Cultural exchange takes on
students and program representatives rip up the floor with newly
acquired powwow moves during a dance-off at the Cultural Exchange night
last week. The Cultural Exchange was held at Two Eagle River School and
students competed amongst each other after observing demonstrations
from tribal students and community members. (Lailani Upham photo)
PABLO - Foreign exchange students
took a tour on
the Flathead Reservation and experienced a quick taste of the Native
culture for one day that included some energetic participation from the
The tour was offered through The People’s Center
and Two Eagle River School.
Exchange students on the Flathead Reservation from
the Youth Exchange and Study program (YES) and the Future Leaders
Exchange (FLEX) scholarship program got acquainted with a few tribal
community folks and students at the Cultural Exchange event on Monday,
The group began their Rez journey at the People’s
Center receiving a first hand history lesson from Marie Torosion,
People’s Center Educational Coordinator. She covered a snapshot history
about the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes to the students.
“What I try and teach everybody is that we (Tribes) don’t begin with
the treaties, but our existence and culture was prior to treaties with
the U.S. government.”
Torosion explained different types of clothing,
design, seasons of food and the process of cooking camas bake and
drying berries. “The students seemed very interested the foods we eat
and the process of cooking,” she said.
The students displayed great deal of interest with
the entire educational tour of the museum. Torosion described the
process of hide tanning and how the deer hides turn to buckskin through
being soaked in brains. “Most kids get grossed out, but these kids were
so amazed at the process,” she said.
Eagle River School Japanese exchange student Shun Ikegai and Ronan High
School exchange student Arman Aytassov from Kazakhstan armed with
Shinny sticks race to be the first to strike the ball in a game of
Shinny. Shinny is a traditional Native team game with goal posts, much
like hockey. (Lailani Upham photo)
During the lesson of the Jesuit
priest era, when
Indian children were placed in boarding schools and not allowed to
speak their own language, the foreign exchange students found it very
disturbing. Torosian said, “One particular student spoke up and voiced
how disturbing it was that the nuns and priests would not allow the
tribal language to be spoke.
“The kids had a lot of questions,” Torosian said.
One question was about religion, whether on not the tribal people
practiced their own religion and if so, how does it compare to the
non-Indian religion. Torosion explained in modern day that Native
tribes practice both native religion and Catholicism and/or
Christianity, or only the Native religion or only the Christian belief.
Torosian told the student that the Native belief still remains within
Another topic the students found interesting and
pleasing was the language revitalization with the Tribes. “They were
very interested in that, and happy with the language school,” she
The YES program is funded by the U.S. Department
of State and began during the post-9/11realization that the public was
unaware of world culture, especially in the nations of high Muslim
The FLEX scholarship program was developed in 1992
from an idea that Senator Bill Bradley believed the most effective way
to ensure a long-lasting peace and understanding between the U.S. and
Eurasia was to help young people to learn democracy through direct
Following the People’s Center museum educational
tour the students were toted over to the Two Eagle River School for the
Cultural Exchange night. The students immediately were ushered down the
football field to take in a few lessons of Native traditional game of
Following the practice shinny runs the students
were directed to the TERS cafeteria to find a plate-size,
mouth-watering Indian taco to reenergize them for the next agenda item
- a powwow dance-off.
TERS drum and Red Sand drum group did the honors
for the exhibition dances for the evening.
CSKT Tribal Chairman, Bud Moran was present to
offer a warm welcome to the students to the Reservation.
Elders Octave Finley and Frances Stanger were
present to kick-off the event as well.
Moran urged the student to learn all they could
from the elders, explaining it was the ways of the people. Moran
mentioned the Homesteading era and how drastic change came to the
Native people of the Flathead Reservation, “Some of you don’t
understand it, but you will learn as you are here and learn our
culture,” he said.
CSKT Polson Council Representative, Steve Lozar
was also present.
During the event, a Russian student, Katy was
celebrating her 18th birthday. Red Sand did the honors of singing
“Happy Birthday to You” round dance song while the crowd joined in to
share a friendship dance with young appreciative lady. “Turning 18 is
something big in my country,” Katy said with a smile and tone that
seemed to be on the verge of a tear, “And to be surrounded by each of
my student friends makes me happy,” she said. “I love you all,” she
Following the round dance special TERS official
Aggie Incashola engaged the students in every dance powwow dance style.
“I want you watch these dancers very closely, then we are going to have
you come out here to dance and compete against each other,” she said.
Over a dozen community members volunteered to
demonstrate the Grass dance, Chicken dance, Fancy Shawl, Jingle and
A representative of Thailand took first place in
the women’s traditional category and the student from Kazakhstan took
first place in the men’s grass dance category.
All students received t-shirts courtesy of Two
Eagle River School.
The night came to close with each exchange student
or group of students sharing an eight-minute presentation about their
country with the crowd.
Foreign exchange host parent Bill Bjarko expressed
he was impressed to see all foreign exchange student and tribal
students together. “It’s such a blessing,” he said. “I feel this night
is a learning experience for me,” he added. As he addressed the crowd,
he expressed the deepest appreciation to foreign exchange coordinator,
Marilyn Murchie and her husband Archie for making this all happen.
Chairman Moran addressed his appreciation to the
foreign students. “You are all special guests and great people.”