Dr. Jeff Bendremer
The first graduating class in Tribal Historic Preservation at Salish Kootenai College includes, from left, Regina Mad Plume, (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes), Kathryn McDonald (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes), Nukinka Manuel (Kootenai/San Poil/Shuswap), Angela Iukes (Colville Confederated Tribes).

Salish Kootenai College Graduates First Tribal Historic Preservation Class

Jack McNeel


Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana is now offering degrees in Tribal Historic Preservation. The instructor, Dr. Jeffrey Bendremer says, “It’s the first program of its type anywhere. I believe it’s historic.”

Four students completed their associate’s degrees this year and were honored at graduation on June 9. All four plan to continue on and receive a bachelor’s in the program.

“It’s a great program for people who want to do the right thing for their tribe and take care of their people,” said Kathryn McDonald, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Angela Iukes with her Associate of Arts degree in Tribal Historic Preservation from Salish Kootenai College. (Samantha Rainbow)Angela Iukes, Colville Confederated Tribes, added, “Jeff is such a nice guy. I like the way he thinks when he says he has so much hope for us. His goal is to get many more Native students into this field of work.”

Tribal historic preservation is a four-year program, but since many students may not want to go for the full four years, school officials decided to offer both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree.

Bendremer said the program is different from other Native American studies programs. “It’s pretty unique. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s based on Native American studies but is also very multi-disciplinary and has a great deal of history, anthropology and archaeology, environmental science courses and Native language courses. In fact, we require more Native language than any other major at the college, including Native American studies.”

He said the advisory committee, which helped design the curriculum, was made up of mostly Natives and he kept hearing from them about the importance of language—not only preserving Native language, but also using it as a means to understand the past. The curriculum requires students to take six language courses. The first three have to be either Salish or Kootenai but the rest can be either intermediate or advanced Salish or Kootenai, or it can be another qualified language course.

Regina Mad Plume receives her Associates of Arts diploma in Tribal Historic Preservation from Joe Durglo, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Chairman. (Samantha Rainbow)“We want to give them the opportunity to study the language that will be most helpful in their career while still fulfilling our mission to preserve and protect Salish and Kootenai culture. We have that dual mission,” Bendremer said.

He said the program is also intended to qualify them for jobs. “First and foremost in tribal governments, either being tribal historic preservation officers or part of the staffs of tribal historic preservation offices. We also see them getting jobs in tribal museums or cultural departments.”

In addition, numerous federal agencies employ archaeologists. Two of the four students who recently received their associate’s degrees have internships this summer. Nukinka Manuel will work with the cultural resource people in Glacier National Park and Regina Mad Plume will be at the Missoula office of the Bureau of Land Management. Other students have signed up for an indigenous archaeology field school being offered by Salish Kootenai College.

Iukes said her main thought was to work with museums. She would like to see a larger museum built on the Colville Confederated Tribes reservation. “Our tribe is so big with so many bands. It would be nice if we could have sections dedicated to each of them.”

McDonald would also like to stay with her tribe. “I think it’s important to take the right steps for my people in preserving what we have left. Language is very important to the tribe and important to my family.” But if that doesn’t work out, “I’m just as excited to work with anybody else.”

“We have amazing students,” Bendremer said. “They are strongly dedicated to protecting and preserving the historic and cultural resources of their tribes. I’m so proud of our students who graduated. I really think they’re headed toward great things.”

Pictured, from left, are Kathryn McDonald, Dr. Jeff Bendremer, director of the Tribal Historic Preservation program, and Regina Mad Plume. (Samantha Rainbow)

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Well done, daughters of the people! We are so proud of you ladies! Keep up the good work & learning all about our many people across Turtle Island. Education is a lifetime agenda. The more you learn the more you can help the people where ever they may be.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
good job

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
We need this for our next generations. Well done and I love the idea of a degree in Tribal Preservation.

Talking Dove=Pamela Salllie's picture
Talking Dove=Pa...
Submitted by Talking Dove=Pa... on
i am so happy for the girls,they are doing what most of us want to do but to late for us,keep our history alive,and make our spirit Brothers glad,Thank you all.love your sister

alan hatcher 's picture
alan hatcher
Submitted by alan hatcher on
AWESOME , bout time Native American peoples integrate into the legislative nightmare that is NHPA and the disciplines Arch and Anthro....Our worldview and story is as valid as THEIRS....and we are the last to experience relevance in the "record" , this couldn't come at a better time, perhaps a sense of solidarity will be the result, when faced with national agenda's, we fall into dividity instead of collective response both economically that would fuel the political reality ? CONGRATZ !!!!!