Kenmille, Aagnes Oshanee: Tribal elder walks on

Ronan, Montana (AP) 2-09

Celebrated tribal elder Aagnes Oshanee Kenmille, who taught hide tanning and beadwork to generations of people on the Flathead Reservation and received recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, has passed away at 93.

Kenmille was “among our most revered elders who was equally respected in the Salish and Kootenai communities,” said James Steele Jr., chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

She died of natural causes Fb. 10 at St. Luke Community Hospital in Ronan, tribal spokesman Rob McDonald said.

In 2003 the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Kenmille a National Heritage Fellowship.

She taught tanning at Salish Kootenai College for 28 years and was known for telling students that “it takes brains to tan a hide.” She made a pair of gloves for boxing superstar Muhammed Ali, and a vest that hangs in the Washington, D.C., office of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, according to a biography released by tribal officials.

Kenmille was fluent in the languages of the Salish and the Kootenai tribes, said Tony Incashola, director of the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee.

Her father died when she was 7, and five years later a house fire killed her mother. Oshanee was sent to boarding schools in St. Ignatius, ran away repeatedly and was sent to a boarding school in Idaho, according to the biography.

Married three times, Kenmille was widowed twice by the age of 21. She had seven children.

A funeral Mass is planned.