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Nkwusm Powwow celebrates little graduates

By Adriana Fehrs

Local drum group Bear Spirit was the host drum for the Nkwusm graduation ceremony and powwow on May 31. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Local drum group Bear Spirit was the host drum for the Nkwusm graduation ceremony and powwow on May 31. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

ARLEE — The community center was full of excitement and drumming on Saturday April 31. The NKWusm Salish Language Institute celebrated their graduating students and held a powwow and silent auction.

Walking into the gym you can see Stephen Small Salmon holding the microphone. Small Salmon, MC for the night, announced over the loudspeakers, “We are going to get started now.”

Parents of the Nkwusm preschool graduates stand behind their children. Matiya Nenemay, with parents Alyssa and Jesse Nenemay, was the first announced, followed by Avary McDonald with parents Tanya and Arnie McDonald, Lillybelle Buffalo with parents Shawna and Junior Buffalo, Daspianna LaMoose, parent Jon Ericka LaMoose, and Nirada Courville with parents Jesse and Ashley Courville, sister Destiny Courville, Geraldine Vallee. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Parents of the Nkwusm preschool graduates stand behind their children. Matiya Nenemay, with parents Alyssa and Jesse Nenemay, was the first announced, followed by Avary McDonald with parents Tanya and Arnie McDonald, Lillybelle Buffalo with parents Shawna and Junior Buffalo, Daspianna LaMoose, parent Jon Ericka LaMoose, and Nirada Courville with parents Jesse and Ashley Courville, sister Destiny Courville, Geraldine Vallee. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Local drum group and family to elder Pat Pierre, Bear Spirit, was the host drum for the celebration. The gym echoed as they sang the first song of the night.

Though there were only five graduating preschoolers, there was a large crowd at the celebration. The children took their seats at the front of the gym. Small Salmon spoke to them in Salish - he asked them several questions, “What is your name?” Some were brave like Matiya Nenemay, answering proudly into the microphone, but others like Lillybelle Buffalo were a little more hesitant.

Small Salmon spoke to the graduating Nkwusm preschooler in Salish – he asked them several questions, “What is your name?” Matiya Nenemay (L), answered proudly into the microphone. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Small Salmon spoke to the graduating Nkwusm preschooler in Salish – he asked them several questions, “What is your name?” Matiya Nenemay (L), answered proudly into the microphone. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Pat Pierre thanked the attendees for showing up. “The main reason why we are doing this is because our language is coming back,” he explains. Pierre is hopeful about the future of NKWusm. “I had a kid come up to me today, and spoke to me in Salish. Not just one word, but a full sentence.”

Stephen Small Salmon asks the five graduating preschoolers from Nkwusm several question in Salish before the ceremonies began. (Adriana Fehrs photo)  Stephen Small Salmon asks the five graduating preschoolers from Nkwusm several question in Salish before the ceremonies began. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Small Salmon then called up the parents of the graduating preschoolers. As the parents stood proudly behind their children, each child’s name was announced. They were awarded with a goody bag and a graduation certificate. Matiya Nenemay, with parents Alyssa and Jesse Nenemay was the first announced, followed by Avary McDonald with parents Tanya and Arnie McDonald, Lillybelle Buffalo with parents Shawna and Junior Buffalo, and Daspianna LaMoose, parent Jon Ericka LaMoose.

Nirada Courville, Nkwusm Preschool graduate, receives his participation certificate and a goody bag at the ceremony and powwow on May 31. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Nirada Courville, Nkwusm Preschool graduate, receives his participation certificate and a goody bag at the ceremony and powwow on May 31. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Nirada Courville was announced last. The preschooler not only graduated but is also planned to be moved up into the fourth grade. Stephen says, “He came here later than the other children, but he caught up quick. I’ve had most of these kids since they were two-and-a-half years old.”

Next, the adult honorees were called up to the front of the gym. Melanie Sandoval, NKWusm Adult Language Instructor and Co-founder, announced the graduating adult learners: John Matt, Steve Arca, Kale Gardner, Darrell Piapot, Jesse Nenemay, Adele Martin, Becky Smith, Alisha Sheridan, Mary Paul, and Michelle Matt. NKWusm is completing the final year of a three-year adult learning program. The program is funded by the ANA grant, which expires on July 31.

Pat Pierre thanked the attendees for showing up to the Nkwusm graduation ceremony. “The main reason why we are doing this is because our language is coming back.”(Adriana Fehrs photo) Pat Pierre thanked the attendees for showing up to the Nkwusm graduation ceremony. “The main reason why we are doing this is because our language is coming back.”(Adriana Fehrs photo)

A free barbeque was offered to those who stayed. A cakewalk, 50/50 raffle, grand entry and dancing, and a round dance followed after. Bear spirit, Sunrise, and Frank and the Crew were the drum groups for the night. The silent auction grossed slightly above $300. April Charlo says, “We are so very grateful for all of the donations.”

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