Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Native Americans to return to prairie

Camas Lily Days festival this weekend in Fairfield


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Photo by George Martin Shoshone and Bannock Indians will return to Camas Prairie, above, for a cross-cultural celebration in Fairfield this weekend.

This weekend, members of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes from Fort Hall Reservation near Pocatello will join residents from Fairfield and the nearby Camas Prairie for tribal dances, an arts and crafts exhibition and a traditional footrace to Centennial Marsh.

The Camas Lily Days Festival in Fairfield City Park in Fairfield represents a coming together of cultures that have been very much at odds in the past.

The Bannock War of 1878 raged for months across southern Idaho and as far away as the Columbia River, involving perhaps 2,000 warriors. The Shoshone, Bannock and Paiute Indians engaged in running battles with the 12th Infantry of the Army until many lay dead.

The source of the conflict was a skirmish between European settlers with livestock and natives who had gathered camas bulbs and hunted on the Camas Prairie for many generations.

Camas Lily Days had been celebrated in the 1970s, but fell by the wayside.

Five years ago, tribal leaders organized a Memorial Day run into Centennial Marsh to celebrate the traditional gathering of camas bulbs. Three years ago, Wes Fields, a fourth-generation Camas Prairie farmer, joined with Carolyn Boyer-Smith, cultural affairs director for the Shoshone Bannock Tribes, to reinvent the Camas Lily Days Festival as a cross-cultural affair.

"It's an interesting relationship," said Ed Reagan, publisher of the Camas Courier newspaper in Fairfield. "There are still tensions that go on, but I think the more we do this festival the more we realize that if we work together it is better for our community."

The Camas Lily Days Festival combines two days of fun runs, traditional tribal dances, free fishing and communal meals.

"As a chamber event, the goal is to get people to come here, spend some time, support our local businesses, to get out of the big cities and to a smaller town and enjoy themselves," Reagan said.

He said some tensions may exist over a rumor that the Bannock Treaty of 1869 assured the Shoshone and Bannock ownership of lands on the Camas Prairie.

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"Most people aren't concerned about it at all," Reagan said. "Most of us have been here 100 years. The idea that anything could happen with a land claim is pretty remote. If we can maintain a good relationship with them, why do they need to have some sort of land claim here?"

Lavern Beech, public affairs manager for the Shoshone Bannock Tribes, said no formal case has been filed to reclaim the Camas Prairie, but that the matter is being researched by the tribes' attorney's office.

"The tribe doesn't want to walk away from it. It has been a thorn in our side," Beech said.

"But legal debates aside, it comes down to maintaining ties to the land and maintaining traditional cultural ways with the young people. This is a great event from the perspective of being able to tell the story of Camas Prairie."

For more information about the Camas Lily Days Festival, call the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce at (208) 764-2222 or email to FCCCOC@gmail.com.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com

Camas Lily Days events:

Saturday, June 4

- 8 a.m., Kids Free Fishing Derby at a pond one mile east of Fairfield.

- Time TBA, Sho--Ban Indian run to Centennial Marsh.

Sunday,  June 5

- 8 a.m., breakfast in the park.

- 9:30 a.m., 10k, 5k, free kids runs, $15 includes T-shirt and breakfast in the park,

registration at 8 a.m.

- 1 p.m., Sho-Ban Indian dance.




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