Elders and community members recently gathered on the Colville Indian Reservation for Sisyikst, a cultural event where traditional craftspeople and artists imparted their knowledge to anyone who wanted to learn. Local experts offered classes in hide tanning, obsidian arrowheads, cedar baskets, beadwork, baby boards, and much more.
As the event unfolded, I was fortunate to attend most of the days, though the hardest part was choosing the sessions. I wanted to do them all. In the picture above, I was learning to make arrowheads from obsidian. The shape was beginning to form perfectly, but right after this picture, the arrow broke in half - all part of the learning process.
The original event poster gives a more complete picture of who attended and what skills they offered to their learners.
One elder from Canada taught us how to make twine bags.
I learned to make beaded earrings.
Inchelium was my home for the week.
On the last day of the event, a group of teachers and learners went up into the mountains to gather cedar roots for basket making.
The cedars are quite majestic.
Last year, I took a basket-making workshop, but I forgot some of the basic processes. I was thankful for the reminder.
Another reminder of the process.
Shelly splitting cedar roots.
During the week, we shared meals in a variety of locations in the community, including the local longhouse. A friend told me that the longhouse was made from a converted bowling alley.
The cultural, linguistic, and spiritual skills are equally important. On the Colville Reservation, their dialect of Salish is different than mine. Even so, I was surprised at how quickly it started to make sense.
In the longhouse, this prayer was posted on a bulletin board:
kʷu p'ixʷłt ikłxʷił,
mi wikn ikscxʷuy,
kʷu kʷul'łt i spuʔus apna tsxlxʕalt,
mi xast iks cxʷuy,
kʷu xʷic'xtt ikspəxpaxt,
mi lut iksnłiptm,
kʷu xʷic'xt t iksk'ʷəck'ʷact.
mi niʕ'ip ctxt'mist.
iʔ tl yayʕat iʔ tl k'ast.
xast t'iʔ c'x̌ił.
Light the way for me,
so I can see where I'm going.
Today, make my heart,
So my conduct is good.
Give me wisdom
So I don't forget.
Give me strength
So I can always protect myself
From all evil.
So be it.
Barnaby Island on the Columbia River.
The Columbia River is a massive cultural
and spiritual presence in the region.
When we weren't learning new skills,
we went upriver and picked service berries.
The service berries were especially abundant this year.
Bird nest in the service berries.
At the end the week, I was driving home and found this eagle feather on the highway. It was a perfect ending to a beautiful experience.