Days of the Blackfeet festival showcases ethnic culture

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The Days of the Blackfeet kicks off Monday with a native film festival, art show and sale and a presentation on the history of Indian horse racing. Traditional games, a double-ball competition, lectures on language and
pemmican-making demonstrations also are part of a packed four-days of cultural events.

Buy Blackfeet HatCelebrating its 30th anniversary this week, the college began the Days of
the Blackfeet festival in the early 1990s as a way of encouraging the
community to learn more about the school and the Blackfeet Tribe’s history
and culture.

Lea Whitford, chairwoman of the Blackfeet Studies Department, said the
event has grown every year, with roughly 200 people coming each of the four
days last year.

“We’re really trying to serve as a living memorial for the Blackfeet Tribe
and preserve the traditions and cultures of the Blackfeet people,” she
said.

The event brings in elementary- to college-age students from area schools. It also provides information to teachers who are interested in expanding their Indian Education For All programs. The sessions qualify for
continuing education requirements, according to a release.

The Indian Traditional Games Society is offering teachers three days of
classes about the history and rules of traditional games. At the end, teachers will be certified to educate their students on the games. People
must register ahead of time and pay $195 for the program.

All the other events —- including traditional meals such as stew, berry
soup and bannock bread — are free.

A sample of some events are:

  • The Tribal History Project will give presentations on its video and book
    project that is in the works.
      • Three student plays from the DeLaSalle Blackfeet School, the college and
        Browning High School will show off area talent.
      • After learning the rules of the games, people are invited to compete in
        shinny and double ball games on Thursday.

Think lacrosse, but the sticks have no nets and instead of a ball there’s two stuffed pouches connected by a leather band. The “double ball” can
never touch the ground and, consequently, players do a lot of running.

The game teaches the players balance and coordination. Blackfeet Community College officials hope that it also will teach the public a little bit
about Blackfeet culture.

      • A new presentation added this year will share the history of Indian horse
        racing. Other lectures talk about multicultural awareness and storytelling.
      • Whitford also is excited that tribal elders will put on several
        demonstrations ranging from dry-meat cutting to educating people about
        cradle boards.

On Friday, a health fair begins at the college at 8 a.m. and features booths, speakers and a 5 kilometer run and fitness walk. The keynote speaker is Meredith Berthelson, a Blackfeet weight-training champion who qualified for the USA Nationals meet held in July.

For more information, call Whitford at 338-5441 ext. 219.

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Reach Tribune Staff Writer Kim Skornogoski at 791-6574, 800-438-6600 or
kskornog@greatfallstribune.com.