GREAT FALLS — The 2023 Indigenous Celebration Gathering of Families kicked off on Sunday. After a traditional pipe ceremony at sunrise at First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park, the afternoon consisted of a round dance ceremony at the Montana Expo Park.
“Gathering of Families” was put together by the International Traditional Games Society, a nonprofit organization that is, according to its website (https://www.traditionalnativegames.org), “Dedicated to the recovery, restoration and re-introduction of Native American Indian Games.” The events allow Native Youth around Montana to participate in activities relevant to their ancestry and culture.
“They can go out and sign up to play basketball. They can go play football, but they can't do any of their traditional games,” Travis Wilmore, Executive Director with the International Traditional Games Society said, “And so this is our first chance and our first attempt of bringing all of--we reached out to all the reservations here in Montana--to send teams down to participate in our traditional games tournaments, which will be happening Tuesday and Wednesday.”
There are over 20 events throughout the week, including a biathlon, stickgame tournaments, and a symposium on native art.
“From our research, this is one of the first attempts of bringing all the native community and Native nations together for a big event like this,” Wilmore said, “And that is very important, especially for all of our native youth, because it gives them that identity. When you bring them back to their culture, it brings them back to that identity, that cultural identity, that self-respect, and builds that up and helps our youth move on and do bigger and better things.”
At the round dance on Sunday afternoon, there were multiple vendors selling art and clothing inspired by their native roots, as well as a silent auction where you try to win things such as a handcrafted bow.
The Gathering of Families is designed to be a celebration, and everyone is invited to any and all of the completely free events throughout the week.
“This event is also to bring awareness about the Native American community. And so whether you're native or non-native, first time at an event like this or not, come by, have fun. That's what we're here for. We're here to have fun, play games, and to come together as a community and celebrate.”
For more information on Gathering of Families, including a schedule for the week’s events, click here.