COLUMBIA CITY – With a large crane overlooking U.S. 30 and clouds of fine dust swirling across large chunks of cement, the entrance to the 19th annual Mihsihkinaahkwa Pow Wow on Saturday in Morsches Park appeared to turn the rocky construction site into a green haven for a network of American Indian nations.
With tents placed around the center circle arena, attendants perused the assortment of vendors or sat close to the arena as acoustic guitarist Adam Strack performed. The calm atmosphere only slightly interrupted by the twinkling of bells wound around the ankles of men in their traditional regalia.
I think that for a lot of people when they step on the powwow grounds, there’s a very special feeling that they get, coordinator Dani Tippmann says. I think our dancers, our arena director, our veterans and our elders help with that.
Tippmann says the annual powwow continues to be one of the best in northeast Indiana. This year, organizers introduced hoop dancers, a healthy traditions walk and the craft of quilling workshop, which pertains to manipulating porcupine quills into different styles for decoration. The weekend event will conclude today.
The powwow has a good reputation with vendors and participants as well as the people who come as visitors, Tippmann says. I think people are more interested in their native history. A lot of people in earlier times pushed it to the background. They didn’t want people to know they were native. Now, their children are here and they want to know. They want to understand, what is Native American?
Michigan resident and veteran Mickey Two Eagles, adorned in regalia and a black-feather headpiece with Warrior embroidered on it, steps under his tent facing the arena. He says he was a part of the Oka Crisis, a land dispute in 1990 that received world attention when the town of Oka, Quebec, attempted to expand a golf course on land traditionally used by the local Mohawks. There was one fatality.
Two Eagles said that it’s important that these stories stay alive.
It doesn’t matter what race or nation you’re from, you have to keep your traditions going. If you lose the traditions, you lose everything, he says.
Unlike Two Eagles, Markle resident Andrew Knight won’t have the luxury of shade until he finishes his wigwam with his 13-year-old son, Daniel. Driving a steel rod into the soft ground with a hammer, he sets up the framework of curved wooden poles.
Born with what he calls a little Potawatomi in his heritage, Knight says he was inspired by the books written by W. Ben Hunt, an outdoor educator who often covered topics pertaining to American Indian arts and craftwork.
We got ahold of them when we were kids and went crazy with it, he says.
Aside from traditions, Knight believes there’s something to be said for just taking the time to build.
Whether it is a Native American tradition or not, it’s a craft. It gives you a sense of belonging to a people who all belong to earth. It gives you a sense of pride and identity and even if you’re not Native American, you can enjoy it, he says. It’s like remembering to say thank you to somebody who planted these nice trees, somebody who mowed this grass, somebody who invented the wheel. It’s not just living in the past, it’s rooting yourself down so that you can grow up.