ARLEE — “The power is in the language, the wisdom is in the language and all the things that make us who we are is in the language,” the late-Pat Pierre said before he left to reside in the Spirit World.
The Séliš language, its strength, its wisdom, its guiding spirit is available for all those walk through the doors of the Séliš Language School in Arlee. The school’s focus is teaching the Kindergarten through eighth grade but it also has adult classes for those who want to learn the tribal language.
On Friday the focus was on the eighth grade graduates at the graduation ceremony but it was also on the other young Nk̓ʷusm students at the Séliš Language School as well as several fluent Séliš speakers in attendance.
“These boys were always willing to sit, listen and learn what was being taught,” Allen Pierre said about eighth grade graduates Nirada Courville and Lucas Old Horn. “At Nk̓ʷusm we are family; I feel like they are like my kids. They can come back any time they want. Pat Pierre said our language is the strongest part of who we are and where we come from — it is our identity. Language is center of our circle of life. These are the things these gentlemen have learned at Nk̓ʷusm. They will share these lessons. They are true leaders; strong language carriers.”
Several strong fluent language carriers were in attendance and paid homage to. The fluent speakers included Stephan Small Salmon, Madeline Finley, Harriet McDougal, Angie Andrews Francis “Plassie” Stanger, Joe Sorrel, Rose O’Bennick and Gene Beaverhead.
A new Nk̓ʷusm princess was picked at the graduation ceremony powwow when Christine Rose Woodcock passed the beaded tiara to Aiyona Brodie. Aiyona will represent Nk̓ʷusm until next year’s graduation ceremony.
The graduation ceremony powwow celebration followed the awarding of diplomas to Nirada Courville and Lucus Old Horn. The powwow celebrations drums included Young Grey Horse, Red Horn, The Singers and Nk̓ʷusm.