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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Coyote Stories Shared At Sleepover In Arlee Community Center
by Adriana Fehrs - Char-Koosta News
credits: All photos courtey of Shelly Fyant

ARLEE, MT— The smell of Bacon lingered in the air as you walk into the Arlee Community Center early Sunday morning; bright eyes and bushy heads greet you with enthusiasm while they show you the crafts they made at the coyote stories sleepover.

Children between the ages of three and fourteen flocked to the gym last Saturday to indulge in storytelling and crafts. "It's the storytelling month, so I wanted to have a gathering and do something that centered around that. The event was also a great way to teach children how to sit and listen respectfully," says Arlee Tribal Council Representative Shelly Fyant.

A $500 gift card to buy food and gifts for presenters was donated by the Salish Institute, founded by Chaney Bell and Echo Brown, which sponsored the 24-hour event.

Fyant orchestrated the sleepover with the help of local volunteers. Arlene Adams and Michael Tomas aided Fyant throughout the sleepover.

Once the sleepover commenced, Fyant held a yamncut, "gathering", where she discussed expectations of growing up Salish, and gave a lesson on how to be respectful while listening to coyote stories. Fyant says coyote stories are not just stories, but provide morals and lessons on how we should act.
The young, enthusiastic, Sxwlekws "Whirlwind" Bell (L), learns how to construct a 'stick-and-ring' game with the help of instructor Arleen Adams (R). (Photo courtesy Shelly Fyant)

Later, Adams and Tomas showed the children how to construct a 'stick-and- ring" game made of willow.

Fyant's niece Leandria Cutfinger cooked for the event, with the help of her daughter Vayda.

Throughout the event, Buck Morigeau and Rose Gurule, who teach 'Reservation Arts' at Salish Kootenai College, constructed several art projects with the students. Most students drew in the sketchpad provided, while some took the opportunity to write down the language lessons they received.

Mariam Branson, University of Montana Lacrosse player, coached the children on the finer point of the traditional Native American game using borrowed lacrosse gear from SKC.

William "Bill" Yellow Robe, Playwright, worked with the kids on storytelling, and later let the group act out their own play.

Leann Matt, an unexpected storyteller, told stories she learned from the departed Tribal Elder Joe Cullooyah. "I really like Leann's stories, she incorporated the Salish place names from the Bitterroot to Kalispell, which was a great learning experience," says Fyant.

Diana "Weezee" Cote, of the drum group 'Sunrise', sang songs with kids, most of which were first timers. Dacia Vollin, a parent volunteer, says she enjoyed Weezee. "She helped a lot with the language, because she knows the root meanings of a lot of the Salish words."

Tribal Elder Louie Adams wrapped up the night telling coyote stories while the children cozied up on the darkened stage of the gym.

The sleepover concluded Sunday morning. The children dined on a hearty bacon breakfast while they finished up their art projects and lacrosse game before acting out a final play for their parents.

Vollin says being a part of this event was great. "I'm glad I stayed and spent it with my daughter. Now we have more stories to tell, and it was a great opportunity to hear some coyote stories. My daughter is very excited for the next one."

Most kids want to do this again next month, says Fyant. She said future sleepovers are a possibility, and aims to host another one during the winter months.

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