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Tradition holds firm at tribal fair

Tradition holds firm at tribal fair

Aug 26, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Participants fill Rocky Mountain Hall with beadwork, baked goods and antique cradle boards.

While judging of beaded work, photos, garden products and baked goods was happening inside Rocky Mountain Hall in Fort Washakie, the two entries in the dog category gathered outside for their examination.

"He looks healthy," said Eastern Shoshone Tribal Fair judge Fritzy Boedeker about "Caesar," the Chihuahua belonging to Little Wolf LeBeau. "How much do you feed him?"

"Four times," the 10-year-old replied.

"Four times a day! My goodness, he's going to get heavy," Boedeker said.

Next came "Abigail," Ariona Hereford's dog she described as a mix of a "wiener and Chihuahua."

"Do you know how much she weighs?" Boedeker asked the 7-year-old.

"Yeah," the little girl replied. "Three inches."

Organizers of the annual Eastern Shoshone Tribal Fair spent much of Saturday affixing ribbons to the numerous entries before Sunday's festivities, which include horse races and other contests.

Fair board member Philberta Tiger said the contestants are either enrolled Shoshone members or relatives of enrolled members. The contestants also include the Ethete-based Wind River 4-H club members.

The tables inside Rocky Mountain Hall displayed homemade muffins, handmade quilts and clucking chickens next to the more traditional beaded clothing and saddles.

While looking at an elaborately beaded saddle cover entered in the fair, Tiger recalled memories of riding on one in parades and tribal ceremonies.

"My mother had two of them when we were younger," she said. "We had the horse outfit and everything."

Tiger said women riding atop the decorative saddle covers had to wear buckskin dresses that wouldn't hike up.

"We would have to make our own buckskin out of deer hide," Tiger said. "(Our mother) wouldn't let us drink water because if you drink water, it would make your buckskin hard. It's an old Indian saying."

In a display case next to the saddle were other beaded items including logos made by Bernie Shoyo for what seemed like every NBA team.

"He does really good bead work, and he's always done a lot," Tiger said.

Also on display were Indian dolls, handmade wooden pipes and decades-old cradle-boards used to carry babies.

"Some of them have been passed down from generation to generation," Tiger said.

A few tables down, fair board member Elaine McLeod and fair worker Lorena Snyder prepared miniature cradle boards for the event.

"It's just an idea that I had," McLeod said of the tiny hand-stitched pink pouches adorned with Disney cartoon princesses.

At the opening where the baby's head would poke out, McLeod cut out pictures of her grandchildren and affixed them inside.

"It's like a cradle board, but it's made out of cloth," she said.

Participants win cash prizes for entries in first through third places, Tiger said, noting that fair organizers encourage Shoshone children to enter their school art projects and academic and athletic medals.

"Everybody gets paid for everything they bring," she said, holding an inch-thick fair book containing all the categories and prize values.

Tiger turned around and pulled out a black-and-white photograph she planned to enter into a category. It showed a young girl atop a horse wearing a traditional tribal ceremonial dress.

"I was 12 years old," Tiger said. The picture was taken in 1962 when Tiger was the Shoshone Queen.

She and others encouraged visitors to attend the fair Sunday. Horse racing events will start at about 1 p.m. with other contests, including one for best fry bread, beginning at 10 a.m. and watermelon eating beginning at 5:30 p.m.

"Everybody gets into that," Tiger said about the watermelon contest. "Even the adults. It's crazy."

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