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Stephen Small Salmon

Stephen Small Salmon learned to speak Salish from his Pend d’Oreille parents and elders. That was what they primarily spoke. He remembers translating English for them in the stores. And he remembers his uncle, one of the medicine men in his family, warning him that things were changing and that they were in danger of losing their language, their medicine, and their culture. Stephen has spent his life working to keep those traditions alive.

While he held down a day job as a forester, he danced in powwows across the northwest and earned enough prize money to keep dancing. He told the old stories of the Blue Jay people and others that he learned from his father and uncle. His ability to convey meaning with his voice and his movements drew the eye of Hollywood, and he became an actor in movies. Twenty years ago, Stephen was one of the founders of the language school to teach the newer generations. He still teaches every day, both children and adults. He tries to live by the lessons of his own elders. “Follow in my footsteps,” they told him, so he does. He spends time in the sweathouse, and every night, he prays for the people around him, that they will take care and stay healthy.

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