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Tribes come together to share old tradition in Pablo

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PABLO – More than 300 tribal individuals traveling from as far away as Canada, Utah and Wyoming came together this past weekend to reconnect as one family in an old cultural tradition. The event was the Adeline Mathias SKC Stick Game Tournament, which was the first memorial tribute to Mathias - honoring how she socialized in her culture. The stick game has been around for generations, according to tribal member Vernon Finley.

“It began with telling coyote stories and has gone through many changes over time,” Finley said.

There are many different styles of stick game, depending on the region.

“People come from all over to come together as one family,” Finley said. “It’s pretty much the same style across the northwest.”

The style of game played in the tournament was Flathead style, where two teams sat on opposite sides playing drums. Both teams begin with 11 sticks and two bones. One of the bones has a special mark. The object of the game is for opposing sides to find out who on the other side has the unmarked bone. Each wrong guess costs that team one stick. The game ends when either one tribe runs out of sticks, or correctly guesses who has the unmarked bone.

Both sides can also place wager bets, doubling their money if they pick the right person with the bone.

“A long time ago people used to bet things like buckskins, pendleton blankets and beadwork,” Finley said.

Generally, tribes compete against other tribes, which over time, creates a close bond between the greater tribal community.

“We all know one another,” Finley said. “The most important thing is for old friends to get together and have some friendly competition.”

The event was coordinated in part by Velda Shelby, granddaughter of Mathias. According to Shelby, if Salish-Kootenai College can make a profit through hosting the event, they may plan on starting an annual tournament in the future.

“We want to give back to the college and have an alcohol- and drug-free event,” Shelby said.

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