Native Americans ‘Honor the Mounds’ at annual gathering
By Susan Johnson, Copy Editor
That’s Lakota for good day. And for the various tribes who gathered at Beattie Park last Saturday, Aug. 8, to once again Honor the Mounds, it was a very good day. Some old friends returned for the 14th annual gathering to conduct familiar ceremonies and greet new friends in the community.
The day began with the Pipe Ceremony by Terry Standing Buffalo Reynolds (Lakota), followed by the lighting of the Sacred Fire by Dennis
White Bear Dillard, whose heritage is Cherokee, Lakota and Eastern Delaware. Doug Schandelmeier assisted. Mac Spotted Horse MacVenn (Iroquois/Eastern Delaware) gave the introduction at 10 a.m., and Terry Standing Buffalo Reynolds gave the opening prayer.
Significance of the Mounds in this area
David VanPerness, who offered a short history of Beattie Park and the Mounds, also spoke with The Rock River Times:
I think it’s important to stress that people have come to that piece of land for thousands of years and that it is a very special piece of land…extremely rare. It’s amazing and almost a miracle that these mounds are there. This is the only site in the state of Illinois that on public property, you can see the three types of mounds…as Native Americans, we are certainly good custodians or stewards of the land and the Beattie family continues that and allows the Native Americans to practice their rites, ceremonies and rituals at the park. It is now our responsibility to honor and be good custodians to Mother Earth…
I think it’s important to know that there is a conical mound—probably a burial mound—at Tinker [Swiss] Cottage. Conical mounds—99 percent of those that were excavated had been burial mounds. Linear mounds, the ones that have been excavated—it is very rare to find anything buried within those, and effigy mounds are in the shape of animals. The one at Beattie Park is a turtle. Turtles are indigenous to the Rock River. There are also mounds in the shape of bears, eagles, ducks, panthers or cougars and, on rare occasions, man himself.
There was at one time another turtle mound at Tinker Cottage, but it is no longer there. Tinker Cottage was the home of [former Rockford Mayor] Robert Tinker, and it played a significant part in Rockford history. There were Indian mounds all up and down the Rock River on both the east and west sides. When the settlers first came to Rockford, Native Americans were friendly with them and showed them where the best drinking water was, which happens to be in the Waterworks parking lot, where the first wells for Rockford were dug. There was a spring there, and that’s where the first settlers got their drinking water. Immigrants [found] the Rockford area a good place to live, and Native Americans had been established here for many generations.
MC Leonard Malatare (Salish Flathead) introduced the various dancers and events, interspersed with bits of humor. (We don’t do rain dances anymore. We wash our car or put out a picnic basket—followed by an impression of Yogi Bear.)
Notable returnees were head male dancer John Garza
Fire Elk(Lakota, Cherokee, Lipan Apache) and head female dancer Elizabeth
Pretty Two Hawks Augsburger (Miami of Oklahoma). She was also presented with an eagle feather accepted in the absence of a Hopi tribal member serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan.
Special guests were the Aztec Dancers of Chicago, in addition to the traditional dancers. The dancers were accompanied by the Cherokee Rainbow Singers and Bennah Un Deannah (
Sound of the Wind
—Anisazi) on drums. Midwest SOARRING was represented by Joseph
Lesson of the white buffalo
Dillard gave a speech on the teachings of Miracle, the famous white buffalo of Janesville, Wis. He also spoke to The Rock River Times later.
Miracle is a symbol of peace,
The things that I’ve learned from being around a symbol of peace are to walk without judgment of the color of the skin or the gender or the orientation. Also, according to the prophecy, her hide was to turn from white to black, to red, to yellow, to brown. She was not an albino. She was born Aug. 20, 1994, and she died on Sept. 19, 2004. It was almost a month after her 10th birthday. She was brown at that time. Her heart gave out.
TRRT: How long do bison usually live?
Bison can live up to 30 to 40 years. She died early. There was also an article in the Janesville Gazette that said in the headline, ‘Symbol of peace dies; Bush courts Janesville’ [referring to President George W. Bush]. There was a third white buffalo that was born on the Heider farm on Aug. 25, 2006. That one also died; it was born in lightning and died in lightning.
Miracle was the first white buffalo born in 63 years. There was a second white buffalo, a female, born in 1999, and she lived for four days but died after getting tangled in grapevines.
Dillard interprets the lesson of the white buffalo this way:
It’s the choices that we make as a society, and we are not living in a peaceful environment. A lot of people are walking in judgment.”
He offers the word
which in Anishinaabe means
Dignity, pride, honor, respect.
It’s in the spirit of Crazy Horse, which means ‘know yourself, know your friends, know your enemies, and lead by example.’
Keeping Native American heritage alive
Mac MacVenn, one of the organizers with the Native American Awareness Committee, gave a little more explanation on the gathering.
The reason we maintain the gathering is, it is meant to be more of an educational nature. It is to be enjoyed, but at the same time we have quite a few demonstrators here.
He said there were
some people out there whose parents or grandparents were Native. If you said you were Native, you were told you would get the short end of the stick.
But today, Mac encouraged people to
apply the rules of the Nations according to federal law. If you are less than one-eighth Native, you are no longer Native [according to the government]. That is nothing more than extinction on paper, so eventually the government can say there aren’t any more Native people. We are not going to be quiet about it. So enjoy the gathering—enjoy the dances.
Other attractions were the Birds of Prey exhibition by Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab & Education (NIRRE) with Candy Ridlbauer, displaying mounted specimens of a Northern goshawk, Cooper’s hawk and sharp-shinned hawk; a flint knapping demonstration of arrowheads; storytelling; Thunder Bear flutes; dream catchers, shawl making and various vendors.
Corey Gestle of the Potapsico (East Coast) observed:
We have more people and more vendors this year. I was dancing with the group. I’d like to see this happen again next year and the year after, because it is something everyone can enjoy.
The day concluded with an intertribal dance, and the flag bearers then retrieved the colors—the U.S. flag, the Illinois state flag, the POW/MIA flag, and the Native American Awareness Committee flag. An Honor Dinner for invited participants was held at 5 p.m.
from the Aug 12-18, 2009 issue
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