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Riverfront powwow: together again

Sat., Aug. 25, 2012

Hard work brings powwow back to Riverfront Park

For several years, the Riverfront Park powwow was threatened by funding shortfalls.

Last year, the powwow didn’t happen.

This year, however, organizers’ dedication to holding the Spokane Falls Northwest Indian Encampment and Powwow proved successful.

“We were going to have it no matter what,” said event organizer Jerry Crowshoe. “A lot of people really wanted it to come back. We knew there was no way this year it wasn’t going to happen.”

They networked tenaciously at other powwows around the Northwest and fought rumors that Spokane’s would be canceled again this year. They marketed and raised funds persistently.

This year, a lodging tax grant from the city of Spokane helped pay for the powwow, along with a number of sponsors.

“A lot of credit goes to those people,” said organizer Shane Garcia. “This wouldn’t happen without the funding. There’s a lot that goes into it. It’s a lot of volunteers.”

For many, the powwow is an important event that gives dancers and singers of all ages from around the Northwest and Canada the chance to showcase their songs and dance styles. Dancers wear elaborate regalia and dance to the drum, the heartbeat of the people.

“For me, it’s about tradition, community, family, being together,” Garcia said. “That’s why I stayed committed to having this powwow. It’s good to have these kinds of events without expecting anything back.”

The powwow has become a tradition for many, a gathering that brings them together to make new friends and to reconnect with old ones. “A big part of it is to connect with people,” Garcia said. “That’s part of the fun, getting a chance to talk to people you haven’t seen in a while. You don’t know when you’re going to see them again. It could be next week or it could be next year.”

Organizers emphasized the powwow isn’t about money, but there are costs associated with holding it the park. Held along the Spokane River, a sacred gathering place that dates back many generations, the gathering’s location is significant. The powwow is partly a celebration of the gifts the river gives: life, love, hope.

“Historically the different tribes around this area have gathered at the river,” Crowshoe said. “There’s something about the river that was special and healing. Even though the location makes it difficult to have, there is something special about having it by the river. I don’t see it moving anytime soon.”

He added, “Unless we get too squished here, which would be a good problem to have.”

Garcia said there’s a bonus to locating the powwow in the heart of the city: “Powwows like this are more for the urban Indians that don’t have the chance to go back home with their families and community, so we provide that here with this event.”

Crowshoe said he hopes the powwow will expand each year.

“I think each year we’re going to make it bigger, consistent, something that people can depend on,” he said. “This powwow has the potential to be an event Spokane can look forward to. That’s my dream.”

Spokane Mayor David Condon and Frank Straub, Condon’s pick for Spokane police chief, attended the grand entry that kicked off the event Friday evening.

In addition to the lodging tax grant, major donors for the event included the NATIVE Project/NATIVE Health of Spokane, the Kalispel Tribe and Northern Quest Resort and Casino, the Spokane Tribe of Indians and Kauffman and Associates.

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