Char-Koosta News 

ARLEE — The little ol’ school that could, Nk̓͏ʷusm Salish Language 

School announced that it was recently awarded a grant for $89,520 from the First Nations Development Institute of Longmont, Colo.

Nk̓͏ʷusm teacher Elisabeth DeRoche said the award would be used to support the efforts of the Nk̓͏ʷusm Salish Language Immersion School Project. 

“The award will be used for staff development,” she said, adding that the school staff has shared leadership responsibilities at Nk̓͏ʷusm. “The school has been operating for the last five years on the shared leadership model. Nk̓͏ʷusm recognizes the individual leadership skills in every person on staff. It also recognizes the desire of each staff member to learn the Salish language and serve the children. We want to also support our Elders and give them a huge voice in the fellowship that Pat (Pierre) started.”

The school also serves as a component of the comprehensive effort on the Flathead Indian Reservation to teach the Salish language to those who want to learn it. That includes the Salish Language Adult Apprenticeship effort, Salish Kootenai College, public schools and other arenas that promote the Salish language.

DeRoche said the combination of leadership skills of the staff as well as their desire to contribute to its goals has proven to be an effective way to handle challenges faced at the school. 

“We are working together to strengthen Nk̓͏ʷusm,” she said, adding that the shared leadership approach has proven to be successful and the best way in managing the uniqueness of a school like Nk̓͏ʷusm with its mission of revitalizing and saving the Salish language. “Nk̓͏ʷusm will use this funding to support collaboration among staff, the Nk̓͏ʷusm Board of Directors and key stakeholders in efforts to identify, develop and strengthen leadership within the Salish Language Immersion School setting and the Salish language community.”

The First Nations Development Institute supports the mission and endeavors of Nk̓͏ʷusm related to saving the Salish language, a key cultural asset of the Salish and Pend d’Oreille people.

Nk̓͏ʷusm School is a 501c organization with the mission to recreate a process whereby the Salish language is passed from parents to children and Elders to youth to holistically preserve the Salish language thereby perpetuating the Salish way of life and worldview.

Elder Stephen SmallSalmon, a fluent Salish language speaker language specialist at Nk̓͏ʷusm has worked at the Nk̓͏ʷusm for 17 years. When he began working at Nk̓͏ʷusm there were three students and three teachers, Sophie Mays, Pat Pierre and SmallSalmon. In that time, he has witnessed 15 students graduate from the 8th grade class then go onto high school then some onto college. Presently seven Nk̓͏ʷusm graduates are attending high school and two will graduate this spring.

Nk̓͏ʷusm currently has 38 students in Pre-school through 8th grade classes.

“We’re presently are at capacity with the student-teacher ratio,” DeRoche said. 

For more information on Nk̓͏ʷusm, visit: or call 726-5050.

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