ELMO — This week, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes COVID Youth Community Care and Awareness Campaign used tribal traditions to get its awareness message across with the Chief Cliff Drum leader Mike Kenmille composing a song for it. Chief Cliff Drum performed the song Sunday in the Ksanka Celebration dance arbor. The performance video is available on-line on CSKT Tribal Education Department and Char-Koosta News Facebook pages.
Tribal Education Department Director Michelle Mitchell said the Chief Cliff Drum COVID-19 awareness video was the fifth of the campaign. The first four used young rappers and singers to spread the message about the campaign.
“We had a concern that the precautionary message about COVID-19 wasn’t reaching youth or they weren’t taking it seriously,” Mitchell said. “We talked to the Tribal Council about how the young people weren’t taking the situation seriously.”
Watch the video below:
As a result of the Zoom meeting, the awareness campaign that focuses on youth awareness came to fore and that spawned the use of young people to help spread the cautionary message of the campaign.
“We’re doing this so people do the right thing. They speak to their peers in ‘language’ they understand,” Mitchell said. “As community members they bring unique aspects for getting the message out there.”
Each of the three rappers — Kiid Truth, Foreshadow and Yvng Vin — brought different aspects of the message, as did the Pete Sisters.
Mitchell said their video performances have been seen by hundreds of thousands of individual viewers worldwide.
“We didn’t know how effective this would be or what would happen with this,” Mitchell said. “But it took off nationally and beyond within a week of the first release.”
The next schedule campaign video will be a conglomerate effort of the previous four performers and is scheduled for release in late August.
The latest addition to the campaign is the Chief Cliff Drum under the traditional leadership of Mike Kenmille.
“The world is hurting. It is not just us going through this but the whole world is. It is hurting all of us. It is taking its toll on the schools, the kids and their parents,” said Mike Kenmille of the Chief Cliff Drum. Kenmille is a bus driver at Two Eagle River School and has a firsthand view of how COVID-19 affects students, parents and staff. Last spring TERS went to remote learning and the bus drivers were an integral component of that. They, among other things, delivered hard copy lessons and picked the completed ones, iPads and meals.
Kenmille said he was spurred by his concern for all and with the previous CSKT COVID Youth Community Care and Awareness Campaign efforts. He saw in that a window for providing a traditional slice of COVID-19 awareness campaign. So, he reached out to Mitchell, and she enthusiastically embraced it as a logical piece of the awareness puzzle.
Kenmille said he wanted his message to focus on social distancing and face masks. In order to provide for social distancing around a drum, he used a large plastic swimming pool. He turned it upside down, painted it with the drum name and COVID-19, then fashioned fishing poles into drum sticks.
“This big drum works just the same as a regular one. It is calling the Drum Spirits to help us through this pandemic. It’s not just for tribal people but for all people. The pandemic has everyone in its grasp until we come up with a remedy,” he said. “The easiest remedy we all have in our hands is to wash them and wear a mask. That way we take care of others by taking care of ourselves.”
To that end, the song Kenmille came up with for the campaign and the Chief Cliff Drum sang Sunday is entitled “You Stay Way Over There, I’ll Stay Way Over Here.” He was joined by Stan Kenmille, Bow Horn-Weasel, Gabe Caye and Allie Kenmille. Eleven-year-old Audrey Kenmille and 8-year-old Leland Perez danced at the performance.
The COVID-19 awareness message for Flathead Reservation youth 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 and, in their post, include the hashtags, as shown above, in order to keep message branding and momentum.
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Pablo, Mont. — The Chief Cliff Singers Drum Group has been around for many, many years and now they are joining the COVID-19 Youth Campaign. Their new song, "You Stay Way Over There, I'll Stay Way Over Here," speaks about social distancing.
Alec Lefthand of Dayton, MT was the original drum carrier/lead singer for Chief Cliff Singers. He retired in the late 1970s and handed the drum down to Michel (Mike) Kenmille of Elmo, MT. Mike took the drum all over and worked on various projects including a trip to Norway and a Jazz CD Collaboration with Don Pullen. That was with Mike's first group of singers, all of which are family in some way. His next group of singers was made up mostly by his nephews and son. This particular group was invited to Vancouver, B.C. Canada to perform at the 2000 Winter Olympics.
Today the group, is made up of Mike's younger family members.
In the song,"You Stay Way Over There, I'll Stay Way Over Here" the singers are:
- Mike Kenmille- Drum Carrier/Lead Singer. Ksanka (Kootenai) - Elmo, MT
- Stan Kenmille- Ksanka (Kootenai) - Elmo, MT (son)
- Willie Andrew - Ksanka (Kootenai) - Elmo, MT (son)
- Bow Horn-Weasel- Assiniboine, Aaniiih & Cree- FT. Belknap - Hays, MT (Son-in-Law)
- Allie Kenmille Ksanka (Kootenai), Blackfeet - Elmo, MT (Nephew)
- Gabe Caye- Ksanka (Kootenai) - Elmo, MT
- Hunter Numkena- Ksanka (Kootenai), Blackfeet, Spokane and Hopi - Elmo, MT (great nephew)
- Elias Alexander- Ksanka (Kootenai), Tobacco Plains Kootenai & Salish - Polson, MT
- Marshall Doney- Assiniboine - FT. Belknap - Hays, MT (friend of SIL)
- Joey Quincy-Assiniboine - FT. Belknap - Hays, MT (Friend of SIL)
- Dancers in Video:
- Audrey Kenmille 11yo Fancy Shawl Dancer Ksanka (Kootenai)- Elmo, MT (Granddaughter)
- Leland Perez 8yo Prairie Chicken Dancer - Ksanka (Kootenai) - Elmo, MT
- (Great Great Nephew)
Song background by Mike Kenmille:
"The song 'You Stay Way Over There, Ill Stay Way Over Here' is a song about social distancing that I came up with a few months ago. As a drummer/singer, whether you realize it or not you're constantly composing song after song, tune after tune, and finding meaning to it. That's how this song came about. Just cruising around, thinking about what's going on in the world today, and that's what came to mind, songs-wise, after that all kinds of ideas started flowing for a video I wanted to record myself, I did it once a while back and kept wanting to redo it as new ideas came up. Then this opportunity came up!”
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. The fourth release by the Pete Sisters draws heavily from their traditional Salish teachings in heartfelt songs. The campaign has featured other local artists including Kiid Truth, Foreshadow, Yvng Vin and the Pete Sisters who have all released original songs and videos that have drawn national attention.
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 and, in their post, include the hashtags, as shown above, in order to keep message branding and momentum.