Archived Story

4,000 expected for Gathering

Published 1:39pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Company’s coming, which for the Pokagon Band means 4,000 guests Aug. 8-11 as it welcomes the 19th annual Gathering of the Potawatomi.

This will be the third time the Pokagon Band has hosted, including 1999 and 2006.

The Gathering will be centered around the tribe’s Rodgers Lake property southwest of Dowagiac in the heart of ancestral Potawatomi homelands.

The Gathering provides an opportunity for Potawatomi people from across North America to come together for language and cultural demonstrations, recreational activities, meals, socializing and a pow wow.

Tribal councils and service programs from various Potawatomi bands also meet to discuss business and issues affecting communities across the U.S. and Canada.

The idea for the Gathering began more than 20 years ago when Potawatomi leaders recognized they had been separated for too long and needed to come together to share experiences, ideas and to reconnect as family.

It has grown into a multiday event attended by several thousand annually.

A different band hosts every year.

“August and September are going to be crazy busy,” Andy Jackson told Dowagiac City Council Monday night. “Then we have our pow wow Labor Day weekend, with the Water Walk the Friday before. They’ll be coming to the Gathering from all over — Canada, Kansas, Oklahoma. We have a campground and book just about every hotel around us, including Niles. Some are staying at the (Four Winds New Buffalo) casino.”

Jackson said the women’s Water Walk attracted 63 people last year, with 40 making the walk from Wayne Township, through Dowagiac and into Pokagon Township.

“It’s getting bigger every year,” she said.

Coming up will be the sixth annual 14-mile procession with police protection making its way from the tribe’s lake property on Gage Street, along Prairie Ronde, past Union High School to tribal headquarters for the 28th annual Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow.

Last year, the carriers of a copper cauldron of sacred water paused for a picnic at the fire station.

Jackson told Mayor Don Lyons that the tribe selected a 22-year-old man and a 34-year-old mother of two to live in Wisconsin for two years with three elders in their 80s for language immersion.

“Then they’ll come back and be teachers contracted for five years and keep our language alive,” she said. “I just spent a week with them. They’re really grasping it. The mom with two young sons gave us three for the price of two. It’s really working. I can introduce myself in the language, but I’m not a good speaker, so that’s why I still go to classes. The ones who are up there are amazing. They’ll come here for the language immersion with elders at the first part of our Gathering at the junior high.”

Jackson said there are “maybe” 10 surviving tribe members fluent in their language.

“We lost ours two years ago. She was 91,” Jackson said. “There are a couple in Canada, a couple in Kansas, one in Oklahoma and the rest are in Wisconsin. If we don’t have our language and culture, we cease to exist.”


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