Bobette Haskett picks camas at annual gathering.
By LORI ANN EDMO
FAIRFIELD — Shoshone-Bannock tribal members returned to one of the Tribes original areas for the annual Camas Prairie Homecoming June 1 and 2.
Although many tribal members have journeyed to the area since time immemorial to gather the traditional food staple, the annual cultural event has occurred since 2006.
Activities began on June 1, a run/walk is usually conducted but there weren’t enough participants. The rest of the day and Sunday morning was spent digging camas.
The afternoon of June 2 at Fairfield City Park, a variety of games were conducted where everyone was invited to participate in kick the shoe, throwing a spear, running or tossing a ball at a target. Young and old participated with winners receiving drawstring bags with the Camas Prairie logo on it.
A dance exhibition followed where 18 dancers danced different styles of such as fancy, traditional and grass dance.
Tribal elder Lionel Q. Boyer had Medicine Thunder sing an honor song in memory of Wes “Curly” Fields who passed away in the past year. Fields was instrumental in getting the town of Fairfield to welcome the Tribes back to the area. “I want to recognize a gentleman who gave a lot of effort,” Boyer said in getting the townspeople of Fairfield and the tribal members being together again.
Shoshone-Bannock elder Lionel Boyer speaks.
Tyson Shay served as master of ceremonies and kept the crowd involved participating in scavenger hunts and teasing. Medicine Thunder served as the drum group.
Youth grass dancers Anthony Wilson and Issac Brunette.
Out at the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh, there was an abundance of water this year and camas lilies because of much snow and recent rain.
Louise E. Dixey, Tribal Cultural Resource Director, said the event was good. “It was positive developing relationships with the town of Fairfield. We need to get more signage out at the marsh that reflects the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.”
She said it’s important the Tribes make their presence known, as it’s an area “that we never gave up – just that stenography error that it was excluded from our reservation.”
Family gathers camas bulbs
The Haskett family – Russell, Bobette, Tim, Mia and baby Sequoia – spent two days out on the marsh gathering camas bulbs amidst the passersby and mosquitoes.
Bobette said she enjoys coming out to the marsh with her family and harvest the camas bulbs. “It’s an annual thing we like to do keep company with friends and other family members.” She said it’s important to keep the tradition alive, “It’s an important food source for our people and has been for a long, long time,” She added they’ve learned how to cook it underground and also try other different methods.
Bobette said it’s very beautiful out in the marshland – the water’s cool. “It’s just a really good feeling when digging for these with a podo (digging stick) – mine is a modern day one but it works good.” “It’s just a good feeling to be out here to practice and do the harvesting of the precious food source that we have.”
Her husband Russell Haskett said he likes to come up to the area with his family, “We come here because it feels like we’re coming home again.” It’s really important to come up and harvest the camas bulbs. He sees the importance of maintaining public lands, “Keeping it open for our use so they’re managed to stay wild and not be farmed, not mined or anything else that might destroy these areas.”
Russell said it’s such a significant area, “Kind of our responsibility to be here, this is something always been an important to our people — we have the responsibility to keep that alive and keep it going.”