March 14, 2013

Celebrating Salish Conference

Tribes keep language alive

Recent conference led by the Kalispels draws hundreds of participants

By Cindy Hval
The unmistakable melody of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” filled the packed room at the Pavilion at Northern Quest Resort and Casino. A trio of women took the stage, executing the iconic dance moves as the lead singer, sequined hat, one glove and all, belted out the song.

The tune was familiar but the words were not.

That’s because the song was performed in Salish at the Salish Karaoke Contest on March 6 during the Celebrating Salish Conference.

More than 400 tribal members from across the Northwest registered to attend the three-day conference. They had much to celebrate. Just a few years ago, the Salish language languished in near oblivion.
Salish conference celebrates language revitalization

By Alyssa NenemayThe conference hosted over 40 workshops, providing attendees insight into immersion teaching techniques, language software, and curriculum. The event also featured keynote presentations from Dr. Bill Cohen of the Okanagan Band who specializes in Indigenous pedagogy--the art and science of teaching--and Native comedian Mitch Factor of the Seminole/Menominee nations.

Aside from the workshops, the conference is gaining recognition for its growing powwow, karaoke contest, and awards/recognitions. The Karaoke contest challenges participants to translate popular music in the Salish language. This year’s winner CeCe Curtis Cook performed a Salish version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which was complete with zombie dancers and a shimmering hand glove.

Amidst the many nations in attendance, residents of the Flathead Reservation participated in the festivities. Local drum group Yamncut performed during the powwow using a drum that had been painted by renowned tribal artist the late George Flett, and elder Pat Pierre was recognized for his many years of teaching.

“The younger people are learning. They’re working to learn more and I think it’s really good. We need to have a lot more of that. More people need to gain interest in what they can do to bring back our language and the ways of our people. This is our identity. We can never lose who we are,” said Pierre.
Below:  "Lawrence McDonald, a Colville and Nez Perce Indian, chats with Kaienna Noel, 3, while dancing in the Celebrating Salish Conference powwow March 7 at Northern Quest Resort and Casino. The three-day conference focused on the revival of the Salish language." (Jesse Tinsley)

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