Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Rancheria ready to celebrate culture

American Indian culture was virtually extinguished in much of California by Western expansion - often intentionally. But in Del Norte County, Indian culture is a strong, vibrant and undeniable presence.

To celebrate California Native American Day, the Smith River Rancheria invites the public to attend the eighth annual Dee-ni' Day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Howonquet Hall Community Center, 101 Indian Court, Smith River.

The family-friendly event features Tolowa cultural demonstrations, a salmon lunch, vendors, a stick game tournament and a traditional regalia dress fashion show.

The regalia show, exhibiting traditional ceremony wear of Tolowa Indians, is a new event this year and will start at 10 a.m.

Locally caught salmon, cooked Indian-style on redwood sticks around an open flame, will be served in a salmon dinner for $5 a plate starting at 11 a.m.

The stick game tournament, held on the picturesque beach below Howonquet Hall, is often a highlight of the event and starts at 11 a.m.

Stick games involve two teams of three players each who work to move a "tossel" (two small sticks latched together with a piece of leather) to one end of the playing field. The very physical game allows players to wrestle and use large sticks to block opponents from moving the tossel downfield. Players cannot strike or jab sticks at opponents, but almost everything else goes.

"Its kind of like the Tolowa version of lacrosse," said Loren Bommelyn, Tribal Council secretary and resident tribal historian, before last year's event.

Stick game teams are arranged in advance, but anyone can participate in the horseshoe tournament, which begins at 1 p.m. Winners will be given cash prizes.

Tolowa cultural demonstrations include traditional gambling and sand bread cooking.

Sand bread is cooked by being buried in pea-sized pebbles from the beach that have been heating under a hot fire through the morning.

Vendors will be selling Indian and non-Indian crafts.

Call the Smith River Rancheria Tribal Office at (707) 487-9255 or visit for more information.

Reach Adam Spencer at

Event schedule:

9 a.m. - Opening Prayer

10 a.m. andndash; Regalia Show

11 a.m. andndash; Stick Games

11 a.m. andndash; Salmon Lunch

1 p.m. andndash; Traditional Gambling

1 p.m. andndash; Horseshoe Tournament