The grandstand at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds arena was full well before the drums began their throbbing beat Saturday as the community welcomed back Julyamsh.
The annual powwow hosted by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe was on hiatus last year after the tribe cut ties with the Greyhound Park and Event Center in Post Falls in a dispute over “instant racing” machines used at the park. The event had been held at the Greyhound Park for 17 years.
People flooded back to the northwest’s largest outdoor powwow in droves, standing anywhere they thought they could catch a view of the hundreds of dancers in bright regalia during the Grand Entry.
Members of tribes from across the country and Canada came to dance, play drums and socialize.
Retired nurse Diane Fox, 67, was among the dancers. She’s not descended from any of the United States tribes, but her grandmother was Sami, the only recognized indigenous tribe in Scandinavia.
“I’ve been in Indian Country since I was a teen,” said Fox, who currently lives on the Flathead Reservation. She said she has always felt drawn to Native American spirituality and began dancing five years ago.
“I went to all the gatherings in the Seattle area,” she said. “People told me to dance.”
Fox planned to compete in the women’s traditional dance Saturday. Her red dress was adorned with cowrie shells and her otter fur hair wraps dangled from her braids to her ankles. Fox said she even learned how to bead so she could create her own dresses.
Rudy Shebola, a member of the Navaho Nation, said he’s been dancing since he was a year old. He wore a thigh-length breastplate of bone and a bone necklace. Long fringes hung from nearly everywhere, swaying as he moved.
“Everything is to create flow and motion,” said Shebola, who is studying for a doctorate in environmental science at the University of Idaho when he’s not preparing for the men’s traditional dance.
Dancing is a family affair for Shebola. His six children and three grandchildren are also dancing this weekend.
“My aunt made my bead work and my daughter did my sewing, so I’m proud to wear it,” he said of his regalia.
Like most men, Shebola wore large bells around his ankles.
“It helps you keep time with the drumbeat,” he said as he danced a few steps. “It adds to the music.”
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