Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

September 30, 2010

People’s Center hosts Native American Awareness Days

By Lailani Upham

Ken Camel, CSKT tribal member, circles the grounds demonstrating Indian scout tactics to students of all ages at the People’s Center last Wednesday morning for the Native American Awareness Days. (Lailani Upham photo)
Ken Camel, CSKT tribal member, circles the grounds demonstrating Indian scout tactics to students of all ages at the People’s Center last Wednesday morning for the Native American Awareness Days. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO — Rolling back the clock to old days, and the old ways at the People’s Center last week had school-aged children intrigued and busy, regardless, of the nippy weather.

The People’s Center kicked off their annual Native American Awareness event last week to educate schools of the preserved culture and traditions of the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes.

The event went for three days, but years past it was a week-long event. It was shortened due to budget cuts, according to Marie Torosian, The People’s Center Education Director and Museum Coordinator.

“It normally takes around $5,000 to run the activities. This year we operated on volunteers with a lot of tribal employees with a change of duty (the tribal council authorized change of duty with supervisor’s approval). We also had people donating materials to cut costs. We changed things so the cost wouldn’t be so much,” Torosian added. “We provide the lunches for all volunteers. I believe this year it cost around $600. The hunters donated their time and gas.”

More than 1,000 students passed through dozen of stations that were set up to give a hands-on experience of Native culture. Students were rotated in the afternoon to stations every half hour.

The mornings were set-aside for general sessions of stories, presentations, and join-in activities.

Ken Camel energetically talked with the children about the Salish coup stick ceremonies and did a demonstration on what it means to be an Indian scout. Camel’s presentation engaged the children and after explaining what it meant to be an Indian scout he invited the little ones to participate on a scout hunt circling the People’s Center grounds.

Camel told of how the Salish coup was used for striking or touching friends in a meeting ceremony. Camel went around the circle of visitors and touched each teacher and chaperone on the grounds with his coup stick as a friendship blessing demonstration.

A group of girls follow every step as Two Eagle River School student, Sierra Webster, 16, steps high and fancy during dance demonstrations. (Lailani Upham photo)
A group of girls follow every step as Two Eagle River School student, Sierra Webster, 16, steps high and fancy during dance demonstrations. (Lailani Upham photo)

Camel explained to the kids in a story manner the purpose of a coup stick, “In the old days when we’d set up our camp we usually generally set it up in a flat location that gave us an opportunity to set up scouts on the four directions.” The participants were instructed by Camel to face each direction as he told the stories. “Whenever these scouts had observed something either it being a man or animal they reported it back to the main camp. The Salish coup stick is a long stick that was used for striking or touching friends in a meeting ceremony. When this scout came back loping his horse or singing it was known that he had seen something, whether it being a visitor or was it an animal. If a party was approaching on a friendly visit, even when they were known to be coming and were undoubtedly friendly, a number of mounted warriors went out to greet them. They would put on their war regalia and mount their finest horses and get to a group. When within sight they advanced toward them in a line abreast, singing. When within a few hundred yards they broke into a gallop and charged on the visitors as if in war. It was said that if a person was there with good intentions that he would not run or flee and if he had suspect notions in his heart he would take off, but if he was a good person he would stay his ground and he had nothing to worry about. When within striking distance they all reined up their horses short, and one of them, most notably the medicine man of the group, went out and tapped the leader of the visitors on the shoulder with the stick. When touched, he said, “Ye-e”. This was to have said that he had chosen him as a friend.” After the story, imitating children were heard throughout the grounds hollering, “Ye-e.”

Father and son, Alec and Charlie, shared stories that were within this generation of the experience Alec had in the school system during his young life. Alec was scolded for speaking his Salish language and his long thick braided hair was looked down upon and unacceptable. He was punished for speaking a Salish word, and his hair was soon chopped off, he explained to the children.

Two Eagle River School volunteered a handful of students to dance and explain different dance styles. Sierra Webster, a junior, demonstrated the girls fancy and southern traditional dance style. Four young ladies: Mariah Longtree, junior; Jazmin Auld, junior; Taylor Mullany, freshman; and Josee Incashola, junior gracefully circled the arbor in a traditional cloth dance style. Young men, Joe Upham, senior; performed the old style chicken dance; and Trevor Butterfly, senior; swayed through with some grass dance moves.

The drumming was a collaboration of local drummers, Alec Quequesah, Charlie Quequesah, Jason Heavyrunner and Pat Matt; along with TERS students, Butterfly and Upham.

Participating schools were given the choice to choose four stations out of the 12 to choose from prior to arriving. Teachers were to choose the stations that were age appropriate. Students were allowed to stop by the dry meat rack and fry bread station on their way to the busses if they did not get a chance to visit these delicious hands-on stations.

The others stations offered were: Yaya dolls where students learn how to construct dolls made from cloth; Traditional hide tanning by Gigi Caye who showed the students how deer and elk hides are tanned; mini teepee station where students got a quick lesson and was able to design their own and take it home; Kootenai and Salish language history, where fluent speakers let the children hear first hand a few words and tell them how the language is being preserved today. Other stations offered kids to run their energy out through Native games of double ball, hoop and dart, run and scream game.

Students expressed many thanks to the People’s Center. “Thanks for a good time,” says Cody Morin. “Thank you I love the picture I took of the fry bread cooks,” said Samantha Lee McNair. “The trip was wonderful! I just wish that I could have had time to make a doll,” expressed Valarie Glante. “Love the fry bread,” chimed Lexi Nunez. “Hey my cousins good pow-wow,” offered Weeman. “Thanks, I enjoyed the trip to the People’s Center. I had so much fun. I love doing Native related activities,” said Maklit Ellen Charlo. “Rawr!” (that means I loved it!), exclaimed

Shannon McGinnis. “Dancing was the funnest,” expressed Dylan Quinn. “Loved dancing!” Kaelen Wall said. “Frybread!” hollered Ryan Turner.

A group of curious kids pick up some extra sticks next to the drum and join in the drumming. A group of local drummers performed the singing for the dancers. Dancers were Two Eagle River School students, who were bussed in to demonstrate different categories of dancing. (Lailani Upham photo)
A group of curious kids pick up some extra sticks next to the drum and join in the drumming. A group of local drummers performed the singing for the dancers. Dancers were Two Eagle River School students, who were bussed in to demonstrate different categories of dancing. (Lailani Upham photo)

“Thank you Native Americans I had a great time with you!” Kendall Polk stated.

Torosian said, “This is why we do this every year, to educate, share and answer questions about who we are. The little time they (students and teachers) spend here helps them to gain a better understanding of Native Americans especially Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai. The tribal students get to help showcase themselves as well as learn something they don’t’ get to at home. I love this part of my job. The kids - they are our future.”

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