Revitalizing the Salish language is a multi-state effort
ARLEE — Revitalization of the Salish language unified two immersion schools recently as a bus load of students from the Kalispel Language Survival School (Snyoyo?Spu?usm) traveled from Usk, Washington to visit Nk̓ʷusm Immersion School. The students had an opportunity to intermingle and learn about traditional tools and weapons from Buck Morigeau.
Nk̓ʷusm instructor and Qlispe elder Stephen Small Salmon said the schools have historical ties. “The Pend d’Oreille people here are kind of related to the Pend d’Oreille people in Usk,” he said. “They speak the same (Salish dialect) that we speak here, which is pretty cool because we can visit with one another and understand each other and things like that. It’s always good when you can speak Indian with people. It feels good.”
The Kalispel school was founded three years ago and serves K-12 grade students. The students attend Salish-immersion school part time while attending public school part time. Survival School Instructor Nalene Andrews said Nk̓ʷusm served as inspiration. “We got the idea for our school from Nk̓ʷusm,” she said. “We’ve had an adult language program for 15 years and Johnny Arlee has been a tremendous help in those efforts. That program helped us develop teachers for our K-12 program. We’ve watched all the amazing work Nk̓ʷusm has done over the years and that really inspired us.”
Nk̓ʷusm Immersion School has been operating for 17 years. Instructor Echo Brown said the school has been forming relationships with other Salish immersion schools across state lines. “Taking on the challenge of learning your tribal language is a huge feat and it takes a lot of work,” she said. “Building that support system with other programs who are working towards a similar goal as you is so important. For the past two years our students have visited schools in Idaho and Washington and we’ve welcomed their students here. It’s good for all of us to check in and share our experiences. We get to know one another and that’s good for our students. We’re all one family.”
Andrews said the Survival Schools first three-years has been a learning experience. “I love working with our kids because it brings back that sense of family that our people have,” she said. “Our adult program gets to work with our students and grow together. When I see our students in the store or just out in the community they speak our language to me and that makes me happy. We have a strong future growing with these students.”