By Alan Sorensen
Fort Belknap expects to be the Hi-Line's hub of activity this weekend as the 2002 Milk River Indian Days attracts powwow fans and participants from throughout the United States and Canada.
Running in conjunction with the annual event are the Fort Belknap Arts and Crafts Fair and Cultural Food Fair.
The Indian Days activities get a jump start Friday morning with the annual parade from the Fort Belknap Agency to the powwow grounds just off Montana Highway 66.
Registration for the parade runs from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday at the BIA housing area loop at the agency. The parade is scheduled to start at the agency at 11:30 a.m. It will head east in front of the Tourism Center and turn south onto Highway 66, said Dawn Marie Barrows, tourism secretary and manager of the gift store. It will jog left at Half Town for the final leg to the powwow grounds.
The parade theme Native American Youth Are All Champions is particularly apt this year as teams made up largely of Indian athletes claimed the Class A, B and C state basketball championships. Fort Belknap-area teams did particularly well Harlem claimed the B title, while Hays-Lodge Pole claimed the C title. Browning claimed the Class A title and Wolf Point was runner-up in Class B.
Parade colors are maroon, white, purple and gold, representative of the Harlem and Hays-Lodge Pole school colors.
The featured event of the Milk River Indian Days celebration is the annual powwow. This year's dance committee includes Francis Skinner Sr., men's flag bearer; Wanda Raining Bird, women's flag bearer; Carol Cochran, secretary/treasurer; Ronnie Doney, drum keeper; Frank Skinner Jr., whip man; Terry Brockie, whip man; Rosella Birdtail, spoonkeeper; Trista Raye Doney, senior princess; Chelsea Morales, junior princess; and Jaimie Snow, junior princess attendant.
Dance committee categories are men's and women's traditionaTeen boys' and girls' categories are traditional, fancy, grass and jingle.
Masters of ceremonies this year are Corky Old Horn and Don Racine. Arena director is Sparky Raining Bird.
Grand entries are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the arena.
Nee Wah's Run, the annual 5-kilometer walk, jog and run north on Highway 66 to the powwow grounds, is scheduled for Saturday morning. Registration costs $10 and begins at 8 a.m. at the powwow grounds. Runners will be trucked to the starting line for the 9 a.m. start. Prizes for overall and age-group winners will be awarded. All registered runners will receive T-shirts and refreshments and be eligible for post-run drawings. The run is sponsored by the George and Nancy Stiffarm family.
Vendors will be selling food and beverages and arts and crafts throughout the powwow.
The Arts and Crafts Fair and Cultural Food Festival will be held at the Fort Belknap Tourism Center, located behind the Quik Stop at the junction of U.S. Highway 2 and Montana Highway 66.
Arts and crafts booths will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
The Cultural Food Festival will be open to the public from noon to 2:30 p.m. all three days. It will be followed each day by story-telling sessions by tribal elders from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Youth dance troupes will perform on site each day from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
The Fort Belknap powwow is the first of three area powwows. The Rocky Boy powwow is Aug. 2-4. The powwow in Mission Canyon near Hays is Aug. 9-11.