GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Before there was hockey or the National Hockey League,
there was shinney. Before there was football, there was lacrosse. Before
there was horseshoes, there was make-the-stick-jump. Before there was a
triathlon, there was horse, foot and canoe racing.
Nearly lost in the wave of European migration, a host of traditional tribal
games taught Native peoples the skills they needed to survive - and thrive
- in an unforgiving landscape. Quick thinking, strength, memory, stamina,
teamwork, intuition, horsemanship and other essential qualities are all
required to excel at these games.
Today, thanks to the efforts of tribal educators, enthusiastic kids, an old
Department of the Interior study and the memories of some grateful elders,
these games are staging a comeback. Many of them will be on display during
this summer's "Explore the Big Sky" events in Great Falls, Mont.
According to Henry Anderson, culture director of the Little Shell Tribe,
the tribal games will be held June 29 - July 3, with a festive opening
ceremony the evening June 29 at ExpoPark's Four Seasons Arena.
The games will feature team events such as traditional lacrosse, shinney,
doubleball, and canoe racing; and individual events like bow shooting,
atlatl and hoop and arrow, as well as a variety of horse events.
The "Explore the Big Sky" events also include a pow wow, horse events and a
concert featuring Rita Coolidge and Jack Gladstone.
Those events (including the horse events and tribal leaders symposium)
require tickets, but most others are free to the public, including the
Sweet Willow Art Market; the Montana Tribal Speakers' Lodges, featuring
talks on tipi history and Native culture; opening and closing ceremonies;
and the games themselves.
For more information on the games, tickets to events and registration
forms, visit www.explorethebigsky.org or call the Indian Education
Department of Great Falls Schools at (406) 268-7340.