CREEK -- There are two sure things that happen at Salish Kootenai
College's Native American Studies annual encampment at the Agnes
Vanderburg Camp: Students and others at the encampment, in the upper
reaches of Valley Creek, will be deluged with opportunities to learn
the traditional Salish tribal ways and they will be deluged with
Mother Nature's wine of life: rain. Luckily both -- the opportunities
to learn and the rain -- spur growth.
camp," said camp leader Arleen Adams, "was originated
by Agnes with the sole purpose of making sure that the Salish culture
living on it was last week when 33 students, their families, instructors
and others were soaking up Salish cultural knowledge while soaking
up Mother's moisture. In all, there were around 100 people in the
camp including 23 youngsters ranging in age from diaper-clad babes
to 16-year-old high school students.
established the camp in 1971 with the purpose of sharing and maintaining
Salish tribal cultural ways with all who wanted to learn them.
the rain is a given here," said Adams. "The lodges kept
the rain out but the rain never kept us out of the woods."
It was in the woods where students and others learned about medicinal
and foodstuff plants, where they tanned hides, where they harvested
the wood to make bows and arrows and where the young ones played
traditional and modern games.
day of the weeklong encampment began with a morning song at 6 a.m.
Singers meandered from lodge to lodge and trailer to trailer, rousting
campers from their beds. "We are one big family here,"
Adams said. "Everybody works together to make this work well."
students and others awake, eat and begin their day of learning by
visiting one of the several stations set up throughout the camp.
They had opportunities to tan hides, make drums, bead, make flutes,
learn tribal songs and stories, and live a small slice of their
lives reminiscent of days gone by.
students get graded on the projects they do as individuals but it
is not just based on the projects," Adams said. "It is
based on everything." That includes, among other things, interaction
with others at the camp and assisting in the smooth running of the
camp logistics. "Everybody in camp helps take care of the young
ones, including discipline. By the end of the week the children
gain respect for all because everyone is watching them and helping
them. They learn self-discipline and respect the way things are."
and respect were easy to mine from 11-year-old Bobby Hammer, 13-year-old
Cody Kelly and nine-year-old Lomah Woodcock. Judging by their demeanors
they had it before coming to camp but it was enhanced by their mutual
experiences there. The three youngsters took this reporter for a
walk in the woods where they shared what they learned in camp about
respect and about wild food including partaking in a snack of wild
like to help start camp fires for the elders," Hammer said.
"We all help by getting them coffee, food and other things."
days are really long here so we get a chance to do a lot of things.
We've made bows and arrows, learned to bead and make cedar pouches,"
Kelly said. "We learned that it rains a lot here and that you
can get rained out." He said he had to move to his family's
vehicle when the rain soaked through his small camping tent. "I
had to, my sleeping bag was wet."
feels really good when we help the elders," Woodcock said.
"They need to relax and let the kids do things for them."
all said in unison that they would come back again every chance
they get. "Here we can do things we hear about or read about,"
Kelly said. "It's more fun to do them and this is a place we
can do them."
the final day of the encampment students made presentations where
they discussed what they learned and what they made during the week.
And it was clear by all the testimonials that they learned far more
than the tangibles.
enjoyed this. It's been a real good time here, especially for the
little ones," said Manuel Covers Up, a Crow tribal member and
SKC student. "They got help all over the place. I enjoyed that.
I am going to bring my children back as long as I can."
learned a lot more in this camp other than the projects," said
Ginger Morigeau. "I'll be back."
was meant to be here. This is a beautiful feeling," said Lisa
Devereaux. "We'll be back each year as long as we live here."
met good people here," said Donny Spotted Eagle. "I hope
to come back someday and help the young ones."
going to make it back next year because I had such a good time here,"
said Melvin Mad Plume.
a wonderful, wonderful week it has been," said Helen Rhine.
"I've learned so much about my people. I'm so honored to get
to know all of you here."
is truly a vacation," said Mike Moran Jr. "I didn't want
to come here at first but I'm glad I did."
learn things here that are not in the books," said Rachel Bowers,
beading instructor extraordinaire, recalling the history of the
camp. "There are a lot of kind hearts here and there are a
lot of people who didn't know they had kind hearts until they got
here. The things that we have done here are heartfelt and the things
you take from here binds you to this place."
is our religion that makes this possible," said Andy Woodcock,
camp elder and advisor. "I appreciate all the things that are
learned here. I am thankful to be able to share and leave something
for the children so they can pass it on to their children."
provided eight tipis with poles, the supper meals, the instructors
and the camp helpers that included wood gatherers, hunters, cooks
and one camp do-it-all go-for. "Ig (Eneas Vanderburg) has helped
us out a lot," Adams said. "If there is something we need
here he goes and gets it."
week-long class is a "capstone" class in the Native American
Studies Department, said Michael Dolson, SKC NAS instructor. "Anyone
is welcome to participate," he said.
ever-smiling Agnes Vanderburg with the ever-shining twinkle in her
eyes is perhaps looking down upon the camp with a bigger smile and
a brighter twinkle, knowing that her wishes of maintaining Salish
cultural ways continue years after she has gone on. And that anyone
and everyone are welcome to learn the knowledge that resides in
both the head and heart.