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By Jesse Utz 

Native American Day

Jess Shut Up

 


This Friday is Native American Day. For some it is just a day off from school or work. For others it is just another, but for a large population that lives very near here this day is their day to be recognized. There will be powwows, gatherings and celebrations filled with dancers, feathers, salmon and dried meats. For the most part, most of us won’t even notice; but for our neighbors, it is a day for them to embrace their heritage and traditions and try and teach us a little bit about their true ancestry.

People like my friend Gena Bug Redstar. I grew up with her at LRHS. She was a classmate, and back then I knew very little about her. I now know that she truly embraces her heritage and wants to share it with everyone. She dances, paddles canoes, and teaches young and old all about her ancestry and history. She lives her life looking back to what was once her people’s way of life and tries to communicate that to the young eyes that look up to her. She recently was in North Dakota, supporting other indigenous tribes in their pursuit to keep their land safe and unspoiled, showing support from one tribe to another.

Another person who is embracing her old way of life from past generations is Annette Timentwa. A young person herself, she is raising her son to first speak Salish, her people’s traditional language. She can also be found teaching this same language to kids of all backgrounds in local schools. She is trying, one word at a time, to save a piece of her ancestors’ valuable past and bring it into the future. Something that was once thought to be lost over time is making a comeback because of her and others who embrace the history of their people and want to restore it.

Butch Stanger is another who is instilling tradition into family and friends. Through his stories of growing up and overcoming staggering odds that were stacked against him, he has pulled through and brings friends and family hunting, fishing, and to sweats, and lives a life that shows integrity and strength. He also has made traditional outfits, drums and ceremonial items for hundreds of people who have crossed paths with him.

There is also my friend Monte Palmanteer. He has a desire deep in his heart to return every summer to his land. He comes back to see family and friends whom he grew up with and talk of the old days. He has spoken of the “boarding schools” and the long-lasting effect they have had upon Indian Country. His heart is for the youth of his tribe and he has given from that heart to many a family member and continues to encourage all to embrace the past and live for the future.

Soy Redthunder, Arnie Holt, Lisa Carson, Smoker Marchand and Kim Stanger … I could go on and on listing great men and women who are instilling pride, honor and tradition to young and old. They may not all do it the same way but they are awesome examples of Native Americans that are living a life that is to be recognized and celebrated as something we should all be proud of. Their ancestors live on in their smiles, words and traditions.

So one this day, I, a non-native, will celebrate their accomplishments and their peoples’ past. We all should, and should embrace what they have to offer us. We should take a proper look at history and remember it for what it is and what has happened. We don’t have to be proud of that past but we must recognize it not just on this day, but every day.

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