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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 12, 2003 - Issue 91


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Kenmille Receives National Arts Award

by Ron Selden - Char-Koosta News
credits: photo 1: Anges "Oshanee" Kenmille - courtesy of Char-Koosta News, photo 2: Rose Bag - 12" by 18" -Beaded Buckskin - courtesy of the University of Montana
Anges "Oshanee" Kenmille - courtesy of Char-Koosta News
Rose Bag - 12
Rose Bag - 12" by 18" -Beaded Buckskin - courtesy of the University of Montana

PABLO -- Salish elder Agnes "Oshanee" Kenmille last week was named the winner of a coveted National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship.

The $20,000 award, one of 11 given out across the country this year, was announced by the federal arts agency on June 17.

Kenmille was chosen for the work she continues to do perpetuating traditional American Indian culture. She is a noted bead-and-leather worker and is one of the few tribal members who speaks both the Salish and Kootenai languages.

"I can't believe it," she says of the award. "I just don't know what to think. I'm so proud."

Kenmille, who turned 87 this year, is well-known for her hide tanning skills, as well as her easy-going nature. She still teaches tanning and leathercraft seminars twice a year at Salish Kootenai College and for years taught language classes at the Two Eagle River School in Pablo. She's also the lead woman dancer at many local tribal events and says she again plans to dance at the Arlee Pow-Wow in early July.

Kenmille was born in Arlee on March 16, 1916, to parents Annie Lumprey and Paul Cullooyah. She later lived in Elmo for many years, but now resides on the outskirts of Pablo. Her work has included a set of beaded gloves that were given to former Vice President Al Gore. She also made gloves that were gifts to former heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali and media magnate Ted Turner.

In 2001, Kenmille received the Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievement in the arts from Montana Gov. Judy Martz. She also traveled to New York City that year to complete a longtime goal -- seeing the Statue of Liberty.

Kenmille says she's still busy making many types of items out of deer and elk hides. She uses the traditional method of brain tanning to prepare the leather. The tough hair on the hides is still painstakingly scrapped off by hand.

"I'm doing a lot of orders," she says. "I'm making a cradleboard right now for a couple in Sandpoint, Idaho."

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