The Coeur d’Alene Tribe will resume its annual powwow at a new location this summer after a falling-out with a Post Falls venue over “instant racing” betting machines.
Julyamsh, the largest outdoor powwow in the Northwest, will be held July 22-24 at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds in Coeur d’Alene. It last was held in 2014 at the Greyhound Park Event Center in Post Falls, ending a 17-year run there.
The tribal council approved the new location Thursday, announcing, “A long and troubling wait is finally over.”
“Julyamsh was always a place where people could come together to share song, dance and culture,” said Chief Allan, chairman of the tribal council. “Summertime has been missing that gathering and sharing amongst all people who attended, and we are very happy to be able to celebrate it again this summer.”
The tribe’s relationship with Greyhound Park soured in 2014 after that venue’s management put in the betting machines, and Julyamsh was canceled for 2015.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe and three other Idaho tribes argued that the instant racing machines were illegal slot machines. Under a gaming compact with the state and a citizen initiative, tribes operate gaming machines in their on-reservation casinos but are strictly limited on the number and location.
As many as 800 dancers and 60 drum groups have taken part in Julyamsh, representing U.S. tribes and Canadian bands from across the continent. Julyamsh also attracts scores of vendors selling food, arts and crafts, and memorabilia, and up to 30,000 spectators over three days.
The county fairgrounds on North Government Way has 83 acres of camping area, a spacious arena, staging areas and horse facilities. Each Julyamsh session begins with a horse parade with horses and riders in full regalia. The dirt arena at the fairgrounds can be replaced with other surfaces, including artificial turf, for the powwow.
“Everything we’re looking for is there, and maybe a lot more,” said Dave Matheson, CEO of the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel. “The Kootenai County Fairgrounds looks perfect for Julyamsh and for everyone taking part.”
Dane Dugan, general manager of the fairgrounds, said, “We are both excited and honored to have been chosen as the host facility for one of our region’s most incredible cultural events.”
Quanah Matheson, cultural affairs director for the tribe, said the move is a return to the tribe’s capital.
“The city of Coeur d’Alene was the ‘yap keen um,’ our gathering place when all Coeur d’Alene people came together,” he said. “This is significant to the tribe, and with the relationship we believe we are developing with the fairgrounds, we can build on this and make Julyamsh ever greater.”
The racing machines were authorized through legislation passed in 2013 that legalized betting on broadcasts of “historical” horse races, or races that have been run in the past. Some lawmakers said they were duped into approving slot-like machines to racetracks.
The Legislature repealed its authorization for the machines in the 2015 session, prompting Gov. Butch Otter to veto the bill. But Otter’s office delivered the veto to the Senate too late, inviting a legal challenge from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. The Idaho Supreme Court ruled the bill already had become law, invalidating Otter’s veto.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe considered building its own powwow venue next to its casino south of Coeur d’Alene.
“It was discussed, and even a conception was presented, massive and very beautiful,” said Bob Bostwick, spokesman for the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel. “The cost, however, was potentially enormous. And even at that time, the Kootenai County Fairgrounds always came up in discussion, and, all things considered, was the perfect choice.”
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