance 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)
Vance 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 speaker.

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 $403.

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 smile.

Vance 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)
Vance 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.

Advertise with us!
Share
submit to reddit
('DiggThis’)
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious