By Susan Johnson
As the full moon begins to rise upon the Rockford area, an annual gathering of visitors will be preparing to welcome the community to the 16th Annual “Honor the Mounds” Gathering, Saturday, Aug. 13, in Beattie Park.
At a time when the economy is uncertain, and some usually dependable structures are in flux, there are still a few reminders that the earth has undergone many changes, yet still endures. The lessons of the past have been handed down to us to learn from and carry into the future. That is the message of the annual gathering at Beattie.
Mac “Spotted Horse” MacVenn explained it this way: “It is a gathering — not a pow-wow. The difference between them is, a pow-wow is a social event with vendors and dancers. A gathering such as ours is meant to be more spiritual and educational, as well as social. … There will be approximately 10 vendors offering Native American and handmade products, and two drums — ‘The Sound of the Wind’ (Anasazi) and ‘Spirit of the Rainbow’ (Cherokee) singers, along with the educational aspect.”
He noted that the three speakers will cover aspects of Native American spiritual beliefs, current Native American topics within the northern Illinois area and about the mounds themselves, not only about Beattie specifically, but other endeavors currently being worked on throughout the Rock River drainage system, with cooperation of the Rock River Trail project.
“There will also be demonstrators, some of whom will be showing flintknapping, Woodlands and Plains style lodges and living, shawl making, drum making, Native flutes, as well as other individual crafts and projects. All of these are family endeavors,” added MacVenn.
“Finally,” he said, “there will also be informational booths for the Native American Awareness Committee of Rockford, Midwest SOARRING, as well as potentially others. It is felt by the committee that this will be a good social experience as well as a good learning time. Native American foods such as fry bread and Indian tacos will be available for purchase.”
Oldest historical site and its significance
The area of Beattie Park was the homestead and land of the Beattie family from 1845 through 1921. It was used as their family home and as a site for Native American peoples to come and practice their rituals and ceremonial rites in the area between the current walk path across the park and the Rock River. The land was left in a natural state, not developed as so many other areas along the river were during that time period.
When the Beattie sisters died in 1921, the land was generously donated to the Rockford Park District with the stipulation that the mounds and trees be preserved and the land be kept a place of peace and solitude for relaxation, contemplation and meditation. The Beattie family set an example for stewardship of the land, honoring and respecting the Native American culture. At that time, the estimated value of the land was about $60,000.
Archaeologists believe the mounds were constructed between 600-800 A.D. (about 1,400-1,700 years ago). The mounds display several unique qualities, having been used for thousands of years, and to this day, they still honor harmony and balance between Mother Earth and nature.
Three particular types of mounds were constructed by the Native peoples of the Woodland Culture: conical or round, linear (long and straight) and effigy mounds (in the form of an animal). These types of Woodland Culture mound are found in Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, eastern Iowa, Michigan and the top two tiers of counties in Illinois.
Schedule for the day
While some of the participants vary from year to year, the order of events is consistent. Opening ceremonies will be held at 9:30 a.m., beginning with the Pipe Ceremony, presided over by Terry “Standing Buffalo” Reynolds (Lakota). Dennis “White Bear” Dillard (Cherokee, Lakota, Eastern Delaware) will be in charge of lighting the Sacred Fire, assisted by Doug “Little Flaming Owl” Schandelmeier.
At 10 a.m., Mac “Spotted Horse” MacVenn (Iroquois, Eastern Delaware) will give the introduction, and Lakota Elder Terry “Standing Buffalo” Reynolds will offer the opening prayer. At 10:30 a.m., Dennis Dillard will speak about the teachings of Miracle, the white buffalo, and their significance to today’s society.
At 11 a.m., visitors can see the Grand Entry and Entry of the Colors, followed by the Veterans Dance and intertribal dances, in which the public may participate.
At noon, Joe “Standing Bear” Schranz of Midwest SOARRING Foundation will speak about current Native American topics. Lunch break will be at 12:30 p.m., along with a demonstration by the Blue Heron Singers of the Earth Keepers with drumming and songs. Another Grand Entry will take place at 1 p.m., followed by intertribal dancing and a children’s giveaway.
At 2:30 p.m., Frank Schier, founder and chairman of the Rock River Trail and editor and publisher of The Rock River Times, will speak about the identification and protection of Native American mounds, sacred sites and village sites along the Rock River flowage on both Illinois and Wisconsin. He has also been instrumental in the founding of the Rock River Trail project and promoting tourism along the river.
The day will conclude with intertribal dancing and Retirement of the Colors. Everyone is invited to come out to this family-friendly event, enjoy nature, and learn about the history of the area.
From the Aug. 10-16, 2011, issue