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Agnes 'Oshanee’ Cullooyah Kenmille
Agnes 'Oshanee’ Cullooyah Kenmille

PABLO - Agnes "Oshanee" Cullooyah Kenmille was born March 16, 1916, near Arlee to Paul and Annie Lumpry Cullooyah.

Through her mother, she was a descendant of Chief Charlo's band of Salish who was forcefully removed from the Bitterroot in 1892. Her mother taught her to bead at a young age. At the tender age of 13, she was orphaned.

The following year she married Edward Stasso and moved to Elmo where she had one daughter, Annie Stasso Antiste. While living in Elmo, she became a fluent speaker of the Kootenai language and started her journey to becoming an expert in hide tanning and bead work.

Following the death of her husband, she married Joseph Mathias, son of Chief Baptiste Mathias, and together they had two children, Catherine Mathias and Camille Mathias. In 1937, while helping build Kerr Dam, an unfortunate rockslide killed Joe Mathias.

Her third marriage was to Camille Kenmille and they had four sons, Wilfred, Eneas, Laurence and Donald Kenmille. They later divorced. She continued to raise her family, working numerous jobs across the Northwest, while continuing to master her bead work.

Gramma taught language classes along with arts and crafts at Two Eagle River School. She was a fluent speaker of both Kootenai and Salish languages. She also taught hide tanning at Salish Kootenai College for many years, retiring in 2008. She received numerous, prestigious honors and awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Governor's Award for Art. She also received an honorary bachelor's degree from Salish Kootenai College.

She is preceded in death by her parents, Annie and Paul Cullooyah; husbands, Edward Stasso, Joseph Mathias, Camille Kenmille; and companion, Mose Auld; brothers, Alex, Frank and John Cullooyah; sisters, Mary Cullooyah Andrews, Cecille Cullooyah Ascencio; daughter, Annie Stasso Antiste; and grandchildren, Joseph Hamel, Kelly Ann Kenmille and Timothy Mathias.

She is survived by her children, Catherine Mathias Hamel, Camille Mathias, Wilfred Kenmille, Eneas Kenmille, Laurence Kenmille, Donald Kenmille; stepson, Michel "Mike" Kenmille; numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and nephews and nieces.

Gramma loved war dances and was the head war dance woman for the Arlee and Standing Arrow Powwows. Over the years, she traveled to numerous powwows throughout the Northwest and Canada. Gramma had many friends throughout the world and each of you had a special place in her heart. She had a jolly personality and lived and loved life to the fullest. Gram was a very firm believer in traditional customs and beliefs. Gramma believed in hard work. She had a knack for making people laugh and enjoyed the company of her many friends and especially the younger generations.

Gramma's other special pastimes included picking berries, digging various roots, eating traditional foods, and playing rummy according to "grammas rules."

It's been great living with gramma in this day and age as she was a walking encyclopedia. She lived an old-timers life and shared much of it with everyone she encountered. She shared her knowledge of life and experiences with us all. She was a great teacher and a unique self-made woman. We will miss her dearly and never forget her as her teachings and stories remain with us. We realize how lucky we were to have her as part of our lives. As we heard her say "You Got Brains?"

A wake began Friday at the Cultural Hall in Elmo and will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, in the Longhouse in St. Ignatius.

On Sunday, the wake will move to the Arlee Community Center at 1 p.m., with the rosary recited at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Center. Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 16, in St. John Berchman's Catholic Church at Jocko Agency near Arlee, with burial following in the Jocko Catholic Cemetery.

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