Graduating Senior Leaves His Heritage at Missoula’s Big Sky
For Big Sky High School senior Snpaqsin Morigeau the month of May is a time of change. Not only is he cramming to complete his final courses and scholarship applications, but he's also completing a stint as one of the student representatives on the Board of Trustees for Missoula County Public Schools.
And while those are all great accomplishments, "Paq" is also leaving behind a lasting legacy to remind his fellow students of the importance of his Salish heritage. And it's also a graphic welcome to the other Native American students who will follow him into the halls at Big Sky.
Last week, Paq was all smiles as crews began installing the banners and signs that cap off his project to bring the Salish language to the school.
Paq got the idea for the Missoula display while he was participating in some native dances at Mission High School in St. Ignatius.
"Their hallways were just littered with Salish language and they had banners. And I wanted that for our school here in Missoula," Paq told me.
He says there were a few obstacles, but the CSKT Tribal Council and administrators at MCPS and Big Sky were very supportive. The Council helped him to get the exact translations for the Missoula display.
"They were with me every step of the way. Everything I needed, they were right there within a matter of days. I had all the translations and made sure everything was checked with the council. And admin here was all for it."
The signs include two large banners, but also posters and signs explaining the Bitterroot Salish heritage, expressions, and tribal homelands here in Western Montana. There are even Salish signs on the restroom doors and a new bi-lingual stop sign for the school parking lot.
Principal Jennifer Courtney is thrilled with the project and hopes it opens the door to understanding the culture of more students.
"It's important to not only celebrate it, but I think it's important to remember that we're on indigenous land and we're we're welcomed here by indigenous people and this is just a way to celebrate that in a way that our students can understand," Courtney told me as we watched the banners from AlphaGraphics go up. "And I just look forward to this being an opportunity for more students to leave their cultural mark behind for the future."
Paq, who stands over 6' tall, is hard to miss as friends say "hi" to him in the halls. But he feels the Salish signs will help his culture stand out for students for years to come.
"Absolutely? I ask students all the time what they know about native history and they don't know anything. They don't even know who the Salish people are and that was kind of hurtful since I am Salish, Bitterroot Salish to be exact," Paq observes. "And I feel like having the language up in the halls and having the posters and banners up around the school will just spark the curiosity of where they live and what the history of is of the land."