By: Nun Sokunthea, Indigenous Kroeng from Cambodia
It is already 12 days for us as YSEALI spring 2016 cohort have arrived in Missoula of Montana. We have gone through many good and excited sessions at the Mansfield Center and learning the culture of American citizen. We went to visit an American and Vietnamese American house for dinner; we went down town for foods, to Community Art museum, to the Farmer Market and to the Movie. All of those activities are about the learning and understanding of the culture, life and how people live here in the United State of America. Today is 9th May 2016 a day that we all have to depart to our host family. Some of our friend has leaved the COMFORT INN hotel at in the early morning and some follow by after that. For the Tribal Cohort, the 6 fellows (2 from Thailand, 1 from Lao and 3 from Cambodia) are the last group to leave to Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe (The reservation Territory). It was around 12:30 at noon time.
For me, I have arrived at my home stay around 2 O’clock afternoon. I am placed in a family with 3 members, Russell (Rusty) the husband, Margaret (Maggie) the wife and Mollena (Mollie) The daughter. They have 2 cows, 1 dog, 1 cat, pigs, chickens and vegetable garden which been called as a farmer family. The purpose of their work in the farm is just to feed themself. Even though it is my first day meeting with them, I feel like I am a member of their family. The weather getting very cold here but by a very good treated I fell very warm just like a say “Cold hand but warm heart”. Their Dog Tuker is big and he scared me at the first time but actually he is very gentle and nice to me.
After home tour around the house and garden, my host family have brought me to a community event at the Flathead River which is about 30 Km away from home and it took around 20 minute drive to get there. An event is called River Honoring. There are more than 100 of Salish and Kootenai tribe with students, visitors and camp are placed at the river side. This event is to honor, thank giving, acknowledge, respect and build the heart of people to protect the river. The river is not just only life for people but it is also about the culture of the tribal people “A Say an elder in the event”. After the speech and the pray by an elder of the tribe (Closing an eyes facing East, then west, then North and then south) to give an honor and acknowledge to the river, we all are greeting with a good traditional dinner with potatoes, bean, salad and especially a bison meat. It was great for me to eat a bison meat for the first time. The weather was very cold for me, after finished our dinner my host family and I have decide to go back home. On the way back home, I saw many strange things that I have never seen in Cambodia such as, big landscape to feed cows, horses, goats and sheep. It much more surprise to me to see a few group of dear eating grass freely along the way back home.
For me, today I fell that My Feet is on the ground. It is the first time for me to be with American Family as one of their family member and to be involved in an American community event. I am very happy to get their warm welcome and greeting. I am very excited to see that the life of the farmer here in Missoula of the United State of America is not much more different from the life of the farmer in Cambodia. But there is different in term of the democracy system with respect to an individual life of the citizen. People here are respect to the law of the state. One big excited thing for me is the state is in the state. Salish and Kootenai Tribe are able to have their own Management and governance system separated from the federal government. They are even having their own Identification Card for their own tribe which can even enter to the Canada without a passport. The Salish and Kootenai Tribe is a big experience for me even though today is not a busy day and have lees thing to learn compared to the other day but I have found that today is a big day for me with more things to learn for further. Without a strong and commitment support of the Department of State of America, I will not have a chance to get all of this experience in my life, so thank you to the United State of America, the program facilitator at the Mansfield Center and my host family.