By Susan Johnson
The Native American Awareness Committee invites you to join them at Beattie Park in the 400 block of North Main Street, Rockford, for the 19th Annual Honor the Mounds Gathering, Saturday, Aug. 9. This is free and open to the public.
More than a display of ritual, it is in some sense like a family reunion as well as an opportunity to show pride in a heritage that predates the founding of our nation and educate the community about Native people and local history.
Beattie Park and the surrounding area was originally the homestead of the Beattie family from 1845 to 1921. They ensured the land would be available for Native Americans’ use for their culture and ceremonies and was used until the mid-1950s. The Beattie family provided that the area of mounds should be preserved in a natural state.
In 1921, after the death of one of the Beattie sisters, the land was donated to the Rockford Park District with the stipulation that the mounds and trees be preserved. As the family had done for 76 years, the area is still kept intact. Beattie Park remains a place of peace and solitude where people can relax, meditate in a natural setting, and watch the river. Native American people still gather here to honor their ancestors and join in rituals of their culture to this day.
With the pioneering preservation efforts of David Van Pernis, the Rockford Park District and the Native American Awareness Committee have partnered to keep the park cleaned and maintained, with the help of many dedicated volunteers.
The Burpee Museum of Natural History also has information about the mounds and Native culture. The displays of artifacts and interactive events are one of a kind in Rockford. The museum hosts a living history event where visitors can interact with volunteers and participate in hands-on history.
Rockford’s oldest historical site
The various styles of mounds in Beattie Park are dated from the Late Woodland Period known as the Effigy Mound Period. This was a span of time from approximately 300 to 1100 A.D. and influenced the Upper Mississippi River Valley in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. During this time, various Native cultures contributed to the building of effigy mounds. The ones in Beattie Park date back from the early part of the 700 to 1100 time period, when most of the effigy mounds were built. The effigy mound building tradition dates back to as early as 300 A.D. and spans the entire period until the mid-17th century, the time of the first European settlement in North America.
This grouping at Beattie consists of three conical mounds, a linear mound, an earthen embankment and one effigy mound of a turtle. Through the years, some of the mounds in the immediate area were damaged or destroyed, including one when the Riverfront Museum Park constructed its parking lot on North Main Street and the high rise was built beside Beattie Park. The bird effigy was damaged and is in the yard of a private residence on Indian Terrace.
Most mound groupings were located along waterways like the ones in Beattie Park. They are found south of the conifer hardwood forests and stretch from the Upper Mississippi Valley to Lake Michigan. They are mostly found north of the southern edge of the prairie, and most times along the waterways of northern Illinois, large parts of Wisconsin, and the northern Mississippi Valley.
Schedule of events
The day will begin with lighting of the sacred fire and prayer by Lakota elder Terry “Standing Buffalo” Reynolds. Master of ceremonies will be Bill Brown Jr., who will give the introduction at 10 a.m. Opening prayers will be given by Lakota elder Terry Reynolds. At 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m., there will be a Presentation of Colors, and Grand Entries. Ronny Preston and his daughter, Emma (Apache), are the head male and female dancers this year.
During the day, Karen Herdklotz of “Hoo” Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center will give a live wildlife presentation. Joseph “Standing Bear” Schranz of Midwest SOARRING Foundation will talk about current Native American topics.
In the afternoon, Editor and Publisher Frank Schier of The Rock River Times will give a presentation about the Woodland Mounds Culture. There will be a Tiny Tots Dance and giveaway, a Children’s Dance and giveaway of school supplies and a special ceremony/acknowledgment for veterans. Intertribal dancing will be held throughout the day.
This event is presented by the Native American Awareness Committee. Partners and donors are the Rockford Park District, The Rock River Times and Burpee Museum of Natural History. Various demonstrations will be held throughout the day, along with displays, storytelling and craft vendors with Native American and conventional crafts as well as a food booth with Native American food, such as fry bread, Indian tacos, grilled corn and burgers, and hot dogs. Drawings will be held for Native American arts, crafts and other items beginning at 11 a.m. and every hour thereafter. A 50/50 raffle for cash will be held. Be sure to come out to this free, family-friendly event in historic Beattie Park.
From the Aug. 6-12, 2014, issue