C.S. Porter Middle School students peppered Arlee High School students with questions Tuesday afternoon at the Missoula school.
Do you draw?
How do you learn about treaties and allotment history?
Do all Native Americans play basketball?
How many Salish speakers are there on the Flathead Indian Reservation?
Do different tribes get along?
The dialogue was part of a visit from Arlee High's Reservation Ambassador Club to Allie McFarland's eighth-grade classes, who have been learning about the 1855 Hell Gate Treaty, the 1904 Flathead Allotment Act and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
"We really believe that building relationships breaks down stereotypes," said Anna Baldwin, a co-adviser for the club and English teacher at Arlee.
Since the ambassadors became an official club this year, students have talked with more than 350 other students in Montana and as far away as Chicago, Baldwin said.
McFarland said Porter students working with ambassadors is a way to help them learn what stereotypes the other students face and give them a personal connection with people who are more alike than is sometimes expected.
"I hope that having personal experiences with people from the reservation helps build empathy, understanding," she said.
"Even if you're joking, it can still hurt their feelings about their culture," Porter student Shania Cantrell said about what she learned from talking with ambassadors and working with them to interpret poetry.
Cantrell's classmate, Jack Wolgamont, said he isn't the victim of stereotypes very often.
"I feel like this activity has kind of brought me back down to earth," he said.
Ambassador Summer DarcAngelo, a freshman at Arlee, said she wants others to know that Native Americans and people who live on the Flathead Reservation are just like everyone else, even if celebrations are unique to their culture.
"Just let the kids know maybe that we're the same. Nothing's really different," DarcAngelo said.
In school, Salish is offered as a language, just like Spanish, and treaties and tribal history are taught, ambassador Ivory Brien said.
"We learn from the same textbooks as you guys," he said, adding that Arlee students, too, look at multiple points of view on topics.
Sharing cultures and stories about daily life, just as ambassadors did Tuesday, helps dispel and refute stereotypes, Brien told Porter students.
"You have to be educated in them yourself (to refute them)," he said.