Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

September 30, 2010

PIR day focuses on 100 years of reservation life

By Lailani Upham

Denise Juneau, State Superintendent of Public Instruction delivers the keynote address to Lake County public school instructors for the CSKT Tribal PIR day last Friday. (Lailani Upham photo)
Denise Juneau, State Superintendent of Public Instruction delivers the keynote address to Lake County public school instructors for the CSKT Tribal PIR day last Friday. (Lailani Upham photo)

RONAN — This year’s tribal Pupil Instruction Related (PIR) day focused on the 100-year history of the Flathead Reservation, according to Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Education Director, Penny Kipp.

Over 500 educators in the valley participated in the PIR day hosted by the CSKT Tribal Education Department and CSKT tribal employees. The Tribes host one out of the seven PIR days mandated by the Montana public school system and has been doing so since 1995.

PIR days are set aside for educators to receive instruction on education or management content to be used in the classroom. The once a year tribal PIR day focuses on relating to Native students in the public school system within the Flathead Reservation, according to the Tribal Education team.

The tribal PIR day extends far beyond the $5,000 budget that comes through the tribal department but is a collaboration of in-kind donation of time from tribal employee staff and school district staff and facility use for the day.

This year the Ronan school district opened their doors of the Middle school for area educators and the Tribes.

Each year educators rave that this was “the best year ever,” according to tribal education advocate, Miranda Burland. “It must mean we are doing something right,” she said.

This year the main focus was on the 100-year history of the Reservation and how the affects of the homesteading and allotment has shaped not only the lives of people, but the learning over the years as well, according to Tribal Education officials.

A group of instructors take turns tossing atlatls with ends similar to unsharpened pencils in the rain during Frank Finley's atlatl Native games session Friday morning. The full classroom and short session was mostly made up of men with a few ladies taking a shot at the sport. (Lailani Upham photo)

According to CSKT tribal records, the Flathead Indian Reservation is home to three tribes, the Bitterroot Salish, Upper Pend d’Oreille, and the Kootenai. “Confederated Salish” refers to both the Salish and Pend d’Oreille tribes. The territories of these three tribes covered all of western Montana and extended into parts of Idaho, British Columbia and Wyoming. It was the Hellgate Treaty of 1855 that established the Flathead Reservation, and over half a million acres passed out of tribal ownership through the federal government in exchange for the reservation, or “land.” In 1887, Congress changed it all with Dawes Act that set the stage for white settlement on the Flathead Reservation.

CSKT tribal records inform that Chief Charlo had fought homesteading, but after his death in 1909, the federal government moved ahead.

In one session, Jennifer Greene, CSKT tribal member and author, helped demonstrate the loss the Tribes experienced through a class participated activity. The tool was very effective, says several educators that went through the session. Teachers were asked to share a loss they had in their lives and share it with the others. Some had stories of people they lost, and others, of homes or states they moved from that left them feeling void.

During the allotment era, Indian families were given first choice on 80 to 160-acre tracts of land. Some signed up, but many were upset that their reservation was being opened to white settlers and they refused to participate. Therefore, land left after Indians acquired their acreage was then declared “surplus,” and made available to white settlers.

Names were drawn and 403 of the 3,000 picked their homesteads and slapped their money down for the spot. Some years down the road, land was left over and in 1910, the federal government invited the public to a land-grab event and the rest is history. Not much left over, if any, for the tribal people.

With the allotment and homesteading, the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille people quickly became a minority on their own reservation and have been for a century now.

Linda Ferris and April Charlo get a crowd of teachers and school officials moving on a group activity introducing each other by name and action during the Healthy Native Community session at the Tribal PIR event. (Lailani Upham photo)
Linda Ferris and April Charlo get a crowd of teachers and school officials moving on a group activity introducing each other by name and action during the Healthy Native Community session at the Tribal PIR event. (Lailani Upham photo)

This was the theme for the tribal PIR day, to help educators see the history and relate to a people has been affected by a not-so-long-ago history.

The sessions offered were the same from the previous years, however, few were new such as: The Mission Valley Power history, with Ralph Goode; Native Games and Atlatl, with Frank Finley; CSKT Wildlife Crossings with Whisper Camel; Tribal Enrollment history with Ashley Kenmille; Tribal Jurisdiction with CSKT Police Chief, Craige Couture; Building Healthy Native Communities with Linda Ferris and April Charlo.

The feedback on the day was an overall positive experience, Burland said. The comments the department received were of positive and high reviews of many tools and materials that teachers can bring back to the classroom, she said.

School districts that participated this year were: Ronan, Polson, St. Ignatius, Arlee, Two Eagle River, Hot Springs, Dixon, Charlo, Valley View, Dayton, NÂusm Salish Language Revilization Institute, and a few off-reservation teachers from the Kalispell area.

Montana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau was the keynote speaker. Juneau spoke of the drop out rates for Native students being ranked the highest of other ethnic groups. The reading and math scores of Native students across the reservations in Montana are lower than their non-native peers.

Nearly 500 instructors and public school officials participated in the Tribal PIR day last week. The numbers were up by 200 from last year. (Lailani Upham photo)
Nearly 500 instructors and public school officials participated in the Tribal PIR day last week. The numbers were up by 200 from last year. (Lailani Upham photo)

Juneau shared a comment she heard from a young person on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, and the basic message all kids want is, “We just want adults to believe in us.”

Juneau set the atmosphere of focusing on the children and to encourage teachers to do their best. “Every morning parents on this Rez, must get their most precious possessions off to you. They count on you to feed, nurture, and take care of them.” She encouraged to leave with the attitude that, “This is going to be the best year ever.”

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