PIR day focuses on 100 years
of reservation life
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
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.
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.
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.
500 instructors and public school officials participated in the Tribal
PIR day last week. The numbers were up by 200 from last year. (Lailani
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.”