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Pow wow returns for Memorial Day weekend

Published 8:00am Friday, May 23, 2014

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi will again host their annual celebration of the tribe’s military veterans this weekend at the fifth-annual Oshke-Kno-Kewewen Pow Wow.

The two-day long festivities will be held at the band’s Rodgers Lake campus, and will feature traditional pow wow singing and dancing activities, as well food and art vendors for attendees to shop at. The gates to the pow wow grounds will open at 10 a.m., with the official start of the ceremonies, known as the Grand Entries, beginning at 1 p.m. and at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The Oshke-Kno-Kewewen Pow Wow began five years, ago after  a group of Pokagon veterans presented the idea to tribal officials as a way to honor the tribe’s men and women who devoted their lives to the U.S. Armed Services.

“Per capita, Native Americans have more representation in the military than any other ethnic group in the U.S.,” said Paige Risser, communications director for the Pokagon Band. “The position of warrior within a Native community is venerated, honored and held in high regard.”

When translated into English, the Potawatomi phrase “Oshke-Kno-Kewewen” means “new eagle staff.” Eagle staffs, which are straight wooden sticks decorated with feathers and other symbolic items, are traditional symbols of honors in American Indian culture, similar to flags.

Organizers of event built a community eagle staff for the event, which plays a prominent role in the celebration, said Kevin Daughtery, chair of the Oshke-Kno-Kewewen Pow Wow committee.

“When the veterans first began to organize the event, the building of a new eagle staff for the tribe was a rallying point for them,” Daughtery said.

Every year, the staff is updated in a private ceremony before the pow wow begins on Saturday morning, with families donating a feather to the staff to show their support of the tribe’s veterans and tribal leaders. The staff currently has 20 feathers, which represent more than 200 people, Daughtery said.

The staff will be carried by veterans to drum arbor at the center of the pow wow grounds at the beginning of the weekend ceremonies, he said.

For the first time, members of the Native American Women Warriors will be present at the pow wow, dancing in jingle dresses, which are considered symbols of healing, Daughtery said. The organization, which is comprised of American Indian women with military careers, serve in color guards at parades and festivals around the country, including the parade celebrating President Barack Obama’s second-inauguration.

“It’s pretty unique that these women are both veterans, but also have the healing aspect that they try to share with other communities,” Daughtery said.

This is the second annual pow wow that the Pokagon Band hosts every year, the other being the Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow, which takes place during Labor Day weekend. In comparison to the competitive nature of that event, this weekend’s celebration offers a traditional, more low-key atmosphere.

“It’s a great way to honor our veterans and participate in a fun and meaningful event,” Risser said.

Admission and parking to the event is free.

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