Most of the elders who speak Salish are now over 75 years old; there are no fluent first language speakers under the age of 50. Founded a decade ago, the Nkwusm school in Arlee, Montana, is dedicated to creating a new generation of Salish speakers. Nkwusm instructs their students in songs, games, stories, and other traditional knowledge handed down over the millennia. In pre-K through eighth grade immersion classes, math, language arts, social studies, and science are all taught in the Salish language. It is the only comprehensive Salish language program in the world.
The Bitterroot Salish, Pend d'Oreille and Kootenai tribes once each held their own traditional territories throughout parts of northwestern Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and British Columbia. The Salish were removed from their homeland in the Bitterroot valley after a long struggle to remain. With the 1855 Treaty of Hellgate with the U.S. government, the three tribes became a Confederacy now located on the Flathead reservation, and maintain a collective sovereign tribal government. Because their parents, grandparents and ancestors struggled to sustain and preserve their identities, elders today are able to pass on Salish language and cultural heritage to children who will carry this precious knowledge into the future.