After a year-long hiatus, the largest powwow in the Northwest has returned to traditional grounds of the Coeur D’Alene Tribe. Julyamsh was cancelled last year after the state of Idaho legalized horse-racing machines at a park where the celebration used to be held.
The Coeur D’Alene Tribe argued the machines conflicted with their nearby casino. This year, the powwow takes place at the Kootenai County fairgrounds.
“This whole place here was kind of the gathering place,” Coeur D’Alene Casino Cultural Affairs Director Quanah Matheson said. He added that the new location is culturally significant.
“Some of the old people, they said this is the capital of Coeur D’Alene Indian country,” Matheson said.
Julyamsh is one of the largest powwows in the country. Traditionally, powwows marked tribal warriors’ homecoming. The modern-day powwow has become a cultural celebration that also includes competitive dancing and drumming events. Hundreds of dancers and drum groups from across the U.S. and Canada will perform competitively.
Powwow Director Yvette Matt expects thousands of visitors during the three-day celebration.
“I believe the Coeur D’Alenes are known for their hospitality and for their welcome home loving feelings,” she said.
Despite the size of the crowd expected, organizers say they don’t have any safety concerns.
Matheson said safety is one of the things that puts Julyamsh among the nation’s top five powwows.
“People feel safe, comfortable, they feel welcome and they feel good,” Matheson said. “I think that along with our prize money, having quality MCs, quality drums, people just like it, they really enjoy it.”
Visitors started setting up camp at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds on Tuesday in anticipation of the event.
“I don’t think we have anything to be worried about,” Matt said. “No one’s coming out here looking for problems. We’re just coming out here to dance, celebrate and love each other.”