By Nora Mabie, Missoulian
This fall, for the first time, tribal leaders and community members from across the state will convene in Great Falls for a week of events, including traditional games, powwows, storytelling, and a conference.
The event, called Gathering of Families, is hosted by the International Traditional Games Society in Great Falls and was made possible, in part, thanks to a $25,000 tribal tourism grant.
DeeAnna Brady-Leader, grants and planning director for the games society, said while some tribes in Montana have their own events, like the Arlee powwow, Crow Fair, or North American Indian Days in Browning, there is no single event in the state “that brings everyone together in a central location that has lodging options for people who want to meet with other Montana tribes.”
Brady-Leader, who has worked to recover some traditional games, said she remembers watching Browning High School students play Native games in the early ’90s.
“I remember the kids laughing all the way through it,” she said. “One boy said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have an Indian Olympics?’ And that idea just really stuck.”
At the Gathering of Families events, attendees will have the chance to play or watch stickgame, a buffalo-run biathlon, high school competitions in traditional sports, Native kickball, cross country, and more.
“Tribes had different expressions in each of their games,” Brady-Leader explained. “It wasn’t just a game. It was teaching the ways of life. It taught you values, culture, skills, and ways to survive.”
Travis Wilmore, executive director of the International Traditional Games Society, said tribal leaders are excited for the event.
“Everyone is interested and wants to know how they can participate and be involved,” he said.
MAPS Media Institute offered to partner with the games society, the C.M. Russell Museum offered to bring in a few Native language speakers, Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art is hoping to bring in Native artists and possibly host some hands-on classes that week, University of Providence and Great Falls College MSU have donated space for the conference and the Indian Education for All department at Great Falls Public Schools will provide tipis.
“There’s so much we can learn about each other,” said Brady-Leader. “I hope people will come away with a greater understanding of the richness of tribal cultures here in Montana.” MSN
To learn more about the events happening Oct. 8 through Oct. 14, visit GatheringOfFamilies.com. All events, except the conference, are free and open to the public. A ticket to the conference is $300. To register to attend the conference or request to be a featured speaker, visit the website.