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Coeur d'Alene historic beach rededicated

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - The Coeur d'Alene Tribe and North Idaho College met in late July for a two-part rededication and commemoration ceremony on the college campus, a site near the center of the tribe's aboriginal lands where a winter camp was used for many generations and where other tribes would meet to talk and trade.

The meeting was advertised as a celebration of Coeur d'Alene tribal history and the preservation of lands for future generations. Speakers from the tribe and the city of Coeur d'Alene spoke from a grassy area with the lake to their back, a drum and singers nearby.

Thirty-five years ago, the beach lands were acquired for the college. The beach stretches along the shores of Coeur d'Alene Lake and down the Spokane River for nearly a mile. Developers had tried to construct condominiums on this ground, which is now protected forever from future development and maintained for all to use and enjoy. Twenty years ago, the tribe was asked to give the beach a name. Yap-Keehn-Um was chosen by the tribe, a term that means ''The Gathering Place.''

Tony Stewart was involved with acquisition of the land and human rights issues in general for several decades. He commented, ''As I stand before you today, I want to say that this is sacred ground and we owe that to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.''

Scott Reed, a local attorney who was instrumental in the acquisition of the land, spoke of the history and the need to protect such lands. He told of the change in public attitude that began during Teddy Roosevelt's presidency and establishment of Yellowstone Park ''to keep the public ownership of special places of beauty and of special environmental value. This beach is such a place,'' he said.

A member of the city council talked of ''this beautiful beach for the use of all, the tribal members, the people who live in Coeur d'Alene and the visitors. I rededicate this beach.''

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The crowd then moved to another part of the NIC campus for a new dedication, a rose garden dedicated to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, the first step in the development of a tribal cultural history tour on the campus.

Tribal elder Felix Aripa spoke of the historic significance of this location to the tribe. ''This was a wintering area, but when they would see roses and other flowers in bloom it put a smile on their faces. It gave them a lift after the hard winter. The flowers told them it was time to get out of here and go dig camas and other roots.''

The garden is laid out in four directions. The north represents winter and all the roses in that quadrant are white. East represents spring and the roses are yellow. The south is summer and the roses are red. To the west is autumn, normally represented by blue; but there are no blue roses, so the nearest color, lavender, is used. Permanent waterproof pedestals will soon be installed in each quadrant that will tell of tribal life during each season, stories that were provided by tribal elders.

Future plans for the tribal cultural tour include a longhouse learning center that will be a place for Native students to study, hold functions, have meals, relax and invite others to join them. One or two classrooms or buildings each year are being given names in the Coeur d'Alene language as well.

Former tribal council member Norma Peone is presently the higher education manager for the tribe. ''We wanted that welcome feeling for any person who came to campus, but especially our students. Today, we're here to dedicate the biggest mark so far. I want to say how happy I am as a tribal member to see the dedication and sincere effort on behalf of this campus and staff and faculty of NIC to make sure all the points of an agreement are fulfilled.''

Norma spoke with emotion about the past and present. She described sitting on the beach earlier that morning and remembering how she didn't always feel welcome when she came to town and how that has changed.

''Today I was watching my boy play in the water and thinking about others I served with who are all gone now and who advocated strongly for education. I knew how they were all smiling. I didn't feel any animosity whatsoever. It was pure and it was good! Thank you to the staff who built this rose garden. It's so beautiful and it's so peaceful.''