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Arlee marks its 115th July 4th celebration

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Jul 04 2013 07:32:47 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 04 2013 09:50:31 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

It's a festive holiday weekend in Arlee. And it's just beginning.

The 115th annual Arlee celebrations brought scores of local celebrants and tourists to the Flathead Indian Reservation.

It started with a parade at high noon. People lined the main drag.

The Flathead Indian Reservation is proud of its unusually high veteran population.

An honor guard marched in celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

"It's the most famous document in the world," said Mission Valley Honor Guard member Charles Blood.  "It means freedom for everybody here."

Firefighters kept things cool.

From little kids to prized animals, Arlee is having a great time.

"It's an important day for our country," said the Honor Guard's Rick Van Maanen.  "I like the way people come out and support the veterans and the community."

The Snake Dance opened Old Style Day. It was called "snake dance" by the whites, but has nothing to do with snakes, except that the participants weave in and out of a line, similar to the movement of a snake.

In the 1890s, traditional Indian dances like it were illegal under old Bureau of Indian Affairs rules.

So the chiefs got together and they were very smart people, said event organizer, Shandin Pete, "And said we'll have our celebration on the Fourth and it will be a holiday that America celebrates so they're less likely to ban us from dancing on the fourth of July."

Pete said warriors danced the Snake Dance when they came home from battle or enemy territory.

On this Independence Day hundreds watched as traditional dancers performed a truly American dance for the red, white and blue.