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Day is dedicated to cultural awareness


Students at Lake Roosevelt Schools watch a dancer during the Cultural Awareness Gathering last Thursday. - Jacob Wagner photos

The Lake Roosevelt Schools hosted their seventh Cultural Awareness Gathering last Thursday, featuring immersion in a variety of aspects of Native American culture.

Student bodies from the Grand Coulee Dam and Nespelem school districts enjoyed activities such as beading, weaving baskets, eating smoked salmon hot off the smoker, and more, before watching and participating in a powwow.

"The kids are loving it," said Karrie Utz, one of the organizers, during the event.

Students learned about the significance of long hair, traditional language and foods, made medicine bags, weaved with pine needles, carved soap, heard traditional legends, and much more.

The event was originally set to take place outdoors on the football field, but most of the activities were moved indoors in case of rain, which never came that day. The smoked salmon and Indian taco feed were still stationed outside.

"I was nervous about our last-minute change of the venue," said Kim Stanger, Indian Education director at Lake Roosevelt, and one of the event organizers. "There are so many details involved in this event: making sure our kids get their lunches, having the right amount of supplies ready to go, tables and chairs, that our presenters all show up, etc."

"I feel like it was a huge success," Stanger continued. "Seeing so many teachers involved in the activities made me very happy."

The Indian tacos and fry bread sold raised money to help cover expenses for supplies for the day.

Stanger hopes the kids walked away from the experience with a sense of pride, and having learned something they had not known. "It's important to have an understanding of our local tribes and opportunities," she said.

After lunch, students filed into the old high school gym for the powwow, hosted by Dave Madera from Inchelium. "He's funny and very engaging," Stanger said.

Students get a taste of freshly smoked salmon (plus a little smoke) during the Cultural Awareness Gathering.

Madera introduced each dance at the powwow, explaining the significance of each one. Dancers of all ages participated, dressed in traditional regalia.

"The best advice I can give you is to sound like water, like the sound of a creek or something," said a 20-something male dancer to a younger female jingle dancer, presumably a younger sister or relative, before they entered the gym.

At the end of the powwow, Madera opened up the floor to anyone who wanted to dance. "We are a people with every color of the rainbow. We share our songs with all people," Madera said.

"We want to thank all the people who helped make the day special," Stanger said.

Stanger was helped in organizing the event by Utz, Annette Timentwa, Lisa Carson, Nespelem School staff and Colville Tribes programs.

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