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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 19, 2002 - Issue 72


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Playing Without Reservation

by Rick Thomas Coeur d'Alene Press
credits: Jason Hunt/Press
Cousins Darnell Williams, 19, front, and Andrae Domebo, 18, are hoping to be the first of many American Indian athletes to play basketball at North Idaho College.

Cousins Darnell Williams, 19, front, and Andrae Domebo, 18, are hoping to be the first of many American Indian athletes to play basketball at North Idaho College. COEUR d'ALENE, ID - Even if you aren't going to the Yap-Keehn-Um Powwow at North Idaho College for the dancing or the drumbeat today or Saturday, go for the food.

"You don't know what you're missing if you haven't tried Indian tacos or fry bread," said Andrae Domebo.

He should know -- he grew up on the traditional American Indian foods.

Domebo, 18, and his cousin, Darnell Williams, 19, are American Indian basketball players at NIC this year.

Williams, from Moscow, and Domebo, from Lapwai, grew up playing basketball together in the area.

"I danced for a year when I was about 6 or 7," said Domebo.

But basketball got his attention and his time.

"It's something a lot of us really get into," he said.

Domebo got good enough at it to win a basketball scholarship at NIC, and arrived just in time for the beginning of classes on Aug. 26.

Williams played basketball last year for the College of Southern Idaho, and was registered this year at Spokane Community College, where classes begin two weeks later than at NIC.

He visited his cousin in Coeur d'Alene on the second day of school and the plan changed.

"I really liked it here," said Williams.

He transferred and moved in to the NIC Residence Hall, where he and his cousin share a dorm room.

But there are rules at the hall against smoking or even burning candles or incense -- rules that run counter to some of the American Indians' spiritual customs.

Williams is of the Nez Perce tribe. Domebo is half Nez Perce, and traces that ancestry back to Chief Joseph.

On his mother's side he is Cherokawa Apache, with lineage to the most famous Apache of all, Geronimo.

Burning sweet grass, sage and cedar are part of the cleansing ritual called smudging they perform several times a day.

"You do it until you feel relieved," said Williams.

With encouragement from Darrell Tso, the NIC American Indian and minority student advisor, the rules were relaxed to allow the pair to perform their ritual.

"Where we live is a sacred place. It is where our spirituality lives," said Tso.

It's not something they do on a schedule, just when they feel the need.

"How can you put a time on spirituality?" asks Tso, an Arizona Navajo.

He and the two students have become close friends, and Tso hopes they'll be part of a wave of American Indian students coming to the college.

"These guys are pioneers," Tso said.

Some schools would require the Indians to lose their traditions, he said.

"I think NIC is giving them a good opportunity and many more will follow," Tso said.

Domebo said when he first arrived, he felt a little homesick and lonely. Having his cousin with him made campus life more comfortable.

"Now we know everybody in the dorm," he said.

Other students are beginning to understand what their smudging rituals mean.

"At first they thought that smoke was something else," Domebo said.

For Williams and Domebo, it's as natural as fry bread and Indian tacos.

They don't remember their first time for either, but know it's always been a part of their life.

"It's a way to get in the right frame of mind," Williams said.

Coeur d'Alene, ID MAP
Maps by Travel

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