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Fair will showcase Chippewa Cree culture, traditions

Angela Brandt

Havre Daily News

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Stone Child College is holding its first Midwinter Cultural Fair, which will teach tribal members, students and residents from across the area about Chippewa Cree culture and history with traditional food demonstrations, art exhibits, movie presentations and panel discussions.

“It's the first we've ever had, and we're opening our door to a lot of our culture that had only been for the tribe,” Lloyd Top Sky said Monday.

Top Sky, who is the fair's master of ceremonies, said the event will focus on Chippewa Cree issues, cultural preservation, spirituality, cultural education, traditional philosophies and chemical dependency programs.

The fair begins Wednesday with check-in at 8 a.m. and an opening presentation at 11 a.m. by Top Sky, a prayer by Charles Gopher and music by the Rocky Boy Singers.

“Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation was based on the culture, language, traditions and customs of our tribe, rather than ... those contemporary ways that will hurt us,” Top Sky said, referring to drug and alcohol abuse.

His wife, Mary, agreed.

“A large part of the idea is to retain the Chippewa Cree life ways,” said Mary Top Sky, co-chair of the Stone Child College cultural programming committee.

Demonstrations of traditional foods will include a comparison of the food once utilized by tribes for survival and current tribal diets. Attendees will be shown how food was preserved and sample dishes like elk, deer, wild rice, beef cracklings and wild berries. Lloyd Top Sky described a traditional food that combines berries with meat as a modern-day “breakfast bar.”

He said the dish was used for energy to continue hunting and gathering.

“Foods that are nourishing, not pop and pizza,” Lloyd Top Sky added.

Panel discussions will cover an array of topics including Cree language, college retention, family talking circles and Native American philosophy.

Traditional games will be demonstrated Thursday, including archery and arrow throwing.

Art exhibits of oil paintings, watercolors and old photographs will be on display. Traditional arts like bead work will be exhibited and available for purchase.

Lloyd Top Sky said he hopes that the fair will become an annual event.

“I didn't expect the interest we have gained,” Mary Top Sky said.

The fair is set in the winter based on traditional customs of appreciating the spirituality of the season and the difficult time the tribe went through during cold months.

“Thanks that we're almost in the spring season, that's how it came about,” Lloyd Top Sky said. The fair is based on a “cultural sense of pride and to extinguish MTV life and gangs.”

The fair is free to attend and open to everyone. Cultural planning committee chair Louise Stump said she wanted all members of the community to be involved. Students can get college credit for attending, with fees waived by the college.

The fair will close with an awards presentation from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Friday followed by a traditional round dance and feed at the Round Hall on Oats Road at 7 p.m.


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