They came to preserve tradition.
To the steady, ancient beat of drums, men and children in full regalia - feathered headdresses and moccasins with bells - danced to the music of their ancestors.
“We want to show how things were done years ago,” said Robert Sherwood, a Spokane Indian and one of the tribal elders. “Maybe in later years, the young people will adopt them.”
More than 300 people came to West Central Community Center Saturday for the Cheney Cowles Museum’s fifth annual American Indian Friendship Dance.
Young and old, Indians and non-Indians - they shared a meal of fry bread and other American Indian foods before sitting around the gym to watch the dancers.
The traditions are in danger, Sherwood told the crowd. Before, people used to dance just for the sake of dancing. Now, little is done unless money is involved, he said.
“Why don’t the young people pick these things up?” he asked. “Why don’t they follow the traditions of their people?”
They did on Saturday.
Children as young as 3-year-old Klarissa Britain moved their moccasin-clad feet to the constant rhythm of the drums. They followed the men as their feet hit the floor in 2/4-time - lightly on the first beat, more firmly on the second.
They did the snake dance - a tradition passed down by warriors returning from battle; the cup dance - used in the past to tell a story; and the friendship dance - used to honor individuals who have helped others in the last year.
“The children love the powwows,” said Anita Endrezze, a Yaqui Indian who attended the dance with her daughter, Maja Hansen. “When they’re that age, they don’t get self-conscious. They just go out and start to move.”
Most of the dancers were from the Spokane Tribe, but they were joined occasionally by Indians from other tribes including the Kalispel and Coeur d’Alene.
Non-Indians also were asked to dance. During the circle dance, nearly everyone stood up in two circles to shake each other’s hands.
“Since we are all visitors on this land we want to say thank you (to the Plateau Indians) for letting us be here,” said Glenn Mason, director of the Cheney Cowles Museum. “Thank you for sharing your land and resources.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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