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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Native Americans from across country gather at Julyamsh

Two familiar faces from the small screen made an appearance this weekend alongside members of the Flathead, Nez Perce, Spokane, Navajo and other tribes at the 15th annual Julyamsh Powwow in Post Falls.

R.J. and Jay Paul Molinere, from the History Channel show “Swamp People,” spoke Friday about hunting alligators and living off the land in Louisiana. The pair spent hours autographing pictures, shirts and booklets and posing for photos with eager fans Saturday afternoon.

R.J., a member of the Houma Tribe, has hunted alligators for 35 years. His son Jay Paul, 22, began tagging along when he was just 3 years old.

The Houma people have long had a history of hunting and gathering in swamps and bayous, so hunting alligators is only natural, Jay Paul said.

“That’s part of our heritage,” he said. “It’s just part of our culture. It wasn’t a choice.”

They never lose sight of the inherent danger of getting close to the alligators, Jay Paul said, but they can’t dwell on it when they’re on the water.

“When we go out there, we’ve always got an open mind,” he said. “You can’t think about, ‘Oh hey, I might lose my arm or I might get killed.’ ”

Julyamsh festivities also included traditional music, horse parades and a dance competition with participants dressed in bright regalia made with golden eagle feathers and buffalo bones. The weekend-long cultural celebration at the Greyhound Park and Events Center is hosted by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.

Artists and other craftsmen from near and far filled the event center to sell their work Saturday.

Leonard Boyd, from the Spokane Tribe, traveled from his home in St. Paul, Minn., to sell his alabaster sculptures and acrylic paintings.

For his paintings, Boyd enlarges old black-and-white photos of his tribe and then paints freehand color copies of them.

His grandfather was Chief Sam Boyd, the last traditional chief of the Spokane Tribe before it established a constitution and bylaws.

“When I change him from black-and-white to color, it’s like I bring him back to life,” Leonard Boyd said.

Ric Gendron, who painted the portraits of John Lennon and other musicians on the external wall of Spokane’s Hotel Ruby, was among the local artists who set up booths to showcase their work.

Gendron, a member of the Colville and Umatilla tribes, brought a collection of his acrylic paintings. One of them, called Buffalo Shield, represents a ceremonial buffalo dance of the Northern Plains tribes.

The painting also pays tribute to the animal, as buffalo have played a key role in the history of the Northern Plains tribes much like salmon have for tribes of the Northwest, Gendron said.

“It sustains all life,” he said. “It provided people with food, clothing, shelter, medicines, everything and anything you can think of.”

Gendron has been to all but one Julyamsh over the past 15 years. He said the turnout for Friday and Saturday may not have been quite as strong as it was during the first years of the event, but he was still happy to see many familiar faces.

“You get to see friends from clear across the country, and maybe this is the only time of year you get to see them,” Gendron said.

The event continues today. Dance finals will be this afternoon and the powwow is set to end by 10 p.m.

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