Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



pictograph divider


SKC encampment soaks up rain and culture


by B.L. Azure - Char-Koosta News


VALLEY 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.

"This camp," said camp leader Arleen Adams, "was originated by Agnes with the sole purpose of making sure that the Salish culture lives on."

And 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.

Vanderburg established the camp in 1971 with the purpose of sharing and maintaining Salish tribal cultural ways with all who wanted to learn them.

"Anymore, 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.

Each 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."

The 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.

"The 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."

Discipline 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 onions.

"I like to help start camp fires for the elders," Hammer said. "We all help by getting them coffee, food and other things."

"The 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."

"It feels really good when we help the elders," Woodcock said. "They need to relax and let the kids do things for them."

They 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."

On 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.

"I 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."

"I learned a lot more in this camp other than the projects," said Ginger Morigeau. "I'll be back."

"I 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."

"I met good people here," said Donny Spotted Eagle. "I hope to come back someday and help the young ones."

"I'm going to make it back next year because I had such a good time here," said Melvin Mad Plume.

"What 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."

"This is truly a vacation," said Mike Moran Jr. "I didn't want to come here at first but I'm glad I did."

"You 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."

"It 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."

SKC 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."

The 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.

The 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.

insert map here

Maps by Travel

pictograph divider

Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Vicki Barry and Paul Barry.

Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!