21st Annual Honor the Mounds, Saturday

By Susan Johnson

Beattie Park on the 400 block of North Main Street will again be the setting for the 21st Annual Honor the Mounds Gathering this Saturday, Aug. 13.

Many tribes from all over the U.S. will be celebrating their heritage with songs, dances, demonstrations of Native culture and crafts. The history of the mounds will be explained. Your host is  the Native American Awareness Committee.

Beattie Park and its surroundings were the home of the Beattie family from 1845 to 1921. By agreement, the land was kept available for Native Americans to use for their culture and ceremonies. This arrangement continued until the mid-1950s. The Beattie family specified that the mounds area should be preserved in a natural state.

After the death of one of the sisters in 1921, the land was donated to the Rockford Park District with the stipulation that the mounds and trees be preserved. The downtown park is still a place where people can relax, contemplate nature, and watch the river.

Local citizen David Van Pernis was instrumental in helping to preserve the property. Now the Rockford Park District and the Native American Awareness Committee work in partnership to maintain the park with the help of many valuable volunteers.

The Burpee Museum of Natural History also has information about the mounds and Native culture, including displays of artifacts and interactive events. The museum hosts a living history event where visitors can interact with volunteers.

Rockford’s oldest historical site

The various styles of mounds in Beattie Park date 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, Wisconsin and Minnesota. During this time, various Native cultures contributed to the building of effigy mounds. Those in Beattie Park date back from the early part of 700 to 1100 A.D., 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, when the first European settlements were begun in North America.

The grouping in 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 north 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

Before the Gathering begins, Terry “Standing Buffalo” Reynolds (Lakota elder) will offer a pipe prayer. He may be accompanied by female Lakota elder Rita Reynolds. The sacred fire will be started by firekeeper Thunder Ruthven of the Anishinaabe (meaning “first people”). He will be assisted by Doug Schandelmeier, whose spirit name is “Dances with Fire.”

The opening ceremony at 10 a.m. will be  officiated by arena director Terry “Standing Buffalo” Reynolds. The master of ceremonies will be Butch McCamy (Cherokee), and music will be provided by Spirit of the Rainbow Singers (Cherokee).

The head male and female dancers this year are John and Penny Richmond (Cherokee). Programs during the day will be presented by the following speakers:

  • Thunder Ruthven (Anishinaabe) – history and tradition of the sacred fire
  • Len Badillo – playing flute and drum
  • Frank Schier, Editor and Publisher of The Rock River Times and founder of the Rock River Trail Initiative – meaning of the powwow and the history, location and legends of the many Native American village sites effigy mounds along the 320-mile course of the Rock River.
  • Rita Reynolds (Lakota) and Juanita “Butterflies” MacVenn (Cherokee/Shawnee/Blackfoot) – women’s teachings
  • Karen Herdklotz, executive director of “Hoo” Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation – program about raptors and the responsibility of preservation of habitat

Speakers may be either in the dance circle or the speakers’ circle, at their request. Location will be announced.

A number of vendors will be present in the park. “Kicking Bear” (Ojibwa) of Dream Catchers will offer crafts, as will “Flies with Owls” (Blackfoot) of Wing and a Prayer.

Fran Bronzel of Spirit Song will have her crafts for sale. Author Rob Miller will also have his books for sale. Sandie Burrie will offer handmade native arts. The Native American Awareness Committee will be the food vendor.

Demonstrations will be given by Richard Hamilton (flint knapping), Black Hawk Archers (bow and arrow making), Mac “Spotted Pony”, Lakota (living history), P.A. Toms (Cherokee) will also present a living history demonstration.  Mixed Nations will give two drum demonstrations.

The Corn Blossom Singers and Shell Shakers Singers will also perform.

The day’s program will include a special honor ceremony for our veterans, a tiny tots toy giveaway, and a children’s giveaway for school supplies.

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. Along with the demonstrations, displays and storytelling, visitors are invited to check out vendors such as the Dream Catcher booth and Turtle on the Rock food booth. People are invited to sample Native American food such as fry bread and Indian tacos, as well as grilled corn, burgers and hot dogs. Drawings will be held for Native American arts, crafts, and other items throughout the day.

Come out to this free family-friendly event in historic Beattie Park. See you there!

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