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RHS unveils mural dedicated to historic CSKT figures

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RONAN — There’s a brand new mural in Ronan thanks to the hard work of Mission Valley artist Cameron Decker.

A dedication ceremony held Friday afternoon welcomed the new mural that spans the wall leading into the Ronan High School’s main entrance. It honors historic chiefs of the Kootenai, Salish and Pend d’Oreille nations – Chief Koostatah, Chief Charlo and Chief Alexander. 

“This is a special moment for Ronan High School. I want to especially thank Cameron for putting up this great piece of artwork,” said Ronan High School Principal Kevin Kenelty during the dedication ceremony. “This is something that our students can be proud of as they walk through these doors. They can see themselves represented out here.” 

“I wanted to be a graffiti artist so bad in high school,” said Decker, Fine Arts Department Head at Salish Kootenai College. “I am so really grateful for this opportunity to paint this.”

Speaking to those family, friends and students who had gathered for the unveiling, Decker explained that even though he did not attend Ronan High School he had a long history with the school.

“My parents went to school here. My dad was vice principal at the middle school and he used to teach here,” said Decker. “I used to hang out here in the high school all the time. I locked my brother in one of the lockers once and we dumped 400 folding chairs in the boiler room. I have a lot of good memories.”

In partnership with the Ronan Indian Education Committee, the mural installed was part of Native American Heritage month. Decker hopes anyone who sees it, whether they be a student or a visitor, feel the importance of the mural.

“It was a huge honor to paint imagery that is important to me. I have learned a lot about these chiefs. It’s an amazing history to learn,” said Decker. “It’s important to learn about these chiefs so we can carry on their mission to perpetuate the culture and language.” 

Decker says it took him about two weeks to finish the more than 275 square foot mural that began as just a blank red brick wall. 

“I worked on it whenever I could,” said Decker. “Between classes, sometimes in the evening and whenever I could make time.”

Decker also explained he used exterior latex paint because of its durability. “I did a lot of research on painting in the cold,” said Decker.

The RHS mural is just part of a series of new public artworks anticipated for installation across Ronan School District No. 30 incorporating varying perspectives and culture topics of the Salish and Kootenai people.

As for specific themes for the upcoming murals, Decker hasn’t completely decided as of yet.

“Each school has given me some things to work with, but they have given me a lot of creative freedom,” said Decker. “There a some very powerful women in Salish culture that I want to make sure are represented. I also want children to see other children doing cultural things.” 

Decker explained he has gotten to be part of something bigger than a mural. 

“As a Salish descendent it was really cool to paint like this and represent my own culture,” he said. “It was an amazing experience.” 

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