TERS students spend day at the Bison Range learning about Traditional Ecological Knowledge | News

SKC educator Tim Ryan shows TERS students how to make dogbane malleable so that the fibers can separated from the bark to be make cordage/rope.

Char-Koosta News

FLATHEAD NATION BISON RANGE — Several Two Eagle River School students recently took part in an Experiential Learning Day at the Bison Range. The day was part of Mipnunum k̓ itki kȼiǂ: Digital Health Science Education and Career Pathways using Indigenous knowledge. It was the final event of a six-month Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) sub award for the project that was part of a larger award from the National Institute of Health (NIH).

In 2019, the NIH’s SEPA program awarded the grant to City of Missoula to build a collective that is devoted to building inclusive on-ramps to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and career pathways that align with the unique needs of the Missoula community and Flathead Reservation students.

dr  Amanda Duley of Missoula assists TERS students

dr Amanda Duley of Missoula assists TERS students measuring their vital signs after returning from harvesting dogbane.

Project head Dr. Amanda Duley said the event was a culmination of the project where nine TERS students participated in 10 sessions. Each session included an array of role models from local tribal members to Native and non-Native scientists, healers and designers. During each of the sessions they worked on co-designing and then implementing their research project focus and approach.

Throughout the day at the Bison Range, the students, and tribal cultural experts explored the connection between tribal health and well-being, and participated in Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) hands-on learning exercises. The tribal cultural participants included Myrna Dumontier, Tim Ryan, Arlene Adams and Wayne McCoy as well as Kootenai Elder Mike Kenmille who chipped in a few words of wisdom.

TERS students harvest dogbane

TERS students harvest dogbane that they will extract fibers from to make cordage.

The day began with finding a balance of the mind, body and spirit for better health exercise. The students suggested to what constituted a healthy mind, a healthy body and a healthy spirit. A healthy balance of the three is important for self-awareness and confidence which are important ingredients to navigate a healthy life with a greater sense of well-being.

Each participant measured their well-being including biometrics of blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels, before and after participating in each of traditional ecological activities offered that day. The activities included making cordage/rope from dogbane, cattail mats, and canoe paddles. Their findings will be shared in student-produced videos in May.

Tim Ryan, head of Salish Kootenai College Culture and Language Department, gave an example of how the Ancestors used dogbane fibers to make cordage/rope. The students walked to an area where they could harvest dogbane, collected it and returned to Buffalo Park to learn how to manually access the fibers in the bark of the dogbane. Ryan said it was an example of how Indigenous people used the natural environment to provide for their needs like people use Walmart today to supply their needs.

Ryan said people, including the young students, can learn from the natural environment whether it’s animated or inanimate — all of creation is alive.

In reference to Ryan’s Walmart analogy Kootenai Elder Mike Kenmille said “Mother Nature is the Indian All-Mart. Everything you need is out here, has been from the beginning of time.”

TERS student Chula DuMontier

TERS student Chula DuMontier offers some student input on what comprises a heathy mind, body and spirit.

TERS student Chula DuMontier said she is learning more about the traditional ways of the ancestors and their connection with the natural environment that in the past was their school that taught them how to live in harmony with the nature.

“Our Ancestors, through observation learned how to use the natural resources available to them and passed down that knowledge,” Chula said, adding that she is part of a research project related to the medicinal plants that Indian people used as part of their health maintenance back in the day to modern times. “It’s important for Native students to learn about health and this research project is a good way to expose them to that through traditional ecological knowledge.”

The other TERS students involved in the medicinal plants project are Orion Kennedy, Susep Whitworth and Sxwlelwx Bell.

Kootenai Elder Mike Kenmille

Kootenai Elder Mike Kenmille addresses the TERS students about putting their cell phones away and paying attention.

Duley said the award is part of the Science Education Partnership Award program of the National Institutes Health grant to the City of Missoula in partnership with Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Tribal Education Department and Salish Kootenai College.

The six-month “sub award” for the TERS-related project is part of a larger award from the NIH SEPA program granted the City of Missoula in 2019 to build a collective that is devoted to building inclusive on-ramps to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and career pathways that align with the unique needs of the Missoula community and Flathead Reservation students.

The Mipnunum k̓ itki kȼiǂ project is led by Michelle Mitchell, Bill Swaney, Tim Ryan, Stephanie Fisher, Marie Torosian, Myrna Dumontier, Holly Truitt and Amanda Duley.

The team goal/hope is that the Mipnunum k̓ itki kȼiǂ project can serve as a model program to be used by other schools to include urban Indian youth and other reservations.


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