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Chief Cliff Singers to perform at Winter Olympics

ELMO — The 2010 Winter Olympic Games are coming on Feb. 12, and no one is more excited then the Chief Cliff Singers. The drum group will be heading to Vancouver, British Columbia, to perform at the Olympics on Feb. 19. according to Mike Kenmille. Mike heads up the Chief Cliff Singers and is also a Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Councilman.

The Chief Cliff Singers will perform with the Ktuxna Dance Troupe for 25 minutes at 11 a.m. Canadian time Mike said. The group will drum and sing a shake song, a flag song and one other song, which Mike hopes they will allow the Chief Cliff Singers to select. 

Chief Cliff had joined forces with these dancers from their sister tribe in Canada twice before, in 1982 and in 2002. The two groups would work together more, Mike said, but many members of the Chief Cliff Singers can’t just pack up and leave their jobs.

The Chief Cliff Singers will drive to Cranbrook, British Columbia, and join the Ktuxna Dance Troupe on their tour bus for the trip to Vancouver.

Chief Cliff Singers Laurnce Kenmille, Joe Louis Caye, Amak Kenmille, Miah Michel, Allan Kenmille, Stan Kenmille, Ray Nichols, J.D. Nichols, Gabe Caye, Uriah Michel and Willie Andrew joined Mike for a press conference about 5 p.m. on Feb. 4 and sang two songs. The first song was a new song composed by Stan Kenmille. Mike said the song hasn’t been performed on the powwow circuit yet. Mike also said,  “each one of these boys will compose a song” maybe while they’re out riding or walking.

“Everyone is from the TriCity area — Big Arm, Dayton and Elmo,” Mike said.

As the oldest member of the Chief Cliff Singers, Mike said he’d “been at it I’d say 40 years.” The youngest members are 20 or 21. The group was handed down to Mike quite awhile ago from Alex Lefthand, Mike said. 

“The drum itself is over 1,000 years old plus, way before my time,” Mike said, explaining that the Kootenai tribe has been in one place all that time and lots of other tribes have not been.

There are seven Kootenai tribes, one in Montana, one in Idaho and five in Canada; and “when they hear Chief Cliff, they picture it (the landmark) in their mind,” Mike said.

“Chief Cliff is really the heart, mind of the Kootenai people,” Mike explained.

And the Chief Cliff Singers make “powerful” music according to Mike. 

Willie Andrew, one of the Chief Cliff Singers, said he had been singing since he was little. The Chief Cliff Singers have been practicing every other night, Andrew said, to get their voices back in shape for Vancouver.

“I think it’s gonna be big fun,” Andrew said. 

Andrew is anxious to share the drum’s music with the world as his father did in the early 90s. Andrew’s dad was a member of the Chief Cliff Singers when the drum traveled to Norway. 

Allan Kenmille, another member of the drum, wants to share the Chief Cliff Singers music as well. 

Kenmille said when he’s feeling down, “the music brings my sprits up.” 

“Actually, it (Chief Cliff singers music) is a form of a prayer,” Allan said.

“For myself, and I know for my drum group, it’s a once-in- a-lifetime chance,” Mike said.

The Chief Cliff Singers are taking donations for their Vancouver trip. 

Please call Willie Andrew at 261-0618 or Joe Lewis Caye at 871-4144. 

Checks may be mailed to Willie Andrew at P. O. Box 97, Elmo, MT 59915 or Joe Lewis Caye at P. O. Box 33, Elmo, MT 59915. 

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