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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 6, 2002 - Issue 58


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Tribe's Showcase Nine Years Old

by Thomas Clouse - Staff writer Spokesman Review
Grass DancerWORLEY, ID - The dancers circled the floor, honoring their elders and heritage.

They stepped with the pageantry of ages, seeking to preserve the future.

But the traditional grand entry dance didn't parade into the center of the main camp, as custom dictates. Instead, it entered a huge building that hosts boxing events and concerts.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe on Saturday hosted a powwow to commemorate its ninth anniversary of the tribe-owned Coeur d'Alene Casino.

"This facility started as an empty field that flooded every year," event coordinator Cliff SiJohn said. "And now it's a complex that includes a 110-room hotel and over 180,000 square feet of gaming and entertainment."

Last year, the event attracted about 180 tribal dancers. SiJohn estimated the Saturday field at about 600 dancers.

"It's just a fun day. Spring is coming around the corner and everybody is smiling," he said, waving a hand to the first warm day of spring. "It's nice to know that the creator is still taking care of us."

When the casino opened in 1993, it was little more than a room that allowed folks to play bingo. Now it houses more than 1,400 electronic gambling machines.

Next year, the casino -- located about 23 miles south of Coeur d'Alene -- will open an 18-hole golf course.

"This came about through the guidance and wisdom of the Tribal Council," SiJohn said. "It's our own success or failure."

The complex employs about 580 workers, he said, and the tribe tries to reserve half the jobs for tribal members.

"We try to take care of our entire community as a whole," he said. "It's the tradition of our people as a family unit to look after our own."

The casino generates between $14 million and $18 million in profits a year. The tribe spends 5 percent of that money on local education programs.

"We are happy to feed our children and to face a tomorrow where we contribute to the economy of this area," SiJohn said.

Beyond the new buildings, glitzy lights and ringing gambling machines, the powwow allowed friends and family to honor each other through heritage and culture.

"We try not to forget who we are and where we came from," SiJohn said. "We can never let the children forget that."

Many of the dancers Saturday were children -- some who had just learned to walk.

"We teach our children to listen closely to the drum beat," he said. "That is the heart beat of our people. It pulsates in your heart to give you the strength to go forward."

George White Eagle, of the Nez Perce Tribe, just returned from dancing in Boise. He's also danced in Belgium and Germany, he said.

His traditional dress included everything from silver arm bands and cobalt beads to eagle feathers and porcupine quills.

"I'm a believer in the old ways," the 48-year-old White Eagle said. "It takes about a lifetime to make an outfit."

Many items of his dress were handed down from his father, mother and grandparents. White Eagle has some items that are more than 200 years old.

Dancers can either seek their own spiritual healing or help friends who are struggling with problems, he said.

"A lot of people dance for the medicine. Some dance for money," he said. "But down deep, everybody dances for their spiritual life."

Many of the traditional songs have been passed down for thousands of years.

"They ring through us and carry us forward," SiJohn said. "We dance for our children, for ourselves, for good things to happen, and for our own pleasure. It's fun."

Karen and Martin Nellor, who live in Windy Bay, said they heard about the powwow and decided to investigate.

"It's pretty impressive," Martin Nellor said as he watched a floor of circling dancers. "The Coeur d'Alene Tribe does an awful lot of good for this area.

"When they get the golf course done, we'll be back for sure."

Worley, ID Map

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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