May 10, 2012
Head Start Powwow a colorful youthful celebration
By B.L. Azure
The Arlee ECS group follows the honor guard in at the grand entry of the 37th annual Head Start Powwow at the Ronan Events Center Thursday. (B.L. Azure photo)
RONAN — The 37th annual Head Start Powwow added more festive color to the Ronan Event Center than tournament basketball. Young preschoolers from the Flathead Indian Reservation’s Early Childhood Services programs at Arlee, Polson, Ronan, St. Ignatius and Dixon, and their teachers, families and others packed the gym to near sardine coziness for a real good time.
The Grand Entry with the Veterans Warrior Society at the point followed by head women’s dancer Mary Jane Charlo and head men’s dancer Allen Pierre then Head Start students kicked off the evening’s festivities that featured numerous drums, all sorts of traditional social dancing, plenty of food and loads of conversation.
Mike Kenmille joined in with the young ones at the festive Head Start Powwow. (B.L. Azure photo)
But the stars of the evening were the young preschool aged children who in regalia or not got captured by the beat of the drum and bounced around the floor for nearly three hours before their little legs began to knock at the knees.
The Head Start Powwow is now an anticipated event that draws numerous people whether or not the young children are related to them. That night though they were all related and connected by the beat of the drum, chant of the singers, bells and jingles of the dancers, and above all the realization that as long as there is a drum beat there are Indians.
Prior to the annual Head Start social and cultural highlight the young students learn a bit about the tribal culture, drumming and dancing and many make their first regalia.
You know someone is really into what they’re doing when they use their tongue to shift gears. (B.L. Azure photo)
Early Childhood Services Director Jeannie Christopher recently added the teaching of the Salish language at two - St. Ignatius and Ronan - of the ECS centers. She said she wants to expand that to all the ECS centers in the future when funds and fluent tribal language teachers are available.
Head Start has been around so long now — it was established on the reservation in 1965 as a summer program — that students from those days now have grandchildren participating in the now school-year long Head Start Program.
Head Start is a child development program for children, primarily from low-income families. A percentage of over-income and a percentage of children with disabilities are also enrolled.
Emcee Alec Quequesah joined in the jubilation at the Head Start Powwow. (B.L. Azure photo)
The five major components of Head Start are education, health, nutrition, parent involvement and social services.
The American Indian Programs Branch of the Head Start Bureau funds the Flathead Reservation Head Start Program. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, who is the grantee agency for the Head Start Program, also contributes generously to the operation of the Early Childhood Services Program.