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Diversity in culture brings them back

SUQUAMISH — Dancing, drum circles, grilled salmon and a warm welcoming attitude is what seems to bring people back year after year to Chief Seattle Days.

The 92nd annual event that celebrates the life of the Suquamish Tribe’s legendary leader accomplished what it set out to do — create an environment that invites both native and non-native community members to enjoy the Native American culture.

“It looks to be real peaceable,” said event coordinator Ed Midkiff on Saturday. “Everyone is having a good time.”

Kylee Donaglia of Bonnie Lake visited the Suquamish event with her family so she could take part in the traditional dancing competition for ages 7-12 years old. While Donaglia said she has been dancing for several years, this was her first time visiting the annual Suquamish event.

“It’s pretty big,” she said.

Donaglia used to do perform fancy dancing, but switched to traditional dancing. In fancy dancing, performers dance on their toes. In traditional dancing, performers aren’t so much dancing as they are “walking proud,” she said.

A member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, the tiny pigtailed girl participates in cultural events with her family often.

“It’s something fun to do on the weekends when you’re not in school,” she said.

Others said they enjoyed taking part in the day-long canoe races and the opportunity to test themselves in local waters.

Squamish tribal members Reno Natrall and Nathan Nahanee of the North Vancouver Canoe Club of Canada competed in the single-man canoe races Saturday afternoon.

“It’s fun,” Nahanee said of racing during Chief Seattle Days. “It’s healthy competition. It’s competition but in a good way.”

“Nice open waters, pow-wow, crafters, Shaman barbecue,” added Natrall. He is the related to Ray Natrall, a master carver of the Squamish Tribe who has been teaching local Suquamish Tribal members how to traditionally carve ocean-going canoes for the past several years.

Then there was the heavy beat that emerged from the drum circles lining the dance floor, contributing to the event’s atmosphere.

Kym Goes Behind, the leader of the Flicker Medicine Singers, said she felt the music her group provides has a healing power. “Songs are the medicine of the people,” she said. “They lift up their spirits, their prayers.”

The group, along with the several other drum circles, provided music for the dance competitions. Different categories have different styles and each circle, which plays one at a time, accommodates each performance, Goes Behind said, noting that her responsibility as the circle leader includes carrying the drum and respecting it.

“Like you would care for a grandparent,” she explained. “We look at the drum as a sacred object.”

The group from the Lummi Nation performs all over the country, but Goes Behind brings her group back to Chief Seattle Days every year for several reasons.

“Good people, new friends, old friends,” she said with a smile.

While normally it’s just tribal members that dance in the competitions, the Puget Sound cultural dance group, Leeng’it Kust’i, opened the floor to “all young warrior men,” for a song during its performance. Two missionaries with the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Elder Chidester and Elder Matthew, found themselves dancing with the other men after getting encouragement from a friend. The two men, both stationed in Kingston, came to the event originally to watch a friend dance, but weren’t expecting to be a part of the celebration.

“It was like diving for the first time — just feel nervous,” Chidester said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a pow wow. We think it’s pretty neat. “It’s really neat to see different cultures and styles of life,” added Matthew.

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