POST FALLS, Idaho - Late July means pow wow time for the Coeur d;Alene Tribe, which hosts the largest outdoor pow wow in the Northwest - Julyamsh.
More than 1,000 participants signed up representing more than 100 tribes for the 11th annual pow wow, held July 25 - 27 near the town of Post Falls and near the spot where the U.S. Cavalry killed about 1,000 Indian horses 150 years ago. This year's horse memorial ride preceding the grand entry paid tribute to the horse and the people involved with those events of long ago.
Julyamsh events began on the evening before the three-day encampment and pow wow started. A ''soiree,'' or evening reception, was held at the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center in Post Falls, with all Native artists exhibiting at Julyamsh invited to attend and display their art and a chance for local residents to gain more cultural understanding.
Darryl Growing Thunder, an Assiniboine/Sioux artist from Fort Peck, and his wife, Ramey, a beader, attended their first Julyamsh pow wow and art reception. They had been invited by others involved with Julyamsh, so they decided to ''expand our horizons a little bit and come see this part of the country. We're here and it's a beautiful area,'' he commented. ''I'm looking forward to a good weekend.''
Growing Thunder creates ledger art but in his own style, often using contemporary events rather than events that took place when ledger art first began in the 1800s, and incorporating his tribal identity into his art pieces.
Cliff SiJohn, Coeur d'Alene elder and historian, took the microphone as the memorial ride took place prior to the grand entry at each session of the pow wow. ''We ask you to hold your hands, not clap or holler,'' he informed the crowd. ''This is a ceremonial ride.
''During the fall of 1858, after going to war against the United States and the U.S. Army and defeating them in the spring, the U.S. government came back with a large contingent of mounted soldiers to do nothing but punish Coeur d'Alene Indians, Spokane Indians, Palouse Indians. They did that. They came to our lands with the cannon and killed our Indian people from a long distance.
''During the battle in September, a large contingent of horses that belonged to our people were given to young girls and boys with the responsibility to run these horses to the other side of Mica Mountain and hide them from the soldiers,'' SiJohn continued. ''A huge dust cloud went into the sky and the soldiers recognized the movement of animals. They traced them down and caught them about a mile from here. Little girls that were 11, 12, 13 years old were killed. The horses were brought back to the river and corralled, at which time soldiers killed over 900 head. They took about 90 head for remounts and later killed those horses also.''
Meanwhile, 17 horses and riders entered the arena adorned in traditional regalia, some of it very old. They circled the arena four times, once for each of the four directions.
''We look at this tribute of the horse and what he did for us. He gave us another day. He gave us a future. It was a hard winter, but we survived,'' he said, and called for two young girls mounted on horses to ride to the center of the arena and circle an older rider, Blackwolf. He paid tribute to the girls and those who died on that fateful day in 1858.
''Thank you, Grandfather in heaven, for our brother the horse. And thank you for these young children who ride in a circle to memorialize the children who were killed by soldiers. It's a tough story but a true story, and it must be told so all our Indian people can remember. Our grandmothers always said, 'protect your family, and your family is all the people.' All we have is each other; that's what our old people have always told us.''
Masters of ceremonies David Browneagle, Spokane/Ho Chunk, and Vince Beyl, Ojibway, then took over, directing the grand entry and assigning the drums their time to sing. Host drum was Northern Cree and head man and head woman were Matt Stensgar and Nikki SiJohn, both Coeur d'Alene.