By Corina Ceban, Moldova
June 22 was a day full of “wilderness”. The Flathead Indian Reservation is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. The tribes are a combination of the Salish, the Pend d’Oreille and the Kootenai. Of the approximately 7,753 enrolled tribal members, about 5,000 live on or near the reservation.
Early in the morning, we discussed the role of Two Eagle River School in the community with its focus on Native American youth grades 8-12. It is an alternative school of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation. Rodney Bird, the superintendent, showed us the students’ quilting works. The process of quilting uses a needle and thread to join two or more layers of material to make a quilt. Typically, quilting is done with three layers: the top fabric or quilt top, batting or insulating material and backing material. The quilter’s hand or sewing machine passes the needle and thread through all layers and then brings the needle back up. The process is repeated across the entire area where quilting is wanted. Even the boys have their works done during the lessons. In this way, they are taught not only art and craft, but also mathematics. Their students do enjoy sewing big quilts, as they give them to some elder members of their community or take them home for their families.
Students, staff, parents, and community share the responsibility for creating and supporting a safe and healthy learning environment. The majority of the students are tribal members as well as many of the staff are Native Americans. One of them was willing to retell us about their life in the community and in school. He was wearing clothes that represent its culture. Our Elders teach us that the most effective way to invest in the future is through education. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes strive to build a self-sufficient society and economy and the primary way to do so is by investing in future generations.
Of course, he did a short “exhibition” (as he said) of a tribal dance and then, all of us learned the dance of friendship. We were dancing and shaking hands in the same time.
Robert McDonald welcomed the group and provided an overview of the Salish and Kootenai tribes’ history and relations with state and federal governments. “Preparing for Success and Building for the Future” was the theme of the last year Annual Report of the Tribal Council. It gives information on different topics such as economic development, natural resources, education, and human services. Robert told us that the Kootenai Culture Committee made continuous progress in repatriation, development of language curriculum, and preservations of traditions and culture.
All of us had the possibility to enjoy the lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. It has excellent views to the largest natural freshwater lake in the USA west of the Mississippi river.
After lunch, we met Mr. Mike Tyron, Community Health Director, who taught us a traditional game. Native American stickball is considered one of the oldest team sports in North America and is the sport that evolved into lacrosse, the modern day sport. Although the first recorded writing on the topic of stickball was not until the mid-1600s, there is evidence that the game had been developed and played hundreds of years before that. Though the exact origins of the game may be unknown, it is safe to assume that Native Americans were playing stickball before the coming of the New World settlers. Stickball can be played with one or two wooden sticks made from tree trunks or saplings of hardwood such as Hickory. The wood is thinned at one end, bent around, and attached to the handle to form a loop that is bound with leather or electrical tape. Leather strips are stretched across the back of the loops on the sticks to form netting so the ball can be caught and held in the cup of the stick