Sharing culture for Native American Heritage Month

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Students watch as Coeur d'Alene Tribe member Tsones Nomee, 10, dances during Lake City High School's first Native American History Month assembly on Tuesday.

Dancers from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe graced the floor of Lake City High School’s gym Tuesday morning in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Students and teachers alike got to see, hear and experience tribal tradition.

Quanah Matheson, the Tribe’s cultural affairs director, gave students a history lesson and some interesting facts about his culture.

He told the crowd there are 566 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., all of which are their own sovereign nations.

He spoke about some similarities American Indians have with everyone else, like the clothes they wear, the food they eat and the houses they live in. He assured everyone they don’t still sleep in teepees and wear animal skins. However, he said, different tribes speak different languages and practice different cultural ceremonies.

“I hope this installs appreciation and respect in the crowd,” Matheson told The Press. “To have a better world view and for people to appreciate themselves will make for a better community.”

The assembly was organized by the district’s Indian Education Coordinator, Sarai Mays, and the Indian Education Parent Committee, which works with the district.

Mays pointed out there are more than 300 Native American students in the Coeur d’Alene School District, representing 62 different tribes. She said she hoped the assembly triggered an interest in students and inspired them to do more research about Native American culture.

Deanne Clifford, Lake City High School’s principal, said the assembly was part of a number of things the school is doing to heighten awareness and honor American Indian traditions. A Native American curriculum is being written for the social studies department, a Native American student club is forming and the school will now allow Native American students to wear feathers to graduation.

Part of the assembly featured the Tribe’s Powwow Sweat program, which promotes activity and exercise through traditional dancing. Shedaezha Hodge, a featured dancer in Powwow Sweat, led a group of students in one of the dances, doing moves found in some of the dances performed at powwows.

The mini dance lesson led into a real dance demonstration by Butch Nomee and his three youngest kids.

They demonstrated men’s and women’s traditional dances and showed off their regalia, while Rose Creek, an all women’s drumming and singing group, played traditional songs.

“As close as Coeur d’Alene is to the reservation, not a lot of non-natives get a chance to see our culture up close like that,” Nomee said. “This opportunity to be humbled and asked to come up here and share our culture is pretty cool.”

To the music of Powwow Sweat, seniors Rusty Dan and Chloe Falciani learn the steps to a tradition Native American dance during an assembly at Lake City High School on Tuesday.


Dressed in traditional regalia, Coeur d'Alene Tribe member Butch Nomee dances during Lake City High School's first Native American Heritage Month assembly on Tuesday.

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