ARLEE — The Nk̓ʷusm Salish Language School’s Christmas celebration program was unlike any of the other school celebrations on the Flathead Reservation. Where else would you see a youthful choir singing traditional Christmas carols in Salish and signing some as well. Where else would you see a Coyote story about the necessity of flies. Where else would you feel a strong sense of survival of the Salish language — in the hands of the young ones, no less. Nowhere else but the Arlee Community Center on Powwow Road Friday. That’s when the Nk̓ʷusm staff and students conducted its annual Christmas celebration before a festive crowd, and brunch-fed them as well.
Stephan SmallSalmon, Salish language teacher at Nk̓ʷusm, emceed the festivities that featured carols by Nk̓ʷusm preschool, and Kindergarten through 8th grade students. There was also a Coyote story Nk̓ʷusm staff play, “Coyote and the Flies” that included both staff and students in various roles.
The moral of the Coyote story is that all of the Creator’s creations are here for a purpose, a divine right of existence. In sum, the Coyote came upon a group of youngsters preparing to eat the bounty of Mother Earth. Instead of sharing the Coyote gorged on the food bounty without regard to sharing with others. Then a pair of older boys came and chased the Coyote away and eventually causing its demise. Once the soul of the Coyote made its journey to the beyond, flies came and consumed the Coyote, thereby giving credence to the divine right of existence.
The brunch followed the Coyote and Flies play and besides the scrumptious breakfast foods there were prizes awarded to those with tickets pasted under their seats, and those who answered tribal history-based questions.
“It’s always good to hear these kids speak in Salish,” SmallSalmon said. “They are a big part of saving our language.”:
The Nk̓ʷusm Christmas Celebration Committee includes: Shanna White, Vance Home Gun, Nicole Perry and Erin Lacey.
The cooks were: Francis Brown, Michelle Matt, Vance Home Gun and Allen Pierre.
The Nk̓ʷusm Board of Directors are: Jordan Thompson, Steve Arca, Kelly O’Bennick, Chaney Bell, Patty Stevens and Tash Nomee.