By Seng Moon Ja (Myanmar)
“Behind every names there is special meaning but sometimes the names of us have to change in order to be called easily” said Chairman of Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Mr. Vernon Finley while we were sitting together in the conference room by tribal council chambers. In which the walls of the room is fully decorated and furnished with preserved head of eagle, moose, elks, bison, buffalo and the painting of tribal leaders. The unique place we, Southeast Asians can no longer resist to keep our camera in our bags but end with clicking cameras and selfie with the ornaments and eye-catching animal’s heads.
Then, Mr. Vernon continued pointing out another biggest threat to Salish and Kootenai community which is abusing drug among young people. But the people who are engaging with Confederated Salish and Kootenai’s information and education program are likely to less the numbers of drug abuser. The program in which they can learn Tribal fish, wildlife, recreation resources, philosophies and regulations.
The facts he shared about his tribes to us touch my heart as my ethnic group, Kachin is facing the same problems. But the difference is Salish and Kootenai’s tribal land is in America and Kachinland is in Myanmar. The total populations of Kachins is less than 1 million even if we sum up Kachins from India and China. Compare with Salish and Kootenai population (nearly 7,500), Kachins population is more than hundred times higher. But we Kachins are still risking our own lives to live in the longest running civil war on earth. At the same time, we are struggling to overcome drug issue, over exploitation of natural resources and diseases.
But in the land of opportunities and freedom like US everyone can have equal rights regardless of religions, sex and race. In which Salish and Kootenai can confederated and freely declare 1.37 million acres in northwest Montana State, America is their own land (ancestor lived 20 million acres at the time of the 1855 Hellgate Treaty). As well as it is still continue to increase the land own by the tribe. Since 2000, the tribes acquired 10,000 more acre for fish and wildlife for tribal reservations. Moreover, the Salish Kootenai College which stand for promoting community, culture of tribes and individual development fill the bright colors for Salish and Kootenai community.
In my journey of combating against poverty, coming to US and learning all above things adding me one more reason to praise God. American is not just about reaching for stars, exploring the universe, and advancing technology. But it is also about humanity in which 72% of the charity and donations are from individuals and that ranked 2nd most generous country in the world after Myanmar.
My journey of learning about United State of America is still going on.
Seng Moon Ja