CSKT River Honoring teaches children about landscape

MOIESE, Mont. (AP) — A sunny field along the Flathead River outside Moiese was home base for all sorts of students learning this week.

Wildlife and science lessons combined with cultural activities and traditional games like double ball, have some students literally running and screaming with joy.

All of these play a role in the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes River Honoring, which brought together about 400 children a day Tuesday and Wednesday for its largest turnout since 2019.

The goal is to teach children about river and natural resource programs, said CSKT information and education specialist Stephanie Gillin, and “everything we do, we try to integrate Culture”.

Thus, presentations range from wildlife to forestry and water quality. They hear from Séliš and Q’lispé elders, scientists and experts from Salish Kootenai College and tribal departments. Mission Valley backcountry riders come too.

Students learn about riverine species through the Tribal Fishing Program, including the opportunity to handle and identify fish. They learn how to measure snow accumulation and how runoff fills the water table that area farmers and ranchers depend on.

Instructors designed the experience to send students home with “a respect for the region, a respect for the land, a respect for the river, because ultimately they will be guardians of our future,” said Gillin at Missoulian.

“(They get) the knowledge of how lucky we are to live in the area we live in and how we need to protect it,” she said. They like to think in terms of future generations, she said, and want to provide them with the information they need to improve their predecessors.

The tribute dates back 35 years and usually involves schools on and off the reserve. It was postponed to 2020 and returned in 2021 with fifth graders from booking schools and fewer showings. It was limited but Gillin said it seemed necessary.

“If we hadn’t had it two years in a row, this fifth-grade class would have completely failed,” Gillin said.

This year they invited fourth and fifth grade classes from across the reserve. Some schools, like Dayton, Hot Springs, and the Nkwusm Salish Immersion School, are small enough to bring in their entire student body.

“Returning to events at full capacity is not only good for students, but also for educators,” she said. They are outdoors with plenty of room to move around. The weather was clear and warm on Wednesday.

This year, the Honoring has about 10 presentations each in two loops. The Pierre loop is named in honor of the late Pat Pierre, a Salish elder who worked on the culture committee. The other is for the late Pablo “Chib” Espinoza, the head game warden.

One of the loudest stops on the Stone Loop was to ‘run and shout’, a traditional game played mostly by women and children. On Wednesday it was open to everyone.

It is also one of the most popular, designed for fun and exercise. Naomi Robinson said they explained her purpose in a nomadic lifestyle and the importance of safe numbers while travelling.

“Women and children usually have to walk and carry family belongings, and so we had to be strong enough to keep up with the main group, and so we play games like this to help build our stamina and make us stronger. strong,” she said.

In this version, they all screamed en masse and raced to see who made it the farthest before they ran out of air. The screams were loud, the sprints were all-out from a group of Pablo Elementary.

As the drum signaled it was lunchtime, Edward Ness, their teacher, said the students were responding to the honor after two years of more limited options.

“Having this field trip and just being outside, getting cultural knowledge – they appreciate that kind of stuff,” he said.

The introduction to the traditional game of double ball, much like lacrosse, includes an overview of nutrition.

Paul Phillips and Hannah Lampry, fitness specialists at Tribal Health, asked the children about traditional food sources: blueberries versus imported sugar-laden fruits; healthy energy from natural foods versus processed foods; how fresh foods don’t contain more calories than you can burn in a normal day.

“At the time, we had no choice,” he said. “You had to be active to survive. Today, we must make the choice to be active every day.

Running was important for many reasons, including conveying important messages quickly over long distances. The practice comes in the form of this game, which has been adjusted for the age group.

Two goal posts made of sticks are installed on the pitch, just like football. Phillips brought a double ball, consisting of two pockets filled with buffalo hair, which players can pick up from the ground with a stick, and with enough practice as Phillips did, toss for a pass or a goal.

Divided into boys and girls, the team would scramble for the ball, and if it landed on the ground, a scrum of sticks would descend towards it until someone picked it up and held it in the air on the stick to give him a break.

A student came back for a break. Shortly on the sidelines, he picked up his stick and returned for more.

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