July 19, 2012
Stipn Culture Camp youth get all wet in Flathead Lake
By B.L. Azure
Tom McDonald, manager of the Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation Division, is at the helm ferrying participants in the Stipn Culture Camp to Wild Horse Island. (B.L. Azure photo)
FLATHEAD LAKE — Last Wednesday was a perfect summer day for taking a cruise on Flathead Lake. And 10 lucky tribal youngsters did just that thanks to the Stipn Culture Camp and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Natural Resources Department. They were able to take advantage of the rare warm but
not too hot summer day that Mother Nature seems to be keeping in storage this year, making them a precious commodity.
Some of the young ladies jump in the somewhat-cool Flathead Lake while docked at Wild Horse Island last week while participating in the Stipn (Stephen Small Salmon) Culture Camp. (B.L. Azure photo)
The 10 young ones with three adult chaperones cruised the lake in a pair of pontoon boats captained by NRD honchos Rich Janssen and Tom McDonald. The cruise included a couple of stops on Wild Horse Island.
While on the island the group had a picnic, took a nature walk where Janssen told them the history of Wild Horse Island and pointed out the wildlife on the island. There were bighorn sheep and whitetail deer spotted but not any wild horses.
They also took advantage of the near crystal clear water for a swim to cool off after the hike. Some of the youngsters dipped their fishing line in the lake after receiving some fishing lessons from McDonald, manager of the NRD Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation Division. All of the youngsters were given a rod, reel and tackle as part of the excursion.
Rich Janssen, director of the CSKT Natural Resources Department, discusses the history of Wild Horse Island with participants of the Stipn Culture Camp. (B.L. Azure photo)
The Stipn Culture Camp youngsters were students from the Nkwusm Salish Language Institute in Arlee. Stephen Small Salmon oversees the two-week culture camp, and Becky Smith and Jenny Fawler assist him.
The day on Flathead Lake cruise and on Wild Horse Island hike was in part funded by a $20,000 grant awarded to NRD.
“A part of the grant’s mission is to expose tribal youth to the natural resources that surround them,” said Janssen, director of the NRD. “We want to get them outdoors in this beautiful environment and spark their interest in a career in natural resources professions.”
Right: Participants in the Stipn Culture Camp pose for a group photo on Wild Horse Island. (B.L. Azure photo)
The 10 tribal youth attending the 4th annual Stipn Culture Camp were the first group of tribal youth to participate in the mission activities related to the grant.
“We have to limit to 10 kids because more than that makes it too hard to handle,” Small Salmon said, adding that the kids are the older students at Nkwusm.
The Stipn Culture Camp participants left yesterday (Wednesday) for a journey east of the Continental Divide and stay at the Blacktail Ranch, a tourist ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front 60 miles west of Great Falls.
Safety First. Tom McDonald issues life jackets to the participants of the Stipn Culture Camp. (B.L. Azure photo)
While at the Blacktail Ranch the youngsters and adults will stay in tipis, take boat excursions, ride horses, hike and explore caves with pictographs. There is also a museum on the ranch that contains numerous American Indian artifacts.
Small Salmon said the idea behind the Stipn Culture Camp had its genesis with his interaction with the late Agnes Vanderburg. She established the now named Agnes Vanderburg Culture Camp in a small open meadow along Valley Creek. Agnes established the culture camp in 1971 and Small Salmon used to spend time there with the traditional Salish maven.
A game of rock, paper, scissors occupies the time of these Stipn Culture Camp participants. (B.L. Azure photo)
A carved rock monument at the site is inscribed with: “Agnes opened her heart and mind to anyone desiring to learn. Her vast knowledge of the Salish way of life was willingly passed on. She had no prejudices of race, color or creed. She loved people. Her lifelong dream was to have this small sanctuary where one could go and learn. She taught us many lessons…”
Her gentle inclusive message continues to be passed on by folks like Small Salmon and his summer cultural camp.
“We like teaching them the old ways,” Small Salmon said. “But we like to mix things up and do things like this lake cruise too.”
Judging by the looks on the youngsters’ faces and their laughter it was a good mix.