Native Americans gather to ‘Honor the Mounds’

Approximately 1,000 people attended some part of the ceremonies and visited the displays at the 7th Annual “Honor the Mounds,” held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. last Saturday at Beattie Park.

The park was filled with visitors on a warm afternoon in August. They listened to drums and native flutes; some joined in the intertribal dancing when the invitation was extended to everyone. One of the more solemn dances honored a tribal elder who had recently passed on.

Some 20 to 30 nations were represented at the gathering. The opening prayer and pipe ceremonies were presented by Terry Reynolds, spiritual leader. Two Plains-style lodges were on display, along with wigwams constructed of bark, and various Native American tools, weapons, artifacts and items of everyday use. Many of the vendors offered jewelry, crafts, books, tapes, CDs, clothing, toys, leather goods and foodstuffs such as rice, beans, syrup and herbal tea.

The powwow was presented by the Native American Awareness Committee, which has only 10 active members in Rockford and would like to recruit more. Annual dues are $15 for a single member; $20/family; there is a special discount rate of $5 for seniors 55 years and over, or junior membership with a parent’s permission. Meetings are held on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Burpee Museum of Natural History. To join, please make checks payable to: Native American Awareness Committee, and mail to Cherokee Nation and Indian Art, 8750 N. Second St., Suite A-2, Machesney Park, IL 61115.

Please indicate any special skills or interest areas where you would be willing to serve.

Another group prominent at the event was the Midwest SOARRING Foundation (Save Our Ancestors Remains & Resources Indigenous Network Group). They also sponsored a speaker, Joseph Standing Bear, who spoke on current Native American issues. Some Rockford residents may remember him from an earlier speech he gave to the Winnebago County Board in spring of 2000, in an unsuccessful attempt to preserve the Ditzler land and the artifacts on it.

Some of the major dance performers were Michael “7-Eagle Feather” Augsburger of the Miami tribe of Oklahoma, head male dancer; Lori Tolliver of the Bad River Chippewa, Wis., head female dancer; junior dancers Daniel “Wise Eagle” Augsburger and Elizabeth “Pretty Two Hawks” Augsburger; and honored youth dancer Brandon Tolliver.

After the powwow ended, Lori Tolliver graciously spoke to The Rock River Times reporter. She was justifiably proud of the gathering and her son, now continuing the tradition. “It’s my way of life,” she observed. “I’ve been doing it all my life. Bad River is near Ashland right on Lake Superior. Our official title is really long—the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.”

With family pride, she noted that her son Brandon “is representing a powwow—the ‘Honor of the Firekeepers’ in Lake Geneva, Wis. It’s been a real honor this year to be back into it. The Firekeepers keep the sacred fires going during all powwows and special events. They are very special people because they stay with the fire day and night.”

The gathering was concluded with a color guard respectfully parading with flags around the sacred circle: the U.S. flag, the Illinois flag, and a black flag honoring POW/MIAs. Participants were Good White Bear, Ron Powless, Hardy Swinback, and Brent Weise. Wayne Swift Bird sang the tribute.

The event was co-sponsored by the Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford Park District, Alpine Kiwanis and the Native American Awareness Committee.

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