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Nkwusm’s playground restored by native grassroots organization

By Adriana Fehrs

Nkwusm received two new pine picnic tables and a fire pit, as well as a newly painted playground thanks to Native Generational Change of Missoula. Whisper Camel-Means, tribal wildlife biologist, took leave from work to travel down to the school to help clean up the gravel pit around the large play tires. Pictured left to right: Whisper Camel-Means, Dustin Monroe, Matt Bell, Curtis Yazzie, MJ Desrosier, and Moses Yellow Robe. (Adriana Fehrs photo)  Nkwusm received two new pine picnic tables and a fire pit, as well as a newly painted playground thanks to Native Generational Change of Missoula. Whisper Camel-Means, tribal wildlife biologist, took leave from work to travel down to the school to help clean up the gravel pit around the large play tires. Pictured left to right: Whisper Camel-Means, Dustin Monroe, Matt Bell, Curtis Yazzie, MJ Desrosier, and Moses Yellow Robe. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

ARLEE — Just in the knick of time, Nkwusm Salish Language School’s disheveled playground was restored before students return to school for the fall - all thanks to the generosity of Native Generational Change (NGC) of Missoula.

NGC, a native owned and operated up-and-coming grassroot organization that focuses on developing young Native American leaders of the next generation, is implementing their ‘Rez Playground Restoration’ projects. The restorations are led by Native American tribal community members, and assisted by NGC.

Dustin Monroe, CEO of Native Generational Change (NGC) primes the play set at Nkwusm. On Thursday, August 21, NGC, traveled to Nkwusm to give their playground a much-needed ‘facelift’. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Dustin Monroe, CEO of Native Generational Change (NGC) primes the play set at Nkwusm. On Thursday, August 21, NGC, traveled to Nkwusm to give their playground a much-needed ‘facelift’. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

NGC states, “Traditional Language of each individual tribal community will be used on the playground for children to use as visual recognition and make native language part of everyday life. The goal of the project is to implement language into the community and inspire youth to become leaders in their communities.”

On Thursday, August 21, NGC, led by Dustin Monroe, NGC CEO, traveled to Nkwusm to give their playground a much-needed ‘facelift’. “We want to work more with tribal immersion schools,” says Monroe.

For starters, Nkwusm received two new pine picnic tables and a fire pit. Then, Monroe and six volunteers went to work sanding, priming, and painting the playground. Whisper Camel-Means, tribal wildlife biologist, took leave from work to travel down to the school to help clean up the gravel pit around the large play tires. “I drove by [the school] the other day and the playground did not look inviting, and then an opportunity came up for me to actually do something about it. Its really great that we are all out here improving the school,” says Camel-Means.

Moses Yellow Robe of the Crow Reservation, Native Generational Change (NGC), paints Salish words onto Nkwusm playground. “The goal of the project is to implement language into the community and inspire youth to become leaders in their communities,” says Dustin Monroe, NGC CEO. (Courtesy photo Dustin Monroe, NGC CEO) Moses Yellow Robe of the Crow Reservation, Native Generational Change (NGC), paints Salish words onto Nkwusm playground. “The goal of the project is to implement language into the community and inspire youth to become leaders in their communities,” says Dustin Monroe, NGC CEO. (Courtesy photo Dustin Monroe, NGC CEO)

Funding for the playground restoration in part came from the High Stakes Foundation in Arlee, Fiscal Sponsorship of Missoula Community Foundation, and NGC t-shirt sales. “We’ve sold t-shirts at powwows, and online. People as far as Florida, California, and New York have bought our shirts,” says Monroe.

Nkwusm isn’t the only stop on NGC’s route. “We are working across all of the reservations in Montana. A lot of people think that the issues natives face are just their own tribe’s problem, but it’s all of our problem, that’s why we have volunteers from other tribes here helping today. It’s about helping each other,” says Monroe.

Local children enjoy the newly painted Nkwusm playground. Nkwusm Salish Language School’s disheveled playground was restored before students return to school for the fall - all thanks to the generosity of Native Generational Change (NGC) of Missoula. (Courtesy photo Dustin Monroe, NGC CEO) Local children enjoy the newly painted Nkwusm playground. Nkwusm Salish Language School’s disheveled playground was restored before students return to school for the fall - all thanks to the generosity of Native Generational Change (NGC) of Missoula. (Courtesy photo Dustin Monroe, NGC CEO)

Next on NGC’s agenda is be adding gardens around Montana Indian reservations. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all project, but it will be a collaboration,” said Monroe.

April Charlo, Nkwusm Executive Director, says, “Nkwusm is extremely grateful to Dustin and his organization for looking at us to do a playground restoration. Even though it is Salish Kootenai Housing Authority property, our kids are on the playground five days a week, so it’s a huge gift to all of us in this community.”

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