Nkwusm Family

Stipn Smallsalmon

My name is Stipn Small Salmon. I’m full blood Qlispé and 77 years old. I live up Mulmn (Mollman) Pass Trail. I've lived up there all my life. My dad was Mitch Small Salmon and my mom was Mary Beaverhead-Small Salmon. They lived where I have lived.

When I grew up, I wouldn't say I was poor, but I did a lot of traditional things like hunting, drying meat, picking huckleberries, chokecherries, and blueberries, and dug bitterroot in the old ways. When I grew up, I got sent to boarding school but I always had my elders to talk Indian with. It is really fortunate I still had my elders. From there, I just kept going, talking Indian all the time. I've danced and been a drummer all of my life; I have lived in my cultural ways, fixing outfits, and bustles, and all kinds of stuff Indian. I want our children to talk Indian and learn their ways—the Indian ways, the cultural ways—even for these guys--that's why we're here. That’s why Nkwusm is here. Not just for my bunch, but for everyone throughout the reservation. I'm a drummer. I have sung all my life with Pend d'Orielle and when I began teaching here I moved to the Nkwusm drum. We sing the old songs passed down from the elders.

This is going to be my 14th year here at Nk̓ʷusm. My goal is to teach these guys and gals how to speak Indian. That's my goal—to teach. I'm a good talker in Indian.  When they first started Nk̓ʷusm, I wanted the students to learn about medicine ways up in the mountains, and the language. That was my dream. This is Indian country that belongs to the Pend d'Oreille, Salish and Kootenai. We have to learn how to talk Indian—those are our medicine ways.