PABLO — Driven by concerns that young people may not be responding to COVID-19 prevention guidelines, a committee of tribal leaders formed to discuss strategies which might raise the awareness among teens that they have the power to protect their elders. What emerged was an innovative social media campaign aimed at the ages of 12 to 18.
The first three artists utilized more contemporary styles to get their message across. For the fourth song in this series, the Pete Sisters draw heavily from their traditional Salish teachings in heartfelt songs.
“This is all just for the community,” said Siliye Pete, one of the singers. “We just want to lift people’s spirits and bring healing. (To) create something we strongly feel about.”
The release of the song comes on the day when Montana saw its highest number of new positive COVID-19 infection cases: 224 state-wide, with 19 in Lake County, bringing the number of active cases to 49. The Pete Sisters encourages everyone to wear a mask, stay home if you don’t need to go out and wash your hands. “Be safe and be smart,” said Siliye. “It’s not worth losing any more people. We’ve lost too many already.”
Watch the video below:
“Sisi” Pete encouraged people to also sanitize their groceries and shoes when they return home. “We all live together. The family will wipe down the groceries and put them away. We spray off the bottom of our shoes because you never know what you step in.”
Sisiyus Kʷaliʔ Yućmn “Sisi”, Siliye łpa, Susseli nłáłmqeʔ, (their Salish names) were born and raised on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Descendants of Grizzly Bear Tracks, Louis Vanderburg, and Sack Woman also the daughters of Shandin Pete and Linda Ferris. They have a deep family history within the Bitterroot Salish tribe.
The Pete Sisters’ inspiration for the song ‘Be The Change’ goes back to the 1950s. “Our father showed us this old flute song that was recorded in July of 1950 by Jerome Vanderburg. His is our direct ancestor.” The sisters decided to take melodies from that song and spent time working on lyrics that felt thoughtful and ‘covered everything. “That was difficult to put in to a three minute song,” Sisi said.
Once the lyrics were done, Sis reached out to her uncle Tachini Pete, a founding member of Nk̓͏ʷusm Salish Language Immersion School and writer of the Salish Language Dictionary, to help with translation of the lyrics to Salish.
“I think it’s important in young people to look for the guidance of older people than you,” said Sisi. “Somebody who may have more knowledge or may have some guidance for you.”
As children, much of their time was spent learning the Salish language with their mother, listening to their father tell stories, and learning from Salisha how to bead and make a good soup. Their fondest memorable moments were from attending Nk̓͏ʷusm Salish Immersion School, traveling to powwows, and gathering traditional foods and medicines with their family.
As children, they were deeply impacted and fortunate to have guidance and teachings from an abundance of elders, among them were Patrick Pierre, Sophie Mays, Johnny Arlee, Stephen Smallsalmon, Lucy Vanderburg, and their sx̣epeʔ Alec Quequesah. Sisi now works as a lead teacher at Es Kʷʔalmi Nuwewlštn Immersion School and raises her sons Eneas Jep and Shadric Mose in as much of their Salish ways as possible. They are all proud to have graduated from high school and have continued to further their educational pursuits in higher academia. The girls continue to travel the powwow trail, gather their traditional foods, and practice their Salish customs today. They recognize that it is easy to get distracted and lost in the recent turmoil and hope this song helps bring attention to continue to support the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.
Siliye implores people to take the pandemic seriously. “Even if you don’t think this is real, it’s real. People are dying either way. The only thing we can do is what we know, which is wear a mask, be safe, wash your hands and be there for each other and love each other.”
The purpose of the CSKT COVID Youth Community Care and Awareness Campaign is to create a culturally relevant COVID-19 awareness message for Flathead Reservation youth, which is built on themes such as #ProtectOurElders and #WalkTogetherWell in order to inspire youth to carry the themes to peers, involve family, and positively impact health and safety in the tribal community. The hashtags with the video are #ProtectOurElders, #fixyourmask, #csktcovidchallenge, #csktchallenge, and #walktogetherwell. Youth “Challengers” will be asked to follow the artist they respond to (@xxxx xxx) in their post and include the hashtags, as shown above, in order to keep message branding and momentum.
The campaign will feature other local artists in the coming weeks. To date, Kiid Truth, Foreshadow and Yvng Vin have released original songs and videos that have drawn national attention.
Additional reporting by Char-Koosta News