The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation will share their culture with the community Saturday, inviting folks to take in traditional gambling and stick game tournaments, sample sand bread and salmon and view indigenous artwork.
The tribe’s annual Dee-ni’ Day is held during the same month as California Native American Day, which is Sept. 28 this year. Several other tribes hold cultural activities to commemorate the holiday, said Pyuwa Bommelyn, director of the tribe’s culture department.
“Dee-ni’ is our word for citizen,” he said. “It’s a day to celebrate who we are and share it with, not just the tribe, but neighboring tribes and our community as well.”
The event will start with an opening prayer at 8:30 a.m. There will be a 5k or 1-mile fun run/walk at about 9 a.m., Bommelyn said, and an indigenous works show at 10 a.m.
According to Bommelyn, the indigenous works show is an opportunity for people to exhibit their traditional work. People will often bring handmade necklaces, basketry, paintings. There are different categories for male and female, youth and adults, he said, and people will win first-place and runner-up awards in each of those.
While most of the activities start mid-morning and early afternoon, Bommelyn said the folks who will cook the salmon and sand bread get the coals going at about 5 or 6 in the morning. He said the tribe will be offering samples of both the fish and sand bread to give them a little taste.
The stick tournament will be held on the beach in the afternoon. According to Bommelyn, while the game is similar to the Yurok and Karuk tribes, women will play sticks as well. Women also take part in gambling, he said.
“You go to our neighboring tribes, they don’t have that game that we do,” he said. “We have gambling for both of us and then we do sticks.”
Other activities this year include bounce houses and a Cornhole tournament for kids. Youngsters will also have the opportunity to see inside an emergency vehicle and there will be about 20 vendors for people to browse through.
Dee-ni’ Day will be held at the Howonquet Hall Community Center, 101 Indian Court in Smith River across the street from Lucky 7 Casino.